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Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver today.

In anticipation of the first anniversary this week of last year’s catastrophic flooding in British Columbia, provincial politicians were eager to point to the progress they’ve made in rebuilding.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth noted repairs to the Sumas Dike, expected by the end of this month, with 500 debris sites cleared. Another $41-million has gone to repair and restore sites along waterways in the Fraser Valley, while a total $24.6-million in disaster financial assistance payments have been made.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming hailed the work of repair crews to reopen Highway 8, which winds along the Nicola River between Merritt and Spences Bridge. He called the repairs an “important milestone.”

As Nancy Macdonald reports today, rebuilding infrastructure is labour-intensive, expensive work. It moves along, though frequently slower than anyone wants.

Rebuilding a life is a much harder thing.

Nancy was once again invited into the home of two ranchers who have, as Wayne MacDonald, describes it, endured 373 days of hell. He and his wife Rhonda have suffered a fire, then a flood, followed by mudslide on their ranch in the Nicola Valley in that time.

Nancy writes: “The MacDonalds, who share the same, indefatigable work ethic and bawdy humour, built the Bar-FX Ranch from scratch after falling in love with a raw piece of land at the eastern edge of Shackan territory in 1995. They traded a used snowmobile for a down payment, and have been living the cowboy dream ever since.

“Their sons, Wyatt and Garrett, were named for Western lawmen – Wyatt Earp and Pat Garrett. To them, ranching is not just a job, but a way of life – ‘a bad habit,’ as Mr. MacDonald describes it, with a rueful laugh. It is the steel-like moral fibre of people like them, as much as the spectacular landscape, that makes this valley such a magical place.”

For the last three weeks, the MacDonalds have been trying to round up their cattle, which scattered on three different mountains this spring: “A year after the fire ripped through here, there’s still no fencing anywhere,” Mr. MacDonald, 54, explained. The long, hot fall, and their new range has the animals confused, he said.

Because their property on Highway 8 is still under an evacuation order, their cattle can’t winter in their pasture the way they used to. A friend offered his property, so the MacDonalds spent last Sunday rounding up their herd, then trucking them across the Nicola River, using the old Kettle Valley rail bed to help with the sorting.

Nancy writes that it was the kindness of friends and finding new – but cumbersome – ways of doing things that have gotten them through.

The MacDonalds are not sure how much more they can take, though. The provincial government is refusing to help cover their losses from the summer mudslide, and another slide could take out their house next summer.

Globe environment reporter Matthew McClearn reported this week that Canadians are probably unaware of just how stretched government programs to help people recover from disasters actually are.

Last year’s flooding In B.C. will cost Canadian taxpayers $3.5-billion through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program. But this year, the same program has received aid requests from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador in the aftermath of Fiona, the post-tropical storm that struck the Maritimes in late September. (Official damage estimates from the provinces for Fiona are not yet available.)

Federal data obtained by The Globe and Mail show the DFAA paid out after roughly 300 disasters since its inception in 1970 – mostly floods, but also wildfires, ice storms, hurricanes, earthquakes and even an encephalitis outbreak. But it has never endured anything like last year’s triple-whammy from B.C.: In addition to the November floods, the province submitted a separate claim for $956-million for floods earlier in 2021, and a $416-million claim for devastating summer wildfires. Advance payments amounting to more than $1-billion have already been announced.

Well before last year’s disasters, federal and provincial officials had been questioning this aid’s affordability in an era of climate change. Now, with a raft of related reports from task forces, auditors and advisory panels either in hand or imminent, major reforms seem likely.

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show that one objective of these reforms will be to “reduce contingent liabilities.” The reforms will inevitably mean changes in the scope of what’s covered and a tightening of who qualifies.

The MacDonalds, though, made a conscious choice to stay, though their calving barn and their winter pasture are gone.

“We are still here,” Ms. MacDonald said. “Fire, flood and mud may have taken a lot from all of us, but we are building back, better than ever.”

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.