POLITICS
04/29/2019 08:09 EDT | Updated 04/29/2019 11:05 EDT

Justin Trudeau Says Feds Must Fund 'Right' Projects In Wake Of Severe Flooding

The PM says Canada needs "new ways" of ensuring that happens.

The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a briefing with members of the Canadian Forces on their response to flooding in the region, in the Ottawa community of Constance Bay on April 27, 2019.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't close the door Sunday on using federal dollars to help relocate communities facing the recurring threat of severe flooding.

Flooding in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario has forced the evacuation of thousands, and threatened more property as water continues to rise with peaks not expected along the Ottawa River until Tuesday.

Since the Liberals took office in late 2015, the government has approved almost $1.27 billion in funding for 41 projects deemed "disaster mitigation," according to federal figures. The numbers show that only a handful of projects have started and many will take years to complete.

Watch: Thousands forced to evacuate northwest of Montreal

In the meantime, Trudeau suggested, the federal government needed to make sure future infrastructure spending hit the "right" projects to "protect our communities and ensure their prosperity long-term."

He said the country needed to look at "new ways of ensuring" Canada was doing just that.

"Once we secure the situation through this spring flooding season, we will have to have significant reflections and conversations on how we move forward," he said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he inspects an honour guard during a visit on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 28, 2019.

"(T)here is always much more to do and as we have conversations around how we build back, how we build back better and where we build back, indeed, the federal government will be a partner to the provinces and to the municipalities."

Flooding is the most common disaster event in Canada and has been a focus of funding through the $2 billion, 10-year Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund that Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne oversees.

Champagne plans to fast-track projects that could prevent flooding in areas currently under siege, but warned in a recent interview that not every project would be approved, particularly those that might not be able to hold back Mother Nature.

Feds will look at relocation proposal: Goodale

Federal assistance to provinces for natural disaster costs is estimated to be $198.35 million this fiscal year, which ends March 2020, even though last year's estimates pegged the cost at $609 million.

On CTV's Question Period, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the program, called the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement, has paid out more in the last six years than it did in the previous 40 years. He said the government would look at Quebec's proposals, and referenced the decision in High River, Alta., to not allow redevelopment in flooded areas.

"Building better infrastructure, protective devices is also part of the equation, but we'll look at the proposal for relocation," Goodale said in the interview televised Sunday morning.