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Toronto council debates provincial and federal aid for ice storm costs

VIDEO: Global’s Jackson Proskow checks in from City Hall, where council is debating whether to ask the provincial or federal government for ice storm aid (Jan. 10) 

TORONTO – Councillors will meet again on Monday to debate whether they should ask the province to declare the city a disaster area and help pay for the cleanup of the pre-Christmas ice storm at a special meeting at city hall Friday.

“If you don’t ask, you may not get,” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told reporters prior to the meeting. “So what we’re doing with the province is something that has been done in the past and that is to seek the cooperation of our partners.”

A recommendation from a city staff report released on Wednesday estimates the cost of cleaning up from the ice storm and the July floods could be in excess of $171 million.

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Kelly says council will ask the province and the federal government to help pay for a third of the cost each.

“Province and feds will eat $57 million and we’re going to ask you as our traditional partners in the past…to pay one third each,” he said.

The staff report estimates last month’s severe ice storm will cost the city at least $106 million in damage to forestry infrastructure and other related expenses.

READ MORE: Cleanup crews have yet to get to city parks hard hit by ice storm

Mayor Rob Ford says Toronto is about $60 million short of what it needs.

The city was already facing a bill of more than $65 million for damage caused by a rain storm in July that flooded parts of Toronto.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti suggested the city may have put itself at a disadvantage by not declaring a state of emergency during the ice storm.

“Why are [city staff] now asking for disaster relief after they gave the mayor and council the opinion that it wasn’t an emergency?” Mammoliti said. “It’s going to be a hard sell now.”
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City staff, along with the deputy mayor, originally requested the mayor declare a state of emergency but later reversed their decision after receiving all necessary resources from the province.

City councillor Doug Ford said the mayor plans to meet with GTA municipalities hit hard by the ice storm next week to request funds from the two levels of government.

“Hopefully they can come to the table,” Councillor Ford said. “We do need support from the province in these circumstances.”

The councillor also dismissed the idea that the province might be less likely to believe the city can’t fund its own cleanup when the two Fords have frequently said there are at least $50 million in savings that can be found in the city’s budget.

WATCH: Councillor Doug Ford says province should pitch in to help with ice storm recovery costs 

Meanwhile, Kelly told reporters he too is open to the idea of joining forces with other municipalities.

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“I’m hoping that collectively we can get more, than if we apply from an individual basis,” he said.

Councils in Brampton, Mississauga, Caledon, and North Perth have already voted on motions asking for their municipalities to be declared as disaster areas.

The special council meeting will ask the minister of municipal affairs and housing to declare Toronto a “disaster area” under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

WATCH: Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly admits disaster area request could be “awkward” because a state of emergency was not declared during the ice storm

READ MORE: Toronto Hydro estimates cost of ice storm restoration at $12.9M

The Ministry has already said the city isn’t eligible for disaster relief for floods in July, but would take that cost into account when assessing the request for help for December’s storm.

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The staff report also urges council to request that Queen’s Park and Ottawa establish or expand disaster mitigation programs involving urban forestry, erosion control, winter storms, tree canopy, and other severe storm events.

-with files from The Canadian Press

Follow a LIVEBLOG with Global News reporter Jackson Proskow at the special meeting beginning 9:30 a.m.

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