According to a compilation published by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) on December 7, weather events that hit Quebec in 2023 resulted in insured damages of $680 million (M$).
In 2022, this amount was estimated at $580 M$. The year 2023 is the costliest for insurers in Quebec since 1998, the year of the ice storm crisis that paralyzed a large part of inhabited Quebec.
In fact, another ice storm that occurred on April 5 was the most costly disaster in 2023 in Quebec, with an estimated $213 M$.
The wildfires of summer 2022 resulted in insured damages of more than $22 M$ in Quebec province, according to an internal survey conducted by IBC.
In Quebec alone, more than 4.5 million hectares (or 45,000 km2) were razed by fire, according to estimates by a governmental agency. Some 1.2 million hectares (M ha) of these burned areas are in the intensive protection zone, south of the limit of the public forest in operation. There were no human life losses.
The 2023 season was exceptional in Quebec, but fires also caused high damages elsewhere in the country, particularly in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
From coast to coast, according to a recent compilation by ICI Radio-Canada, 18.5 M ha were affected by blazes. The previous record of 1989, with 7.6 M ha, was largely exceeded.
Several municipalities were affected by evacuation orders, both due to the proximity of the flames and poor air quality. On October 3, according to the Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ), the IBC reported insured damages of more than $720 M$ for fires that hit British Columbia. This disaster is already ranked 10th among the most costly natural disasters in the country’s history.
On November 20, according to CatIQ’s estimates, the IBC reported that two major fires that hit the Northwest Territories caused insured damages of at least $60 M$. More than 20,000 people had to evacuate their homes in the communities of Yellowknife and Hay River.
In its December 7 release, the IBC reiterated its desire to see “a greater financial commitment from the federal government to expedite the implementation of the national flood insurance program.”
An announcement was made in this regard in the last federal budget submitted on March 28. The announced sums remain modest. In this regard, work conducted by a well-known researcher in the insurance world shows that aid programs targeting disaster victims should also be funded by the municipal world.
There were floods across the country again in 2023. Two months after being hit by wildfires that caused damage to several hundred homes near Halifax, Nova Scotia was hit by major flooding.
In the case of the Tantallon fire, which lasted from May 28 to June 4, the IBC indicated that insured damages were estimated at more than $165 M$, according to the release published on July 5. Some 200 properties, including 151 residences, suffered damage. A month after the floods that occurred on July 23, still in Nova Scotia, the IBC reported that insured damages were estimated at more than $170 M$.
Extreme weather events had already heavily weighed on the volume of claims in 2022, as could be seen in our table on the combined ratio of major property and casualty insurers last May. The most recent third-quarter financial statements published by property and casualty insurers showed that the trend continued in 2023, particularly due to wildfires, torrential rains, and flash floods. This was the case particularly for insurers Intact Financial Corporation, Definity Financial Corporation and Co-operators.
The catastrophe report for the first nine months of the year made by Aon confirms the upward trend in natural disasters. Some 47 events had already exceeded the billion-dollar mark in damages, of which 32 surpassed a billion in insured losses.
Earthquakes and Hurricanes
On December 18, another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale struck the province of Gansu, north of the People’s Republic of China. The preliminary report from the authorities reports at least 135 deaths, 980 injured, and damage to more than 207,000 buildings. The efforts of the rescuers are made more difficult due to the biting cold (-20 °C) prevailing in the mountainous regions where the earthquake occurred.
Hurricane Otis, which struck the Mexican province of Guerrero and the resort of Acapulco on October 24, was one of the most devastating of the year. Three days earlier, the agency Morningstar DBRS published a note where it observed that insurers were increasingly fleeing the most vulnerable coastal regions.
The rise in sea levels also causes constant concerns for coastal communities, notably due to problems related to shoreline erosion. Some $67 M were thus announced to support six distinct projects underway in eastern Quebec at the end of last March.
Storms and Torrential Rains
In the United States, where the majority of claims covered by insurance are concentrated, it is observed that major convective storms are responsible for most of the worst disasters. The term convective refers to vertical air movements in meteorology.
In Canada, estimates made by CatIQ for these storms show significant damage. On September 19, the IBC estimated at more than $300 M in insured damages the storms that hit Alberta and other Prairie provinces during the summer.
Four distinct events that occurred in June and July caused almost all of these claims. On July 1, a depression crossed Alberta and Saskatchewan. An EF-4 category tornado was detected at Didsbury (Alberta). Insured damages exceed $100 M. Moreover, on July 15 in Calgary, hail caused damages estimated at more than $110 M.
In Ontario, five distinct events exceeded the $30 M mark in insured damages between July 20 and August 25. In its October 16 release, still according to CatIQ, the IBC reported that insured damages were at least $340 M.
Heat and Heatwave
Heat and drought were responsible for several heatwave episodes and the numerous wildfires that marked the year 2023.
At the end of spring, the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo published guidelines for protection against extreme heat. The CIAC also participated in the publication of a report on flood management last spring.