Thousands of people across Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick are facing several more days of flooding that has already been life-changing for many.
The most dire situation is in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a suburb west of Montreal that was inundated Saturday night after the Lake of Two Mountains burst through a natural dike.
More than 5,000 residents were forced to grab what they could, including pets, and flee as waist-high water filled their streets and homes. Another 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes the following day.
Premier François Legault visited the scene on Sunday and announced $1 million in immediate funding to the Red Cross to ensure the evacuees’ immediate needs are met. He said it was “almost a miracle” that everyone was safe.
The dike breach brought 5,584 to the total number of flooded homes in Quebec, with some 7,566 forced to leave.
Meanwhile, the forecast for southern New Brunswick calls for floodwaters to slowly recede in most areas this week, however, communities along the Saint John River from Fredericton to Saint John remain above flood stage.
In Ottawa, hundreds of military members joined more than 2,000 volunteers in preparing sandbags for properties threatened by flooding along the bloated Ottawa River, with peaks not expected along the river until Tuesday.
Canadian Armed Forces personnel are also packing and stacking sandbags in central Ontario’s cottage country where flooding has prompted the declaration of states of emergency in the communities of Bracebridge, Muskoka Lakes, Huntsville and Minden Hills. And more rain is forecast for the region later this week.
Trudeau wants ‘new ways of ensuring’ protection
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t close the door Sunday on using federal dollars to help relocate communities facing the recurring threat of severe flooding.
Since the Liberals took office in late 2015, the government has approved almost $1.27 billion in funding for 41 projects deemed “disaster mitigation,” according to federal figures. The numbers show that only a handful of projects have started and many will take years to complete.
In the meantime, Trudeau suggested, the federal government needed to make sure future infrastructure spending hit the “right” projects to “protect our communities and ensure their prosperity long term.”
He said the country needed to look for “new ways of ensuring” Canada was doing just that.
“Once we secure the situation through this spring flooding season, we will have to have significant reflections and conversations on how we move forward,” he said at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“[T]here is always much more to do and as we have conversations around how we build back, how we build back better and where we build back, indeed, the federal government will be a partner to the provinces and to the municipalities.”
Flooding is the most common disaster event in Canada and has been a focus of funding through the $2-billion, 10-year Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund that Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne oversees.
Champagne plans to fast-track projects that could prevent flooding in areas currently under siege, but warned in a recent interview that not every project would be approved, particularly those that might not be able to hold back Mother Nature.
Federal assistance to provinces for natural disaster costs is estimated to be $198.35 million this fiscal year, which ends March 2020, even though last year’s estimates pegged the cost at $609 million.
On CTV’s Question Period, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the program, called the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement, has paid out more in the last six years than it did in the previous 40 years. He said the government would look at Quebec’s proposals, and referenced the decision in High River, Alta., to not allow redevelopment in flooded areas.
“Building better infrastructure, protective devices is also part of the equation, but we’ll look at the proposal for relocation,” Goodale said in the interview televised Sunday morning.
This story originally appeared on CBC