Alberta to provide $1B in funding to kickstart flood recovery
Published Monday, June 24, 2013 8:27AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 24, 2013 9:50PM EDT
The Alberta government has announced it will provide $1 billion in funding to start the first phase of the province’s flood recovery, while the federal government says it too early to say what kind of financial help would be coming from Ottawa.
Premier Alison Redford said Monday the provincial funding will be used to run relief centres, rebuild infrastructure and to support people who have been evacuated, in the wake of unprecedented flooding in the province that’s left homes, business and infrastructure in a state of disrepair.
"We are going to do -- please listen to my words -- whatever it takes to get everyone back to a place where they can continue to live their lives,” Redford said at a news conference Monday.
Initial estimates peg the flooding damage between $3 billion and $5 billion, according to the Bank of Montreal.
The premier said the unanticipated expense means Alberta won't meet its goal of balancing the provincial budget in the next few years.
"It is going to affect the budget and I will say right now, because someone is going to ask the question, 'Are we sticking to the plan to balance the budget?' No, we're not," she said. "The world changed (last) Thursday morning and I think as a Treasury Board we've come to terms with that. We think Albertans have come to terms with that."
Displaced residents will be provided with pre-loaded debit cards to help them with their immediate housing needs and day-to-day purchases, she said. Those who qualify will receive $1,250 per adult and $500 per child.
Meanwhile, Alberta MP Jason Kenney said there is a formula in place to determine how much money will come from the federal government, but, with 23 communities in Alberta under a state of emergency, he said it’s still too early to estimate what that amount may be.
“We will be there in a very major way financially,” Kenney told Power Play on Monday.
Kenney said it will be up to municipalities to submit a list of clean-up and reconstruction costs to the province, which will submit the eligible disaster relief expenses to the federal government.
He said the province will receive 90 per cent reimbursement for evacuation costs, basic and essential personal property damage and the restoration critical public infrastructure.
“The federal government is going to be contributing in a significant way,” he said.
An estimated 2,300 Canadian Forces personnel remain on the ground in Alberta, along with six military helicopters.
Kenney said the soldiers are now transitioning from search and rescue operations to helping with “critical infrastructure.”
He said he anticipates some soldiers to begin leaving flood zones Monday night.
Calgary cleans up
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday city officials are beginning to get a “rough picture” of the damage to residents’ homes and infrastructure.
However, he said it would be “a long time” before the city knows the true cost of the flooding damage.
“We won’t know how much we’ll need for some time, but it’s important that we get started,” he said. “I’m thrilled that the province and the federal government have come to the plate.”
Nenshi said visual inspections of Calgary’s bridges and roads are “in OK repair,” but he added it would take some time be that city’s light rail transit line is up and running.
“We’re still very much in a state of emergency,” he said, adding that both the Bow and Elbow rivers remain at record-breaking levels.
Nenshi said he anticipates the majority of 180,000 individuals who work downtown will be back in their offices by mid-to-late week.
Flooding hits city’s economy
The head of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce told CTV News that city contributes about $120 million a day to the economy.
“The majority of that is driven by the energy sector and they’ve got contingency plans, they’ll be OK. But there’s a very strong small business and entrepreneur segment that’s built around the core and in the core itself, so a lot of companies that are based on walk-in traffic, foot-traffic, retail, restaurants, they’re going to be heavily impacted,” said Adam Legee.
“You can easily peg it in the multi-millions of dollars a day that we’re not seeing in terms of retail transactions, good and service that are not being bought or exchanged, so it’s a significant hit,” Legee added.
Earlier Monday, the mayor announced that every family home outside of the downtown area is open for families to return, but he advised residents to return home to assess the damage cautiously.
A call for volunteers earlier in the day to help get residents settled back into their homes resulted in 2,500 residents showing up, offering to help.
"People have been amazing, absolutely amazing through this whole thing," Nenshi said. “Thank you for not making this chaos."
Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said about 4,000 downtown buildings were affected by flooding.
The city is aiming to reopen the downtown area in stages, depending on the progress of the cleanup efforts.
As cleanup efforts get underway, Prince William thanked volunteers and emergency services personnel for their work during the record-breaking floods.
“Catherine and I have been saddened to learn of the deaths and destruction caused by the unprecedented flooding throughout the Province of Alberta,” he said in a statement. “Please be assured of our continued thoughts and prayers for all those caught up in the flooding.”
With a report from CTV's Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks