'We pull together': Federal government to pick up costs to deploy military to flood zones
About 1,730 Canadian Armed Forces personnel now dispatched to assist in emergency
The federal government will assume the costs of deploying troops and supplying sandbags to battle the flood zones in Quebec and Ontario, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this morning.
"When Canadians are facing natural disasters or serious issues, we pull together. That's who we are," he said. "Quebec and Ontario asked for military support and we're happy to give it and of course the federal government will assume all costs related to support for Quebec and Ontario in these floods."
Later in the day, Governor General David Johnston addressed the media in Gatineau, Que., after touring flooded areas.
"We were struck, not only by the terrible toll of this flooding over such a large area, but also by the huge solidarity demonstrated by people in the Gatineau area," he said.
'You are not alone'
Johnston thanked volunteers, first responders, local authorities and the Canadian Armed Forces for lending a hand in the relief effort.
"To all those affected by the floods. I do want you to know that we are with you and that you are not alone. In fact, the whole country is rooting for you during this difficult time," he said.
Briefing reporters in Ottawa today, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the number of Canadian Armed Forces members in the field and supporting the operation is now at 1,730, up from 1,650 yesterday. The soldiers are helping local civilian authorities in southern Quebec, which has been devastated by flooding in the past week.
Marine vessels, a dozen helicopters and a Hercules transport are also on standby if needed.
$1M to Red Cross
Goodale said federal assistance will continue, but warned that the relief, clean-up and rebuilding process will be "a long-term proposition." He said the federal government will be contributing $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross appeal.
The CAF also provided 250,000 sandbags to Ontario.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is forecasting scattered showers to continue across southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, but does not expect significant accumulations beyond a few millimetres.
Federal buildings in Gatineau, Que., are closed for a second day. This afternoon, Governor General David Johnston and his wife Sharon will visit Gatineau to see firsthand the impact of the flooding on the region and the work of volunteers, first responders and CAF members.
Some residents forced to flee their homes have expressed frustration that local officials did not do more to mitigate the devastation by calling in the military earlier. According to jurisdictional protocol, the federal government must wait for a formal request from a province to assist in an emergency.
Goodale said Monday the federal government responded within 30 seconds to say "yes" once the request came from Quebec. Today, he said the cost of deploying troops has yet to be calculated.
"In terms of the overall disaster and loss here, when you calculate the formula that's involved with the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement (DFAA), it's too early to tell the cost at this stage," he said.
More money needed for disaster relief
Goodale said the Armed Forces is entitled to make a claim for the costs, but it typically does not.
While money is set aside each year to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, Goodale noted the parliamentary budget officer has recommended stashing away even more to prepare for an increase in the number of extreme weather events driven by climate change.
In a report last year, Jean-Denis Frechette said the DFAA should expect to pay $229 million a year to deal with damage from storms, with floods adding another $673 million a year.
Goodale, who will be meeting with his provincial emergency preparedness counterparts In St. John's this week, said governments must ensure the best protocols are in place to keep place to deal with a rise in events. What seemed like a solid, resilient plan five years ago may not work as disasters become more frequent and more intense.
"They've got to be upgraded, they've got to be improved, because the circumstances are getting more severe as we move into the future," he said.
With files from Peter Zimonjic