Prime minister thanks fire fighters in Fort McMurray, says he’ll visit Friday

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will visit Fort McMurray, Alta., on Friday to offer the support of all Canadians to the fire-ravaged community.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the prime minister thanked those who battled the huge wildfire and saved much of the city.

“I too … congratulate the brave firefighters and first responders who have been there to do extraordinary work through these terrible blazes in Fort McMurray,” Trudeau said.

He also thanked Canadians for their donations in the face of a crisis which has driven more than 80,000 residents out of the city.

“I want to congratulate all Canadian who across the country came together to give incredibly generously to the people of Fort McMurray through the Canadian Red Cross and in other ways.”

Last week, as the blaze worsened, Trudeau said a visit would have to wait. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley toured the city by bus on Monday and also praised firefighters for saving a majority of homes and buildings in the community.

But she said it’s not safe yet for people to return to homes that are still standing because large sections of town don’t have power, gas or water.

Meanwhile, federal Labour Minister Mary Ann Mihychuk said the government is working to speed up the handling of unemployment insurance claims from Fort McMurray and cut wait times for benefits.

“EI is to be there when people need it and the folks at Fort McMurray definitely need it, so we’re stepping up,” Mihychuk said.

She said staff are going to try to reduce the normal 28-day wait period substantially.

“If you are impacted by the Fort McMurray fire, there is a number, a designated number that indicates you were impacted by the Fort McMurray crisis. And that will help you speed up your claim and get benefits to you even quicker.”

Ministry officials said Tuesday there are 175 Service Canada staff helping displaced residents and 100 more who have volunteered to help, but haven’t been needed yet.

About 20,000 people affected by the fire have made EI claims using a special reference code the government set up to fast-track their claims.

The government has also outfitted rented RVs to drive into northern Alberta camping sites to act as mobile Service Canada offices for the estimated 3,000 evacuees living there.

And staff are also setting up shop in evacuee reception centres and coffee shops to catch people wherever they may be.

Mihychuk said she thinks people have been “more concerned about finding a place to sleep” and only now are starting to consider income support and EI.

“I expect it to grow steadily,” she said.


What Fort McMurray residents need to know

Excerpted article was written by MICHELE JARVIE, CALGARY HERALD

Here’s key information that residents affected by the Fort McMurray evacuations need to know. For more details, visit the Alberta government’s emergency update page and the City of Calgary.

Status of homes

Preliminary re-entry planning is underway, including preparing for co-ordinated damage assessments and ensuring vital emergency services and utilities are back online and operating safely. It’s important to note that there is no date for re-entry yet and Premier Rachel Notley is warning residents it could be some time before anyone is allowed to return.

icons_shelterWhere to go

SAIT and Ambrose University College reception centres are full. Evacuees arriving in Calgary should register at Mount Royal University west residence building or at the University of Calgary dining centre. Food, clothing, transit passes, toiletries, medical resources and counselling available on site. Cats and dogs can be accommodated.

Airbnb is connecting evacuees with people offering free accommodation. It is waiving its service fees for anyone checking in by May 21 and has set up a website to connect renters with listers. The City of Calgary, in conjunction with the Calgary Hotel Association, has compiled a list of hotels offering special rates to evacuees.

icons_redcrossWho to notify

All evacuees should register with Red Cross  no matter where you are currently and even if you’ve already registered with an evacuation centre. Go online to or call 1-888-350-6070. As of Monday, 36,831 households have registered with the Red Cross. Family members and evacuees trying to reunite can also contact the Red Cross.

Lost driver’s licences, birth certificates or ID cards can be reissued free of charge at any registry agent.


Since May 7, emergency responders have begun identifying and caring for pets that were left behind during the evacuation. Pets will be handled by trained animal handlers and will receive veterinary care. If your pet needs rescue, fill out the official online emergency pet rescue request to allow a field team to respond. Pet owners will be contacted by Alberta SPCA in the coming days.

icons_cashFinancial assistance

The province plans to issue pre-loaded debit cards ($1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent) to people who have been displaced. Details on when this assistance will be available and how to access it will be announced by Wednesday. When details are available they will be posted and available through 310-4455.


Evacuees need to track their expenses and keep all their receipts for food purchases, accommodations, and other expenses and provide those receipts to their insurer. Call your insurance agency as soon as possible to alert them that you are an evacuee and what you’ll need to do once you determine the status of your home.

Insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to prepare to assess the damage. Some 16 insurance companies have established temporary claims offices at the Northlands evacuation centre in Edmonton, in Calgary and in Lac La Biche. Staff there have been opening claims files and issuing emergency cheques for evacuees, said Bill Adams, vice-president for the Western and Pacific region for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Adams says the companies are waiting for the government to let them enter the Fort McMurray area. At that point, he expects hundreds of insurance adjusters to converge on the city, as companies send teams with trucks and trailers of equipment to open field offices and begin processing claims. Adams said the insurance industry was considering using satellite and drone technology to help survey and map damaged areas to make the claims process go more quickly, although he couldn’t estimate how long it would take.


Borrowers with CMHC-insured mortgages that are affected by the fires may require special arrangements to meet their mortgage payment obligations. CMHC says its approved lenders can look at various options for clients such as deferred payments, re-amortization to result in lower payments or special payment arrangements. Homeowners should contact the nearest branch of their financial institution to discuss their specific situation.

Contact information and what many banks and financial institutions are doing is contained in a blog post.


The federal government is streamlining EI claims for affected workers. Those affected should apply immediately, online or in person, even without a record of employment. The federal government has set up a page with information for evacuees.


Displaced students from Fort McMurray and surrounding communities are encouraged to register with the local school division. Go here for more information. Provincial achievement tests have been cancelled for all students in Fort McMurray, Anzac and Fort McKay schools within Northland School Division, and École Boréal within Greater North Central Francophone Education Region (Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord). Any student evacuated who wants to take their PAT exam can do so in the school they have registered with. Alberta Education Minister David Eggen announced Monday that displaced students have the option to skip Grade 12 diploma exams.


To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card at no cost, call 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. It can be mailed to a temporary address.

If you have personal identification and a means to pay, visit any community pharmacy to have your prescriptions looked up online through Netcare. If you do not have identification, visit an evacuation centre. Medical staff or pharmacists will assess you.

Fort McMurray residents who are clients of various Alberta social programs should contact the various departments.

AHS has mental health staff at the evacuation/reception centres, including at SAIT, Ambrose College and the U of C. The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta is offering free services to victims and first responders traumatized by recent events. Call 403-246-8255 in Calgary or 1-888-424-0297 toll-free or call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.

icon_admissionFree admission

Evacuees are invited to take time with family and friends with free regular admission to any of Alberta’s 17 provincially owned and operated historic sites and museums. Just present your photo ID or provide your postal code. The City of Calgary is offering free admission for evacuees at 11 aquatic centres, two leisure centres, the Calgary Zoo and Telus Spark “for the foreseeable future.”

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Full economic cost of rapidly changing fire hard to calculate

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Desjardins donates $75,000 to the Red Cross to help those affected by wildfires in Fort McMurray

Desjardins Group, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada, is donating $75,000 to the Canadian Red Cross as it works to help families affected by the devastating wildfires burning in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta.


Tens of thousands have been displaced, as emergency responders continue to help with the evacuation and battle the flames. Safety is the utmost priority and helping those affected is an immediate concern. Desjardins Group is committed to contacting and provided assistance to its customers.

“The damages caused by the wildfires are devastating for the people of Fort McMurray,” said Guy Cormier, Chair of the Board, President and CEO of Desjardins Group. “It’s times like these when our customers need us most and it’s important that they know we are available to assist them immediately through this situation. It will affect them for some time to come and we need to be there to help and to bring a sense of normalcy back to their lives as soon as possible.”

A mobile team will be dispatched to the area to speed up claims processing for our customers. In addition, as of Monday May 9,Quebec caisse members will be able to make a donation to the Red Cross via AccesD, or by phone at 1-800-caisses.

Contacts for clients in Fort McMurray
If you are a Desjardins Group customer, please contact us as soon as it is safe to do so with questions about your insurance coverage or to report a claim:

  • State Farm – contact your local agent or call 1-877-STATEFARM (782-8332)
  • The Personal Insurance Company and Desjardins Insurance: 1-888-785-5502
  • Western Direct Insurance: 1-855-674-6338

Customers may also get in touch through Facebook and Twitter:
Facebook: or
Twitter: or

As this event unfolds, Desjardins will be in contact and work actively with emergency officials and government bodies to coordinate the various relief measures and programs that will be implemented over the coming weeks.

About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of $248.1 billion. It has been rated one of the Best Employers in Canada by Aon Hewitt. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Considered North America’s strongest bank according to Bloomberg News, Desjardins has one of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.


SOURCE Desjardins Group

For further information: (media inquiries only): Valérie Lamarre, Public Relations, Desjardins Group, 514-281-7275 or 1-866-866-7000, ext. 5557275, /; John Bordignon, Media Relations, State Farm Canada, 905-750-5567 / 416-801-6078,,

Economical Insurance responds to wildfire in Northern Alberta

In response to the wildfire in Northern Alberta, Economical Insurance will be mobilizing its catastrophe response team in the affected area, and is committed to actively supporting local policyholders and brokers throughout the claims process.

“Our first priority is to our policyholders,” said Trevor Brick, Western Regional Claims Manager at Economical Insurance. “An insurance policy is a promise and we are delivering on that promise. We are trying to locate our policyholders to provide them with emergency funding right away so they can carry on with their lives in this catastrophe.

“We will continue to work with our policyholders as they transition back to their homes and businesses once they are able to return.”

Policyholders are encouraged to call Economical’s 24-hour emergency claims number at 1-800 607-2424.

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical Insurance is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with $2.0 billion in premiums during 2015 and $5.3 billion in assets as at December 31, 2015. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical Insurance conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Family Insurance Solutions, and Economical Financial.

SOURCE Economical Insurance

For further information: Doug Maybee, Economical Insurance, (T) 519.570.8249, (C) 519.404.0989,

Insurers brace for claims as wildfire rages through Fort McMurray

Insurers brace for claims as wildfire rages through Fort McMurray

Excerpted article written by  JACQUELINE NELSON

The Globe and Mail

As wildfire continues to rage through Fort McMurray, insurance companies are readying for claims to hit, comparing the devastation to one of the country’s costliest natural disasters.

Intact Financial Corp., Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer, has sent staff to the region and increased the capacity of its phone lines. The company said Wednesday morning that losses are already piling up.

“So far, in terms of losses reported since last night, we have about 40 losses reported. Some are evacuations, some are total losses … probably about 25 fires at this point,” Mathieu Lamy, senior vice-president of claims at Intact, told analysts on an earnings conference call, adding that it’s “very early to assess where it’s going to end up.”

The damage in Fort McMurray is drawing comparisons to losses taken by insurers in the spring of 2011 when flames engulfed the town of Slave Lake, Alta. – the most expensive catastrophic loss caused by fire that has ever been recorded in Canada.

Slave Lake caused about $742-million in insured losses and destroyed about one-third of the town, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), an industry group. That puts it in the top five costliest disasters in Canadian history, in a list topped by the 2013 floods in Alberta that caused $1.8-billion in insured damages.

“I would say there are lots of similarities between Fort McMurray and Slave Lake,” said Intact chief executive officer Charles Brindamour on the call, stressing that it was too early to provide comment on the extent of the damages and that customer safety was the paramount concern. Intact had a larger exposure to the Slave Lake disaster because of its market share in the region, and the company’s losses climbed to between $45-million and $55-million after tax as a result of those fires.

Alberta has been grappling with an above-average number of fires of late. In 2015, there were 1,786 wildfires, according to government figures – the third-highest number in the past 25 years. Air tankers dumped enough flame retardant to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools to manage the fires in 2015.

In 2016, the wildfire season began a month early on March 1, after low levels of snow and rain were recorded.

Mr. Brindamour said Intact had been watching Fort McMurray since the weekend for signals that fire damages could become catastrophic. Yesterday, Intact began sending extra people to Alberta to prepare its response efforts for as soon as access to the sites becomes available.

Other insurers are also mobilized and ready to handle increased call volumes, said Steve Kee, spokesman for the IBC. The IBC has set up its own emergency response line to take calls from residents with questions or concerns. The number is 1-844-227-5422.

Homes and businesses in the area may have different levels of coverage, but policies typically cover fire damage as well as additional living expenses during the time people were forced to leave their homes following the evacuation order.

As Intact waits for more information, the company has tallied its policies in the area. “We know we insure about 1,500 houses, 1,300 tenants in condos,” said Intact’s Mr. Lamy, adding that the company would also be exposed to automotive risk with potential damage to an unknown number of vehicles.

Losses reported on commercial insurance policies can also add up quickly and Intact said it has about 350 clients with insurance for their property, building contents and losses from business interruption. These policies offer a range of coverage from about $20,000 to $12-million, Mr. Lamy said.

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