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McCallion calls on GTA municipalities to work together for ice storm funding

January 10, 2014
By

Mississauga News

BRAMPTON — Peel’s three municipalities that were hammered by last month’s vicious ice storm are banding together to press Queen’s Park for financial help.

Today, Region of Peel Council heard that the cost to Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon as well as conservation authorities is estimated at about $83 million, and that amount could range higher as more information comes in. Regional councillors approved a motion that will see the three municipalities coordinate their efforts to get financial help from the Province.

Yesterday, during a special meeting of Council to deal with the ice storm, Mayor Hazel McCallion called on all leaders of GTA municipalities to work together to lobby Queen’s Park for aid.

Yesterday, Mississauga councillors passed a motion calling on Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey to declare Mississauga a disaster area so residents can get help from the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

With a few councillors and municipal staff expressing their doubts about the money actually coming, the mayor said if municipalities want a chance to get access to funding, they have to come together as a group.

“We need to go to the Province with a co-ordinated approach rather than as individuals,” said McCallion.

“We go to the Province with a united approach,” she suggested – with one total amount for the overall cost of storm cleanup – “and then we hand them the bills.”

The program helps municipalities, individuals, farmers, small businesses and non-profit organizations get back to normal after experiencing a natural disaster and is intended to cover the costs of returning essential items to pre-disaster condition.

Councillors heard that the initial cost to the municipality from the ice storm was about $3.4 million but it will go much higher as they deal with all the damaged trees. Long term, it could cost anywhere from $16.6 million to $21.6 million in additional costs for the pruning, removal and replanting of trees affected by the storm.

The initial costs are expected to be paid for through the 2013 budget surplus. Moving forward, City staff would prepare a plan that would have to be endorsed by councillors.

City manager Janice Baker said it’s time for other levels of government to establish a program for municipalities suffering through storms and other devastating weather. Council ultimately passed a resolution requesting the provincial and federal governments develop new programs for future disaster mitigation including money for rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure.

“We need to have the federal and provincial governments develop a framework in this country that starts to put money aside to help municipalities respond to these events,” said Baker.

Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannicca said he would expect councillors to take a hard look at any plan brought forward to cover the long-term costs of the storm and not make any rash decisions on funding it. He said stretching out the length of any plan to replace or replant trees over many years could help ease the financial burden.

He said it’s clear that the provincial or federal governments have to create a program to help municipalities when they’re dealing with a devastating weather event, such as the recent ice storm or the summer’s flooding.

“It’s embarrassing (Canada) doesn’t have one,” said Iannicca.

The City made a request last summer for access to money from the fund, following the July 8 storm that caused flooding and damage to thousands of homes across Mississauga, but that was ultimately denied as it was determined the cost of recovery was not beyond the resources of the community.

If the City’s request is approved, the municipality would be required to set up a special disaster relief committee made up of members of the community (councillors aren’t eligible) and all funds raised for victims would be turned over to the committee. The ministry could match raised money up to a two-to-one ratio.

~ with files from Torstar Network



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