Feltmate says task force must act fast

March 11, 2024 — THE HEAD of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has welcomed the reboot of a federal-provincial-territorial flood task force on flood insurance but said it must be action-oriented to make a difference.

Blair Feltmate noted that financial losses due to flooding in Canada are growing fast.

“Otherwise stated, the impacts of flooding — alongside wildfire and wind, but flooding is the most costly insurable peril by far — are getting worse, faster . . . and for every one dollar in insurable loss there are three to four in uninsurable losses.”

Mr. Feltmate told Thompson’s that the impact of flooding in cities across Canada over the past 10 years has resulted in an average reduction in the sold price of homes of 8.2%.

“This is directly attributable to flooding for homes in flood-impacted communities. The house itself did not have to flood, it simply had to be in a flood-impacted community.”

Currently, 10% of homes in Canada — almost 1.5 million residences — are no longer eligible for flood insurance for flood water in their basement.

Mr. Feltmate said that if the reconvened task force fails to meet specific criteria, it will bring little of value to help mitigate the problem.

“The task force must make available flood risk maps, in user-friendly form, on or before the end of 2024, that are easily accessible by anyone living in detached, semi-detached and row housing,” he said.

“Public Safety Canada must make available its promised flood risk portal, on or before year-end 2024.

“The flood portal would allow anyone to type in their home address and instantly receive the flood score for their home on a scale of one-to-10.”

He said Canada must also commit to launching a national home flood protection education program to guide people to take action to protect their homes from flooding.

Mr. Feltmate said the task force should promote the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation’s three steps to cost-effective home flood protection: maintenance, simple upgrades such as window-well covers and more complex upgrades including backwater valve installation.

He said the task force should create rules to decide whether people who usually cannot obtain flood insurance should have some form of coverage.

Mr. Feltmate said such coverage should be linked to steps taken by an entire community or individual homeowners to reduce the chances of future flooding. He said this approach prevents moral hazard, where people might take more significant risks knowing they have insurance.

Government ministers responsible for emergency management met in Ottawa recently and have agreed to reconvene the task force to work on a low-cost flood insurance program. The ministers also discussed how they can collaborate with municipalities, Indigenous leadership and communities and other stakeholders to develop and provide accessible flood-risk hazard information for Canada.

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