POLITICS

Federal, Manitoba governments still negotiating 2011 flood funding

07/03/2012 01:58 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - The federal government has put up another $50 million to help Manitoba restore areas hit by last year's severe flooding.

Claims are still being tallied and are expected to reach several hundred million dollars. But the federal government wants to get some money into the province's hands quickly, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday.

"What used to happen in the past is, (the province) would wait for years. And what we say is 'look, there's going to be some money payable. Let's get that out front there so it helps the province cover those costs,'" Toews said.

It's the second $50-million payment Ottawa has given the province under the Disaster Financial Assistance program, which sees the federal government reimburse provinces and municipalities for up to 90 per cent of expenses.

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton said, in the end, the federal government may be asked to cost-share almost $400 million under the program. Other federal money is expected under agricultural assistance and other aid programs.

In total, the cost of fighting last year's flood and repairing the damage is expected to top $1 billion.

Record water levels hit many areas in western and central Manitoba last May, forcing thousands of people from their homes and cottages. Emergency dikes were put up in Brandon, the province's second-largest city, as the Assiniboine River swelled.

Many First Nations residents were evacuated to hotels and lakefront cottages after some areas were destroyed.

The two levels of government are still negotiating exactly what can qualify for federal funding. One major item is a $100-million emergency drainage channel built on Lake St. Martin.

"It's a work in progress," said Ashton. "We are in contact with Minister Toews' officials. And certainly we continue to be optimistic it would be cost-shareable under Disaster Financial Assistance."