Would you accept $200,000 to move away from a flood-prone area?

By: Lisa Coxon on April 26, 2019

Flooding in Ontario has had a strong start this spring, prompting Quebec premier Francois Legault to make an interesting offer on Monday to homeowners who live on flood plains: $200,000 to relocate to a home in a less risky area.

But residents in Pierrefonds, Que., a neighbourhood susceptible to annual flooding because of its close proximity to wetlands, aren’t having it.

“That’s ridiculous,” Michel Cournoyer told CTV Ottawa. “My house is worth about $350,000 so it’s not possible to consider that. My pension plan is here.”

According to CTV Ottawa, more than 3,100 homes in the province have been affected by flooding, forcing more than 1,400 people to evacuate. Many of these homes are in the same areas that wreaked havoc on Quebec during the floods of 2017.

Legault made his $200,000 offer announcement while visiting a neighbourhood in Gatineau, Que. He also said that there will now be a cap on flooding compensation — $100,000.

The mayor of Pierrefonds, Jim Beis, said that Legault’s offer is “premature.”

“This is a time for empathy and compassion and support,” Beis said. “They already lived through a crisis in 2017 and potentially they will be going through it again this year.”

Evacuation calls were made on Thursday in Quebec for an area along the Rouge River after concern that a Hydro-Quebec dam could collapse.

Spring flooding is ravaging other parts of the province, too, with Ottawa and Bracebridge declaring states of emergency this week as a result of rising water levels in  the Ottawa River and the Rouge River.

Atlantic Canada is facing flooding, too, as the Saint John River in Saint John, NB, continues to swell and flood downtown Fredericton.

In Ottawa, about 400 soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces have descended upon the city to help with efforts to control the flooding.

As heavier spring rainfalls become the norm, there’s a chance that relocation offers like Legault’s might become more common among governments. If residents in these flood-prone areas are increasingly being denied insurance coverage for flooding and, as a result, have to pay out of pocket for repairs, a relocation offer could start to look like the least expensive way out of the danger zone.

One resident, Helene Gunville, who lives in Pointe-Gatineau, Que., has lived in her home for 68 years and has seen two major floods before this one. While she doesn’t think the government’s offer is on par with what her home is worth, she’s giving moving some serious thought.

“This year, I’m thinking about it,” she told CTV Ottawa. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Ontario premier Doug Ford made an announcement this morning from Constance Bay, Ottawa, about the provincial flooding.

“These folks can’t go through this every single year,” he said, adding that it was the right call to bring the military in. One reporter pressed Ford on his government’s recent cuts to funding for conservation authorities’ flood management programs, and he deflected the comment to his minister of resources, who was then interrupted and couldn’t provide an answer.