Provinces asking feds for $138 million to help buy out flooded properties

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Flood-ravaged provinces are asking the federal government to provide almost $138 million to move or buy out homeowners affected by previous years’ inundations, according to new data that gives a glimpse into the national costs of helping residents leave floodplains.

Calculations based on previous experience suggest that the total cost of giving up on 100,000 of the most endangered structures could run into the billions.

Only four times in the past decade have provinces turned to the federal treasury for help to move homes twice in New Brunswick, and once each in Quebec and Yukon.

In New Brunswick’s case, the federal government picked up more than 80 per cent of the $1.8 million spent to buy out a combined 36 properties after flooding in 2008 and 2010.

Public Safety Canada says provinces and territories have asked for $137.9 million in federal money to help cover costs related to 10 floods, but the dollar figure is only an estimate and doesn’t include this year’s.

The department says it expects to get more requests for financial help to relocate homes as the frequency of extreme flooding increases and wants to know how much provinces and territories have spent on it without federal help.

All that data will feed into a debate governments are having about whether it’s better to move people off floodplains rather than repeatedly pay for repairs.

Federal help for disaster relief kicks in once costs surpass what lower levels of government could reasonably be expected to cover on their own.

Within the program, called the “Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements,” is a provision that allows provinces to claim the cost of relocating residents to areas less prone to floods or other disasters. Federal funding can also be used to buy out affected homeowners and dismantle damaged buildings.

How much gets doled out depends on the design of the buyout program, which has become a point in discussions between Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and his provincial and territorial counterparts.

A program could provide money up to a pre-set maximum, which is what Quebec’s government is offering this year up to $200,000 to anyone with severe damage to their homes. Or it could pay the full estimated value of a home before it was flooded, as Alberta did after flooding there in 2013.

In that case, about one-third of homeowners who were offered buyouts took them within a year of the offer, costing the province $81 million in 2014. Alberta covered the bill itself, without federal assistance.

Based on the data available, the federal government has paid, on average, about $41,000 for each property owner who accepted previous buyouts in New Brunswick.

This year, New Brunswick is offering up to $160,000 for each home where damage exceeds 80 per cent of its pre-flood value. Owners can sell their buildings and have them demolished and levelled but retain their land. They can also sell out entirely, or take up to $160,000 to use on repairs in exchange for giving up any future disaster aid.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates about 100,000 homes out of the 14 million dwellings Statistics Canada counted in the 2016 census _ are at the highest risk of repeat flood damage. A buyout program for those properties could cost the federal treasury hundreds of millions of dollars based on the limited information available about previous federal disaster help, in addition to what provincial governments put up.

“No government bailout program or insurance program is going to be able to deal with those repeated cases where you’re going to have repeated claims in a short period of time. That’s where you may focus buyouts,” said Craig Stewart, vice-president of federal affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“In our view, the calculation is buy out a few and then protect and insure the rest.”

Mehda Joshi claims Allstate wanted to deny insurance to visible minority drivers in Brampton, Ont.

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Roadblocks ahead for Alberta drivers trying to get insurance

Alberta drivers are being cautioned about a possibly bumpy road ahead when it comes to insurance coverage.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said due in part to a five per cent cap on auto insurance rate increases implemented by the previous NDP government, insurers are being forced to make some changes.

An IBC spokesperson told Global News that while the cap — which is still in place — may have seemed like a good idea to protect consumers, it has caused significant problems.

“Right now we have a very unhealthy market here in Alberta,” said Celyeste Power, IBC vice president of Western Canada.

“Claims costs have been spiraling out of control for the past few years. Insurers are losing up to $0.30 on every single dollar that they’re bringing in.”

IBC also said the industry is not turning a profit through its investments, although it didn’t explain exactly how much it’s losing.

It did, however, send a letter to the Alberta premier, outlining what it called significant issues that drivers, brokers and agents are facing.

“That’s something that we’re certainly concerned about,” Jason Kenney said in response to the letter. “I’d be happy to sit with the insurance bureau and discuss that.”

But insurers aren’t the only ones unhappy these days.

Calgarian Scott Ramsay was one of many motorists who contacted Global News after he received a lengthy renewal form from his auto insurer Aviva Canada.

“Just the way it was worded kind of ticked me off,” Ramsay said.

Not only did he feel he had to go through hoops to be renewed for coverage, he also was informed he’d have to pay his full premium up front.

Aviva Canada told Global News: “Fundamentally, we’re just working to make sure we have accurate and updated information so that we have a full understanding of our customers’ needs.”

Aviva added it’s doing this because, during the year, drivers can get into accidents or get tickets and the company can’t accurately rate or assess the risk, or determine the proper premium for renewal.

IBC said this doesn’t mean Alberta drivers won’t get insurance, but they may not get renewed automatically, be allowed to pay in installments or be covered for what’s considered optional coverage.

“What is becoming more difficult, and the longer we go on in this unhealthy market, is finding the non-mandatory coverage like theft or hail coverage for example,” Power said.

Power said IBC is optimistic a solution will be found for all sides, but that solution won’t necessarily mean lower rates.

According to IBC, Alberta drivers already pay the third highest insurance rates in Canada.

Ending Out-of-Country Medical Insurance Too Quickly May Put Ontario Consumers at Risk

The Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance (CAFII) warned today that the Ontario government’s decision to end OHIP coverage for emergency services for Ontarians travelling outside Canada could result in many people travelling abroad without adequate insurance coverage if the change is implemented too quickly and without sufficient communication.

The Government has set October 1, 2019 as the implementation date to end OHIP’s out-of-country coverage. But in order for consumers to continue to receive a high level of protection when traveling outside Canada, CAFII says more time is needed – at least a one-year transition period. This longer time frame would allow the Government to undertake a robust, multi-year communications campaign to inform Ontarians about the change and resulting implications. It would also give the industry more time to determine what the new premium rates will be, and to ensure its employees are ready to communicate about the changes and properly serve their customers.

According to CAFII, even under the current situation before the pending change, many Ontarians travel outside of Canada without adequate travel health insurance and without realizing they are at risk of incurring catastrophic financial costs. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medical Services, the average cost of a three-day hospital stay in the United States is approximately US$30,000, and comprehensive care can run up costs of several hundred thousand dollars or more.

However, by allowing more lead time for the elimination of OHIP coverage for Ontarians travelling outside of Canada, it will provide an opportunity for the Government to inform consumers that OHIP will no longer cover them at all when they travel outside of Canada. It will also allow more time for both the Government and the insurance industry to address the dangerous misconception that private insurance is not necessary when consumers travel outside the country.

“We believe a robust communications campaign by the Government that supplements what the insurance industry is already doing will be critical in mitigating the risk to the travelling public of this change in insurance coverage,” says Keith Martin, Co-Executive Director of CAFII. “That communications campaign should emphasize to Ontarians the importance of having travel health insurance in place before travelling outside Canada, so that they and their loved ones will have immediate access to emergency medical care and related assistance, and can avoid exposure to potentially catastrophic and life-altering financial costs.”

At present, OHIP covers out-of-country inpatient services to a maximum of $400 per day, and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient care. But when these amounts are no longer covered by OHIP, travel medical insurance will become even more important to have, and the cost will undoubtedly rise, says Martin.

About CAFII: 
The Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance is a not-for-profit industry Association dedicated to the development of an open and flexible insurance marketplace. CAFII believes that consumers are best served when they have meaningful choice in the purchase of insurance products and services. CAFII’s members include the insurance arms of Canada’s major financial institutions – BMO Insurance; CIBC Insurance; Desjardins Financial Security; National Bank Insurance; RBC Insurance; ScotiaLife Financial; and TD Insurance – along with major industry players Assurant; Canada Life; Canadian Premier Life Insurance Company; CUMIS Services Incorporated; and Manulife (The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company).

SOURCE CAFII

Cyclist Struck in Marked Crosswalk Found 100% at Fault for Crash

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a personal injury claim involving a cyclist struck by a vehicle.

In today’s case (Dhanoya v. Stephens) the Plaintiff cyclist rode into a marked crosswalk without stopping and was struck by a vehicle.  The Court found the cyclist was fully at fault for the collision and had the cyclist kept a proper lookout the collision could have been avoided.  In finding the cyclist solely liable Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

[13]         After consideration of all of the evidence and particularly after considering the evidence of the plaintiff in the context of all of the evidence and the surrounding circumstances, the evidence of the defendants and Woermke is accepted as to how the accident occurred. It is accepted that Jodie Stephens first saw the plaintiff as the plaintiff approached the intersection on his bike. Although Mr. Stephens was inconsistent as to his exact position when he first saw the plaintiff, it was from 15 to 30 feet from the crosswalk, close enough for the driver to have little option in the circumstances. He was travelling at about 35 kph initially and this estimate of his original speed was supported by Woermke. It was apparent to Mr. Stephens that the plaintiff was not going to stop. Mr. Stephens applied his brakes, managing to slow down to five to ten kph before impact. As described by Woermke, the plaintiff rolled into the crosswalk without stopping or looking. The plaintiff admitted that he bicycled across the crosswalk. He said that he stopped at the crosswalk, put his foot down, and looked for cars for a minute. He did not see the defendants’ vehicle approaching: if he had, he stated that he would not have entered the crosswalk. Clearly, the vehicle was there to be seen. Mr. Stephens realized that the plaintiff had not seen the Stephens vehicle and had not made eye contact so to judge his own safety. The plaintiff was on his usual route, on a bright day, getting close to his destination, with a perception that there were few cars on the road. In the scenario of little perceived traffic, it is concluded that it was the plaintiff’s usual practice to bike across the crosswalk. He followed that practice on the day of the accident. He did not stop and look both ways, else he would have seen the approaching vehicle which was 30 feet away from the crosswalk at most.

[14]         The driver of a motor vehicle has a general duty of care to keep adequate lookout for recognizable hazards on the road (Dobre v. Langley, 2011 BCSC 1315 at para. 34). A driver approaching a marked crosswalk assumes a heightened duty to take extreme care and maintain a vigilant lookout for those that might be in the crosswalk (Dobre at paras. 35 and 43). It is important to remember that the standard of care is not one of perfection, but whether the driver acted in a manner which an ordinarily prudent person would act (Hadden v. Lynch, 2008 BCSC 295 at para. 69).

[15]         A cyclist shares the same rights and duties with drivers of a motor vehicle (Dobre at para. 32). The duties specific to a cyclist are set out in s. 183 Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318. The plaintiff was riding his bicycle in a crosswalk in contravention of s.183 (2)(b) Motor Vehicle Act. He had a duty to keep a proper lookout (Dobre at para. 35).

[16]         Because of this violation of the traffic law, the plaintiff assumed a heightened duty to ensure his own safety, particularly to ensure that he was seen by other drivers (Hadden at para. 59; Dobre at para. 39; Callahan v. Kim, 2012 BCSC 1615 at para. 23). As acknowledged by the plaintiff, he did not have the statutory right of way when he bicycled across the crosswalk because he was not a pedestrian (Dobre at para. 34). Nonetheless, a reasonably careful and skillful driver has a duty to give way to a user of a crosswalk where there is an expectation that pedestrians and other users will be present (Callahan at para. 18). However, in the circumstance of the plaintiff’s failure to yield the right of way, he must establish that, after the defendant became aware that the plaintiff was proceeding onto the crosswalk, the defendant had sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident of which a reasonably careful and skilled driver would have availed himself (Hadden, at paras. 67-68). The plaintiff must establish that he was a recognizable hazard and that his actions left the defendant with enough time and distance to see and avoid striking him (Dobre at para. 34).

[17]         The plaintiff alleges that Mr. Stephens was not operating his vehicle at a reasonable speed in the circumstances, notwithstanding that he was travelling at below the speed limit. The plaintiff also says that Mr. Stephens was distracted by the conversation in the car, so failing to take due care and attention. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant breached the standard of care when he failed to yield the right of way to the user of the crosswalk and that this failure was the cause of the accident.

[18]         Mr. Stephens saw the plaintiff as he cycled towards the crosswalk and anticipated that the plaintiff was going to cycle right into the crosswalk. Although he admitted that he was in conversation with others in the vehicle, the evidence does not establish that he was so distracted so as not to notice the plaintiff as he was at the intersection and as he entered the crosswalk. The defendant was not speeding. He immediately slowed, braking to avoid a collision. He also tried to make eye contact with the cyclist. The defendant did not have sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident. A reasonably careful and skilful driver could not have avoided this accident.

[19]         The plaintiff did not exercise a reasonable degree of care when he cycled into the crosswalk without looking for vehicles. He did not exercise the expected degree of care for his own safety. He assumed that there was no traffic and cycled into the crosswalk without looking. Had he looked, he would have seen the defendant’s vehicle. Had he looked, the plaintiff would have made eye contact with Mr. Stephens who was alert to make contact. Had he looked, the plaintiff would not have proceeded into the crosswalk. Had he looked, this accident could have been avoided. The plaintiff is the author of his own misfortune.

[20]         The plaintiff is 100% at fault for the accident of November 21, 2015.

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