GTA mayors meet to discuss funding cleanup from ice storm
Watch the video above: GTA mayors demand help with storm costs. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – Discussions on how best to fund the ice storm cleanup elicited a tense exchange between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, as they met with several GTA mayors in Mississauga Friday.
Councils in many municipalities – including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon – have voted to ask the province to be declared disaster areas in order to receive funding from the province and federal government.
To date, the province has received 27 resolutions from municipal councils asking for relief.
Mayor Ford and McCallion had a public disagreement about whether Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne should have been at the meeting. Ford said the mayors should start “at the top” with the premier and work their way down to the minister’s responsible.
“If the premier was going to be here I guess we should have invited the prime minister,” McCallion said, adding she did not invite the premier.
“I believe you go up through the process then you decide whether you go to the top if you’re not getting the answers through the process.”
WATCH: Rob Ford and Hazel McCallion have an awkward public disagreement over Premier Kathleen Wynne’s absence from the meeting
Ford repeatedly expressed his disappointment over the absence of Wynne, who was in Niagara Falls for byelection campaigning.
“I guess the byelection is more important than this ice storm,” Ford told reporters prior to entering the meeting.
Only a few mayors raised their hands – Ford being one of them – when asked if they would have preferred to have the premier at the meeting as opposed to her minister for municipal affairs.
“This affected over 7 million people and I think this is more important than the byelection right now,” Ford said.
The storm impacted dozens of communities and officials have said the total bill from the affected municipalities could top $250 million, including $106 million for Toronto alone.
“It is a staggering $250 million that the GTA municipalities are faced with and that’s not all the damage to public property,” McCallion said Friday.
McCallion said the united approach to provincial funding was needed after no funding was provided by the province following July’s flooding.
“There’s a great fear that the outcome of the ice storm will be the same and that we will be left on our own to deal with the financial impact,” she said.
The mayors unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the provincial and federal government to share the costs with municipalities, treat all municipalities “equally and equitably” and provide a response by March 1, 2014.
“We want our citizens to know that there’s going to be assistance because we have to deal with budgets,” McCallion said, adding Mississauga would have to increase property taxes by seven per cent in order to cover the cost.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey was at the meeting in lieu of Wynne and said each municipality’s eligibility for funding will be based on their “financial status.”
“We look at each individual event as they come forward. Some communities that have been hit twice, the ability to pay is something we take into consideration,” Jeffrey said.
Mayor Ford dismissed the notion that Toronto may not receive funding because of repeated statements from him and his brother that at least $50 million in savings can be found in Toronto’s budget.
The ice storm downed trees and hydro lines, cutting power to hundreds of thousands for days and stalling road and air travel.
The ministry has already begun the process of assessing the requests of municipalities that have contacted it seeking disaster relief.
Jeffrey also called on the federal government to provide relief for GTA municipalities.
VIDEO: Wynne looking forward to what comes out of mayor’s meeting
In a statement to Global News, Roxanne James, the parliamentary secretary to Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Steven Blaney said all provinces are eligible for funding under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements “once the cost sharing threshold has been met.”
“I would like to assure everyone that there is a non-political, proven process in place for the provision of financial assistance to provinces and territories in the event of a large scale disaster,” she said in a statement. “We always stand ready to assist provinces for eligible expenses under the agreement.”
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