+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 2-21F

Disaster Recovery Program Cost Allocations

Date:
November 25, 2021
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2024
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Brazeau County
District:
3 - Pembina River
Year:
2021
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Municipal Governance and Finances
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS rural municipalities have recently experienced reductions in revenue and financial support from the Government of Alberta, including but not limited to changes to or the elimination of linear assessment, well drilling equipment tax, grants in place of taxes, and reductions to Municipal Sustainability Initiative program funding; and

WHEREAS rural municipalities have recently absorbed increased expenditures due to the downloading of provincial costs in areas such as policing and augmenting Alberta Health Services through medical first response programs; and

WHEREAS rural municipalities do not have direct access to any federal disaster relief funding or resources; and

WHEREAS in March 2021 Alberta Municipal Affairs introduced changes to the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) that require municipalities to contribute 10% of the costs of eligible claims made under the DRP;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta urge the Government of Alberta to remove the requirement for municipalities to contribute 10% of the costs of eligible claims made under the Disaster Recovery Program for disasters within their boundaries.

Member Background:

Brazeau County, like other rural municipalities across the province, is concerned with the Government of Alberta’s decision to now require municipalities to contribute to disaster relief funding under the Disaster Recovery Program.

Brazeau County, like other rural municipalities across the province, have had revenues streams significantly reduced and/or eliminated by the Government of Alberta while being forced to take on additional expenditures to augment the funding to support provincial services. Brazeau County is strongly opposed to and will not accept further downloading from the Government of Alberta.

RMA Background:

13-20F: Provincial Government Disaster Recovery Program Payments

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate that the Government of Alberta review its Disaster Recovery Program processes to ensure municipalities receive payments within a defined timeline for resources deployed to assist during regional disasters.

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16-20F: Federal and Provincial Disaster Support

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta for continued Disaster Recovery Program funding to support community resilience and enable the relocation of affected property owners where re-construction is impractical or inadvisable.

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Government Response:

The DRP has a history of providing financial assistance to eligible Albertans and communities, for response and recovery from extraordinary disasters. As a program of last resort after insurance and other forms of assistance, DRPs have remained relatively unchanged for many years. With the increase in the frequency and cost of disasters in Alberta, combined with reduced federal disaster financial reimbursement, the changes to DRP were necessary.

In 2021, to encourage improved risk management behaviours at the community and individual levels, and to share the responsibility of disasters with all those who are impacted, the Government of Alberta changed the DRP. Prior to the changes, Alberta was the only province that bore the full financial risk and liability of unexpected disaster expenses through the cost-sharing mechanisms with local authorities seeking federal support when the financial assistance threshold was met. Even with these changes to the DRP, Alberta remains one of the most generous in the provision of disaster financial assistance in Canada.

DRPs are not intended to replace appropriate hazard identification and mitigation planning, nor replacing adequate insurance coverage. The reality is that Alberta communities must take immediate measures to mitigate hazard and disaster risks including making important, sustainable municipal development decisions, reviewing municipal budgets, undergoing hazard and risk assessments, and arranging for adequate insurance and mitigation efforts.

The Government of Alberta encourages municipalities to explore mitigation and insurance options and make sound land-use decisions that will prevent the reoccurrence of damage in known hazard areas. The RMA is encouraged to support municipalities in making sustainable planning and development decisions, to reduce or eliminate the impact to Alberta taxpayers to fund the repair and rebuild of properties in known hazard areas.

A DRP that exceeds the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) cost chare threshold of $16.61 million for Alberta may be eligible for reimbursement from Public Safety Canada (PSC). The Government of Alberta has just received the final report from the DFAA Working Group from PSC and is reviewing the recommendations contained within.

The Government of Alberta is collaborating with the federal government on the National Flood Insurance and Relocation project to examine options for low-cost residential flood insurance to residents of high-risk areas. This project is also considering options for potential relocation of residents in areas at the highest risk of recurrent flooding. Information on this project may be found at: Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation (publicsafety.gc.ca)

I commend you and the members of the RMA for taking the initiative to improve community safety and I ask for your support in educating communities and Albertans about their level of risk, the importance of managing those risks, and in encouraging mitigation efforts to reduce future losses. With these actions, together we can make Alberta more resilient.

Development:

The Government of Alberta response acknowledges the importance of the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) to municipalities in Alberta. Unfortunately, the response does not indicate any consideration in removing or reconsidering the newly implemented 90/10 provincial/municipal DRP cost-share.

In spring and summer 2023, wildfires impacted dozens of rural municipalities across the province. Many municipalities had no choice but to spend significant amounts to support evacuations, frontline firefighting, emergency coordination, and other costs. While municipalities typically budget for some level of emergency or disaster response each year, the scale of the wildfires was unprecedented in many areas. As a result of this change to the DRP cost-sharing requirements, some RMA members have reported direct costs of up to $2 million to cover their 10% share. As a result, some municipalities may be required to divert budget from other planned projects, reduce service levels, or exhaust financial reserves. Responding to a provincewide disaster should not result in this level of local impact.

RMA is currently conducting a member survey seeking input on rural municipal experiences with responding to 2023’s wildfires. The survey includes several questions related to the DRP which will provide further details on the impacts of this policy change.

This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and RMA will continue to advocate on this issue.

Provincial Ministries:
Municipal Affairs
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