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Documents show many cities are wary of mapping flood risks, making data public

By Jordan Press

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ When municipal officials were told last year about new tools to help them map the risk of flooding in their communities, they immediately raised red flags, suggesting they wanted no part of it over concerns about legal liability and political backlash.

Details contained in internal government reports echo a narrative across the country that show just how wary some city leaders have been about mapping and publicizing flood risks in their communities.

As one municipal official put it, they fear releasing the information would force them to use the Tim Hortons drive-up window to avoid the ire of those inside the restaurant.

The stance has mystified insurance industry representatives and local leaders who have been pushing municipalities to use new mapping tools to identify risk areas and make that information public.

“The big business case for this is we can all pay a lot more for insurance and experience the disruption, or we can invest in the infrastructure and experience less disruption to the economy and to families and lower insurance premiums,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, head of FCM’s big city mayors’ caucus.

“We can learn from these disasters and actually model out where it would make sense to get ahead of the problem.”

The questions about what local officials don’t know and why they don’t want to know it have been raised anew with flood waters overwhelming communities in Quebec and Ontario.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada created a mapping tool to figure out where there was the greatest risk of flooding, either from rising waters or overwhelming rainfall. A Calgary-based company, Tesera, is in the process of getting it ready for wider distribution.

At a session on disaster-proofing communities at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference last June, some delegates appeared to want nothing to do with the mapping tool.

A report from officials at Infrastructure Canada said that a delegate from one city worried that mapping flood risk could reduce property values in flood-prone areas where infrastructure solutions weren’t feasible. Another said local governments are reluctant to map flood risks because they could be liable for damages, “and they may not have the public or political support for infrastructure investments,” the report said.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the report under the Access to Information Act.

Craig Stewart, vice-president federal affairs for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said local leaders were concerned about releasing the maps publicly, fearing owners of high-risk homes would take out their anger on local officials.

“However, it’s our opinion that people have a right to know their risk and in fact, Canadians should be educated about flood risk so that they can make the right decisions on how to defend themselves against it,” Stewart said.

The federal government has pledged cash for risk assessments and new infrastructure construction, hoping to nudge cities into making better decisions about what projects they need and how badly they need them done.

As well, this year’s federal budget earmarked $2 billion over 11 years, the vast majority of it to be spent after 2021, in the Liberal infrastructure program to help disaster-proof the communities. A further $281 million over 11 years is set aside for projects that help communities adapt to climate change.

The amounts won’t meet all the needs to protect communities from flooding: Edmonton, for instance, estimates it would require $2.5 billion in new infrastructure to reduce flooding risks over the next 50 years.

There is never going to be enough federal money to cover all the infrastructure needs cities have, but the funding is “more than we had before,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

“If you don’t adapt and if you don’t show resiliency, then you’re going to be in trouble. So I’m glad that the feds have identified that this is a necessity,” said Savage, whose city has mapped flood risks inland and along its coast line.

“When it comes to climate change, sticking your head in the sand is not the right solution.”

Desjardins introduces new flood coverage for Canadians

LÉVIS, QC, March 13, 2017 /CNW Telbec/ – Thanks to new flood coverage—Endorsement 16d in insurance jargon—customers of Desjardins (Desjardins Insurance, The Personal and State Farm Canada) who live in low-risk areas will automatically be covered, at no charge, for damage caused by an overflowing waterway or dam break, for instance. And, with an additional premium, clients living in medium-risk areas can also take advantage of the new coverage.

95% of Desjardins policyholders can benefit from flood coverage:

  • 80% insure properties in low-risk areas
  • 15% insure properties in medium-risk areas

Desjardins is committed to developing products and services that offer peace of mind and meet the current and future needs of their clients. “We listened to our customers and designed this coverage with them in mind. We want to help people avoid unpleasant surprises because dealing with water damage is already difficult enough,” says Denis Dubois, President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group.

“Our flood coverage has fewer exclusions than the protections offered by the majority of our competitors. It’s free for most clients and remains optional for policyholders who would have to pay for it. This gives clients the flexibility to adapt their coverage to suit their needs and their reality,” adds Dubois.

Did you know?
Home insurance policies cover accidental water damage, such as a burst water pipe, leaking dishwasher or overflowing bathtub. This basic coverage can be enhanced with other optional coverage, including:

  • Ground water and sewer back-up (Endorsement 16c) – Because of climate change, heavy rain events are becoming increasingly frequent, causing sewers to back up or water to pool around houses and seep in through the foundations. At Desjardins, 85% of clients have this endorsement on their home insurance policies.
  • Above ground water (Endorsement 42) – 90% of Desjardins clients have this endorsement, which covers damage caused by water seeping in through the roof, for instance.

The flood endorsement (16d) launched today completes the range of optional coverage already offered by Desjardins.

Higher-risk areas
A minority of Canadians live in areas with a higher risk of flooding. As it stands, they still don’t have access to appropriate insurance coverage.

“We’re continuing to work with the industry and the federal government to help make it easier for all Canadians living in high-risk areas to get insurance and minimize the number of homes without adequate coverage,” says Dubois.

About Desjardins General Insurance Group
A subsidiary of Desjardins Group, Desjardins General Insurance Group (DGIG) is Canada’s third largest provider of property and casualty insurance. The company distributes insurance under the Desjardins Insurance, The Personal, and State Farm Canada brands. DGIG is also a leader in Canada in white label distribution.

 

SOURCE Desjardins Groupe d’assurances générales

Some floodwater receding in Manitoba but flows increasing on Assiniboine

WINNIPEG _ Floodwater is receding across parts of southern Manitoba but officials warn water is on the rise along the Assiniboine River.

In its flood bulletin, the province says it has lifted a flood warning for some rivers since flows are decreasing.

But officials say a flood watch remains west of Winnipeg, between Portage la Prairie and Headingley, as the water continues to rise into the weekend.

The province says a significant amount of water is coming in from Saskatchewan and ice jams are a concern on a few rivers where the ice is still intact.

Officials say the Red River has already crested in Winnipeg and water is decreasing in some tributaries.

Forecasters have said soil moisture is very high following a wet fall, and river and lake levels are above normal in some areas.

Officials are urging any homeowners affected by this spring’s flooding to review their home insurance. They say overland flood insurance was introduced by some insurers in Manitoba last year.

Desjardins introduces new flood coverage for Canadians

Thanks to new flood coverage—Endorsement 16d in insurance jargon—customers of Desjardins (Desjardins Insurance, The Personal and State Farm Canada) who live in low-risk areas will automatically be covered, at no charge, for damage caused by an overflowing waterway or dam break, for instance. And, with an additional premium, clients living in medium-risk areas can also take advantage of the new coverage.

95% of Desjardins policyholders can benefit from flood coverage:

  • 80% insure properties in low-risk areas
  • 15% insure properties in medium-risk areas

Desjardins is committed to developing products and services that offer peace of mind and meet the current and future needs of their clients. “We listened to our customers and designed this coverage with them in mind. We want to help people avoid unpleasant surprises because dealing with water damage is already difficult enough,” says Denis Dubois, President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group.

“Our flood coverage has fewer exclusions than the protections offered by the majority of our competitors. It’s free for most clients and remains optional for policyholders who would have to pay for it. This gives clients the flexibility to adapt their coverage to suit their needs and their reality,” adds Dubois.

Did you know?
Home insurance policies cover accidental water damage, such as a burst water pipe, leaking dishwasher or overflowing bathtub. This basic coverage can be enhanced with other optional coverage, including:

  • Ground water and sewer back-up (Endorsement 16c) – Because of climate change, heavy rain events are becoming increasingly frequent, causing sewers to back up or water to pool around houses and seep in through the foundations. At Desjardins, 85% of clients have this endorsement on their home insurance policies.
  • Above ground water (Endorsement 42) – 90% of Desjardins clients have this endorsement, which covers damage caused by water seeping in through the roof, for instance.

The flood endorsement (16d) launched today completes the range of optional coverage already offered by Desjardins.

Higher-risk areas
A minority of Canadians live in areas with a higher risk of flooding. As it stands, they still don’t have access to appropriate insurance coverage.

“We’re continuing to work with the industry and the federal government to help make it easier for all Canadians living in high-risk areas to get insurance and minimize the number of homes without adequate coverage,” says Dubois.

About Desjardins General Insurance Group
A subsidiary of Desjardins Group, Desjardins General Insurance Group (DGIG) is Canada’s third largest provider of property and casualty insurance. The company distributes insurance under the Desjardins Insurance, The Personal, and State Farm Canada brands. DGIG is also a leader in Canada in white label distribution.

 

SOURCE Desjardins Groupe d’assurances générales

Heavy rain, swelling rivers threaten Vancouver Island First Nation

PORT ALBERNI, B.C. _ A First Nation near Port Alberni, B.C., expects to evacuate some homes as heavy rains cause rivers to flood.

Tseshaht Nation emergency preparedness co-ordinator Hugh Braker said the community has been sand bagging riverside properties and roads, but with up to 120 millimetres of rain expected by Wednesday, the risk for flooding remains high.

Out buildings including garages and carports were damaged by flooding on the weekend, but no homes have been affected yet, Braker said.

Six families who were forced to leave their homes on the weekend as a precaution were able to return, but a new round of evacuations is anticipated to begin Monday evening.

Braker said the reserve’s major thoroughfare, Highway 4, is also expected to be washed out by rising water levels, posing challenges for emergency crews as they try to reach people.

“Our reserve is serviced by the fire department of the City of Port Alberni. If we have a fire above the flooded highway, it’s going to take a very long time for the trucks to respond.”

Although a school on the reserve is not within the flood plane, Braker said classes might be cancelled to prevent students from having to travel on flooded roads.

He said flood levels from the Somass River are expected to peak Tuesday, and could be comparable to historic flooding that devastated the community in 2014.

The reserve has faced flood risks every year since then.

“It’s very unusual for us,” he said about flooding three years in a row. “Certainly it’s something the … Tseshaht First Nation council will have to look at after this emergency is over.”

The Tseshaht Nation declared a state of emergency on Friday and has been working with the province and Environment Canada to monitor the flood and take precautions.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of preventative planning and placement of resources in anticipation of the flood.”

CP3

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