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Ontario government creating task force to combat flooding

Rising water from the Ottawa River is nearly level with the deck and swimming pool at a home in Rockland, Ont., about 40 kilometres east of Ottawa, on Sunday, May 7, 2017.
Rising water from the Ottawa River is nearly level with the deck and swimming pool at a home in Rockland, Ont., about 40 kilometres east of Ottawa, on Sunday, May 7, 2017. Justin Tang/CP

TORONTO – Ontario is creating a task force on improving the province’s resilience to flooding, following high water levels this spring in several communities.

Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski said in a statement that the government will work to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.

READ MORE: Reality check: Will Ford’s budget cuts affect relief for Ontario’s recent flooding?

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen first-hand the devastating effect of flooding on our communities,” they said in the statement Friday. “The people of Ontario can’t go through this every year. Something needs to change.”

The task force will consult with municipalities, including in the Muskoka region, Pembroke and the Ottawa Valley.

Ontario has activated a disaster recovery assistance program for residents in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Champlain and Alfred and Plantagenet.

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WATCH: Canadian health authorities warn of some health risks as residents return after flooding

Click to play video 'Canadian health authorities warn of some health risks as residents return after flooding' Canadian health authorities warn of some health risks as residents return after flooding
Canadian health authorities warn of some health risks as residents return after flooding

The program helps cover emergency expenses and the costs to repair or replace essential property not covered by insurance after a natural disaster.

The task force announcement comes not long after the Progressive Conservative government cut conservation authorities’ funding for flood management in half.

READ MORE: First your home is flooded — then you lose your mortgage?

Conservation authorities forecast flooding and issue warnings, monitor stream flow, regulate development activities in flood plains, educate the public about flooding and protect natural cover that helps reduce the impacts of flooding.

Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.

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Yakabuski has said the government is trying to eliminate the deficit – currently at $11.7 billion – and has asked conservation authorities to focus on their core mandate, which includes flood control.

WATCH: Residents and cottagers on Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence river brace for flooding

Click to play video 'Residents and cottagers on Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence river brace for flooding' Residents and cottagers on Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence river brace for flooding
Residents and cottagers on Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence river brace for flooding