The federal government is providing the fastest disaster relief transfer in Canadian history to help with the costs of the Fort McMurray wildfire.
Northern Alberta Wildfires ad-hoc Committee Chair and Minister of Veteran Affairs Kent Hehr announced $300 million in an “advance payment” to the province of Alberta Friday afternoon.
The money will go towards the emergency operations costs incurred during the crisis, including the operation of the Regional Emergency Operations Centre (REOC). It’s the first installment coming from the feds as part of the Federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program.
The program is based on a formula related to the costs of a disaster. Once costs exceed $3.03 per capita of a province, the federal government is expected to contribute 50% of the cost payment. After costs exceed $9.10 per capita, that share jumps to 75%, and after $15.17 per capita it rises to 90%.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale, who was also on-hand, said it would be “some time” before the total costs of the wildfire are calculated.
“Whatever is required to be paid under the formula will be paid,” he said. “Plus we’re working on a variety of other ways in which we can contribute to the restoration of a clean, healthy, safe, and secure community in Fort McMurray in the long-term.”
Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larivee said so far the costs of the wildfire are estimated at $615 million for the province, but that could rise as more costs are calculated. This also doesn’t include the costs of property damage, expected to reach into the billions of dollars range.
The federal government also announced that in total they would be matching just over $90 million in donations to the Canadian Red Cross. Minister Larivee said the province would be contributing $30 million in matching, accounting only for donations made within Alberta.