'Lives have been disrupted': Province will provide disaster assistance for Manitobans after October snowstorm

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday the provincial government will help cover some of the costs incurred during the severe snowstorm that pummelled the province in October, forcing hundreds from their homes and leaving others without power for days.

Premier estimates $12.5M will be paid out in disaster financial assistance after storm caused extensive damage

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday the provincial government will help cover millions of dollars in costs incurred during the severe snowstorm that pummelled the province in October. 2:12

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday the provincial government will help cover millions of dollars in costs incurred during the severe snowstorm that pummelled the province in October.

The province declared a state of emergency during the fall storm, which forced hundreds of Manitobans from their homes and left thousands without power for days, in addition to causing widespread damage.

Municipalities, homeowners, farms and small businesses that were affected can now apply to the disaster financial assistance program, the premier said Thursday.

"Lives have been disrupted, damages have occurred that are in the many, many millions of dollars," Pallister said. "These are costs that have been borne by Manitoba citizens."

The province's disaster financial assistance will cover some of the costs of evacuations, municipal response, and repairs to damaged infrastructure, as well as non-insurable damage to homes and buildings essential to the operation of farms and other businesses.

While the amount that will be paid out isn't yet known, Pallister estimated it will be in the range of $12.5 million. However, the premier said he's confident the effects of the storm will qualify for federal money.

Under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program, the federal government may cover some of the costs for disaster assistance through a complex cost-sharing formula.

The province would still be on the hook for the initial payments, but can then recoup some of that money from the federal government — although the process can take years.

"If past performance is any indication, I'll just say it may take some time to get all the adjudication [of assistance claims] done," Pallister said.

"The province deals with it and waits for the federal government and the negotiations that are inherent in these claims, because there are many, to determine the amount the federal government will reimburse," he said, adding he's prepared to be patient.

"I'm trying to be nice right now. You know, I'm actually negotiating with the federal government, and I'd prefer not to be critical of them today."

Officials estimate at least 30,000 City of Winnipeg-owned trees were affected by the storm. The province estimates the city will be able to claim about $7.2 million under the disaster financial assistance program announced Thursday. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Winnipeg expected to get $7M in assistance

Pallister said he expects about 20 municipalities will apply for the assistance, but the largest claim will likely come from the City of Winnipeg.

Tens of thousands of trees cracked under heavy ice and snow across the city, causing an estimated $10 million in damage.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said he expects the assistance program will cover about $7.2 million for storm damage in Winnipeg alone, with the city on the hook for $1.7 million.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman wasn't available for comment Thursday. A city spokesperson told CBC News in an email he was busy making final preparations for his state of the city address, scheduled for Friday.

Bowman has pressured the provincial government publicly on several occasions to announce a disaster financial assistance program.

Manitoba Hydro estimates the damage to its equipment following the October snowstorm exceeds $100 million. The province says the Crown corporation will have to absorb those costs. (Submitted by Manitoba Hydro)

Although a great deal of damage took place in municipalities outside the city, Schuler says not all damage will automatically covered by the program.

"There was far more damage, for instance, in Portage la Prairie and other areas, but that was hydro-related," he said. 

Damage to Manitoba Hydro poles, lines and transmission stations, which is in excess of $100 million, will be absorbed by the Crown corporation. 

More information on the disaster financial assistance is available at the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization website or by calling 204-945-3050.

With files from Sean Kavanagh


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