Insurers shelled out a record C$3.2 billion ($2.92 billion) to cover claims in Canada in 2013, thanks to the record-breaking extreme weather that slammed the country last year.
The claims total is roughly twice the next highest year on record and a tenfold increase from the losses sustained a decade ago. It is also the fourth straight year of claims exceeding C$1 billion.
The news was announced on Monday by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), an industry group representing private home, car and business insurers, after industry warnings in November that insurance premiums will have to rise to cover the increased risk posed by catastrophic weather events. Intact Financial Corp, the country’s largest property and casualty insurer, has said it may boost homeowners insurance premiums by between 15 and 20 percent.
By far, the costliest weather in Canada in 2013, were the June floods that engulfed the oil industry hub of Calgary, Alberta. These floods were not only the most expensive weather event in 2013, but also the most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history, costing over C$1.7 billion. The previous record holder was the massive ice storm that hit Quebec and ontario back in January 1998. Costs from that disaster were C$1.6 billion.
Alberta’s misery was quickly followed in July by wild storms in Toronto that caused flash floods, and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses. It was the most costly insured disaster in Ontario’s history at C$940 million.
2013 didn’t go out quietly either — an ice storm hit Toronto and other parts of Ontario and Eastern Canada over the holidays, racking up an additional C$200 million in damage to property.
Flooding and water damage are emerging as the biggest causes of insurance claims in Canada — replacing fire, which has historically been the biggest destroyer of property.
“Canadian communities are seeing more severe weather, especially more intense rainfall. This overburdens our sewer and stormwater infrastructure, resulting in more sewer backups in homes and businesses,” Don Forgeron, Chief Executive of the IBC, said in the report.
Earlier this month, Conservative MP Peter Braid surprised many in his party by publicly stating on CBC News Network’s Power and Politics that extreme weather and climate change are connected.
“We are seeing the effects, the impacts of climate change,” Braid said. “With climate change comes extreme weather events. We saw that through the floods in southern Alberta, we’re now seeing that with the ice storms in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto, with the extreme cold across the country.”