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Why Canada must accelerate work to establish a National Flood Insurance Program

Aug 16, 2023 | By: Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Climate Change and Federal Issues, IBC
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In 2021, a prolonged atmospheric river resulted in billions of dollars of flood damage in southern British Columbia. Many of the people impacted lived in areas deemed at high-risk for flooding, and did not have access to flood insurance coverage. A similar situation played out in 2022, this time in Atlantic Canada. Hurricane Fiona ravaged the entire Atlantic Region, and once again, many homeowners did not have access to flood insurance coverage.

As we’ve seen this summer, more of these devastating floods have led to the destruction of homes and businesses across Canada. As these intense storms continue to impact people and property, the case for establishing a National Flood Insurance Program has never been clearer. The frequency and severity of flooding in Canada continues to increase each year, and we know there are still over 1.5 million households across the country that remain highly exposed to flooding and lack access to flood insurance.

This trend of increased flooding has been in plain sight for years.

Over the last decade, there have been 35 catastrophic flooding events across Canada in which insured losses exceeded $30 million per flood. Total insured losses from these events averaged close to $800 million annually over the last decade. This includes two major flood events in Calgary and the Greater Toronto Area in 2013 that resulted in roughly $3.1 billion in claims paid out by Canada's property and casualty insurers.

In 2019, IBC spearheaded advocacy for a National Action Plan on Flooding to help raise awareness of the growing risk across Canada. It included a call for the federal government to create a National Flood Insurance Program to ensure that all homeowners, regardless of their risk, could access affordable flood insurance.

Now, in 2023, the federal government is continuing its important ongoing work to establish a low-cost National Flood Insurance Program. Once established, we know this will be a major step forward, and critical to help protect homeowners across the country considered to be at high risk of flooding.

The reality is the availability of overland flood insurance remains limited in high-risk flood-prone areas, and sadly, many Canadian properties are still uninsurable.

With severe weather events increasing year over year, Canadians at high risk of flooding deserve access to protection. Our hope is that in two years, Canada’s national flood insurance program will be a reality.

About This Author

Craig Stewart leads national work on disaster resilience and climate change at Insurance Bureau of Canada. He co-chairs the National Advisory Table on Disaster Resilience and Security which advises federal Ministers on development of Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy and disaster risk reduction generally.

Craig is considered one of Canada’s foremost experts on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation and has testified at numerous Senate and House of Commons Committees as well as to federal, provincial and territorial Ministerial meetings repeatedly over the past decade.