Calgarians rally outside McDougall Centre to push province for storm aid

Ongoing push by northeast Calgary residents to press the provincial government into providing more aid following a June 13 hail storm

Protesters rallied outside the McDougall Centre in Calgary on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary’s Hailstorm Action Committee rallied outside of McDougall Centre on Tuesday, Aug. 11 to seek help from the federal government for damages caused by the June 13 hail storm.

The protest drew residents from the impacted area – and supporters from all over the city – to the McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary.

Residents called on Premier Jason Kenney and the provincial government to come together and help those impacted.

“We’re making a heartfelt request to Premier Kenney, to Minister Rajan Sawhney, to MLA Devinder Toor,” said Saima Jamal, a resident of Calgary’s northeast.

“Please help us. Please advocate for us.”

Coming together to find a solution

Khalil Kharbani, spokesman for the Hailstorm Action Committee. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Khalil Karbani, the spokesperson for the Hailstorm Action Committee, said his group wants to meet with all levels of government to create a plan of action to help the residents of the affected areas. 

“What we’re hoping to achieve is that the premier listens to our concerns,” said Karbani. “We would love it if the premier could get the federal level and municipal level together on a table so we could sit down and come up with a solution,” he said.

According to the Government of Alberta’s website, “Hail, sewer backup and insurance deductibles do not qualify under the [Disaster Relief] program, as insurance coverage is considered reasonably and readily available for these issues.

The website also reads “Albertans are encouraged to work with their insurance providers for damages caused by the storm.”

The storm, which was said to be the worst in the city’s history, caused $1.2 billion worth of damages to property, residences, and vehicles in the northeast quadrant of Calgary. More than 70,000 insurance claims were made.

The committee hopes to see the government give all impacted residents a $5,000 interest-free loan. It would be paid back over 5 years.

Anxious about the immediate future

Pamela Fischer, a resident of Calgary’s northeast, holds a board with a picture of her house, which was damaged by the June 13 hail storm. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“Our son’s been displaced for over 60 days,” said Pamela Fischer, a northeast Calgary resident whose home was significantly damaged by the storm. Her son, who is 12 years old, is supposed to start school in two weeks.

“How do you start school when your community looks like this?” said Fischer.

Her son is one of thousands of students who will be walking to school through a community of damaged houses.

Previously, the group has said that many residents are unable to cover their deductibles to have their homes repaired. With the current economy, made worse by COVID-19, there’s no extra cash to make it happen.

They’ve been asking for additional help for some time. On June 25, Premier Kenney made an announcement on residents being eligible for the province’s disaster relief program. With so few eligible for the provincial cash, a convoy made their way to Edmonton to rally on the steps of the Alberta legislature.

There’s been no further action on the part of the province.

Beyond politics

NDP MLA Irfan Sabir, the former Minister of Community and Social Services, believes that the government is prioritizing the wrong things.

“The government is blaming other people for politicizing the issue,” said Sabir.

“But it’s not about politics, it’s about 70,000 claims, it’s about the people of the northeast. All we are asking for is the government to step in and advocate on behalf of the people.”

The Hailstorm Action Committee intends to keep pressing the government to take action.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure we keep getting heard,” said Karbani.

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