POLITICS

Ice Storm: Toronto Area Mayors Meet To Talk Funding Cleanup

01/17/2014 04:00 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT
CP
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - The federal and provincial governments should each foot a third of the bill for cleaning up after last month's devastating ice storm, municipal officials said Friday.

"There's a great fear that... we will be left on our own to deal with the financial aftermath of the storm and we all agree that the property tax cannot bear that burden," Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, Ont., said in a news conference.

The storm impacted dozens of communities and officials said the recovery could cost between $250 and $275 million, including $106 million for Toronto alone.

Officials from several of those municipalities laid out their requests for assistance Friday after a meeting in Mississauga, and gave the province until March 1 to respond.

Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey — who attended part of the meeting — said she has asked Ottawa for financial assistance.

But it could take months to sort out who's eligible for relief and how much, she said.

"Not all municipalities have provided the paperwork and the assessments we need," she said.

"Not all municipalities were impacted and not all will qualify."

That timeline didn't sit well with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who took part in the meeting despite being stripped of most of his powers last year.

"We can't wait many many months," he said at the news conference, criticizing the province for what he deemed a vague response.

Deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who took over the bulk of the mayor's duties, later said it would be unrealistic to expect a firm commitment from the province before it had a chance to review the municipalities' requests.

Ford also voiced his displeasure that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wasn't present to personally hear the communities' concerns.

His complaint was briskly rebuffed by McCallion, who said appealing directly to the province's leader would have been premature.

"You've got to do your homework if you're going after something," she said.

The mayor recently condemned Wynne for refusing to meet with him one-on-one to discuss the storm recovery effort. The premier has said she is simply working in line with decisions made by city council.

Councils in many municipalities — including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon — have voted to ask the province that they be declared disaster areas.

The ice storm downed trees and hydro lines, cutting power to hundreds of thousands for days and stalling road and air travel.

Jeffrey said the ministry has already begun the process of assessing the requests of municipalities that are seeking disaster relief.

Public Safety Canada, meanwhile, said requests for financial help must first go to the provincial government, which decides if disaster assistance is warranted and how much it can reasonably pay.

The province can then go to the federal government to seek funding under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements if eligible expenditures meet the programs criteria.

Both municipal and provincial leaders have pushed for Ottawa to create new disaster mitigation programs to address the damages caused by extreme weather.

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