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The Fort McMurray Fires, American Media, and Insurance Companies

It is symptomatic of our relationship with the United States that so little about the Alberta forest fires have found their way into American news broadcasts.  The Fort McMurray tragedy has dominated our news for several days and as the fire continues to spread east toward Saskatchewan, the danger is growing.  The New York Times, America’s national newspaper, is usually sensitive to Canadian stories; Justin Trudeau’s trip to Washington was the topic of several columns but little has been written about Fort McMurray or the expected aftermath of the damage.

One supposes that Canada doesn’t register on CNN or other news network broadcasts because we are an afterthought to election coverage.  We shouldn’t be surprised at this, after all, even weather reports seldom show Canada at the top of the maps used in the broadcasts; the American-Canadian boarder, the 49th parallel, appears to be the top of the world on American television.

The Fort McMurray story should catch the attention of Americans because forest fires like this happen there too more often than they happen here and the economic costs that are shouldered by insurance companies prompt those companies to look for ways to limit their financial exposure in future events like this.

Americans and Canadians need to be concerned that insurance companies, as a consequence of the Fort McMurray fires and others that may arise as summer progresses, will raise premiums and deductibles, and may decline coverage in regions prone to these large fires.  We have already noticed changes to auto and property insurance coverage in Ontario.  It is reasonable to anticipate that this ‘trend’ may continue, shifting financial responsibility to property owners and governments.

Governments do regulate the insurance industry, and the rules can vary from province to province but, under the guise of ‘reducing premiums,’ insurance companies are reducing liabilities.  So far, governments are allowing companies to do this but, as our part of the planet becomes dryer and warmer, insurance companies may look ahead to reduce what they perceive as losses even before events like Fort McMurray arise.  Think about that as you watch Canadian news.

09May, 2015

Finally, a detailed article has appeared this morning in the New York Times.  It merits ‘a good read.’

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geoffreyjohnbrittan

Professional. Retired. Canadian.
http://www.geoffreybrittan.com

2 replies

  1. Hi Geof,

    I, too, was wondering where the news of this ghastly fire was on the american networks, but there really was a fair bit of coverage that accompanied the event. I had been knitting up a storm here and therefore, the tv was on, so that is why I caught a number of stories reported by the US channels. So sorry to negate the premise of your piece, but you are quite wrong about the reporting, or absence thereof. Actually, I saw the news of the fire on the CNN’s scroll about a day later. In the wee hours of the next morning, I saw footage of the fire from a reporter with CNN. On Friday evening, the PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff had the best and most spectacular footage of any I had seen all week and it was accompanied by a full report. Ron said he saw the fires reported on Deutsche Welle one morning this past weekend.

    Wrong about the coverage, but right about the insurance companies!

    Never thought I watched so much news!!!! Well, aside from Call the MIdwife, there is nothing else worth watching!!!!

    Hugs, Dawn:)

    >

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    1. Hi Dawn
      Thank you for your comment. Yes, ‘Call the Midwife’ is wonderful, but there are a few other programmes worth watching, including ‘Doc Martin’ (oh I love that show) and soon we will be able to watch a new season of ‘Endeavour’.
      G. 🙂

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