Extreme weather events costing billions, impacting homeowners’ insurance: StatCan

Cooler weather has relieved some tension around Fort Nelson where two wildfires continue to threaten the community in the northeast part of the province.

However, new numbers released by Statistics Canada (StatCan) suggest extreme weather is creating a huge problem right across the country.

The national data agency says whether it’s wildfires, flooding — like we saw in the Fraser Valley and the interior a few years ago — or ice storms in the eastern provinces, insurers were covering $400 million on average from 1983 to 2008.

However, that number has exponentially grown to about $2 billion in recent years.

“In 2022, there were 15 CAT (catastrophic) events in Canada, with claims ranging from $35 million to $1 billion, totalling $3.4 billion in insured CAT losses,” StatCan explained.

“In 2023, CAT losses totalled $3.1 billion. Both 2022 and 2023 were record years, ranking in the historical top 10.”

StatCan experts say the often touted “one in a hundred-year events” are now occurring much more frequently.

“[These events are] becoming more severe and more costly; 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 all rank in the top 10 worst years, surpassed only by the 2016 Fort McMurray fires, the 2013 flooding in Calgary and Toronto, and the 1998 Quebec ice storm,” StatCan said.

“Canadians may need to rethink how and where they rebuild, given the risk assessment for some regions. Alberta wildfires contributed to nearly $1 billion of insured losses in 2023 alone, when 10 times more land burned than the five-year average. Over and over again, unprecedented events are becoming the norm.”

The data agency also warns of the impact on the insurance landscape, and the negative effect it could have on property owners accessing insurance.

“A single event has the potential to cause tens of billions of dollars in damages and could result in insurer bankruptcy or withdrawal. This was experienced in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit the United States, resulting in the insolvency of 16 insurers.”

StatCan says the inflation of homeowners’ insurance has outpaced “all items” since 2020.

“The claims (loss) ratio was negatively impacted during this time, and both insurers and consumers were affected through higher reinsurance and higher homeowners insurance premiums, made worse by the pandemic,” the data agency explained.

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