The first draft of a new national disaster risk assessment report warns that a major earthquake in British Columbia or parts of Ontario and Quebec could swiftly become the most costly natural disaster Canada has seen.
It says there are major gaps in Canada’s earthquake response plans, including limited information on the risks and how to prepare for them.
The national risk profile published Thursday morning is the government’s first attempt to identify the biggest threats Canada faces from natural disasters and to find ways to limit the possible damage.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told reporters Thursday morning that the goal is to help Canadians become better aware of the potential risks they face because of where they live.
“It’s kind of like driving down the highway, and this is our attempt to illuminate — to turn the lights on and illuminate further down the road so that people can anticipate hazards.”
The risk profile deals with floods, forest fires and earthquakes, while the second version now being researched is expected to focus on extreme heat and hurricanes.
While most earthquakes in Canada are minor, there is a risk of major earthquakes in the seismic zones in B.C. and the corridor affecting Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
The report warns a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in British Columbia could result in $75 billion in losses, and in the Quebec seismic corridor a major quake could cause $61 billion in losses.
Blair said severe events have been increasing in frequency and severity, and officials must reflect on what might be coming to make sure the country is prepared.
He said the findings of the report show the need to make “significant investment, for example in certain types of critical infrastructure, to prevent these types of events.”