Redford needs to come clean on flood costs before they sink Alberta by David Staples, July 24, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Alberta Premier Alison Redford needs to come clean on how much flood relief is going to cost Alberta taxpayers. Will it be $1 billion, the money already set aside? $2 billion? $5 billion? More?
First off, she needs to make it clear just how much of the total flood relief the federal government will eventually cover. Federal guidelines indicate the federal government will pay as much as 90% for some kinds of flood relief, and that’s the number Redford is putting out there to comfort all of us as well, as seen as this paraphrase from Graham Thomson column: “Redford who wants the federal government to help cover the cost of mitigation projects. As Redford points out, Ottawa has to cover 90 per cent of disaster assistance anyway, so it might as well invest money now to save money later.”
But there’s a major and uncomfortable hitch in this calculation. After the 2011 flood in Manitoba, taxpayers there had to foot a $1.025 billion bill, reported the Winnipeg Free Press: ”The province has spent $359 million on agriculture assistance, $289 million on disaster financial assistance, $48 million on the Lake Manitoba Flood Assistance Program, $240 million in flood fighting, mitigation, restoration and flood-proofing and $89 million on an emergency channel and other infrastructure works.” The federal government did not cover 90% of that billion dollars. Instead if covered just 40% of it.
In Alberta, it’s likely that a higher percentage of the total cost will be in the form of relief payments to home owners with uninsured losses. The federal eligibility guidelines make it clear the feds will cover some uninsured losses, but not all of them. The federal funding is a bit complicated, but here are the key sections:
“The costs of repairing or replacing structures are not eligible if they are in a location that, prior to their construction was designated, recognized or zoned as a flood risk area by provincial or municipal authorities.
“If a structure has been built in a previously designated flood risk area and appropriate measures have been taken during its construction to protect it against the effects of a 100-year flood, it will be considered eligible for damages from a flood exceeding the 100-year flood design.
“Structures in place prior to a flood risk area designation having come into effect are eligible for assistance, provided that: they are not subsequently rebuilt within the designated flood risk area; or appropriate and adequate flood-proofing measures (placing structures behind levees, constructing them on stilts/columns or mounds) are taken to protect against the effects of a 100-year flood. Such flood-proofing costs may be eligible up to the limits established for incremental mitigation costs.”
In Alberta, the old limit on how much one home owner could get was $100,000, but that was lifted in 2010, and Redford has made it clear she’s willing to pay unlimited costs to homeowners in order to rebuild.
Here is what she said in the days after the flood
“We are going to do whatever it takes, in terms of paying to rebuild – to rebuild homes, to rebuild families and communities. The world changed on Thursday and we’re going to deal with it.”
And she said in another interview with the Herald’s Chris Varcoe:
“We don’t know what the final cost will be. We don’t yet have the long-term plan.”
Will you cover the entire cost of rebuilding homes?
“Yes,” Redford said.
Anybody in High River will have rebuilding costs paid?
So you will rebuild all those people’s homes?
The consequence of Redford’s blank cheque promise is that the province is on the hook for payments to homeowners that the federal government will not cover.
How much will that cost?
And is there public support for such a measure?
Even in Calgary’s most anguished moment right after the flood, there was just barely majority support for unlimited relief, at least according to one Herald one line poll.
Poll results as of August 3, 2013 PM
More recent news reports appear to contradict this claim of unlimited payments to individual home owners. A July 23 Herald story on Canmore reports: “Officials with the province said vacation homes won’t be compensated by the disaster recovery program, which covers only primary residences at the cost of an average home in the community.”
Again, more confusion here. And there’s extremely uncertain public support for a mass, unlimited bail out program. It’s worth noting that it was the town and city councils in Canmore, High River and Calgary that at some point approved houses being built in these areas that are now flooded. To what extent the risk of flooding was known by those councils and by home owners isn’t known and isn’t really useful in this discussion. People on the flood plains have now paid an extremely high price for their choices. But if there is any issue of blame and responsibility, it sits at the local level, not at the provincial level. Whatever the province does to help isn’t so much out of obligation, it’s more out of a desire to help people in great need, and that obviously includes helping them meet their basic need for shelter. … A reasonable cap is in order — and a very high $500,000 million cap might well be in place already — but Redford needs to provide far greater clarity here, especially after her earlier rash promises. … She has promised to cover the cost of an average home in Calgary, around half a million. What if the fed cap is nowhere near that? Does she still intend to make up the difference? Does she have an estimate on how much this will cost provincial taxpayers as opposed to federal taxpayers? [Emphasis added]
Alberta Guidelines for Disaster Recovery Programs Schedule 2
Air conditioners, air purifiers, etc. / at appraised value / limited to applications supported by a medical certificate indicating they are required / one per application with receipts
Antiques / equivalent to corresponding essential items at regular value
Barbecues / $300 maximum / one per application
Bathroom towels / $250 maximum per application
Bed linen (sheets, pillows, blankets or bed in a bag) / $300 maximum per bed
Bedroom suite / $1,200 maximum per bedroom
Briefcases / $100 maximum / one per person sixteen years of age or older
Bicycles / $150 maximum per bicycle / one per person
Calculators / $25 maximum per calculator / one per person
Chainsaw / $250 maximum / limited to residences on rural properties (including acreages)
Clean up by homeowner for residence / 120 per cent of provincial minimum wage / 200 hour maximum per application
Clean up by contractor for residence (water removal, furniture removal, fan and/or dehumidifier rental in affected areas). Does not include demolition, carpet removal or sanitizing / $3,000 maximum per application with receipts
Clocks / $50 maximum per clock / maximum two per application
Clothing / $3,000 maximum per person (some extraordinary cases may warrant special consideration)
Coffee tables and end tables / $300 maximum per application
Computer (includes CPU, keyboard, monitor, printer and mouse) / $1,000 maximum / one per application
Cosmetics / $100 maximum / per person sixteen years of age or older
Curtains, drapes / $1,000 maximum per application
Desk and chair / $300 maximum per desk / $150 maximum per task chair / one of each per household
Dining room set / $2,000 maximum / one per application
Dishes, glassware, etc. / $500 maximum per application
Dishwashers / $600 maximum / one per application
Driveway / primary access / limited to replacement or repair that restores pre-event functionality / receipts required
Dryer / $500 maximum / one per application
Drywall, panel board (including insulation and vapour barrier on perimeter walls) / at program rates including labour, using the base year modifier in place for the 12-month period commencing April 1st of the event year, in the Alberta Unit Cost Assessment Manual
Flatware and utensils / $300 maximum per application
Floor coverings (carpet, linoleum, etc.) / at program rates including labour, based on economy grade floor coverings, using the base year modifier in place for the 12-month period commencing April 1st
of the event year, in the Alberta Unit Cost Assessment Manual
Freezer food / $1,000 maximum per application
Freezer / $1,000 maximum / one per application
Fridge / $1,000 maximum / one per application
Furnace / service, repair or replacement per depth of water guidelines / maximum of cost for purchase and installation of a single-stage high-efficiency gas furnace / one per application with receipts
Garden (home – fruits and vegetables) / $400 maximum per application
Garden tools and supplies / $100 maximum per application
Garden shed / $1,000 maximum / one per application
Health items (prescription glasses, dental appliances including dentures, prescription medicines, etc.) / providing assistance is not available from other sources including medical insurance / pay as evaluated to a maximum of $3,000 per person
Hot Water Tank / service, repair or replacement per depth of water guidelines / maximum of costs for purchase and installation of an equivalent size replacement / one per application with receipts
Household, miscellaneous (including bathroom scales, clothes hampers, garbage cans, fans, humidifiers, mirrors, etc.) / $500 maximum per application
Kitchen, miscellaneous (includes brooms, mops, ironing board, soap and laundry supplies) / $200 maximum per application
Kitchen linen / $100 maximum per application
Kitchen pots and pans / $200 maximum per application
Kitchen set (table and chairs) / $500 maximum / one per application
Kitchen, small appliances (includes toaster, electric frying pan, electric can opener, electric knife, iron, etc.) / $200 maximum per application Lamps / $500 maximum per application
Landscaping (residential) / $500 maximum / limited to removal or repair of safety hazards
Lawnmowers (push) / $300 maximum / one per application
Lawnmowers, (ride-on) / $1,800 maximum / limited to residences on rural properties (including acreages), as well as applications supported by a medical certificate indicating they are required / one per application
Living room suite (excluding coffee and end tables) / $2,000 maximum / one per application
Meals and accommodation (where not provided by municipality) / 10-day maximum / per application / subject to unsafe or evacuation conditions
Microwave / $250 maximum / one per application
Miscellaneous personal items (includes curling iron, hair dryer, keys, etc.) / $200 maximum per person sixteen years of age or older
Radios / $50 maximum each / maximum two per application
Razor (electric) / $125 maximum / one per person sixteen years of age or older
Reference books / $1,000 maximum per person (only if necessary for the livelihood of a person or if used by a person with current student status)
Roto tiller or powered cultivator / $750 maximum / limited to residences on rural properties (including acreages), as well as applications supported by a medical certificate indicating they are required / one per application
Septic tank / system cleaning, flushing, repair or replacement / eligible if damage caused by event / repair or replacement costs will be prorated based on 20-year lifecycle of tank / system
Sewing machines / $250 maximum / one per application
Snow blower / $1,000 maximum / limited to residences on rural properties (including acreages), as well as applications supported by a medical certificate indicating they are required / one per application
Sports and fitness equipment / $200 maximum / per person (sports and fitness equipment used for livelihood are eligible to the appraised value)
Stove (gas or electric) / $850 maximum / one per application
Suitcases / $200 maximum each set of three / maximum one set per person sixteen years of age or older
Telephones / $50 maximum each / two per application
Television (repair or replacement) / $300 maximum / one per application
Tools (household) / $200 maximum per application (tools used for livelihood are eligible to the appraised value)
Toys, games and books / $150 maximum per child / limited to households with children under the age of sixteen years
Vacuum / $400 maximum / one per application (if purchased in lieu of rental for clean up, 50 per cent of the purchase price to a $200 maximum)
Washing Machine / $700 maximum / one per application
Water well (potable) / eligible for flood related cleaning, repair or replacement / repair or replacement costs will be prorated based on 30-year lifecycle
Wood / as evaluated / where used as primary source of heating
Two waste dumping trucks at Encana rig near Rosebud (one loading up at rig, one driving in), August 4, 2013.
Water truck leaving.
Encana drilling additives, August 4, 2013, near Rosebud.
Ernst safe alternate water hauling tank, Encana compressors and wells at Rosebud in background, June 2013
Alberta Government 2006 Legislature promise of permanent, safe alternate water to citizens with methane contaminated water in hydraulically fractured (aka stimulated) coalbed methane areas