Gateway Gazette

DRP still broken, Prentice breaking his promise: Alberta Party Candidate

Only 1 DRP claim closed in High River in February

HIGH RIVER, AB – Alberta Party Candidate Joel Windsor says he’s worried about broken promises by Premier Jim Prentice that leave flood victims without pledged resources.

This as he released data provided to him by the Disaster Relief Program showing a disconnect between what was guaranteed by the Premier on January 24, 2015 and what has happened so far.

“At first blush, it looks great, because the numbers suggest that around 500 files have been closed since the announcement,” said Windsor.

However, when he looked deeper, he discovered that only one file had been closed for High River between February 4 and February 23.

“I’m glad around 499 files were closed elsewhere, but I thought Prentice promised us 7 new staff members in High River to deal with this,” said Windsor.

“We right now have only 8 DRP staff in High River, and with a rate of one case in 3 weeks that June 1 deadline is going to come very quickly.”

The Alberta Party saw this as an ambitious opportunity for the PC Government to fix DRP issues, and vowed to keep on top of the file to ensure Prentice kept his promise.

“With this data it’s obvious DRP is still broken, and Prentice is running the risk of breaking promises.”
Windsor is also concerned people who need money just to get started aren’t getting it.

At the January press conference, Prentice promised to fund 90% of an eligible claim up front for claimants. According to the data received by Windsor, that process has not been implemented yet.

“I understand the need for accountability to taxpayers, but if you can’t get this process going in six weeks, you obviously don’t value the flood victims enough.”

Windsor thinks the PC Government is trying to lay blame on flood victims for the holdup, suggesting it’s because claimants aren’t handing information in.

“I know what it’s like to not be able to keep track of everything after the trauma of the flood, but I can’t imagine what it’s like after having that trauma extended for the better part of two years.”

Windsor suggested Prentice direct the DRP staff to visit the remaining claimants, who likely feel lost in the DRP process, to help them directly with their claims.

“Have staff visit flood victims wherever they are living now and guide them through it,” advised Windsor.

“With 114 staff in DRP across the province, that kind of support is absolutely possible.”

Windsor also stated an Alberta Party government would review the Disaster Relief Program, and implement changes that are compassionate and responsible.

“Immediately after the flood I called for then-Premier Alison Redford to appoint an ‘Event-Specific Ombudsman’ whose job would be to help liaise between disaster victims, DRP and the insurance industry to speed up the recovery process,” said Windsor.

“She didn’t take me up on it, but it’s something the Alberta Party may be able to implement.”
As for the current situation, Windsor said the Alberta Party will continue to advocate for flood victims.

“The June 1 target can still be reached, but it’s going to take even more political will now than was even hinted at in January.”

Statistics for the 2013 Floods received by Joel Windsor from Disaster Relief Program

⦁ 10,594 claims received across Alberta. 1,661 remain open.

⦁ On January 24, 2015 it was announced just over 8,400 had been closed, leaving approximately 2,150 open.

⦁ 4,596 files were from High River. Of those, 756 remain open.

⦁ According to data received by Joel Windsor, DRP reported 757 High River files were still open on February 4, 2015

⦁ 8,609 of all files were residential. 1,093 of those remain open across the province.

⦁ 3,876 residential files were from High River. 565 of those remain open.

⦁ 869 files were small business. 231 of those remain open across Alberta.

⦁ 369 small business files were from High River. 106 remain open.

⦁ 724 files were received from landlords. 143 of those remain open across Alberta.

⦁ 320 Landlord’s files were from High River. 70 remain open.

⦁ 1147 appeals have been received from across Alberta. 962 have been completed, leaving 169 open.

⦁ 561 appeals have been from High River. 463 of these appeals have been completed. 86 remain open.

⦁ 114 staff work in the Disaster Relief Program.

⦁ 3 staff are located in Calgary

⦁ 8 staff are located in High River

⦁ 103 staff are located elsewhere in the province.

⦁ Quote from the Disaster Relief Program: “In January, the Premier made a commitment to fund up to 90% of the eligible claim amounts on all remaining open files. We are currently reviewing the process and drawing up the necessary documentation to provide those advances. This process is necessary to ensure claimants provide receipts and other proof of work done. This ensures we are being responsible with taxpayer dollars, meet Auditor General requirements, and that we as a province are eligible to file for reimbursement through the Government of Canada’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program. We are working closely with those people who still have an open file and expect to start providing advances and payments very soon.”

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