06/06/2011 12:02 EDT | Updated 08/06/2011 05:12 EDT

Harper Visits Quebec Flood Zone, Announces Financial Support, Disaster Mitigation Plan


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- VENISE-EN-QUEBEC, Que. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Quebec's flood zone without hip waders -- but he did come carrying a few announcements.

The prime minister completed a 15-minute helicopter ride into the disaster area Monday, where 3,000 homes have been flooded.

He took a walking tour to visit flood installations, chatted with area residents, and met with local officials.

Harper is announcing several initiatives -- including financial help for Quebec's disaster response and funding for its flood-mitigation program.

The prime minister is also announcing plans for a national disaster-mitigation strategy.

Federal ministers and civil servants will meet with provincial counterparts to discuss things like: raising homes in flood zones, insurance programs, burying electrical cables, updating zoning and building codes, and hazard mapping.

This is Harper's first visit since the flooding began more than 40 days ago. Wearing a blazer and slacks, Harper is dressed for meetings with officials -- not for sloshing through flood waters as other high-profile visitors have done.

The federal government has come under some criticism for its handling of the disaster.

Some residents and politicians argue the military presence was scaled down too quickly and Ottawa hasn't done enough to help.

About 3,000 homes have been flooded since the waters began rising in the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain basin.

Flood waters have gradually started to recede in recent days but still remain about a metre above normal June levels.