Flood/drought papers Flood Management in Canada at the Crossroads
Dr. Dan Shrubsole, PhD. Associate Professor Department of Geography Faculty of Social Science University of Western Ontario ICLR, Toronto, 2000 ICLR Research Paper Series – No. 5
Decisions to reduce expenditures by all levels of government have come at a time when the economic losses due to flooding are increasing. This situation has raised concerns. During the 1990s, Environment Canada essentially withdrew its support from the Federal Flood Damage Reduction Program, and no other level of government has effectively filled this void. Emergency Preparedness Canada and the Insurance Bureau of Canada have suggested alternative flood management programs be considered by senior levels of governments. These decisions and discussions have occurred in the absence of systematic and rigorous studies that have assessed the full range of existing programs. This paper provides initial steps to address this need.
The Constitutional responsibilities of all levels of government for flood management are described. The major flood management programs sponsored by the federal government are reviewed. The contexts and events associated with two recent and significant floods in the Saguenay and Red River valleys are outlined. The manner in which communities anticipated, responded and recovered from these floods are described. On this basis, the report suggests that significant obstacles to reducing future economic flood losses in Canada are intertwined with current flood management arrangements. There is no requirement or mechanism to effectively integrate structural and non-structural adjustments. Fragmented institutional arrangements continue to permit agricultural drainage, and major reservoirs for hydroelectric and other purposes to be considered without adequate regard for other water issues such as flooding. The construction and operation of dykes and dams have sometimes created a culture of conflict between upstream and downstream communities. A false sense of security is usually promoted by structural adjustments that contribute to increased levels of human settlement. Flood recovery efforts do not effectively support the reduction of future flood losses. After a community has incurred significant losses, senior governments primarily fund disaster relief efforts and the costs for structural adjustments. This arrangement provides little incentive for local landowners and municipalities to adopt effective regulations for floodplain land uses. A narrow range of alternatives is supported through existing programs. A cycle of escalating flood losses due to extreme events should be expected from present arrangements.
An alternative flood management strategy based on the principles of ecosystem management, partnerships and the role of science is described. These principles could serve as a basis to guide the development of future flood management strategies in Canada. Floods are acts of God; flood losses are the results of acts of humans (White, 1945).