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Ontario will give municipalities $190M for ice storm cleanup

Downed trees cover cars and power lines on Dec. 23, 2013. CITYNEWS/Giancarlo DeSantis.

The Ontario government says it will provide up to $190 million to help municipalities, including Toronto, pay for the cost of cleanup and recovery from the December ice storm.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey said Wednesday the money will be divided among 32 towns and cities that sought financial help from the province.

The massive ice storm that hit the GTA on Dec. 21, 2013, downed power lines and left 600,000 customers in Ontario without power. It cost the GTA an estimated $275 million, including $106 million for Toronto.

Jeffrey said the government aid will cover things, such as warming centres, additional police costs to manage the emergency and the cleanup of debris to ensure public safety.

“While we’re still developing the details of the provincial program, we anticipate that it would cover 100 per cent of the costs that are deemed eligible,” Jeffrey said. “Most mayors will find this substantive.”

But she said the money wouldn’t cover tree replacement.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said virtually all the costs the city incurred should be eligible under this program and that he was delighted with the province’s announcement.

“This is not just good news. This is great news,” he said.

City manager Joe Pennachetti said Toronto’s ice storm estimate of $106 million was revised down to $94 million and that the city has submitted a bill for a further revised figure of $86.5 million.

The unprecedented ice storm wreaked havoc on many parts of the province, including Mississauga and Brampton, which estimate cleanup and recovery costs to be $25 million and $51 million, respectively. City officials in Vaughan estimated the ice storm cost $21 million.

GTA mayors and regional chairs passed a unanimous resolution on Jan. 17, asking the provincial and federal governments to provide financial assistance.

The resolution asked that the municipalities, the provincial government and the federal government each cover one-third of the costs. It also asked that Queen’s Park and Ottawa treat all municipalities equally and to respond by March 1.

The provincial money is for ice storm compensation, not for the flooding that happened in Toronto last July, Jeffrey said again.