Ice storm response too Toronto-centric, Tories argue
'Postal code politics' alleged in the distribution of gift cards
The Ontario Tories are calling the provincial response to December's pre-Christmas ice storm a "debacle," saying Premier Kathleen Wynne and the governing Liberals favoured cleanup in Liberal-held ridings.
Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod is asking for a legislative committee to review the province's emergency preparedness plan. She says Wynne was too Toronto-centric in her response to the widespread power outages, property damage and giving out gift cards for groceries.
In response to the accusations, Wynne says the gift card program had problems, but was not "political electioneering" and that her motivation was to help people who needed it.
Gift cards of $50 and $100 were given out in the Toronto-area for those who lost power during the ice storm. Opposition MPPs representing ridings outside Toronto say they don't know if or when their constituents will receive the same.
Other Tories piled on the accusation that the gift cards were not widely distributed in the province. Michael Harris, MPP Kitchener-Conestoga, pointed out that in his area a state of emergency was declared, but there were no gift cards. There was no such declaration in Toronto but there were several days of gift card distribution.
MacLeod is calling the gift card program "postal code politics", and says her party would have made sure Ontarians outside Toronto who were affected by the storm got equal treatment.
The PCs are characterizing the gift card program as an "abuse of corporate generosity," saying Wynne used it for political gain. Doug Holyday, the MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, says the cards had "everything but the premier's face on them."
The Liberals fired back, accusing the PC party of not responding to emails during the storm. "The Hudak PCs suggest it would have been better to do nothing — and that's exactly what they did," said a missive from the party. "The PCs were nowhere to be seen as Ontarians came together in response to the ice storm."
Wynne's office also confirms grocery card program to be expanded to Dufferin, Durham, Halton, Hamilton and others regions outside the Greater Toronto Area. Late Monday, it provided details on those plans, saying that some $450,000 worth of those cards would be available to people in need in those areas as early as Tuesday.
The gift card program had a number of snags. Some recipients reported the cards had not been activated and overall there was a shortage of cards, resulting in chaotic and long lineups to receive them.
With files from the CBC's Genevieve Tomney