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Federal funding for flood insurance a 'major step forward': industry

Workers start to clean up the devastation left by Hurricane Fiona in Burnt Island, N.L. on Wednesday Sept. 28, 2022. The federal government committed $31.7 million over three years in its latest budget to a low-cost flood insurance program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

OTTAWA — The federal government committed $31.7 million over three years in its latest budget toward a low-cost flood insurance program.

The insurance industry has been calling for a government-backed program to help households at increasingly high risk of damage from flooding due to extreme weather.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada called the funding a "major step forward" in a statement responding to the budget Tuesday evening. 

Flooding is Canada's greatest climate-related risk, with more than 1.5 million households considered highly exposed to flooding, said president and CEO Celyeste Power in the statement.

"Today's funding from the federal government will help ensure all homeowners, regardless of their risk, have access to affordable flood insurance," she said. 

Recently highlighting this risk was last year's hurricane Fiona, which caused flooding for many Atlantic Canadian homeowners whose residential home insurance policies didn't cover all the damages. 

Experts said the hurricane highlighted gaps in home insurance, which don't normally cover damages from storm surges such as the ones caused by Fiona. 

The new flood insurance program would consider damage caused by storm surges as well as riverfront flooding and urban overland flooding, said Power. 

She said Canada joins the U.K., U.S. and many other G7 countries in announcing such a program. 

"IBC looks forward to working in close collaboration with the federal government and the provinces and territories to establish the country's first national flood insurance program within the next 24 months," said Power. 

The federal budget states that the unique realities of natural disasters make them difficult to insure. It proposes funding starting in 2023-24 to Public Safety Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to work with the Department of Finance on the program.

The program would include offering reinsurance through a Crown corporation and a separate insurance subsidy program. 

The budget also proposes $15.3 million over three years for Public Safety Canada to create an online portal where Canadians can find out their exposure to flooding, as the increasing risks posed by climate change mean many many not be aware of the risks their home faces. 

It also proposes more than $50 million to Public Safety Canada to identify areas at a high risk for flooding and implement a modernized Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program, the program that covers the vast majority of provincial and territorial costs after a disaster. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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