OTTAWA -- The federal government cut a cheque to Manitoba for $50 million on Monday as an advance toward repairing damage caused by this year's devastating floods.
But it seems likely it's only a drop in the bucket of what both levels of government will now end up spending for flood-related bills.
A spokesman for Premier Greg Selinger said the province estimates the price tag on the floods will top $1 billion.
That is up from a month ago, when Selinger estimated the cost was somewhere around $700 million.
Matt Williamson said it's not entirely clear yet how much of the cost will be eligible for Disaster Flood Assistance, and therefore some federal reimbursement, but the province expects much of it will be.
The DFA program is an agreement between Ottawa, the provinces and territories that sees the wealthier federal government shoulder much of the burden for disasters. The program helps cover evacuation costs, infrastructure repairs and payments to individuals, businesses and farm operators for the loss or damage of essential property.
The program's payments are based on population, with provinces and territories responsible for 100 per cent of the costs up to $1 per capita. Manitoba's population is about 1.25 million, so the province is responsible for approximately the first $1.25 million in flood costs.
After that DFA kicks in, with Ottawa funding 50 per cent of the next $2.5 million, 75 per cent of costs between $4 million and $6.5 million, and 90 per cent of all costs over about $6.5 million.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who announced the advance payment Monday, said in a news release the funds are evidence of the government's commitment to helping people and communities recover after major disasters.
The 2011 floods are expected to be among the most widespread and costly the province has ever seen, likely topping the impact of the 1997 Flood of the Century. That flood resulted in $245 million in DFA-eligible costs, of which Ottawa covered 78 per cent or just under $194 million.
That did not include the $1 billion in cost-shared flood-mitigation programs since 1997, including the $650-million expansion of the Red River Floodway, or $140 million in spending to build and expand ring dikes for communities in the Red River Valley.
Ottawa has already spent more than $63 million this year on flood costs related to First Nations, including the ongoing evacuation of eight reserves. More than 2,100 people are still being housed in hotels because their communities are either uninhabitable or still under water.
Already, more than $23 million has been paid out just for First Nations evacuation costs.