Shane Thompson: Northwest Territories Community Flood Response

Déclarations et discours de ministres

Yellowknife — 3 novembre 2022

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Madam Speaker, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs continues to be engaged in flood recovery and I am pleased to provide Members with an overview of the efforts taken to date and the status of the ongoing work.

Flood recovery is community driven and supported by the territorial and federal governments. There are many actions to be coordinated: addressing local concerns and impacts; providing territorial supports and processes; working with the federal government; and more. The Government of the Northwest Territories continues to work with impacted community governments to ensure that they are safe and that their residents have the support they need. The Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to support communities with emergency planning and flood recovery efforts, along with the longer-term work to address the climate change impacts we are experiencing with more frequent and serious natural disasters.  

The 2021 flooding directly impacted 91 residents and 35 businesses across five communities and cost approximately $38 million. The GNWT repaired and replaced homes and undertook mitigation measures to protect houses from future flood impacts. In some cases, this meant rebuilding in a new location, while in others, houses could be lifted. The 2021 flood recovery project is in its final stages; there is one additional home to relocate and a small number of claims to be completed. MACA is working with Public Safety Canada on a reimbursement claim under the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements.

The scope and impact of the 2022 flood is significantly larger than in 2021. As of September 15, 2022, the flood recovery cost for Hay River and the K’atlodeeche First Nation is $174 million, which may change as the recovery work continues. There have been 484 applications for disaster assistance, and 416 damage assessments completed. While many claims have been finalized, the department is working through the remainder as quickly as possible.

Madam Speaker, we continue to learn lessons from the 2021 flood recovery project and have made significant changes to how the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs supports communities and residents following a natural disaster. This includes, creating a more efficient process for residents and businesses to apply for assistance, improvements to the disaster assistance program, and an increase in the amount of available disaster assistance. MACA is finalizing the 2021 After Action Review, a standard practice after large scale emergencies. The 2021 Review is scheduled for completion in early 2023. The 2022 Review is currently being planned and details will be publicly available soon.

The difficult work of mitigation planning is also underway. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is engaging closely with the Town of Hay River and the federal government to investigate federal funding opportunities for mitigation projects identified by the Town. Arrangements have also been made for a community-level mitigation assessment for the K’atlodeeche First Nation. Mitigation planning is complex, and it will take time before decisions are made about which community-level mitigation projects are eligible for federal funding.

Madam Speaker, I want to assure residents that although we cannot control how or when natural disasters may occur, we are focusing efforts to ensure we are as prepared as possible. These preparations include completing a flood survey report with input from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Town of Hay River, and the K’atlodeeche First Nation. This is essential to flood preparation and developing mitigation measures.

We are advocating with the federal government for the development of funding programs. These programs would support long-term planning to address the impacts of climate change on northern communities, from the increasing risk of floods and wildfires to permafrost degradation and shoreline erosion.

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, first and foremost to the tireless efforts of all the volunteers who showed up for their friends, neighbours and their fellow residents. Thank you to community governments and their staff for the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, thank you to the front-line staff who have been on the ground through all the response and recovery work over the last two years.

I have said before that the 2021 and 2022 floods were unprecedented. The time, effort, and complexity of the recovery has been unprecedented and has meant a tremendous amount of work for everyone involved. We are stronger when working together and we should all be proud of the resilience, generosity, and determination of Northerners when faced with emergencies.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.