Southwestern Ont. mayors call for province to help people who can't get flood insurance

The cry for help comes after a record-breaking rainfall doused Windsor-Essex Monday and Tuesday, flooding thousands of homes for the second time in less than a year.

Scores still waiting for relief after last year's flood

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens provides a flooding update flanked by Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bains. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Three southwestern Ontario mayors are calling for the premier to create a provincially supported insurance program for residents who can no longer get flood insurance after more than 5,000 homes were damaged by record rains.

The cry for help comes after 100-200 millimetres of rain doused Windsor and Essex County Monday and Tuesday, closing businesses and washing out roadways.

It surpassed the devastating flooding event of 11 months ago to become the "largest flood event in our city's recorded history," said Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens at a joint news conference with Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain, who also serves as Essex County Warden.

"I'm not going to sugar-coat it," Dilkens added. "This is terrible."

Windsor's 311 line received more than 4,458 reports of flooded basements by 9 a.m. Friday, and that number is expected to rise. More than 500 basements were flooded in Lakeshore and about 105 basements were flooded in Tecumseh, while about 20 homes were hit in LaSalle.

The province agreed last September that flood-ravaged city residents qualified for Disaster Relief Assistance but scores were left high and dry. Of 583 homeowners who asked for help, only 122 received any money. Another 235 claims were denied and another 226 remained bogged down in the system. It is unclear how many will be approved or when. 

Dilkens said that sort of after-the-fact relief solution was not an insurance program and that the program has left scores of area homeowners "disgruntled and disappointed"

Flooded MPP says disaster relief isn't enough

Windsor-Tecumseh NDP Percy Hatfield, the critic for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, lost everything during the flooding last September and agreed the disaster relief program provides insufficient security when it comes to modern-day flooding events.

"The parameters set for disaster relief funding were set sometime in the last century, long before climate change has hit us like it has, and so I told the minister in the House we have to change the guidelines," said Hatfield. "We have to open them up, that because of the intensity of the storms, that we need fewer restrictions on those of us that have flooded basements in these huge storms."

No details from premier on pledge to help

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted support to flood-ravaged residents of Windsor Thursday and Dilkens called on her to go further and set up a flood insurance program for homeowners unable to get coverage because their home has flooded multiple times. 

"We want the province -- and they're the only ones who can do it -- to step and say there is a program available where residents can have peace of mind and pay their premiums," said Dilkens. "We want to open this up so that they have an opportunity so that they can leave their house and know that they can get insured for a reasonable rate for basement type flooding events."

When asked for clarification on what type of help the Premier would be providing, CBC Windsor was told she was not available for comment and questions should instead be directed to Ontario's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Ministry officials were expected to be on the ground in Windsor Friday, assessing the damage to again see if city residents would be cleared to apply for disaster relief assistance. 

"The assessment will begin at that point," said Minister Bill Mauro. "They will go and do their work based on some of the data that we get back from the affected municipalities and they will make a recommendation to me."

Relief program doesn't cover sewer backup

If the province agrees this area was hit hard enough to trigger the assistance programs, residents would need to apply and have their claims approved. The program provides "partial financial assistance to return essential property to its basic function." 

Flooding caused by "sewer backup is not generally eligible under the program" though "there is a special provision to provide assistance to low-income households."

A heat map from the City of Windsor shows incidents of basement flooding from the record rainfall that pummelled the city on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29. (City of Windsor image)