Quebec floods: Can future flooding be prevented in the province?

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WATCH: Due to a government decision 15 years ago, Quebec is the only province without a watershed management authority. But as Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports, it may be time for the province to rethink how it manages its watersheds because flooding could become worse in the future – May 10, 2017

Is all this flooding due to a watershed management problem? Quebec is the only province without a provincial watershed authority, said one Quebec climatologist.

“Right now, the government’s preoccupation is the day-to-day,” said Francine Charbonneau, minister responsible for seniors, adding the most important priority is taking care of flood victims until the water goes down.

READ MORE: Quebec floods: Yamachiche latest municipality to declare state of emergency

But the opposition would like the government to start thinking about the future. Experts say climate change is causing more extreme weather.

“We’re now in the phase where catastrophic meteorological events will happen more and more, so we have to step up our game in terms of prevention,” said Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-François Lisée.

Part of the problem, said Concordia University professor and climatologist Jeannine St-Jacques, is that in the early 2000s, Quebec downloaded responsibility for water management to municipalities.

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READ MORE: Quebec floods: How is the province managing all the water?

“A watershed will be containing many municipalities,” said St-Jacques. “So there needs to be a provincial body, public body to be managing water. We’ve lost that in Quebec.”

That being said, a recent report found urban flooding has become a Canada-wide problem. Flooding is now more costly than fire or theft for property owners. Almost two-million households in Canada are at “very high risk” of flooding. Federal disaster relief has almost doubled in the last few years and it’s projected to rise to as much as $650 million annually.

READ MORE: Quebec floods: Questions raised about Hudson development planned for flood plain

On Wednesday, Quebec’s finance minister assured flood victims that provincial disaster programs would provide up to $150,000 per residence.

“Those programs are open-ended, so there is no time limit,” said Carlos Leitao.

However, authors of the report suggest major flood assistance encourages homeowners and municipalities to continue building on flood plains.

READ MORE: Canadian cities wary of identifying flood-prone areas due to political fallout, documents show

“We really need to take a lesson from what happened the last few weeks. In the future, for the building of houses close to water, we have to be careful,” said CAQ Leader Francois Legault.

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But the opposition leader is not blaming the Liberals; he said the government is responding to the natural disaster as best as it can.

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