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Manitobans call for change to flood insurance policies: ‘It’s not just a cabin in the bush anymore’

Click to play video: 'Manitobans call for change to flood insurance policies: ‘It’s not just a cabin in the bush anymore’' Manitobans call for change to flood insurance policies: ‘It’s not just a cabin in the bush anymore’
Those who own secondary properties such as cottages don’t qualify for overland flood coverage. With more climate disasters happening than ever before, some say it’s time to revisit those policies. Abigail Turner reports. – May 30, 2022

Cottages are places for family and friends to make memories, a summer retreat and a home away from home.

“It’s not just a cabin in the bush anymore,” says Ian Baragar, president of the Whiteshell Cottagers Association.

He’s one of the hundreds whose cottage has been affected by the flooding in the Whiteshell. When the water recedes, he along with many property owners will be on the hook for the repairs.

Read more: Flooding in Manitoba’s Whiteshell cutting off access for cottagers, residents

“The idea of insurance and things like this, is to cover disasters and things that happen, it seems not appropriate that there’s sort of this loophole that the cottagers are left out.”

Those who own secondary properties such as cottages don’t qualify for overland flood coverage. With more climate disasters happening than ever before, Baragar believes it’s time to revisit those policies.

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“We’ve seen almost from year to year disasters. We’ve had flooding, last year record high levels but also forest fires, the world is changing,” he says.

“The question is, ‘Will this ever end?'”

Overland flooding insurance was created in 2015. So far in Manitoba they’ve seen an uptick of roughly 35 per cent in qualified residents sign up for the protection.

Read more: Moving beyond emissions: How Canada can weather the floods of the future

Between 1983 and 2008, the Canadian insurance industry was paying out about $422 million annually for weather events.

In the past decade that number has increased by more than four times.

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“Even last year in 2021, severe weather events across the country, and there was a lot of them from coast to coast, they cost about $2.4 billion, so we’re seeing some very significant increases and severity of severe weather events,” says Rob de Puis, national director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

Read more: Significant rainfall expected for already flooded southern, central Manitoba

The federal government created a flood insurance and relocation task force in 2020. The IBC has been working with Ottawa to look at options for low-cost residential flood insurance to those in high risk areas.

“What we’re doing is trying to develop some type of a high risk flood insurance program, so that affordable flood insurance coverage would be available for all Canadians,” de Puis says.

Click to play video: 'Whiteshell evacuees face ‘overwhelming’ amount of water, province says' Whiteshell evacuees face ‘overwhelming’ amount of water, province says
Whiteshell evacuees face ‘overwhelming’ amount of water, province says – May 24, 2022

The Manitoba government created the Disaster Financial Assistance program to provide financial assistance for uninsurable losses to basic and essential property.

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Cottages do not qualify under this program either.

Read more: Manitoba reopens part of Hwy 75 closed due to flood, more rain expected

“The Manitoba government sympathizes with citizens whose cottage properties have been damaged due to flooding this year. Under the federal-provincial cost sharing rules of Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, only damages to a primary residence are eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) and a cottage is considered a secondary residence. Most of the cottages in the area are secondary residences,” a provincial spokesperson told Global News.

More than $15 million in municipal damages have been assessed so far, it says.

At least 50 municipal claims have been made and more than 200 private claims, including farms, non-profits, businesses have been made.

More than 2,000 damaged municipal sites have been reported, including culvert failures, road washouts and destroyed bridges. There have been at least 100 reports of homes severely damaged or destroyed, as well as some 100 farms with equipment severely damaged or destroyed along with livestock losses in the thousands.

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