Mayor Naheed Nenshi was part of a distinguished panel in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday where he discussed Calgary’s flooding of 2013.

The panel, entitled ‘Building resilience to natural disasters’, included:

  • Prime Minister of Haiti, Laurent Salvador Lamothe
  • United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affair; Emergency Relief Coordinator, Baroness Valerie Amos
  • Secretary of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, Gregory L. Domingo

While Nenshi admits the devastation of Calgary’s flooding pales in comparison to the impact of recent tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, the rising waters of the Bow and Elbow Rivers are a reminder that natural disasters can occur nearly anywhere and at anytime.

With estimated damage nearing $6 billion, flood recovery is the largest public works project in Calgary's history.

After the cost of the immediate response of keeping people safe, Nenshi says it's difficult to convince tax-payers to spend money to prevent future disasters.

“We probably have a half a billion dollars of resilience projects needed to be built, dams upstream of the city, and the biggest...a diversion tunnel underneath an already built up city,” said Nenshi during the panel. “Think about that as a policy maker. Half of a billion dollars. How much public transit could I build for that? I have a $23 billion deficit on things that are needed every day and yet I have to go to citizens ‘I need to spend your money on something that might never ever be used.”

Nenshi credits the unprecedented cooperation between insurance companies and the provincial and federal governments with alleviating immediate response costs.