Manitoba flood costs could exceed $700M: Selinger

The costs related to Manitoba's spring floods are growing and could surpass $700 million, well above earlier estimates, says Premier Greg Selinger.
An aerial view of the storm damage at Twin Lakes Beach, along the south shore of Lake Manitoba, in early June. (CBC)

The costs related to Manitoba's spring floods are growing and could surpass $700 million, says Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger told CBC News he spoke with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Winnipeg this past weekend about flood costs, saying the total could hit more than $700 million — well over the prior estimate of $632 million.

"We do believe the price will actually go higher with some of the additional demands that are coming in and costs," Selinger said late Tuesday.

"We did talk about it, and our officials are working closely together to look at moving some money. The province has been paying all the bills up to now."

Selinger said the total amount is "still a little unclear," as some of the costs will not be finalized for a while, but he believes "it will definitely go up significantly higher.

"We'll have to see when the final costs come in, but it's the largest flood in the history of Manitoba, with some of the most extensive requirements to address it," he said.

The premier said he expects the federal government's disaster assistance program will cover most of the costs and he expects some of those federal funds to start flowing within the next three weeks.

Lake St. Martin deal reached

Among the numerous Manitoba communities and properties that were damaged during the spring floods was the First nations community of Lake St. Martin, which was beyond reclamation from severe flooding.

About 600 people were evacuated from the First Nation's reserve, located about 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Many of the evacuees have since been staying temporarily in the capital city.

Selinger said the province and Lake St. Martin officials reached an agreement last week regarding long-term accommodations for the evacuees.

The plan is "to put some what we call 'ready to move homes' in a location up close to Highway 6 called the 'radar site,'" Selinger said.

"There'll be several million dollars spent on putting the accommodations in place to allow families to stabilize up there."

Harper was in Manitoba over the weekend to watch the Winnipeg Jets' home opening game on Sunday.

Selinger said he and the prime minister discussed other topics, including the Conservative government's plan to scrap the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over wheat and barley sales.

"We don't necessarily agree on moving away from the single desk. Obviously we've taken a view on that; they have a different view," Selinger said.

"But in the midst of that legislation, which they're bringing forward, there was a recognition that there's things we can do to make sure Manitoba doesn't wind up being worse off."

Selinger said the most progress was made on the topic of maintaining the port of Churchill as a deep-sea inland port. The details about how that will happen will come from Ottawa, he added.