Damage and repairs could make BC floods costliest natural disaster in Canada

While it will still be some time before British Columbia officials can provide preliminary estimates of the cost of repairing damage from this week’s flooding, it could be the costliest natural disaster in the world. Canadian history.

Highway bridges need to be replaced, sections of railroad rehabilitated and entire communities to be rebuilt, meaning the cost of flooding is expected to be unprecedented in British Columbia history.

“This has a significant economic impact that grows every day these roads are used,” Kent Fellows, assistant professor of economics and deputy director of The Canadian Northern Corridor Program at the School of Public Policy, told Global. the University of Calgary. New.

Currently, the costliest natural disaster in Canada has been in Fort McMurray, where wildfires have resulted in insurance claims worth $ 3.7 billion. However, the final cost, including repairs and reconstruction, was almost $ 9 billion.

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Flooding in southern Alberta resulted in insurance claims of $ 1.7 billion, but the actual cost was almost double.

In 1998, ice storms in Quebec and Ontario cost the insurance industry $ 1.3 billion.

“Between 1983 and 2008, the insurance industry paid, on average, about $ 422,000,000 in weather damage across the country,” said Rob de Pruis, director of consumer and industry relations. for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

He added that over the past decade that number has grown to $ 2.1 billion, on average across the country. Last year, the country suffered approximately $ 2.4 billion in damage from severe weather events.

“Prior to this severe weather event in British Columbia, we still had over $ 1.3 billion in severe weather claims this year alone,” added de Pruis.

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British Columbians now have access to residential overland flood coverage and de Pruis said about half of the province’s residents have added this optional coverage to their policies.

However, about five percent of homeowners would not qualify for coverage due to being in “high risk flood areas”.

Losses from flooding in the province extend far beyond critical infrastructure.

The Port of Vancouver is essentially cut off from the rest of the country, and approximately $ 250 million to $ 500 million in cargo passes through the port every day.

Experts say these costs are not factored into traditional disaster models.

“The economy is there to meet the needs of the people, that’s what we’re talking about and it will affect both the export side and the import side and interprovincial trade,” Fellows said.

“It is also Canada’s gateway to the Pacific, which also affects our Pacific partners. It also affects some of our trade with the United States, as we do a lot of that trade along the west coast of the United States. “

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British Columbia Premier John Horgan has said the province has the fiscal capacity to rebuild what has been lost.

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But Fellows said a key development here will be to build an infrastructure with more resilience.

“In Canada, over the past 40 to 50 years, we haven’t done much or no long-term planning on our inter-regional and international infrastructure, things have just turned out the way we need to,” he said. -he declares. “Before 1970 this country put a lot of thought into long-term planning over decades or half centuries, centuries.

“So I think the provincial and federal levels should seriously think about how to ensure that our infrastructure is resilient to climate change, how do we plan for the expansion of the Canadian economy, hoping that we want that it is growing, we want to improve the quality of life, and how seriously do we think about layoffs.

Transport Minister Rob Fleming said on Friday that there was no estimate of the overall cost of rebuilding the province, but that it would be “very significant.”

“And they have to be built to a higher standard,” he added.

– with files from Aaron McArthur

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.