Nenshi blasts Alberta NDP for ‘unbelievable’ Snowtember funding denial

WATCH ABOVE: The City of Calgary is going to be on its own when it comes to paying off Snowtember 2014, after the provincial government denied payment. Global’s Jayme Doll reports.

CALGARY – Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling a decision from the province to deny “Snowtember” recovery funding “unbelievable.”

The sudden snow storm happened on Sept. 8, 2014. After enjoying a sunny day where temperatures reached 25 C, residents woke up to a chilly 10 C. And over the next three days, 40 centimetres of snow fell. It was the highest September snowfall before the equinox in the last 130 years.

Downed tree branches fill the street in Calgary on September 8, 2014, dubbed \”Snowtember.\”. Global News / Tim Lee

Mayor Nenshi read out what he said was a letter from Minister of Municipal Affairs Deron Bilous on Wednesday, after presenting the results of the city census.

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“Thank you for your application for disaster recovery program funding in response to the unseasonal snowfall events that occurred in southern Alberta on those dates,” read Nenshi, noting the next bit was the “funny part.”

“As you are no doubt aware, unseasonal snow effects are not extraordinary occurrences in Alberta, even when they cause the kind of effects seen in Alberta in September of last year. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency reviewed your application for DRP funding and presented it to the government for approval. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that your application was not approved.”

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Watch below: Mayor Nenshi responds to the provincial NDP declining DRP funding for ‘Snowtember’ recovery.

Nenshi said the choice reflects the NDP position that “climate change is someone else’s problem” and that the province is “going to have the lowly municipal taxpayer deal with this.”

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“The cabinet did not approve something that was recommended to them for approval and further tells us that the biggest snowfall in 131 years –the single largest day in history by far of 911 phone calls, the single largest day in history by far of 311 calls, is not an extraordinary event,” said Nenshi.

He said 50 per cent of the tree canopy was damaged in the city due to the incident, and suggested it caused drainage problems as well as an “incalculable” impact on the city’s “environmental performance.”

In a statement, Minister Bilous said he understood the mayor’s disappointment, but that the snowfall didn’t meet the Disaster Recovery Program’s threshold of communities who suffer “suffer hardship and uninsurable losses from extraordinary disasters, such as the 2013 floods.”

“Municipalities are responsible for operational costs related to weather, and many, including Calgary, have healthy reserve funds to handle weather events like this one,” said the statement. “Albertans expect their government to be responsible with their tax dollars.”

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Nenshi said there was enough money “set aside” in addition to a “rainy day fund…sorry, snowy day fund” that will cover the costs. He said the city had requested about $27 million in recovery funding, and that it should be the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments.

“The fact that they’re not considering this, this shows a real lack of understanding of Calgary, a lack of understanding of DRP and a real lack of understanding of what happened last September.”

Liberal Leader David Swann also released a statement denouncing the provincial government’s decision.

“There was significant damage done to the city’s parks and tree canopy and the province has a responsibility to support Calgary in paying for remediation,” said Swann. “[The decision] is particularly concerning given that Alberta is widely viewed as the natural disaster capital of Canada and the federal government is also reducing its financial support for disaster recovery.”


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