Disaster mitigation changes needed, western leaders say

New payout method could potentially 
triple costs, leaders say

Municipal leaders in Western Canada want the federal government to revert back to a previous formula for payouts of disaster financial assistance, arguing the new method has the potential to triple costs to local governments.

The Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program was created in 1970 to reimburse the provinces and individuals (via the province) for expenses resulting from disasters, natural or human caused. Changes made to its cost-sharing formula under the previous federal government, and which came into effect in February of 2015, eliminate federal funding for smaller disasters.

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That leaves local government vulnerable, said Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Chris Goertzen.

Municipal-level government couldn’t bear the cost of large disaster on its own, if these costs were downloaded by provinces, he said.

“It could put a municipality in a really tough spot to actually function properly,” he said.

Goertzen met with his counterparts from the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) last week to discuss the matter.

What they agree on is that the formula should revert back to what it originally was, he said.

“The previous formula had a rate that was reasonable,” he said. “The new formula has the potential to increase costs so dramatically.”

According to a federal report released in 2016 estimating average yearly costs for DFAA, payout thresholds under the new formula would result in payments being reduced by 50 per cent or more in 35 of 118 events assessed between 2005 and 2014. Eleven of those events under the new formula would not have received any funding.

Another priority issue discussed last week was federal infrastructure funding.

The association agreed to jointly advocate for a cost-sharing formula whereby municipalities would contribute 17 per cent of total project funding costs and the remainder coming from the provincial and federal governments.

The group also discussed the importance of municipal input into project selection.

“We’ve missed valuable construction seasons already, and municipalities need to be engaged in the selection process in the future,” said Maryann Chickak, vice-president of AUMA in a news release.

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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