Calgary residents travel to Edmonton to demand help recovering from devastating N.E. hailstorm
Lack of response from the provincial government frustrating for those with heavy losses
Northeast Calgary residents are taking their concerns over a lack of response from the provincial government after a devastating hailstorm last month direct to the steps of the legislature today.
Around 40 residents and community leaders drove in a convoy from Calgary to the Alberta Legislature to raise awareness of their ongoing situation.
They'll be armed with placards and signs and demanding answers to questions they say are being ignored by the MLAs they elected as well as by the premier himself.
A violent hailstorm tore into siding and roofs and flooded streets in June, shattering the windows of homes, along with car windshields and eavestroughs, leaving more than 70,000 homes and vehicles severely damaged.
More than a month later, many streets in the worst hit neighbourhoods appear no better, with extensive damage still on display.
The storm caused $1.2 billion in damage and ranks as Canada's fourth costliest natural disaster, but residents say they've been shunned by politicians when it comes to them providing any meaningful help in moving forward.
"It's still like a bomb has come and hit this area, you won't recognize it," said Khalil Karbani, a community leader who lives in Taradale.
"Right now, we've sent three letters to the premier directly and spoken to MLAs and haven't had any proof that anything has been happening and we just want to be heard," said Karbani.
"Nothing's happening, nothing's moved forward," he said.
The provincial government did announce disaster relief funding for residents who experienced overland flooding, but not for hail damage, insurance deductibles and sewer backups — the real and costly issues for the majority of people impacted.
Some residents are struggling to pay deductibles and make repairs, facing financial hardships caused by COVID-19 and the economic downturn that was in play before the virus or the storm struck.
"It's only helping 0.7 per cent of the victims that got hit on June 13th, so more than 99 per cent aren't getting anything from that announcement from the province," said Karbani.
Calgary city council passed a motion proposed by Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal Tuesday night calling for more support from the other levels of government.
"This storm warrants a comprehensive, multilevel response. The provincial and federal government have an important role to play in helping residents recover and mitigate future damage," he said in a release.
Residents like Karbani cite Alberta's response to other major natural disasters — the Calgary flood in 2013, wildfires that hit Slave Lake and Fort McMurray, as well as flood events in northern Alberta this spring — wondering why the northeast hasn't enjoyed the same outpouring of concern and sympathy as well as financial assistance from government.
Flooding this year caused $228 million in insured damages in the Fort McMurray area, with the province launching multiple financial support programs for affected residents.
"We are suffering right now and nobody seems to be giving any empathy or sympathy towards us. We're not even getting heard, let alone getting any relief," Karbani said.
Karbani has been involved in forming a hailstorm action committee, who are now asking Jason Kenney and the provincial government to sit down with them in a round table.
The group also wants a formal application made to the federal government for disaster relief, and discussion around the future of their insurance premiums in the wake of a mass of claims.
"There's multiple issues — people who took cars down to a third party when COVID hit, homeowners with very large deductibles, from $2,500 to $5,000, and now depreciation on the home, too," Karbani said.
Bills are piling up that many simply can't pay.
Karbani says even an interest-free loan of $5,000 could help people pay deductibles or make repairs to their homes.
"We don't want handouts, we're proud in this area. But we do want financial help to get us back on our feet," he said.
Residents like Jason Fischer, who lives in Saddle Ridge, say many insurance claims are still being made.
"Our insurance claim hasn't been submitted yet, they're so far behind. So that $1.2-billion figure is going to go up, for sure," said Fischer.
"The front of our house was destroyed, windows were shattered," said Fischer, who has lived in Saddle Ridge for 20 years.
"As an ordinary citizen, I just want to stand up for our community," he said, speaking about why he wanted to take part in the convoy to Edmonton.
Fischer said local UCP politicians in the northeast aren't doing enough, offering best wishes but little else.
"We really haven't had any action," he said, with the exception of Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal at the city level and the northeast's lone NDP MLA, Irfan Sabir, at the provincial level.
"Provincially, it's been very poor," he said.
Fischer says that with no real help on the way, he's concerned the northeast could eventually end up with a glut of bankruptcies and empty, hail-damaged homes as people are forced to leave the area.
The convoy held a demonstration on the steps of the legislature at noon.