Slave Lake to get $189M for fire rebuild

Alberta is putting $189 million into Slave Lake and area to help with the recovery from the devastating fires in May.
Cleanup at a burned-out neighbourhood in Slave Lake on May 19, three days after a fire scorched a third of the town. (Ian Jackson/Canadian Press)

Alberta is putting $189 million into Slave Lake and area to help with the recovery from the devastating fires in May, the provincial government announced Wednesday. 

That's in addition to the $100 million that has already been committed to help with housing after the fires damaged or destroyed about a quarter of the town of 7,000 in northern Albera. Some of the 2,000 residents of the Slave Lake municipal district were also affected.

The new money will be spent mainly on rebuilding infrastructure and providing temporary housing.

The government said the funding has three elements:

  • A regional plan ($64.2 million) to help affected communities address long-term social, environmental and economic problems.
  • A recovery program ($77.7 million) to help the town, Slave Lake municipal district, smaller communities and First Nations with infrastructure and emergency response costs, including the costs of evacuation reception centres.
  • A housing project ($47.1 million) to provide up to 350 interim modular homes for residents displaced from the town and municipal district.

The town, the municipal district and the Sawridge First Nation worked to set the priorities for spending, the government said.

The federal government, which promised to help, is expected to give Alberta about $90 million to help offset the provincial spending, said John Sparks, spokesman for the town and municipal district.

Housing the priority, mayor says

"Getting our people housed in the community as soon as possible is a priority for us that we couldn't achieve without the strong support of the Alberta government," said Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee. About 2,000 people are still homeless, said Sparks.

"This is a big step for the physical and emotional recovery Slave Lake needs," said Winona Twin, a councillor with the Sawridge First Nation.

The provincial spending "is about helping the communities become stronger and more resilient than ever through infrastructure projects … a community ball diamond, health services, and business and financial planning services," said Premier Ed Stelmach.

But the money announced Wednesday will not be sufficient to complete the rebuilding, Sparks said. "Everyone knows we're not done. The damage is pretty severe."

Provincial maps released three days after the May 15-16 evacuation showed 374 properties destroyed and 52 damaged in Slave Lake and 59 destroyed and 32 damaged in nearby areas.

Residents were not able to return to the town until May 28.