Flood Risk Management: What Is the Role Ahead for the Government of Canada?

CIGI Policy Brief No. 103

April 26, 2017

Globally, flooding is the most common and most costly natural hazard. Flood losses are widely expected to increase in the future, due to population growth and the expansion of economic activities in flood-prone areas, as well as more frequent and severe extreme weather triggered by climate change. In response, many countries have begun to embrace flood risk management, a strategic framework for assessing, evaluating, mitigating and sharing flood risk. However, flood management in Canada remains rooted in a traditional, hazard-based model, focused almost exclusively on the likelihood of flooding, with relatively little attention paid to its possible consequences.

This policy brief examines flood risk management as a potential alternative strategy, with a specific emphasis on policy priorities for the Government of Canada. It begins by identifying problems associated with Canadian flood management, which suggest the current approach is unsustainable. In the second section, the discussion moves to the principles of flood risk management and presents two examples of their implementation in other states. The third section outlines three recommendations as to how the federal government could enable and support the adoption of flood risk management. The final section offers conclusions and priorities for further policy research.

About the Authors

Daniel Henstra is a former CIGI senior fellow and an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Jason Thistlethwaite is a former CIGI senior fellow and an associate professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.