Ottawa will "be there to help" Calgary and other southern Alberta communities recover from massive flooding in the region, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Sunday.
As Calgary's Bow and Elbow Rivers began to recede over the weekend, officials faced growing questions about who will pay for the extensive damage to be repaired. Mr. Kenney, who represents the riding of Calgary Southeast, said Ottawa is already helping with ongoing rescue efforts and expects to provide additional support to help the province and affected municipalities rebuild.
"It will obviously be a substantial bill and we will be there to help," he told CTV's Question Period on Sunday morning.
A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said future assistance could come from Canada's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, a program that allows provinces to request federal assistance when the cost of dealing with a disaster is more than $1 per capita, based on the province's population. Eligible expenses include the cost of evacuating residents, restoring infrastructure and public works, and fixing basic and essential personal property.
Based on Alberta's 2011 census population of about 3,600,000, the province would be responsible for covering the first approximately $3.6-million in flood-related expenses before it can ask for help under the terms of the program. After that, Ottawa would cover half of the next approximately $7.2-million in expenses and 75 per cent of the $7.2-million that follows. The federal government would cover 90 per cent of everything else.
Mr. Kenney said municipalities affected by the flood will assess the damage and send lists of their needs to the province. The province will then refine those lists and send them on to the federal government.
He said it will be particularly important to get the electrical and water systems running again and to reopen the TransCanada Highway and Canadian Pacific Railway. "Those are key arteries of the Canadian economy. We've got to get those up and running as soon as possible," he said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CTV on Sunday that both Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Prime Minister Stephen Harper had visited the city and "unconditionally pledged their support."
Nine search and rescue helicopters were sent to Calgary and more than 2,200 Canadian Forces personnel were sent to offer emergency assistance in southern Alberta. The troops will remain in the area "as long as they're needed," Defence Minister Peter MacKay told CTV on Sunday.
Mr. MacKay said he spoke with Ms. Redford about concerns regarding washouts on bridges and roads in the area. In response to those concerns, engineers from the Canadian Forces are prepared to install lightweight, portable bridges if needed, he said. He said the naval reserve is also ready to step in with rigid inflatable boats.
A spokeswoman for Mr. MacKay declined to say on Sunday whether troops might remain in the area to help with the rebuilding efforts. "Their current priorities are evacuation and helping local authorities with relief efforts," Paloma Aguilar wrote in an e-mail. "Further actions will be determined as the situation evolves."