For a booming province getting filthy rich in oil money, Alberta sure can be stingy. In the aftermath of the 2013 flood that destroyed more than $5 billion worth of property and displaced over 100,000 people, the province of Alberta, in conjunction with the federal government, formed the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) to compensate those whose homes and small businesses were destroyed in the flood. No doubt it’s been an enormous undertaking for the province, and the government has generally done a good job of providing relief to those in need. But in the town of Canmore, Alberta, a place where many homes were washed away by an over flow in the Cougar Creek, Ontario-residents Frank and Ruth DiPoce have been ruled fully ineligible by the DRP for any compensation because of a technicality as bureaucratically flimsy as a refusal to use the bathroom at a café because I didn’t buy a drink. (I really had to pee, dude.)
The technicality was this: According to the DRP, the house in Canmore that the DiPoce family built eighteen years ago as the home they would spend their retirement in doesn’t count as a “primary residence”. Frank and Ruth have a house in Aurora, Ontario where they live full time, so the DRP has claimed that they owe the couple nada in compensation. This decision was made despite the fact that the flooding of the province-run Cougar Creek rendered their house entirely useless (not to mention, dangerous), undercutting its entire foundation. Here’s why the DRP’s decision was total bullocks: Frank and Ruth’s son Justin has lived in their Canmore home for ten years. For Justin DiPoce, a tax-paying fully-employed resident of Alberta, it was his primary residence. He paid for the utilities and its upkeep, and if he had paid any rent at all, then the DRP would have had to pay the DiPoce family their money, as they already have to all of their neighbours.
Let us get this straight. Alberta won’t help the DiPoce’s rebuild their home (a project they spent their entire life-savings on) because Frank and Ruth were too generous to their son. If only they’d been less caring people, then the province would be at their beck and call. Or maybe if the DiPoce family owned a massive golf course, rather than a quaint private home, they’d be getting some cash. On Friday, the Alberta government said they’d be giving $18 million to the Kananaskis Golf Course to help rebuild the 36-hole course. Clearly, having a place to hit a ball with a putter is more of a priority than, you know, rebuilding people’s homes.
In response to the injustice of the DRP’s decision, Frank DiPoce’s cousin, Toronto-physician Romeo Bruni, has launched a national campaign and petition to demand that the government gives Frank and Ruth the attention they deserve. In addition to the online petition, which currently has more than 800 signatures, Bruni has been in talks with the mayor of Canmore, Alberta MLA Ron Casey, and many media outlets to get the DiPoce message out.
Although a golf course definitely does pull in tourists, if the province wants to attract out-of-province money into Alberta, perhaps they shouldn’t neglect the people who have already made an investment. This move by the DRP sends out a strong message: Alberta is a risky place to invest in, and if something goes wrong, you’re dead out of luck. The province should get its act together and gives the DiPoce family what they deserve: a chance to retire in the home they’ve tirelessly worked to acquire, rather than leaving them in the water without a lifesaver. To sign the petition to help the DiPoce family, click here.