Taxpayers shouldn't foot bill for those whose houses flood every few years: Legault
Published Sunday, April 21, 2019 9:10AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 22, 2019 8:53AM EDT
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said his government will examine ways to get people living in areas susceptible to flooding to move, saying taxpayers shouldn't have to pay the bill for rebuilding homes every few years.
"We've seen some people it's the second time they've been hit in the last three years. We're reviewing the programs to make sure taxpayers don't pay too much for rebuilding places that will be touched often," he said. "We will give incentive to move."
Legault visited several flood-damaged regions north of Montreal on Sunday. Among the sites Legault went to were a community centre and flooded homes in Laval.
"I'm very happy to see the work has been done very soon," he said. "Right now, the mayor expects the maximum houses that will be touched are 950. All these people have already received the material. We have people from the Canadian army helping to build what is necessary to minimize the impacts of what's coming. They expect here in Laval the peak will be reached this coming Wednesday."
He added that after areas in Quebec suffer severe floodings several times in the span of years, the role of climate change needs to be acknowledged.
Consequences less catastrophic than predicted
About 200 soldiers started filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in Quebec's Outaouais and Mauricie regions overnight, with an additional 400 troops standing ready to deploy there and in Laval on Sunday. Those troops were deployed at 1:00 p.m.
However, weather forecasts suggest the consequences could be less catastrophic than originally feared. According to public safety ministry spokesperson Eric Houde the water level should remain below the threshold of 2017, when numerous regions of Quebec suffered severe flooding damage.
"The weather is on our side," he said. "There are other rain systems coming but the water that passes today won't come back."
He noted there is one exception in Lake St-Pierre.
"We mustn't forget that we're in a high tide," he said, which prevents the lake from emptying into the river.
Environment Canada meteorologist Marie-Eve Giguere said much of the rising water levels on Sunday were caused by melting snow.
"The heavy rainfall is really behind us. We'll talk about melting for the next few days, but at least there's no precipitation forecast for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday," she said.
Urgence Quebec says that as of Sunday morning, bloated rivers had resulted in 980 flooded residences, 380 isolated residences and 1,264 evacuees across the province.
Eight major floods have been identified as threatening thousands of Quebecers, and so far one death has been blamed on the high water.
In Nicolet, a town about 150 kilometres northeast of Montreal, roughly 30 soldiers were deployed to shore up the water line. Mayor Genevieve Dubois said that while water levels are elevated, they are still below 2017 levels.
"Basically, they're making some sandbags. We have more than 30,000 sandbags right now for people," she said. "We are concerned. We're still keeping surveillance. We are very, very prepared."
Water level rising in Rigaud
In Rigaud, where hundreds of people were forced from their homes, Mayor Hans Gruenwald, Jr. said water levels are still gradually rising with the high point expected to come on Tuesday. He said that while there won't be forced evacuations like in 2017, the city will be looking into what support they can offer for those residing in the flood zone.
"It's a situation that changes every 24 hours," he said. "I totally understand these people. It's their home, it's where their families were created. There's memories there. It's very, very important for these people and we'll support them wherever we can, but there's a limit to how far we can go."
Rigaud fire chief Daniel Boyer said the situation in the city is considered to be a major flood situation.
"This morning we had two neighbourhoods completely off the grid. They have only one street to go there and the water was 16 or 18 inches off the ground from street level," he said. "We're not at the level we were in 2017, but we're going there surely right now. The water level we are right now is going to rise overnight. The rain we had two days ago, it's upstream, we'll have the effect in the next 12 hours."
Gruenwald said residents are "mentally readier than two years ago to deal with the situation."
"Many of them, up until last week, couldn't believe this could come again so soon," he said. "We're dealing with it, one day at a time."
With flooding causing severe damage for the second time in three years, Gruenwald acknowledged that this could be the new normal for his area.
"If it is, maybe that's the reality we have to learn to live with," he said. "(People who live by water) have to make a decision. When you live in a flood zone, it comes with sandbags and evacuation. That's part of it."
Resident Patrick Robert, who bought his house last year, has water in his home, which he's using pumps to remove. He said the situation is stressful, especially as the water keeps rising.
"It's your home, it's your house, you don't want any damage inside," he said.
One fatality so far
Police say 72-year-old Louise Seguin Lortie died Saturday morning after driving her car into a sinkhole caused by flooding in the Pontiac area, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.
Some of the worst flooding has been in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 868 homes were swamped and 200 people evacuated.
Meanwhile, about 120 Canadian soldiers are being deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.
Fifteen communities in that province have been warned to remain on high alert.
- With files from The Canadian Press