Flood task force report expected soon

June 20, 2022 — CANADA’s national flood task force is about to release a report that will provide decisionmakers with the best information available, one of its authors says.

Matthew Godsoe, director of resilience and economics integrations division at Public Safety Canada, said during the recent CatIQ connect online seminar that the task force’s final report will be released this summer.

“The goal of the work has always been to ensure that the path forward for governments, the insurance industry and for Canadians is informed by the best possible evidence,” he said.

“It was really to get everybody on the same page on the detailed costing and the detailed breakdown and distribution of flood risk across the country.”

The focus of the task force’s work has been on residential structures that are privately owned and how they are affected by three types of flooding — fluvial (from rivers), pluvial (from rainfall) and coastal.

The task force set itself six objectives over the 18 months of its work, Mr. Godsoe said.

The first was to develop insurance models for analysis. The task force analyzed best practices and lessons learned in Australia, France, the U.K. and the U.S. and then developed 12 recommendations for insurance models that could work in Canada while also considering obstacles to their implementation.

The second objective was to develop Canada-wide policy estimates for flood hazards and flood damages based on the best available data.

Unfortunately, Mr. Godsoe said, large areas of the country do not have flood maps. So the task force worked with Natural Resources Canada to consolidate what is available along with private catastrophe risk models to create a new national risk model.

The task force also had a goal of conducting an actuarial analysis to assess the cost of flooding nationally.

Overall, the total loss expected on average for the country each year is about $3bn — which is significantly higher than previous estimates, Mr. Godsoe said.

The fourth objective was to examine opportunities for strategic relocation and risk reduction for residences that are at the highest risk of repeat flooding.

He noted that there is a concentration of risk in a small number of properties which are creating the majority of losses, so if those highest-risk areas are targeted there could be a significant impact on overall risk. Mr. Godsoe said several methods can be used to reduce risk. It can be tackled at the household level for as little as $250 per property. And he said community flood mitigation produces a 6:1 return on investment.

A risk reduction plan can also be implemented that includes measures such as changing building codes, providing risk information to the public and watershed mitigation.

He said that while strategic relocation for properties with the highest risk is extremely effective at reducing flood risk, it is also one of the most challenging policies to implement on a social and psychological level.

The task force also assessed viable flood insurance arrangements.

It analyzed four insurance models while creating the report — a flat cap high-risk pool, a tiered high-risk pool, a public insurer plan and a public reinsurer plan.

Another objective was to create an integrated assessment and ‘statement of fact’ report, which will be released later this year.

Mr. Godsoe noted that the insurance industry — led by the Insurance Bureau of Canada — has been a major contributor to the work of the task force.

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