OTTAWA - New Democrat MPs from Toronto urged the Conservative government Thursday to work with Ontario to provide relief funding that would help Canada's largest city recover from a recent ice storm.
Olivia Chow — who said she's "seriously considering" running for mayor of Toronto — called on the prime minister to come to the city's aid.
"Stephen Harper be fair, act now, and help out Toronto," said Chow.
Chow added that if the federal government could help Calgary, which dealt with severe flooding last year, it could help Toronto as well.
Meanwhile, MP Andrew Cash said it was "unacceptable" the federal government hadn't said anything about helping the city deal with the aftermath of the storm which stalled travel, downed power lines and left hundreds of thousands in the dark for days.
"We're quite simply demanding that the federal government show the kind of leadership that a national government will when Canada's largest city is faced with such an intense natural disaster," he said.
Public Safety Canada has said Toronto's request 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 could then go to the federal government to seek funding under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements if eligible expenditures exceed $1 per person, based on provincial population.
"It's unfortunate that the NDP didn't take the time to understand the independent process of the DFAA program before going out with a photo op to help Mrs. Chow with her bid to become mayor," Roxanne James, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
"We have not received any request from Ontario for assistance related to the ice storm in Toronto and other parts of southern Ontario, however we always stand ready to assist provinces for eligible expenses under the agreement."
Toronto city council agreed this week to ask the province to declare the city a "disaster area" — a move required to qualify for relief funding under an Ontario program.
The city is seeking help not just for the ice storm which cost an estimated $106 million, but is also looking for assistance dealing with the $65.2 million in costs arising from a severe rainstorm that swamped parts of Toronto on July 8.
Toronto staff have suggested the city, the province and the federal government each bear one-third — or about $57 million — of the total storm-related costs.
A meeting is expected Friday between municipal leaders and Ontario's Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister to discuss cleanup funding assistance that has been requested by a number of communities affected by last month's ice storm.
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