Quebecers with homes built on flood plains say Premier Francois Legault’s $200,000 offer to move to a home in an area that is less susceptible to flooding is far from enough to get them to relocate.
Legault made the offer on Monday while visiting a neighbourhood in Gatineau, Que., that has been flooded twice in three years. More than 3,100 homes in the province have been struck by spring flooding with more than 1,400 people forced from their homes – many of them in the same areas devastated by flooding in 2017.
The Quebec premier said that flooding compensation in the province will now be capped at a cumulative total of $100,000. The government will also be offering homeowners $200,000 to move to a new home.
Legault said that global warming requires the government to adjust its compensation programs and that the province would no longer “waste the money” of taxpayers to compensate people for flood damage that is likely to reoccur years later.
But residents in Pierrefonds, Que., say that $200,000 is paltry compared to the actual value of their homes and that they are not leaving.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Michel Cournoyer, a resident who was trying hard to pump out the four inches of water in his basement as more water was coming in. “My house is worth about $350,000 so it’s not possible to consider that. My pension plan is here.”
Cournoyer and his neighbours have banded together, filling canoes with sandbags to prevent further damage. Their worries are not just short-term. He and others living on Lozon Street worry that the same type of flooding will keep happening every few years, particularly because their neighbourhood is close to the wetlands.
Pierrefonds Mayor Jim Beis told CTV Montreal that the premier’s comments are premature and that the borough should be looking at implementing long-term solutions, rather than talking about relocation.
“This is a time for empathy and compassion and support,” Beis said. “They already lived through a crisis in 2017 and potentially they will be going through it again this year.”
Just 10 minutes away from Cournoyer, Des Riviere Street is completely dry, at least for now. Beis told CTV Montreal that if not for precautionary measures to alleviate flooding brought in after 2017, that “whole area would be flooded already.”
Helene Gunville, who lives nearly 140 kilometres away from Cournoyer in Pointe-Gatineau, Que., said that after 68 years in her home and two other major floods, for the first time, she is seriously considering moving. Still, she feels that her home is worth more than what the government is prepared to offer.
“This year, I’m thinking about it,” she told CTV Ottawa. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said that there may be another way to keep those in the close-knit community in their homes, including raising roads.
“Asking people to leave and paying them off may be higher than just building protection for the neighbourhood,” he said. “It’s been done in Europe.”
The Canadian Forces remain on site to help those homeowners who have stayed behind. Between 15 to 50 millimeters of rain are still expected to fall across the entire region.