Severe weather events cost Canadian insurers $2.4 billion in 2020

Published Jan. 18, 2021 7:00 a.m. ET

Share this story:

   
A grocery store is surrounded by flood water on Franklin Avenue in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Monday, April 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Halinda

OTTAWA -- A new report suggests severe weather events in 2020 cost Canadian insurance companies $2.4 billion, with the most costly events coming out of Alberta.

The report, released on Monday from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc., indicates that 2020 was the fourth most expensive year for disaster insurers since 1983, highlighting the importance in slowing down the emissions that cause climate change.

“One of the known impacts of climate change is an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events and the damages they cause,” Richard Florizone, president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), wrote in a news release.

“In addition to reducing emissions, Canada also needs a national adaptation plan to protect and prepare Canadians for a changing climate.”

When it comes to the most expensive weather events of the year, the top three all occurred in Alberta, including a June 12 hailstorm in Calgary that cost an estimated $1.3 billion, spring flooding in Fort McMurray that cost $562 million and summer storms in Central and Southern Alberta that cost $221 million.

Other expensive events included a Jan. 10 snow and rainstorm in southern Ontario and Quebec that cost $98 million and a Nov. 15 windstorm in Ontario that cost $88 million.

The IBC report states this should be of importance for Canadian taxpayers because for each dollar insurers have to pay for extreme climate events, taxpayers have to pay out “much more” to repair the infrastructure damage cause by these events.

“Canadians continue to experience accelerating financial losses from climate change,” Craig Stewart, vice-president of federal affairs at the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), said in the release. “While acknowledging the importance of a resilient recovery, the federal government lacks any national plan to protect Canadians from floods, fires, windstorms and hail. For all of its work on reducing future climate threats, too little attention is being paid to the losses Canadians are facing today due to past inaction.”

In November, the federal government created an interdisciplinary Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation, which will “look at options to protect homeowners who are at high risk of flooding and don't have adequate insurance protection and examine the viability of a low-cost national flood insurance program,” according to a news release from Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada.

The IBC called the creation of this task force an “important accomplishment in 2020,” but it should be part of a larger plan rather than a “standalone effort.”


Read the original version