The federal government is providing $870-million to support recovery efforts after destructive flooding in British Columbia last November, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair announced Monday.
The money is the first payment of a commitment Ottawa made in the immediate aftermath of the severe weather, with more to come, he said.
“It’s important to get money out as quickly as possible, so that rebuild can begin in earnest and we can help those communities ... return to a sense of normalcy,” Blair told a news conference.
His comments came after the fifth and final meeting of a committee made up of B.C. and federal ministers on disaster response and climate resiliency.
The funds are being distributed through the disaster financial assistance program.
British Columbia has asked for about $5-billion to help rebuild after the disaster through the program, and provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said accessing the money can take time, so the advanced payment is important.
He said much of the cash will go toward rebuilding infrastructure, both public and private, that was damaged when record-setting rainfall hit southern B.C. last November.
The so-called atmospheric river caused widespread flooding and landslides that inundated farmland and washed out sections of several major highways.
The money will be leveraged to make sure B.C. is rebuilding infrastructure that’s more resilient to the effects of climate change in years to come, Farnworth said.
For example, he said, that means making sure culverts along the Coquihalla Highway are built to handle the volume of water that surged through last fall.
It’s an ongoing process to determine the full costs of recovering and rebuilding from the flooding and landslides, with on-the-ground assessments and significant work to repair bridges and highways still under way, Farnworth added.
“As damage assessment takes place, as the repair works take place, as the recovery takes place, we work with the federal government, giving them the data and the information that they need in order to determine the exact costs that are being incurred by the province,” he said.
The B.C. and the federal government both understood the scope of the disaster and the significant costs from the beginning, Farnworth said.
Blair noted the advanced payment is in addition to $200-million in federal funding announced in June to support recovery efforts from severe wildfires last summer.
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