New flood insurance could bring assurance to property owners

By Glenn Hicks
August 29, 2018 - 5:21pm

It’s news that may offer several Prince Albert and Saskatchewan homeowners some degree of assurance given the reality of climate change, extreme weather and increasing incidents of flooding.

A new comprehensive insurance policy - claimed to be the first of its kind to include overland flood damage, even in the most high-risk areas - is now available in Saskatchewan.

Ontario-based Coop, The Co-operators, is offering the product to everyone, regardless of risk.

“If you think about flooding from lakes and rivers, many of our competitors don’t offer the insurance for those at the highest risk, “ Flood Initiative Program Director Tara Laidman told paNOW. “ Our product is available for all clients in Saskatchewan regardless of their exposure, while also providing protection from storm surge, sewer, and septic backup.”

Laidman said it was likely many property owners in the province had previously been unable to get coverage, especially if they were in high-risk areas, but that would change.

She said the company had been the first to offer the overland flood insurance in Alberta in 2015, then included Ontario in 2016, and was now expanding to homeowners in Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Yukon.

“Flood modeling is in its infancy in Canada, and back in 2015 we were the only G7 nation not to have overland flood insurance for residential areas,” Laidman said. She explained risk modeling was a very complex arena, but having analyzed the data, the company was ready to roll out the coverage in Saskatchewan.

She couldn’t give a ballpark on cost as each home was different and several factors impacted the premiums.

“In Prince Albert for example, the North Saskatchewan River is certainly a flood risk factor, but proximity to the river is not the only one,” she said. “For those homeowners, it really depends on their geocode location [latitude/longitude] and one neighbour could be exposed to a flood while another beside them may not, based on elevation, soil absorption, etc.” She said they had local advisors who could offer precise quotes.

Laidman noted though that most Canadians underestimate the threat of flooding with 94 per cent living in high-risk flood zones unaware of that risk.

paNOW asked Prince Albert City Councillor Don Cody, who lives in the floodplain, next to the river, if the new insurance would help allay public concerns about major flooding in future.

“It certainly appears to be positive news for people in the 500-year flood zone and even for people who get some measure of flooding but aren’t even in a flood area, “ he said. “But you always need to read the fine print in insurance policies and check on what your deductible would be,” he said.

Cody said there was no doubt that many people couldn’t previously get flooding insurance on the likes of River Street because of the risk, but the new insurance policy was a good thing. However, he added everyone had to make up their own mind on whether the premiums would be worth it.

“Myself, I wouldn’t apply for the insurance as I don’t believe we’re going to have a flood here, and the cost of what the policy would be I’m sure, would not be worth what the risk is.”

The city has been embroiled in a political spat with the province over Regina’s move to have municipalities sign on to a 1-in-500 year flood event plan. Currently, the city has measures in place to handle a 1-in 100 year event. The larger and rarer flood event would involve investing in extra river defences and changes to the building code. Cody said he was heartened by senior government moves to divert some post-flood funding into mitigation investments around Canada.


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