No, the federal government is not spending more on Syrian refugees than on Fort McMurray

Exceptionnellement, Métro a décidé de traduire ce billet de l’inspecteur viral en anglais. Vous pouvez lire la version française ici.

Hi there! If you’re reading this in English, we’ve probably never met. My name is Jeff Yates, I’m a journalist with Métro newspaper in Montreal, and I run a blog on the paper’s website called Inspecteur viral («the viral inspector» – okay, it sounds cooler in French) where we fact-check (okay, debunk) viral crap on the internet.

Speaking of crap, here’s a meme that’s been shared almost 19 000 times on Facebook in the last 24 hours:

The intent is clear: while the federal governement is generous when it comes to helping out Syrian refugees, it meekly matches Red Cross donations when « real canadians » (which is what the comments section says) need relief in Fort McMurray.

While it’s true that PM Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will match Red Cross donations for the Fort McMurray disaster, the government couldn’t limit its involvement to just that, even if it wanted to.

That would be illegal.

You see, there is this little thing called the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA), whereby the federal government has to cover a substantial percentage of disaster relief costs.

As per these accords, Ottawa must cover 50% of relief costs once these go over 3$ per person in the province where the disaster occurs (the provincial government pays the rest). Once these costs reach 15$ per person, Ottawa pays 90% of those costs.

Quick calculation: Alberta has a population of 4,1 million. Ottawa will therefore have to pay 90% of all disaster costs over $62 million in the case of Fort McMurray. We already know that relief costs will be many orders of magnitude higher than $62 million.

The federal government shelled out $1,4 billion for disaster relief during the 2013 Alberta floods. This National Post article pegs the Fort McMurray relief costs at at least twice that amount. Note that it was written on Tuesday, before the fire spiraled out of control. That figure is likely to be much higher.

We can therefore likely expect that the federal government will have to pay several BILLIONS (with an S) to cover disaster relief for the Fort McMurray fire.

So, no, the government is not going to spend more on Syrian refugees than on Fort McMurray survivors. That meme that is passing around is just a very dishonest attempt at propaganda to, once again, try and sway public opinion against Syrian refugees.

And like all such efforts, it is absolute nonsense.

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