By John Cotter
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Experts warn it is only a matter of time before another community in Canada is ravaged by a sudden intense wildfire similar to the one that hit Fort McMurray.
And the insurance industry says governments aren’t doing enough to prevent destructive blazes before they happen.
In recent years, other big wildfires have caused extensive damage in Kelowna, B.C., and Slave Lake, Alta., or seriously threatened communities, including La Ronge, Sask., and Timmins, Ont.
“These were not one-offs. It is not a fluke,” says Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta. “It is going to happen again.”
Natural Resources Canada says climate change is expected to result in more frequent forest fires that have severe consequences. The area burned could double by the end of the century compared with recent decades.
Sylvie Gauthier with the Canadian Forest Service says a warming climate has already made forests in much of Canada drier than they used to be. Last spring was one of the driest in the Fort McMurray area in the last 100 years.
As temperatures increase, so will the risk.
“The expectation is it will grow in the coming years,” Gauthier says. “For a large portion of the boreal forest the fire season is also projected to be longer.”
Another factor is that more people a major cause of wildfires along with lightning are choosing to live, work and play in forested areas.
Governments already spend millions of dollars every year to respond to wildfires and help pay for damage.
But the Insurance Bureau of Canada says more must be done to prevent fires rather than dealing with the destruction afterwards.
Bill Adams, the bureau’s vice-president, says governments are spending more on measures to mitigate the threat, but it isn’t enough.
“Awareness is critical and at this point it is exceptionally low,” he says. “Unless we have a much higher level of awareness around this risk and prudent investments and action taken by federal and provincial governments and individual citizens it is likely that we will have another major damaging fire.”
Adams says measures should include creating buffer zones around communities and homes by removing trees and brush that could act as pathways for a fire. Builders should also be required to use less flammable roofing and siding material.
Adams says the fact no one died in the Fort McMurray disaster is astounding, despite more than 80,000 people being forced to flee and almost 2,600 dwellings being destroyed.
He says the evacuation’s success was partly due to there being a major highway leading out of the city, the relatively young age of residents and many people having some knowledge of safety from living in an oil industry community.
That might not be the case if a major fire were to threaten a more remote community with older, less healthy residents and fewer roads.
“That is why we are sounding the alarm as an industry about raising the level of preparedness and that starts with understanding the risk.”
Flannigan says governments should funnel fire prevention money to communities that need it the most.
Municipalities need to change how they plan development, such as not building homes and subdivisions right next to forests, he suggests. More attention also must be played to the threat that wildfires pose to remote indigenous communities that don’t have roads.
Flannigan believes the Fort McMurray wildfire is a wake-up call to governments that more needs to be done sooner rather than later.
“Sometimes to change our behaviour you need a few bloody noses. Well, we have had a few bloody noses, and it is time to change.”
By Joedy McCreary
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. _ North Carolina dedicated the past year to redeeming itself for 4.7 agonizing seconds.
Now these Tar Heels will hang another banner from the Smith Center rafters.
Or the ceiling. But probably not the roof.
No longer haunted by the memory of a buzzer-beating loss in last year’s title game, but galvanized by a misstatement from their most decorated former player, the Tar Heels returned home Tuesday with their sixth NCAA Tournament trophy, which they earned a night earlier by beating Gonzaga in the championship game.
“This year,” senior Isaiah Hicks said, “we did it.”
Thousands of fans poured into the arena and onto the court before the team’s flight had even landed at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and they cheered fanatically every time live footage of the team’s motorcade was shown on the video scoreboards.
When the individual players were introduced, they showered Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Justin Jackson with chants of “one more year.”
“It just didn’t seem like we were going to get back to where we wanted to be, and you all did a great job,” said guard Joel Berry II, still wearing the net from the title game around his neck. “We just basically did our thing, and we came back home with it.”
This was the first time the team and its fans were together inside the Smith Center since a victory over Duke in the regular-season finale exactly one month earlier _ a night made memorable by Michael Jordan’s surprise appearance at halftime to announce a partnership between the athletic department and his Nike line.
During his remarks to the crowd, he said of the football program: “The ceiling is the roof.”
Just as quickly as it went viral, the basketball team adopted it as its rallying cry for the post-season.
Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams said he received a text from Jordan congratulating him because he “raised the ceiling to the roof.”
And during another memorable snapshot from the celebration, the in-house cameras turned toward the six banners hanging from the arena’s rafters while athletic director Bubba Cunningham repeated Jordan’s malapropism.
The Tar Heels (33-7) climbed as high as No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and were sixth in the final media poll, won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season title by two games and earned No. 1 seeds in both the conference and NCAA tournaments.
They won their last five NCAA Tournament games by an average of 5.6 points, earning a one-point victory over Oregon in the Final Four before pulling away to beat Gonzaga and claim their latest championship while capping a season overshadowed by events from both the near and distant past.
Another year was played amid the shadow of an NCAA investigation into the school’s long-running academic fraud scandal touching athletes in numerous sports, tied to irregularities in an academic department and leading to five broad-based charges against the school that include lack of institutional control.
The NCAA reopened its investigation in summer 2014 and first charged UNC in a Notice of Allegations (NOA) filed in May 2015. It then revised the charges in a second version last April, and then changed them again in a third version filed in December.
There’s currently another delay while the school and the NCAA work on a new schedule for UNC to file its response to the third Notice of Allegations, as the attorney for a woman at the centre of the scandal said he is working to set up an interview after she had previously refused to speak with investigators.
The investigation began in 2010 meaning the players on this team were still years away from arriving in Chapel Hill when it started.
What haunted them most was how last season ended .
They couldn’t escape the highlights from the 2016 championship game, when Marcus Paige seemingly sent the title game to overtime with an acrobatic jumper with 4.7 seconds left _ only to lose when Kris Jenkins beat the buzzer with a dagger of a 3-pointer that gave Villanova the title.
The season-long vow was to get back to the title game, and not let it slip away this time. They kept that wound fresh all year: Jackson gave the team’s text-messaging group a name ‘Redemption.”
By Tuesday morning, according to a screenshot posted on Twitter by guard Nate Britt , the group had a new name.
Today, the Government of British Columbia announced significant funding for emergency preparedness projects across the province. Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) applauds these investments and supports the government’s focus on mitigation and responsiveness. These efforts will help keep British Columbians safe when disasters strike.
“On behalf of Canada’s property and casualty insurers, I would like to congratulate the Government of British Columbia on this important investment in public safety,” said Bill Adams, Vice-President, Western & Pacific, IBC. “Our industry remains committed to being a full partner in making BC communities safer and stronger during natural disasters and the severe weather effects of climate change.”
The government announced an investment of more than $80 million for flood prevention and protection, seismic safety, local government emergency preparedness, search and rescue, and fire prevention. The bulk of the funding will be allocated to the Union of BC Municipalities for local communities to develop and build on their emergency response plans.
“We all have a role to play in emergency preparedness,” added Adams. “Canada’s property and casualty insurers are working with communities, citizens and all levels of government to highlight the importance of disaster resilience. This funding further builds on the government’s leadership and will go a long way in creating a strong, robust disaster-management system in this province.”
About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.
P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.
For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or @IBC_West and like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.
If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.
SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada
MELVILLE, Sask. _ Bad weather last year means crop insurance premiums and coverage levels are going up in Saskatchewan this year.
Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said premiums will average $8.51 an acre up 67 cents from last year’s average. Stewart says the 8.5 per cent premium increase is needed to cover crops such as lentils and canola.
“Those higher premiums reflect more revenue, but they represent higher risk and liability of the crop insurance corporation because of the higher value of the basket of crops that are being seeded on average across the province,” Stewart said Thursday at the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp.’s head office in Melville.
Stewart said coverage levels will increase by $1 to $217 an acre.
The minister also announced that the province will pay out an estimated $650 million in crop insurance claims from 2016 because storms and excess moisture delayed harvest.
About 1.3 million acres of crop is still on the fields and it’s got to come off, Stewart said.
“It’s always a serious issue when you have a crop to harvest before you can get in the field to seed. That’s a problem,” he said.
“We know that our producers can get a lot of work done in a short time these days and we don’t always expect miracles, but we quite regularly see them. We’re mindful of the problem that that is for producers who are affected. We’ll be there whatever the end result is in crop insurance.”
Crop insurance officials could not break down how much of each specific crop remains unharvested. They said the problem is spread across the province.
Harvey Malanowich, a farmer in the Canora area and a director with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said he still has canola to bring in.
“The challenge is going to be in the quality of what’s out there,” said Malanowich. “Unharvested acres, they’ll be done in a short time. We have equipment now that can take it off and manpower can do it also.”
The $650-million payout is not a record loss. That came in 2002 when crop insurance paid out just over $1.2 billion because of a drought.
However, the increased crop insurance claims are being cited for the rising provincial deficit. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said earlier this month that crop insurance claims are up $250 million from what was forecast and the deficit is up to about $1.2 billion.
Despite the claims, Statistics Canada reported in December that farmers in Saskatchewan had higher production for most crops.
The agency said canola production in Saskatchewan was up 2.3 per cent from 2015 to a record high 9.7 million tonnes in 2016 and growers reported producing 2.7 million tonnes of lentils in 2016.
CALGARY _ A report commissioned by the previous Progressive Conservative government shows it was aware that Alberta farm workers needed workplace insurance protection.
The Sigma Risk Management report, obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour, was presented to the Tories in February 2015, three months before they were swept from power by the NDP.
The report says about 2,000 farm workers in Alberta suffer a lost-time accident each year and about 20 will die in workplace accidents.
It also notes that Workers Compensation Board coverage would be the cheapest insurance option for small and medium-size farms.
The AFL says its findings repudiate arguments against the farm safety changes that have been brought in by the NDP.
Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney have both pledged to scrap the NDP legislation known as Bill 6 if they win the next provincial election.
“This utterly repudiates the arguments against basic workplace protections for agricultural employees,” federation president Gil McGowan said Tuesday in a release.
“Anyone who reads this report and still says that Alberta doesn’t need common-sense agricultural workplace laws has no heart.”
Mandatory rules that require WCB coverage for paid farm workers in Alberta have been in effect since January 2016.
The rules don’t apply to farm owners or their family members.
Regulations to cover workplace issues such as overtime, hours of work, collective bargaining, safety education and health rules are being studied by farm, labour and other groups.
The government has said once these groups make their recommendations, the government will give Albertans a chance to respond to draft regulations.
LONDON, Jan. 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —
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