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A call for action on the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program from the Town of High River

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Copyright 2016-17 High River Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee

Put Lessons of Disaster to Good Use
I believe that when it comes to government programs and services, the true experts are the citizens that actually have to use them. The High River DRP Advocacy Committee are – unfortunately – experts in how the province’s current disaster relief program works, and their personal experiences highlight many necessary changes that must take place if this program is to serve citizens the way it was intended to.

Nearly three years have passed since flood waters devastated parts of Calgary, High River, and our surrounding region. No one wants to see that happen again, but if or when it does, we need to ensure that the government is helping the recovery process. Let’s take the lessons learned from that disaster and put them to good use.

Naheed Nenshi, Mayor
City of Calgary
Communities Supporting Communities

Dear Mayor Snodgrass:

None of us could have ever imagined the impacts of the flooding in Southern Alberta in June of 2013. As I reflect on the time and the events that unfolded, I cannot help but wonder how we narrowly escaped the devastation that seemed to be all around us. It was heart wrenching to witness the tragic events unfold in our neighboring communities and the impact on both the community at large and individual families.

During that time of crisis we came to understand the importance of community and support as we did our best to assist the Town of High River in the response and early recovery operations.

In that spirit of community, the Town of Okotoks whole heartedly supports the recommendations of the High River Disaster Response Program Advocacy Committee for change to the Provincial Disaster Response Program.

We too, hope that no community or individual Albertan will need to access this program but sadly, we too concede, that it is inevitable. When that time comes we are hopeful that the recommendations have been given serious consideration by the Province and the program is revised to provide those in need with a timely and systematic response.

Wm. (Bill) B. Robertson
Mayor, Town of Okotoks
Please Accept Our Support
On behalf of the Town of Innisfail, please accept this letter of support for your efforts to have changes made to the Disaster Recovery Program.

Brian Spiller
Mayor, Town of Innisfail
Lessons to be Learned, Issues to be Addressed
The Disaster Relief effort by the Government of Alberta was noble in its intent as expressed by Premier Redford in 2013. However, in its execution, the DRP was a disaster that rivaled the actual flood in its damage to citizens in High River and other affected communities.

I believe there are many lessons to be learned and issues that need to be addressed in order that this collective painful episode does not befall another community in the future. I also believe that an independent review by an impartial task force empowered to make findings and recommendations is the only way to make sure Alberta is better prepared for the next disaster, and I call on Premier Notley to convene such a process forthwith. Further, given that the Federal Government was frequently cited as the reason critical decisions and actions by DRP officials were not taken, I encourage the Government of Canada to participate together with the Government of Alberta in the review process.

Senator Scott Tannas
Painful Mistakes Cannot be Repeated
Recovery after the 2013 flood has been slow and, for many Albertans, extremely painful due to the frustration in dealing with the Disaster Recovery Programme. After the flood I met with dozens of families from communities throughout my riding of Foothills who were at the breaking point as they tried to decipher the inconsistencies and bureaucracy of the DRP program. They simply wanted to go home or re-open their businesses, but all too often they could not solve the DRP labyrinth.

We understand the DRP staff was under a great deal of stress, but the always changing structure and lack of adaptability of the program made it ineffective to say the least. The 2013 flood was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history, but this disaster will be magnified if we, as government, do not learn from the mistakes of the DRP program.

I encourage the Minister of Municipal Affairs to consider the High River DRP Committee's report and other pertinent information and develop an in depth, operations manual to ensure a structured, detailed disaster relief response program is in place for future events. We must act because Alberta cannot afford to repeat the same painful mistakes.

Honourable John Barlow
Member of Parliament, Foothills
Residents Deserve Far Better
The High River DRP Advocacy Committee has worked tirelessly in raising awareness about the failure of Alberta’s Disaster Recovery Program.

The February 2016 Auditor General’s report confirms, without reservation, what the Advocacy Committee has been saying since the committee’s inception. Residents of High River, and other Albertans impacted by disaster, deserve far better than they’ve received from their government.

I would add my voice to those calling on the NDP to execute the recommendations of the High River DRP Advocacy Committee and abide by the DRP Implementation Plan specified in the Auditor General’s report.

Dr. David Swann
MLA, Calgary Mountain View
Leader, Alberta Liberal Party
It’s Time to Act
The High River DRP Advisory Committee report is the most comprehensive and accurate account of the problems within the DRP system I’ve seen. It reflects the challenges experienced by my constituents in Calgary-Elbow as they tried to navigate the inconsistencies and at times outright unfairness of DRP. I encourage the Minister to take this and other third-party reports like the MNP, KPMG and even the Groenveld report into consideration as she goes to work fixing the system. There’s no need for further reviews, the information necessary to improve DRP is there. It’s time to act.

Greg Clark, MLA Calgary-Elbow,
Leader of the Alberta Party
Accept and Enact These Recommendations Quickly
As a resident and someone who knew so many that were personally affected by the 2013 flood I saw Albertans come together like never before. People from across the province, complete strangers, helping one another.

Unfortunately as initial response gave way to long-term recovery, the situation for many quickly turned into a nightmare. Ill-defined processes, inadequate staffing, inconsistent information, complicated applications, lost applications, and a constant bureaucratic merry-go-round resulted in the re-victimization of those who suffered the most. Without the work of the DRP Advocacy Committee many of these issues would never have come to light. I want to thank High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass and the rest of Town Council for their steadfast support of the committee, and my sincere gratitude to DRPAC Chair Jim Ross and his fellow committee members for their tireless work in support of the victims of the 2013 flood.

I implore the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Alberta government to accept and enact these recommendations quickly. Finish the job. Fix the system.

Wayne Anderson, MLA Highwood
April 6, 2016
The Honourable Danielle Larivee Minister of Municipal Affairs
204 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 286

Dear Minister Larivee:
RE: Disaster Recovery Program

The 2013 floods in southern Alberta had significant impact on a wide number of communities including the Town of High River. In January 2016, the High River Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee completed its report, Finish the Job. Fix the System.

This report outlines a number of important concerns identified in the Disaster Recovery Program as a result of the flood recovery effort since 2013, as well as a number of recommendations that will enhance the recovery of future disasters.

In consultation with the neighboring rural municipalities who were also impacted by the 2013 floods, the MMDC endorses this report and believes that these recommendations will be useful as government employees and decision makers review the Disaster Recovery Program.
Yours sincerely,

Al Kemmere, President
AAMDC - Alberta Association of Municipal Districts & Counties
All Albertans Need to See This Program Fixed
I was a lucky one in the aftermath of the 2013 flooding. My house house in Bowness sustained relatively light water damaged for which I was insured through my insurance company.

However, in spending the next 2.5 years helping neighbours through my involvement with CRCAG (Calgary River Communities Action Group), I can tell you that even thought the [Government of Alberta] claims most cases are resolved, the level of satisfaction for my neighbours in the DRP has been very low.

All Albertans need to see this program fixed, because when it is the next flood or forest fire or whatever tragedy to befall us, many more will find themselves in the same uncaring, inefficient DRP hell that many southern Albertans found and still find themselves in.

Rob Nieuwesteeg
Calgary Alberta
Disaster Recover Program is Essential
The Disaster Recovery Program is essential for supporting communities as they deal with losses and damages from emergencies and disasters.

It is critical that the province publicize the results of the external reviews and immediately implement changes to improve the program through strengthening communication, making the program more responsive to needs, streamlining the claims process and ensuring sufficient staff knowledge and oversight.

We urge the Minister to fulfil her pledge to have all outstanding claims closed by June 2016 and all appeals closed by December 2016.

Statement from the Board of Directors
AUMA - Alberta Union of Urban Municipalities
Unanimous Support for DRP Efforts
On behalf of the Town of Bonnyville, I am pleased to advise that the Council of the Town of Bonnyville unanimously supports the Town of High River in your efforts with respect to facilitating changes in the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).

We reviewed your letter of April 5, 2016 and we also downloaded and reviewed the report documenting the failings of the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program which contains more than 50 specific recommendations.

We were dismayed to read about the shortcomings of the DRP as it pertains to the flood in High River and are hopeful that your experience can be utilized for implementing change so that similar circumstances do not occur to other municipalities when faced with a disaster.

Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention; hopefully adding the Town of Bonnyville's support to the cause will be helpful. Let's "Finish the Job and Fix the System"!

Gene Sobolewski
Mayor, Town of Bonnyville
Support for DRP Initiative is Critical
On behalf of Council and the City of Brooks, thank you for your letter dated April 5th, 2016 requesting a letter in support of the Town of High River's efforts to improve the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) as a result of the Town's experiences during the 2013 flooding.

During the Regular Council Meeting held May 2nd, 2016, Council reviewed High River's Recommendations Report for the DRP and wholeheartedly agreed that supporting this initiative is critical for the improvement and betterment of the DRP for all Albertans moving forward.

Barry Morishita, Mayor
City of Brooks
Strong DRP is an Imperative
Thank you for your letter of April 5, 2016, and for including the Town of Edson in your request for support.

It is disheartening that your community had to go through such hardship in order to bring to light deficiencies contained within the Provincial Disaster Recovery Program. It is imperative that during a time of emergency, there are strong programs in place to provide assistance.

As deficiencies have now been revealed, it is important that the Province review their Program to amend these shortfalls so that if ever another community experience an emergency, there is a sturdy program in place to help them.

We hope that the Minister and the Province will make a firm commitment to reviewing the DRP and make any necessary amendments.

Greg Pasychny, Mayor
Town of Edson
Comprehensive, Independent Review Required
Knowing that you have experienced first hand the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) it is my understanding that there are some real deficiencies within the DRP. I congratulate your community on your recovery and similarly sympathize with The Town of High River. Based on what I have heard, I personally believe that this program needs a comprehensive and independent review.

I appreciate your efforts in trying to build a stronger program for all of Alberta and for that I· thank you.

Nolan Crouse, Mayor
City of St. Albert
A Thorough and External Review of DRP is Required
The Town of Strathmore is writing to support the Town of High River's efforts to have changes made to the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).

As stated on the website a disaster can strike anywhere and at any time. With this past week's events in Fort MacMurray this statement could never be truer. It is unfortunate and wrong that the Disaster Recovery Program has failed the citizens of High River we as elected officials must do our utmost to ensure that this does not happen again.

The failings of the DRP to finish the job that they were meant to do more than 3 years after the disaster took place is very concerning. It is evident to this Council that a thorough and external review of the DRP must be conducted in order to redevelop the program so that the failures experienced by the Town of High River never take place again.

Finally, Council applauds High River's efforts to advocate for improvements to the Disaster Recovery Programs and hopes that you are successful in this very important initiative.

Michael Ell, Mayor
Town of Strathmore
Comprehensive Review of DRP is Best Way Forward
Council received your letter dated April 5, 2016 and discussed it at the April 25, 2016 Regular Meeting of Council.

The discussion resulted in a motion that the Town respond to you directly expressing support for your efforts to have the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) reviewed and revised so that it meets the needs of Albertans. We have seen over the past five years the effects of disasters on many of our municipalities, and with the Fort McMurray fire we are again reminded how vulnerable our communities are to the elements.

We believe that the Government of Alberta responded quickly and generously to the large scale emergency events that have happened in Alberta in recent years. We also believe that there can be improvements made to the Government's response and a timely and comprehensive review of the DRP is the best way to move forward.

We wish you well in your ongoing recovery process and ask you to express our appreciation to your Council for their efforts to make High River’s painful experience into a learning opportunity that can benefit all municipalities in Alberta.

Sean McIntyre, Mayor
Town of Sylvan Lake
Lacombe Pleased to Support Call for Review

The City of Lacombe is pleased to support the Town of High River in its request for a review of the Alberta Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).

Although we do our best to ensure programs are designed with careful consideration of all the details, ensuring that victims are taken care of in the best way possible, there can be shortfalls in any plan once put into action.

Unfortunately it often takes an emergency or disaster that puts a program to the test, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. Reviewing the program and addressing its limitations will benefit Albertans during future disasters.

As you work coward the completion of your project, the City of Lacombe extends best wishes for success.

Steve Christie, Mayor
City of Lacombe