GATINEAU, Que. — The New Democrats promised Sunday to more than double the amount of federal money earmarked to prevent damage from natural disasters such as floods.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pledged to add $2.5 billion to the federal government's disaster mitigation fund, saying he wants to help people and businesses prevent problems.
"What we've seen for too long is that there's a crisis that happens and then afterwards there's a response," he said after meeting with property owners affected by recent floods in Quebec.
"A flood happens and the water damages a business, means it can't be opened (and) has to shut down or it damages homes, and instead of responding after the case what we're proposing is we give investments to municipalities right now so they can put in place the infrastructure to avoid this from happening."
The national Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund has currently set aside $2 billion to support large-scale infrastructure programs that help communities better manage such risks.
Projects must meet "national significance" criteria, such as reducing impacts on essential services, the health and safety of Canadians or a region's economic activity. There must be at least $20 million in eligible expenses for a project to qualify for funding under the program.
Singh said the criteria are too restrictive. The funding also comes with cost-sharing requirements for provinces and municipalities, and the NDP leader said he would get rid of that hurdle as well as the minimum project amount.
"We would remove those barriers because our plan is to make sure it's accessible to everyone who needs it, and the goal is to avoid responding after a crisis and instead to prevent the crisis," he said.
Singh said the idea is to help people avoid disasters and be able to stay in their current homes.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities welcomed the NDP announcement as a "critical first step."
The federal government said an increasing number of Canadian communities have experienced significant weather-related events and disasters triggered by natural hazards such as floods, wildland fires and droughts.
It said these events are growing in frequency as a result of climate change.
The Liberals noted that they introduced the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, and said that communities across the country have received funding to offset costs of building better protections.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2019.