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Opinion: A decade after the floods: Are we higher protected?

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The unprecedented wildfire season that has touched each area of the nation over the previous month is a stark reminder of the rising threat Canadians face from sudden and excessive climate occasions.

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Ten years in the past this week, folks throughout Calgary and southern Alberta endured the hardship of catastrophic flooding. Lives have been misplaced. 1000’s of households have been displaced. Many have been left with no residence.

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It was, on the time, the most costly catastrophe in Canadian historical past. It was additionally a harbinger of a rising risk: extra frequent and extreme climate occasions brought on by altering local weather. Solely weeks later, a torrential downpour hit the Toronto area. The ensuing floods have been the worst within the space since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

Collectively, the Calgary and Toronto 2013 floods value $3.1 billion in insurance coverage claims – and billions extra in authorities reduction.

Within the aftermath, Canada’s property and casualty insurers took motion. Many started providing the nation’s first overland flood insurance coverage – an non-compulsory product designed to financially defend householders in areas of rising flood threat.

Earlier this 12 months, the federal authorities dedicated in its price range to create a nationwide flood insurance coverage program. This is a crucial step, each for what it’ll ship – larger peace of thoughts – and for what it represents: a realization that our local weather is altering, threats are rising, and the established order will merely now not do.

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Amid this new actuality, entry to inexpensive overland flood insurance coverage is critically vital. Broader and higher protection will assist those that want it whereas lowering the potential monetary burden on taxpayers. However insurance coverage is barely a part of the answer. Listed below are 4 different key steps that must be taken to raised defend Canadians.

1. Spend money on flood defences. Governments ought to help efforts by Canadians to retrofit their houses to be extra resilient in opposition to flooding. They usually should prioritize investments in new flood defence infrastructure – reminiscent of dams and berms – in addition to enhancements to sewers and stormwater infrastructure.

2. Construct again smarter. Why rebuild a washed-out highway, solely to see it destroyed once more subsequent spring? As an alternative, it is smart to take a position extra to make sure the highway is healthier located and guarded. The identical goes for shifting folks out of hurt’s technique to restrict recurring harm and hazard to households. Twenty per cent of Canadian households now have some vulnerability to floods, with 11 per cent outlined as being at excessive threat.

3. Educate Canadians concerning the rising flood threat. There are protecting steps that particular person householders can take to protect in opposition to flood harm – however the insurance coverage business and governments should do their half to unfold the phrase. By leveraging each private- and public-sector flood maps, the federal authorities can create a nationwide on-line portal that discloses up-to-date residential and industrial flood threat to the general public and insurers.

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4. Finish constructing on flood plains. Working with the provinces and territories, the federal authorities ought to designate areas at highest threat of flooding as flood hazard areas. This may allow the federal government to manage, restrict and – in probably the most extreme instances – prohibit any form of improvement in these areas.

Ten years after the epic flooding in Alberta and Ontario, we’ve got seen a measure of significant progress. Extra individuals are conscious of the problem Canadians face and are targeted on discovering options. And we’re nearer to having in place a program of inexpensive overland flood insurance coverage for these at highest threat.

However extra can and should be finished. At the same time as we keep on the offensive as a rustic to cut back emissions, we should adapt to our altering local weather by higher defending communities and households from probably disastrous impacts of flooding.

Celyeste Energy is president and CEO of the Insurance coverage Bureau of Canada.

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