Financial cost of major weather events rising for Canadian taxpayers

A new report is putting a massive price tag on the cost of climate change in Canada -- with the tally reaching hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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The costs related to cleaning up devastating floods, the carnage from hurricanes and the damage left in the wake of intense winter storms has exploded to nearly $900 million annually, up from an average of $850 million in previous years, said Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette.

And it's taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the costs, which are only expected to increase as our weather continues to deteriorate due to climate change.

"Not only the number but the intensity of the weather events," will increase, Frechette told CTV News.

The report found most of the spending went towards flood relief in the Prairies, where the PBO also found most flood maps are out of date.

"If you have economic development or housing projects for example in the flood plains area, of course you're going to have huge losses associated with the floods," Frechette said.

Public payouts are high, Frechette said, because private flood insurance is rare. It is currently only available in Ontario and Alberta, and even there just recently. So when disaster strikes in the form of flooding, it is often the government that steps in to bail out residents.

And even where flood insurance is available, it's most expensive where it is needed most. In high risk areas, flood insurance coverage up to $1 million averages about $18,000 per year and typically comes with a $100,000 deductible -- and that doesn't include coverage of contents.

"Flood operates differently than other home hazards such as fire because for certain places we know, where the flooding is going to happen and it's going to happen there year after year," said Craig Stewart of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The report highlights a point many are making -- that as the federal government prepares to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure to help stimulate the Canadian economy, it should focus on erecting buildings that can withstand the extreme weather that is expected to increase in frequency due to climate change.

"Disaster relief is a Band-Aid not a cure, and we need to do this sort of proactive spending," said Simon Donner, associate professor of geography at the University of British Columbia.

The Liberal government had committed to doing just that as part of their green infrastructure election pledge. However, a spokesperson for the minister said not to expect details on such projects until next month's federal budget.

With a report from CTV's Omar Sachedina



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