Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has threatened to change the province’s Insurance Act if insurers fail to offer extensions for Fort McMurray wildfire claims.
As of May 17, about 150 wildfire claims related to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire event had not been granted extensions beyond the two-year deadline. Additionally, there are still 900 unresolved insurance claims, and only 20% of the homes destroyed by the wildfire have been rebuilt since the disaster.
On May 02 – the eve of the wildfire claims deadline – the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) sent a memo to its members saying that the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance issued the provincial “government’s expectation” that insurance companies would provide a one-year extension for wildfire claims.
“...In the absence of insurers’ agreement to provide a one-year extension on all open claims, the Superintendent verbally represented to IBC that Premier Rachel Notley will introduce changes to Alberta’s Insurance Act to compel insurers to do so,” the bureau’s bulletin read.
Bill Adams, IBC Western Canada vice-president, has called the premier’s move a “reversal of the government’s decision.”
In April, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said that the provincial government did not have the power to grant extensions to unsettled wildfire claims. Ceci also turned down a request from Fort McMurray regional Mayor Don Scott to provide a blanket extension for all residents.
Cheryl Oates, director of communications for the premier’s office, confirmed that changing the Insurance Act is still a possibility, but might not be necessary. Oates told CBC News that most major insurers have agreed to provide an extension on a voluntary, case-by-case basis.
“We are watching it really closely. We are working really closely with the IBC,” Oates commented. “We are watching all those cases to make sure they can be resolved. Like I said, the option of bringing in legislation is something we can go back to.”