(Ottawa) Bad weather and natural disasters caused more than 3 billion in insured losses for the second consecutive year in 2023 in Canada.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) annual review places 2023 fourth on its list of costliest weather years – a list that is still topped by 2016, with the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire , in Alberta.
IBC’s 2023 toll is dominated by wildfires in the Okanagan and Shuswap regions of British Columbia, which alone caused $720 million in insured losses, or 23% of the total toll of 3.13 billion in the country.
On top of that, more than $480 million in insured losses were caused by three fires around Okanagan Lake, which burned for weeks and destroyed 70 homes in West Kelowna and 20 more in Westbank First Nation.
Wildfires raged across the country for more than four months in 2023, burning more than 18.5 million hectares of forest, including 4.5 million hectares in Quebec, an all-time record.
The total cost of last summer’s fires, however, is much higher than these “insured losses.” Estimates in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories put the cost of fighting the fires at $1.4 billion, not including the cost of evacuations and disruptions to economic activity.
The IBC also estimated the insured damages caused by a series of summer storms in Ontario in July and August at $340 million. These storms brought hail, wind and tornadoes to areas near Petrolia, South Buxton and Essex County. About 125 homes were damaged when a tornado struck the Barrhaven neighborhood south of Ottawa on July 13.
Additionally, hailstorms in Winnipeg and Calgary together caused more than $250 million in damages, the IBC estimates. And a major storm in the Prairies on Canada Day caused an additional 100 million in damage in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The spring ice storm in Quebec and Ontario in April, which caused power outages and left two dead, caused 330 million in insured damages, estimates the IBC.
In what authorities called the worst ice storm since the 1998 “ice crisis,” freezing rain blanketed the federal capital region and parts of Quebec, including Montreal, on April 5, leaving more than a million people without electricity.
A 60-year-old man was killed when he was crushed by a falling tree outside his residence in Montérégie.
On the east coast, extreme cold blanketed the region in early February, with temperatures falling as low as -25 degrees Celsius in some places and temperatures feeling closer to -50 degrees.
Arctic air blanketed much of the country on February 4, from Newfoundland and Labrador to parts of Ontario and much of the North.
A huge surge in demand on the power grid has left tens of thousands of people in the dark across Atlantic Canada. This forced people from their homes and caused pipes to burst in homes and businesses. In total, the insured damages amount to 120 million.
The impacts were felt well beyond the winter months. An estimated 95 per cent of some of Nova Scotia’s most prized grape varieties were destroyed by frost, as were raspberries, peaches, cherries and plums. This prompted the provincial government to announce an emergency program to help producers.
And Nova Scotia’s difficult year continued into the spring, when a wildfire broke out near the Halifax suburb of Tantallon on May 28.
About 150 homes were destroyed by the fast-moving flames and more than 16,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Evacuation orders remained in effect until early July. The total insured damages amounted to more than 165 million, according to the BAC.
Then, in late July, a deluge of more than 250 millimeters of rain caused deadly flash flooding in West Hants County.
Two six-year-old children, a 14-year-old girl and a 52-year-old man drowned after two vehicles were swept off the roads on July 22. Insured losses from these floods in Nova Scotia totaled $170 million.
The IBC noted that flooding occurred across much of the country last year and that more than 1.5 million households cannot qualify for affordable flood insurance.
The BAC is also urging the federal government to keep its promise to create a national flood insurance program, to help people who live in these high-risk areas – an idea mentioned in the 2023 federal budget.