Auditor General says Alberta’s hazard assessment system needs improvements as number and cost of disasters rise

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In 2016, AEMA drafted a project charter aiming to deliver a provincial hazard assessment by the start of the 2017 disaster season.

“The project never started because AEMA said it did not have the resources. At the completion of this audit, the preliminary provincial hazard assessment from 2015 remains in draft form,” the report says.

In September 2019, AEMA restarted work on the provincial hazard assessment, but the audit found it still does not have an effective system to coordinate the assessment.

“While AEMA has taken steps to improve the hazard assessment system, AEMA has not implemented fully the hazard assessment recommendations (from 2011). It also has weaknesses in its systems to monitor the status of outstanding recommendations,” the report says.

The report notes that the government is footing more of the financial risk for uninsurable disaster costs at a time when disasters are happening more frequently and are increasing in severity.

Alberta has been hit hard by several major disasters in the past decade, including the 2016 Wood Buffalo wildfire, the 2013 Southern Alberta flood and the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire.

From 2010 to 2016, disaster costs increased by over 2,500 per cent to approximately $9 billion with the government incurring an estimated $2.3 billion. The federal government will reimburse Alberta for about $1.4 billion of the $2.3 billion in disaster expenses.

In the February budget, the Alberta government included $2.8 billion for potential disaster and emergency aid for the next three years.

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