ABOVE: Global’s Jackson Proskow reports on the growing cost of the ice storm clean up and recovery for the city of Toronto
TORONTO – A pre-Christmas ice storm is estimated to cost the city $106 million and Toronto should be declared a “disaster area” as a result, said a staff report released late Wednesday night.
The city manager’s report suggests council request the province to declare the city a “disaster area” in order to receive relief funds to help cover some of the costs incurred from the severe weather event.
“I don’t think there’s any disagreement that what has occurred not just in Toronto , but in southern Ontario, is a disaster,” city manager Joe Pennachetti said.
He’s hoping a declaration of a disaster will trigger provincial and federal funds. He estimated the total cleanup cost in southern Ontario could eclipse that of the 1998 ice storm in eastern Ontario and Quebec.
“We believe we’re going to be in the range of $250 million plus including Durham, Guelph, across southern Ontario,” he said.
The Dec. 21 ice storm caused more than 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers to lose power, some for more than a week during the holidays.
WATCH: The ice storm left thousands without power – meaning thousands of interesting stories to tell. Global’s Alan Carter hit the streets of Toronto to hear your tales of power outage woe.
There was also extensive damage to infrastructure and trees in the city.
“The scope and magnitude of this extreme winter storm was unprecedented,” the report said. “At the same time, the efforts of staff from City divisions, agencies and corporations in responding to the event were exceptional under difficult conditions.”
Toronto Hydro officials said Thursday that power restoration efforts could cost $12.9 million.
The mayor has called a special council meeting for Friday to try and recoup some of the costs.
“We need the province and the federal government to step up and assist us with these efforts,” Mayor Rob Ford said at a press conference Thursday. “We cannot put this on the back of the taxpayers.”
The mayor seemed confident his assertions of at least $50 million in savings that could easily be found within the city’s budget won’t hinder efforts to get cleanup funding, he says, the city doesn’t have.
“If people want to play politics, they can play politics,” he said. “I’m here to get money to help out for the ice storm. I don’t care if it’s NDP, Liberal, Conservative, I’ll work with anybody.”
The city staff report recommends asking the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to tap into Ontario’s Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
City councillor James Pasternak has already come out to say he would prefer that no new taxes be charged to cover the cleanup costs.
The report also recommends council to request the provincial and federal governments “to establish new programs and expand existing programs addressing disaster mitigation involving urban forestry, erosion control, winter storms, tree canopy, and other severe storm events.”
An in-depth review of the ice storm’s impact on city finances and operating budget, including its emergency response strategy, was also detailed by the city manager report.
In 2013, the July 8 flood combined with December’s storm, cost the city in excess of $171 million.