Costs of flooding

Introduction

A flood can be a terrifying disaster. People forced from their homes, their property destroyed, business disrupted industry closed down, crops ruined, roads washed out, railway links severed, and all too often, human lives lost.

Floods cost Canadians many millions of dollars every year -- in property damage, lost production, lost wages, and lost businesses. But dollars can't measure the distress, the strain and the heartbreak, that flood victims suffer.

Photo - Costs of flooding. A man wading knee-deep in water with a submerged car in the background.

Then there's the cost of building and maintaining dykes, dams and other flood defenses. These can be enormously expensive -- and still they are no sure guarantee of protection.

Immeasurable Loss

Photo - Immeasureable loss. A man and a child riding in a boat surrounded by buildings submerged in water.
Losses resulting from floods extend far beyond economic hardship. Apart from physical needs, individuals may feel anxiety, anger, helplessness, confusion, and guilt. Some may be experiencing profound grief. Emergency response involves addressing mental health needs as well as providing fundamental necessities such as first aid, food, clothing and shelter.

Children and the elderly are often identified as needing special attention after disaster strikes. In fact, anyone who has been acutely affected, such as those who have lost loved ones or their homes, needs help.

On April 15, 1987, after the Perth-Andover flood, the Emergency Measures Organization opened a Disaster Assistance Office, where victims could register and apply for assistance. The emergency measures officials discovered that some victims were so distraught they could not fill out forms.

See also:

Flood Damage Costs and Compensation

While provinces have primary jurisdiction for responding to disasters, the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements can assist, if requested by the province or territory, should the cost of a disaster exceed that which a province can reasonably be expected to bear on its own. The federal financial contribution is determined according to a formula based on provincial population and federal guidelines for defining eligible costs.

Since 1970, federal financial participation in disaster assistance arrangements has been determined by a "dollar-per-capita" formula. The first dollar per capita of damages is a provincial/territorial responsibility. Damages beyond that threshold level are eligible for federal assistance with the federal proportion rising with the damage, as illustrated in the following table:

This table summarizes the dollar-per-capita formula used for federal cost sharing with the provincial government of damage caused by flooding.

The "Dollar-Per-Capita" Formula for Federal Cost Sharing
Provincial expenditures per capita eligible for sharing Federal Share (%)
First dollar 0
Second and third dollars 50
Fourth and fifth dollars 75
and for the excess 90

Public Safety Canada administers the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements on behalf of the Government of Canada. PS regional offices assist with damage assessments, interpretation of the guidelines, general surveillance of private damage claims, and the development of joint federal-provincial teams to review claims for damage and recommend payments.

Generally, payments are made to restore public works to their pre-disaster condition and to facilitate the restoration of personal property of citizens, farmsteads and small businesses. Not all damages are eligible for cost-sharing. For instance, the program does not cover damages to large businesses, industries, crops, summer cottages or antiques. (A separate crop insurance plan operated by the federal and provincial governments is available to individual farmers for most crop-related losses.)

From 1970 to 1988, PS provided financial assistance for 33 flood disasters. Over this period, about $250 million (approximately $500.3 million in 1998 dollars), or about 75% of all natural disaster assistance, has been paid out to victims of major flood events by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, through cost-shared disaster assistance arrangements. This figure represents only a fraction of the true costs borne by individuals, businesses and industry, and provincial and municipal treasuries.

Disaster assistance payments

The Fraser River flood of 1948 forced the evacuation of some 16 000 people, and disaster assistance payments amounted to some $22 million. As a result of the 1950 Red River flood, governments contributed $25 million in disaster relief. In 1954, flood victims in Ontario received almost $25 million in assistance after Hurricane Hazel's destruction. In total, the immediate flood damage assistance throughout Canada up to 1970 had climbed above the $100 million mark. Since then, payments have continued to escalate.

This table contains additional information regarding federal payments made under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970.

Alberta
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1997

$20 050 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

1974
$4 246 073
1986
$6 809 368
1988 - Slave Lake
$7 787 911
1988 - Calgary
$156 086
1990
$8 229 503
1995

$33 100 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

1996

$5 300 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

Alberta Total: $85 678 941


British Columbia
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1972
$1 622 223
1978
$3 037 970
1979
$26 635
1980
$4 328 769
1981
$271 888
1984 (October)
$637 747
1984 (January)
$605 407
1989
$54 716
1990 (June)
$4 355 378
1990 (November)
$7 343 629
1991

$2 200 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

1995 (June)
$3 044 525
1995 (November)
$2 045 198
1997 (March)

$500 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

1997 - Freshet Flooding

$16 533 636
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

British Columbia Total: $46 593 721

Manitoba
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1974
$11 464 005
1976
$2 134 809
1979
$14 670 604
1984
$301 190
1986
$908 395
1988
$619 596
1993 - Swan River
$2 674 293
1993 - Winnipeg River
$11 291 186
1995
$2 003 250
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)
1996
$3 225 264
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)
1997
$180 000 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

Manitoba Total: $229 292 565

New Brunswick
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1970
$1 550 023
1973
$4 225 495
1974
$73 470
1976
$155 109
1979
$1 545 488
1987
$5 660 456
1993
$6 500 013
1994
$1 944 488
1998
$4 200 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

New Brunswick Total: $25 854 542

Newfoundland
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1978
$3 588 601
1983
$2 426 000
1990
$1 029 958
1998
$1 000 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

Newfoundland Total: $8 044 559

Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1982 - Aklavik
$46 278
1982 - Hay River
$413 372
1989
$686 790

Northwest Territories and Nunavut Total: $1 146 410

Nova Scotia
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1971
$833 229
1973
$1 262 500

Nova Scotia Total: $2 095 729

Quebec
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1974
$8 670 477
1976
$7 582 330
1983
$17 346 772
1987
$5 580 267
1996 (July)
$250 000 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)
1996 (November)
$6 000 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)
1998 (March/April)
$6 000 000
(Event where a final payment has not yet been made. Therefore, this figure represents actual payments to date and/or estimated future payments)

Quebec Total: $301 179 846

Saskatchewan
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1974
$4 151 261
1975 - Spring
$493 226
1975 - Regina
$640 274
1976
$530 877
1983
$1 121 298
1995
$4 780 560

Saskatchewan Total: $11 717 496

Yukon
Federal payments under Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements for floods occurring since 1970
Flood Annual / Estimated Federal Share
1979
$1 682 054
1991
$518 222
1992
$174 321

Yukon Total: $2 347 597

NATIONAL TOTAL: $713 951 406 (Includes estimated expenditures)

Data provided by Public Safety Canada.

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