A compensating debate over Igor
We are nearing the one-month anniversary of the devastation caused by Hurricane Igor, and despite a rapid response by governments and communities at every level, the lives of many people caught in the path of the storm remain uncertain and in turmoil.
Many have said the impact of Igor will be felt for many years to come, and some estimates put the repair bill at about $100 million to replace bridges, roads and other infrastructure.
Included in this amount is compensation the province will pay to homeowners who had their properties damaged by floods caused by the torrential rains and powerful winds. Like it did in past disasters in places such as Badger and Stephenville, the government has decided to use taxpayers’ money to cover these costs because homeowners’ insurance do not usually protect against this type of flooding.
We believe that’s noble and the right thing to do, as long as it’s managed properly and abuse is kept to a minimum.
But property owners who sustained damage not related to flooding will not be compensated by the government, since these are considered “insurable,” and the insurance companies are expected to pick up the bill.
This policy, in our view, makes sense. But it’s put a couple from Victoria — Wallace and Rosalee Dean — in a very precarious situation. Their mobile home was, for all intents and purposes, destroyed in the hurricane. Most of the roof was ripped off, the chimney was dislodged and the interior was drenched with water. A contractor has told the couple their home is not salvageable.
The Dean’s went to the province’s disaster relief officials, looking for compensation to rebuild. But they were denied last week. Officials determined the damage was “insurable,” so their claim was turned down. Unfortunately, the Dean’s did not have insurance. They say they were turned down for coverage years ago because they use a wood stove to heat their home, and never bothered with insurance ever since.
This raises some interesting questions. Should taxpayers’ be expected to foot the bill for a new home for the Dean’s? Or should the Dean’s have been expected to have insurance, like the vast majority of homeowners in Canada?
It’s common knowledge that many homeowners in Newfoundland — especially rural areas — take the chance of not having insurance, and often point to steep premiums related to wood stoves as the main reason.
With that being said, it appears the Deans’ luck may have run out. Fortunately, we’re a very giving people in this province, and there’s no doubt that family, friends and the community will rally to help the couple.