THUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – This past Sunday record rainfall hit the Thunder Bay area including Conmee, Oliver Paipoonge, and the Fort William First Nation, which in turn triggered extensive flooding. My heart goes out to all affected individuals, families, and businesses, but please know that your local, provincial and federal governments have been and will continue to work together to help you and our community get through this crisis.
Almost immediately following the huge rains and first signs of flooding I was impressed by the rapid response by both our local officials and volunteers and neighbours in our community. The strength and determination of everyone directly involved in relief efforts is a testament to the spirit and character of our region. Local media outlets as well have done an outstanding job in communicating official updates, road closures, and other vital information about the recovery efforts.
For my part I have taken the issue to the floor and the House of Commons and have received confirmation that the Government of Canada is ready to assist with our recovery efforts. On Tuesday, once the extent of the damage was becoming clear, I rose and asked the Minister of Public Safety if he was, “prepared to help the people of Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas rebuild after this unfortunate event?” In response, the Minister confirmed that, “…the Government of Canada stands ready to assist should we be requested to do so.” It was a quick and welcome response indeed.
Some constituents have expressed concern that the federal response may be too slow or not focused enough on helping with the crisis at hand. Some suggestions were that the military or the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which has been deployed for natural disasters around the world, could be called in. Should the province agree that they are unable to cope with the damage to infrastructure or provide basic public services (ie: clean drinking water) for an extended time then a request for military assistance could be made. In that event I would be more than happy to support their call, but at the end of the day the decision to deploy any Canadian Forces personnel, including DART, would ultimately rest with the Minister of Defence.
With Thunder Bay City Council declaring the area to be a ‘disaster area’ it is now up to the provincial government to step forward and help the city with direct assistance. However, with that declaration the province can also inform the federal government that they are applying for federal disaster relief money under the Disaster Financial Assistance Agreement (DFAA). Once the extent of the damage is known, the federal government will then be able to offer emergency assistance or reimburse the province for the costs of a portion of the recovery effort after the fact. In the past, the process to receive federal money under the DFAA has taken anywhere from 3 months to several years, but the Public Safety Minister has assured me that if a request is made then the federal government is ready to help.
For individuals, families, and businesses experiencing private property damage my heart especially goes to you. Your first point of contact should be your insurance company who will then be able to give you some answers about whether or not you qualify for compensation. If, for some reason, you are not satisfied with the service you receive or believe that a mistake has been made in their assessment you do have some recourse. The provincial government regulates the insurance industry in Ontario, so you could either contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament (Bill Mauro or Michael Gravelle), or proceed directly to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario website at www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/insurance for more information about what options may exist.
Finally, if you are reading this column from an area that has not been affected by the flooding, then please consider making a donation to the Thunder Bay Flood Fund – 1-800-SAL-ARMY, or to the Canadian Red Cross – 1-800-418-1111; www.redcross.ca for online donations. Funds should be earmarked for Thunder Bay floods. I know that every dollar will make a difference in the lives of those who have been affected by the tragic event. Together we will get through this.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River