How true is it? Canadian government spends more on Syrian refugees than Fort McMurray wildfires

A political meme is gaining a lot of attention on social media.

It claims Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no problem spending $1.6-billion on Syrian refugees, while only promising to match Red Cross donations for Canadians impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires.

With emotions high over devastation left in the wake of the wildfire, the post has been shared more than 30,000 times. But how true is it?

How True Is It?

While it’s true the feds have promised to match Red Cross donations, already totaling $54-million, that is just a small fraction of what government will end up dishing out.

Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) made with Alberta mean the federal government will be on the hook for the majority of costs.

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The cost sharing arrangement is on a sliding scale, going all the way up to 90%.

The federal government says that covers expenses that go beyond fighting the wildfires.

In a statement to CKNW, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada says that includes the cost of:

  • evacuation operations
  • restoring infrastructure
  • covering meal and accommodation costs during the evacuation period
  • non-insurable costs to individuals, small businesses and farms

Assistance threshold surpassed

The financial toll of the Fort McMurray wildfire has already far surpassed the thresholds set up through the DFAA.

That is because the thresholds are based on a formula that takes into consideration the population of Alberta.

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DFAA breakdown. Public Safety Canada

With Alberta’s population at 4.2-million, the federal government is already on the hook for the majority of costs.

For example, the Alberta government has pegged the cash supplement announced for Fort McMurray’s 80,000 evacuees as costing $100-million.

Of that, the majority will end up being covered by the Federal government.

How true is it? Canadian government spends more on Syrian refugees than Fort McMurray wildfires - image

Other federal costs

Other than the costs outlined in the DFAA, the federal government is making other contributions.

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As it has in other national disasters, the Canadian Armed Forces steps into help through Operation LENTUS.

As of Monday, that contribution included the deployment of:

  • four CH-146 Griffon helicopters
  • one CH-147 Chinook helicopter
  • one C-130J Hercules

The use of these military aircraft have helped with evacuations, delivering supplies, and flying reconnaissance missions to monitor fire-affected areas.

The federal government is also preparing for Employment Insurance claims from workers affected by the Fort McMurray wildfires.

According to Service Canada, a special process has been put in place to help evacuees who are not able to work because of the disaster.

Too early to estimate final costs

With firefighting efforts still underway and no real timeline for when people will finally be allowed to return to Fort McMurray, it is too soon to say how much the final costs will be for this large wildfire.

However, considering the 2013 Slave Lake wildfire cost the Canadian government more than $1.4-billion, one expect the bill for this much larger blaze to be even higher.

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