Fort McMurray region's mayor 'disappointed' province won't grant extension for wildfire insurance claims

The provincial government announced Wednesday it will not grant a one-year extension to residents with outstanding insurance claims after the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Province urges insurance companies to act in good faith and consider extensions

Farid El-Hayouni surveys what is left of his house on Prospect Drive in Timberlea in Fort McMurray on June 3, 2016. (Brian J. Gavriloff/The Canadian Press)

The provincial government announced Wednesday it will not grant a one-year extension to residents with outstanding Fort McMurray wildfire insurance claims.

The announcement comes after Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo mayor Don Scott wrote a letter urging the province to issue a one-year extension given the magnitude of the 2016 wildfire, the complexity of insurance claims, delays in the claim process and the mental anguish caused by the catastrophe.

"Of course I am disappointed. By not giving an extension, it obviously puts our residents in greater difficulty," Scott said.

Under Alberta's Insurance Act, residents have two years to settle claims.

Alberta Treasury Board and Finance department communications director Andrew Hanon said Wednesday the province can't compel insurance companies to offer an extension.

"The government does not have the authority to provide a blanket extension for time limits on insurance coverage," Hanon said. "So what the government has done is work with the industry to ensure people are aware the two-year deadline is coming up."

'Case by case' extensions

The Fort McMurray wildfire caused $3.56 billion in damage, making it the most expensive insured disaster in Canadian history, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The government's superintendent of insurance, an office which regulates and creates Alberta's insurance policy, issued a notice in March to companies.

Nilam Jetha with the Alberta Treasury Board and Finance said she expects insurers to "consider all submissions for extensions in good faith, taking into account the individual circumstances, as well as the scope of the catastrophic event."

Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesperson Rob de Pruis said all insurance companies are complying with the notice and are granting extensions on a "case–​by–case" basis.

In cases where more time has not been granted, de Pruis urges policyholders to sue or file statements of claim against their insurance companies before the May 3 deadline.

Lawyers advise policyholders to get an extension to request it in writing.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.