How insurers have led improvements in overland flood management

Published: September 30, 2019



Catastrophic losses for insured damage continue to soar in Canada, with one of the biggest severe weather problems remaining overland flooding. Numerous changes have been made to help solve problems presented by overland flooding, including funds for mitigation and prevention, and talk of a national flood insurance program.

According to Celyeste Power, vice president, western region, for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), insurance companies can take much credit for driving changes in managing overland floods.

“We have grabbed the attention of the federal government around the need to reduce the financial costs of overland flooding,” explained Power. “We have accomplished this by offering to reduce the impact to all Canadians. A core component of these efforts is what we call ‘a whole of society approach’.”

Power says much work is left to be done but the focus remains on creating a situation where everyone in Canada has access to flood insurance. Under the current environment, insurance companies sell flood coverage, but only to homeowners outside of the most at-risk regions. A national program would be able to include those excluded by the limitations of the private market.

“Together we can get to the right solutions. We can make land-use and permit decisions that don’t put people in harm’s way. We can also choose the right infrastructure to protect Canadians,” said Power during the ‘Innovation, Regulation and Change in the Insurance Industry’ panel at the RIMS Canada conference in Edmonton. “The IBC and like-minded partners are advocating for a national action plan on flooding in order to reduce everyone’s risk of flood. The plan should, in our view, stop putting people in harm’s way, educate Canadians about their risk of flood, invest in flood defences, and, of course, provide all Canadians with access to affordable flood insurance.

“We’re talking directly to Canadians as well. As I mentioned, they’re one of the main stakeholders in our whole of society approach. We want them to understand their personal risk, and then encourage them to demand change from government, because right now, consumers are footing the bill in two ways. Firstly, they have insurance and they’re paying out through their insurance premiums for the increase of severe weather that we’ve seen; and secondly, we’re all paying out through our taxpayer dollars as well – and people are just frustrated.”