Extreme weather cost Canada record $3.2B, insurers say

The spate of severe weather disruptions across Canada in the past year caused insurers to pay out a record $3.2 billion in claims, the industry says.

Alberta flooding in June alone had $1.74B in insured losses

A woman wades through flood water on Lakeshore West during a storm in Toronto last July. The unexpected flooding cost almost $1 billion in damages. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The spate of severe weather disruptions across Canada over the past year caused insurers to pay out a record $3.2 billion in claims, the industry says.

The ice storm that hit southern Ontario and then Eastern Canada caused $200 million worth of insured losses, bringing the total to $3.2 billion for all of 2013. That's the highest level the insurance industry has ever seen.

"In 2013, the terrible effects of the new weather extremes hit Canadians hard," Insurance Bureau of Canada president Don Forgeron said. "From the Alberta floods last summer to the ice storms in Ontario and Atlantic Canada over the holidays, frankly, bad weather hit insurers hard, too."

Much of that large figure came from the devastating Alberta floods in June 2013. The event was Canada's costliest ever natural disaster, with insured losses of $1.74 billion.

In July, a record rainfall caused flash flooding in Toronto that resulted in $940 million in damages. It was the most expensive insured natural disaster in Ontario’s history and the second-most expensive weather event in 2013.

Last month, Intact Financial, one of Canada's largest property insurers, said it is raising premiums by as much as 15 to 20 per cent to deal with the added costs of weather-related property damage.

"As severe weather events become more extreme and frequent, we will continue to pursue our efforts to ensure that the protection we offer reflects our country's new climate reality, and that governments, consumers, businesses and all stakeholders pursue their efforts to better adapt to climate change," CEO Charles Brindamour said at the time.

The company has also introduced peril-based pricing and other changes to its insurance products.

Pete Karageorgos, manager of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada in Ontario, said rate increases and deductible changes for policyholders are not a given.

He said much will depend on where people live and which company they insure with.

"Some companies — if they have little exposure in those geographic areas — may not have to do anything differently. Others, they may. They may look at everything from premiums, coverage amounts, endorsements, deductibles," he said.

"It could be a whole host of responses from quite a bit to nothing at all."


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