GTA mayors ask for province and feds to help with ice storm costs

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at the Mississauga Arts Centre to meet with other mayors to talk...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at the Mississauga Arts Centre to meet with other mayors to talk about ice-storm relief funding on Friday. (STAN BEHAL/Toronto Sun)

Don Peat, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:02 PM ET

TORONTO - Don Peat

QMI Agency

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Greater Toronto Area’s mayors and regional chairs voted unanimously Friday to ask the province and the feds to help fund the estimated $275 million cost of last month's ice storm.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion emerged from the three-hour meeting flanked by 19 mayors and three regional chairs with the resolution that asked the Ontario government and the federal government to each pay one-third of the full cost of the ice storm response and ongoing recovery. The resolution also asked the senior levels of government to respond to the request by March 1 and to treat all municipalities "equally and equitably."

McCallion said there is a "great fear" among them that they won't get provincial and federal funds.

"And we will be left on our own to deal with the financial aftermath of the storm," she said. "We all agree that the property tax cannot bear that burden."

Although provincial officials say an answer on any funding could take months, McCallion hoped the March 1 deadline would give them a "guideline."

"We believe that if we didn't set a date we would maybe never know when an answer would come forth," she said.

So far, the total estimated cost of the storm from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area municipalities is around $275 million. Toronto estimates the cost of the storm was $106 million, but council has also asked the feds and the province to help fund the $65 million from last July's rain storm.

Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey attended Friday's meeting to hear from the municipalities and outline the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. She confirmed provincial officials have already been sent to Toronto to assess damage.

After the meeting, Ford complained the province "didn't really give us any answers today."

"We can't wait many, many months," Ford said. "The taxpayers need an answer immediately."

McCallion added that they won't let the province miss the deadline.

"You can rest assured, we'll be following up on March 1 if there isn't an answer," she said.

Deputy mayor Norm Kelly — who also attended Friday's meeting — described it as a "very productive meeting.

"The residents of Toronto should feel happy that their interests were promoted and defended," Kelly said.

Jeffrey reached out officially to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government Friday for federal help with the massive ice storm bill.

In a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, Jeffrey said she has received 27 requests from affected municipalities for access to the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program for cleanup, response and recovery costs.

"I want to inform the government of Canada of Ontario's interest in securing federal assistance," Jeffrey said.

"I am interested in any options that you may have in assisting Ontario with its disaster response and mitigation costs. I would appreciate your thoughts on the best process to commence discussions in order to move quickly to support Ontario's recovery."

-- With files from Antonella Artuso

don.peat@sunmedia.ca


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