NDP government won't help cover cost of September snowstorm
Mayor Nenshi outraged by decision, calling it a provincial and federal responsibility
The NDP government has refused to help the City of Calgary cover the cost of millions of dollars in damages after a freak snowstorm last September that affected thousands of homeowners and businesses.
The snowstorm on Sept. 8, 2014 wreaked havoc across the city for days, downing power lines, causing power outages and breaking and felling thousands of city-owned trees because of nearly 30 centimetres of wet, heavy snow.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi was incredulous about the decision.
"So an event that damaged 50 per cent of the tree canopy in Calgary, one out of every two trees in this city, that denuded the landscape, that affected our ability to do drainage properly ... and had incalculable impacts on our environmental performance, is just a lot of snow and not an extraordinary event?" Nenshi said.
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The letter from Municipal Affairs Minister Deron Bilous to the mayor declining the funding stated: "As you are no doubt aware, unseasonal snow events are not extraordinary occurrences in Alberta, even when they cause the kind of effects seen in September of last year." The letter was in reply to an application for the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).
The storm was the largest snowfall in the month of September in 130 years. The cost of the damages and cleanup has been pegged at $27 million dollars.
The letter also stated: "The challenges created by changing weather patterns have certainly tested many communities during the last few years. Your community should take great pride in your timely and highly effective response."
'You deal with it yourself?'
Mayor Nenshi said the decision shows the provincial government doesn't understand how disaster relief or restitution works.
"Ultimately this is a provincial responsibility and a federal responsibility, " he said. "The province gets a lot of money, as much as 80 cents back on the dollar from the federal government on these things. The fact that they're not considering this, this shows a real lack of understanding of Calgary, a real lack of understanding of DRP, and a real lack of understanding of what happened last September."
David Swann, the Alberta Liberal Party leader from Calgary, also expressed disappointment.
"The NDP has essentially told Calgary: 'Sorry, you're on your own,'" said Swann in a news release. "That is just plain wrong, and it's particularly concerning given that Alberta is widely viewed as the natural disaster capital of Canada and the federal government is also reducing its financial support for disaster recovery."