Calgarians feeling voiceless over recent hail damage trekked north to Alberta’s policymakers, hoping for real change.
On Wednesday, dozens of community leaders and residents from Calgary’s northeast left at 8 a.m. in a convoy north to Edmonton.
The caravan aims to take the issue from emails and phone calls to the steps of Alberta’s Legislative Building in Edmonton.
This effort is spearheaded by hailstorm action committee spokesperson Khalil Karbani, who, for the last month has been petitioning Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to provide assistance for residents.
“We haven’t heard anything concrete and that’s why we want to go there, just to be heard,” he said.
Karbani along with other community members hopes that this demonstration will urge the provincial government to act on three points;
- Convene a roundtable with community leaders and three levels of government to develop a plan
- Make a formal application to the federal government for Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements
- Provide confirmation that our insurance premiums will not spike due to the storm
Ongoing push for Calgary storm help
Karbani has sent three letters to Premier Jason Kenney and area MLAs before organizing the convoy.
The first was sent to Premier Kenney and northeastern area MLAs on June 21 following the hailstorm.
The initial letter pushed the province to classify the storm as a “natural disaster.” That would allow the province to apply to the federal government’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement (DFAA) for emergency funding.
The hope was, once residents got this classification, they could turn to insurance companies, provincial bodies, and rely on federal funding for financial assistance outside of traditional support for this trying time.
On June 25, Premier Kenney announced the provincial government would offer homeowners Disaster Relief Program (DRP) assistance.
This program, which only covered “uninsurable” damages to property, did not cover the larger majority of costs that residents were facing.
According to the province, only 67 DRP claims were made.
Karbani sent two more letters to Premier Kenney and area MLAs pleading for support. Those letters were dated July 9 and July 16 respectively.
No response has come with respect to those letters.
Residents aren’t waiting anymore
The storm caused $1.2 billion in damages to cars, homes and property. That led to roughly 70,000 insurance claims, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Rachelle Christopher from the Taradale Community Association said she’s starting to feel as though systemic racism may be at play.
“I can’t imagine this happening in most communities. I’m really at a loss to understand why Calgary northeast hasn’t gotten the response or attention that it should,” she said Wednesday morning.
“What makes the northeast so different that we shouldn’t be able to get disaster relief funding?”
Karbani said members of the community feel they are left with no options and not a lot of hope.
“The hailstorm has caused enormous financial and mental distress to residents in Northeast Calgary who are already coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, economic turmoil, and job losses,” Karbani wrote in a press release.
“We need immediate help to deal with a storm that has fundamentally changed people’s lives.”
Contact with area MLA
Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney, MLA for Calgary-North East, declined to be interviewed on this story.
Sawhney’s press secretary, Diane Carter, said the minister has met with several members of the community. She said Minister Sawhney has spoken with community leaders about support for storm-affected residents.
In the most recent letter, dated July 16, Karbani said that this isn’t the case.
“Our local UCP MLAs have ignored repeated texts, phone calls, and emails, and have abandoned their responsibilities and promises to us now that they have been elected,” he wrote.
“Do they have no concern for their constituents at our time of greatest need?”
- with files from Anosha Khan