Politics
South Slave

Improved disaster assistance still ‘an insult,’ says MLA


Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson is asking when residents in Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation can expect to see compensation for this month’s flood damage. 

Simpson raised the issue as the Legislative Assembly reconvened on Thursday. The legislature is sitting for seven days before MLAs embark on a summer break from session until October 13. 

“The effect of this flood is just setting in,” Simpson said, describing damage not only from water and ice but also sewer backups and power outages.

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Simpson said some residents with insurance have already seen cheques come in. People without insurance – notoriously hard to secure in some parts of the NWT – are reliant on disaster assistance funding from the territorial government. Simpson wanted to know when that funding will be released.

“Residents want to start rebuilding,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t have the funds sitting in their bank account to proceed.”

Rocky Simpson, the MLA for Hay River South, in the Legislative Assembly on May 26, 2022.

Simpson said recent changes to the territory’s disaster assistance policy were a step in the right direction, but the sums available aren’t indicative of the real replacement cost of homes given the increased costs of labour and materials.

He said increasing the funding cap to $240,000 – more than double the previous limit – remained “inadequate, inefficient and an insult to those who find themselves with limited negotiating power and now may well need a mortgage to rebuild.”

Shane Thompson, the minister of municipal and community affairs, responded by outlining the process by which residents register for an assessment and have an assessor determine the extent of damage to their properties.

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Members of staff known as pathfinders will discuss the process with affected property owners, Thompson said, and determine if funds should be advanced to help with repairs.

According to the Town of Hay River, the territorial government has received more than 350 disaster recovery applications and more than 150 assessments have been completed. 

Thompson said once damage assessments are provided to his department, residents can request a funding advance worth up to 50 percent of the value of their assessment. The minister said it takes seven to 10 days to process advance requests. 

On Thursday afternoon, the Town of Hay River said Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian aid group, was accepting requests for emergency cleanup assistance in the community, including debris removal, drywall and mould remediation, and preparing homes for further repair work.

The town and the NWT government say they are working together to construct a temporary road in Paradise Gardens, one of the hardest-hit areas. Work on that road is expected to begin next week.

Chief April Martel of the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, meanwhile, said the First Nation’s Old Village was now safe for returning residents. The Old Village had been particularly badly damaged by flooding.

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