POLITICS
12/31/2013 04:07 EST | Updated 03/01/2014 05:59 EST

Hydro crews hoping to complete massive ice storm repair job today

TORONTO - It's been a long, cold, and often dangerous job, but hydro crews are finally near to completing their enormous task in Eastern Canada.

About 2,300 customers remain without power today — about 1,300 of them in Ontario, including nearly 800 in Toronto — another 250 in Quebec, and roughly 800 more in New Brunswick.

That's down from more than 600,000 at the height of the brutal ice storm that swept across southern Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada a week and a half ago.

NB Power spokesman Brent Staeben said all but 200 of the utility's customers should have power to ring in New Year's Day.

Meanwhile, gift cards donated by grocery stores to help compensate those who had to throw out food during the power outages were being handed out starting Tuesday at Ontario Works offices in Toronto.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says the cards are meant for people who can't afford to replace the spoiled food, and the province has pledged to match donations up to a maximum of $100,000.

But there were reports that some locations had already run out of the cards this morning.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who dropped by one of the offices to see how things were going, said he understood the frustration of those who lined up, only to leave empty-handed.

"The first evidence that we have was that the demand was far, far higher than the province had anticipated," Kelly said.

"If I were one of them I would certainly be annoyed. I don't blame them."

Kelly says one solution would be to try to get more private donations, which the province would then match.