Thursday, July 30, 2015

No Help for Calgary's Snowtember!

Although Beiseker was spared the big snow hit last September which damaged or killed over a million trees in the City of Calgary, I share Mayor Nenshi's frustration with the provincial decision to deny any help for the city.  This could be setting a dangerous precedent! 

Calgary applied for just over $28 million dollars to help with the costs of that terrible storm.  The trees were still in leaf and the weight of that heavy wet snow broke them down by the thousands.  There were major power outages and traffic snarls.  Homes, vehicles and a few people were hit by falling trees and branches.  Many parts of the city's infrastructure was damaged.  Snow-tember adversely affected more of the city than did the floods of 2013!  It was the biggest storm event of its type in over 130 years!

Yet the province has decided that it did not qualify for any kind of disaster relief. 

I worry about this decision.  In my mind this could mean that if an environmental disaster should hit another municipality, that municipality maybe left on its own to solve (and pay for) the problem!  Beiseker is just now starting to rebuild its modest contingency fund after the huge snows of December 2013 and January 2014.  What if another similar incident happens this winter?  Will we be left out in cold to fend for ourselves?  I worry.


  1. But you were left out in the cold, after the December 2013/January 2014 snowstorms! In February of 2014, you wrote that you'd asked the Village administrator to look into disaster funding to help with Beiseker's budget, which was stretched after the December 2013 blizzard. You said here on your blog that the province's response then was a "flat no."

    As for Calgary's specific request, I don't understand how and why it apparently took so long for the city to apply for disaster funding after the September storm -- I'm guessing it was submitted sometime in late May, when the new government came into power, since Minister Deron Bilous replied to it instead of his predecessor, Stephen Khan. It seems that nobody else has noticed that.

    And because of that timing, it may come down to a question of who's got money, right now. The city is flush with nearly $1.7 billion dollars in reserves. The province isn't, after years of mismanagement and poor planning; the measures brought in by the new government to fix some of those fiscal "holes" won't likely show results until the fall. Not coincidentally, that's when Premier Notley's government will be bringing in a new budget.

  2. Hey Rhys, you're right. I should have included the word "again" in that last paragraph in my blog. The Village of Beiseker did apply for help to pay for snow removal in 2013 and the province said "no"! It took a whole bunch of careful financial planning to recover from that hit. But we did recover. This year's budget even includes a very modest surplus with which we'll hopefully be able to start a fund in case something like this happens again.

    But we would have appreciated some help from the province. We didn't push our request for assistance because many other municipalities were hit harder by the 2013 floods. We "bit our tongues" and paid for it ourselves.

    I didn't read anywhere in the rejected Snow-tember application from the City of Calgary that they were being turned down because they had the bucks to take care of it. Our new premier would have made more Brownie points if her government would have said they were not able to find the bucks right now but stay tuned. They could have said "we'll get back to you when we've posted an NDP budget". But instead they simply said "No"! I stand by what I said; I'm worried that this new provincial government may not be there when the municipalities really need the help! The AUMA Convention is coming up in just over a month. I can promise you, I'm going to be seeking some answers to my concerns there! I'll let you know what I find out.

    1. Like Beiseker, Calgary will recover - especially with their "rainy day fund" now somewhere north of $400 million dollars. Everyone also seems to be forgetting that the province also gave Calgary $52M in a "windfall" payment, less than 18 months ago, before the economy hit bottom. Memories are short, I know.

      Anyway, my opinion is that the province's Disaster Recovery Fund is best suited for helping smaller urban and rural municipalities, like Beiseker or High River (or any of the northern municipalities, which are experiencing extensive wildfires, right now) but not so much for big cities like Calgary. The two major cities in Alberta each have far-and-away much bigger tax bases, and sizable amounts of money socked away in their own contingency funds; conversely, larger municipalities also have bigger appetites when it comes to this kind funding when bad weather hits. The DRP funds should really be there to protect the most vulnerable municipalities - I don't think Calgary qualifies among those - and that funding should be allocated, at least in part, on a basis of ability to pay.

      None of this is written in defense of the NDP government, Premier Notley or any of her cabinet; it's simply a statement of how I feel about DRP funding as it applies to the major cities as compared to smaller municipalities. They are apples and oranges. And if the NDP really isn't going to be there when municipalities need help, that isn't really a big difference from the PCs who they replaced.

      I really hope they'll do better, but I'm more willing than most to give them some patience to find their footing in government - at least a couple of years. Seems fair to me; they really seem to have inherited one hell of a mess.