Ontario offers up to $190M to help cities with ice storm costs
The Ontario government says it will offer up to $190 million in one-time funding to municipalities to help them deal with the clean-up and recovery from the December ice storm.
On Wednesday, Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey said the extraordinary nature of the ice storm has prompted the government to step in.
"The effects of the storm were substantial and our response will also be substantial," she told reporters at Queen's Park.
Jeffrey said Ontario will create an assistance program to reimburse municipalities for certain costs, such as the operation of warming centres and the clearing of storm-related debris.
The province will not be providing funds for replacing damaged trees, however.
The full details of the program are still being worked out. The money will be distributed among 32 towns and cities — including Toronto — that requested assistance in the wake of the storm.
"We anticipate that it would cover 100 per cent of the costs that are deemed eligible," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey said that she has reached out to the federal ministry of public safety and is waiting for a response.
The December ice storm knocked out power to more than 800,000 Ontario customers — including 300,000 customers in Toronto alone.
The storm hit just ahead of Christmas and left some people without power for more than a week.
Toronto’s deputy mayor, Norm Kelly, spoke to reporters after the minister announced the details of the forthcoming program.
Kelly said it appeared that "virtually all" of the costs associated with the storm clean-up in Toronto should be eligible for coverage under the program.
"I’m delighted with that result," Kelly said.
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion also was pleased with the news from the province.
"They listened and they responded," said McCallion, who was in Ottawa. "What more can you ask for?"
Municipal leaders had previously called for the province and federal government to each contribute one-third of the ice storm costs, with the municipalities making up the remainder.
Under the arrangement that Jeffrey announced Wednesday, the province is providing more than that.
"The full cost will be covered by the province, although it will then be seeking restitution from the federal government as well," said Kelly.
With files from The Canadian Press