Premier tells Ontario Mayors they will get a better deal next time there is a localized disaster.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 17, 2015


If you are the Premier and you want to talk to the municipal sector there is no better place to get on your soap box than the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) conference.

Premier Wynne met with all the Your Worships and told then her government was going to change the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) and make it easier and faster for municipalities and individuals to get financial assistance following natural disasters.

Mayor with the Premier: best buddies?

Mayor Goldring with the Kathleen Wynne when she was Minister of Transportation and Goldring wanted her to fully understand the city’s opposition to any highway cutting through the Escarpment.

The Premier pointed out that requests for provincial disaster assistance have doubled in the last five years and are expected to continue to rise due to climate change. She didn’t point out that a number of communities got zip from the provincial government when disaster struck them.

ODRAP, which was created in 1965, is going to be replaced with two new programs that will be more responsive to the needs of individuals and communities following a natural disaster, said the Premier in her media release.

How two departments are going to be more responsive than one is a little difficult to fathom – we will have to wait and see just what the legislation and the accompanying rules actually say.

Flood Fairview plaza

A strip mall parking lot becomes a wading pool – and all the files and records that were on the lower levels – destroyed?

Should a disaster befall a municipality between now and when the legislation is passed the existing program is what has to be used.

The new Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program will help municipalities address extraordinary emergency response costs and damage to essential property or infrastructure like bridges, roads and public buildings, as a result of a natural disaster.

Municipalities will be given four months rather than 14 days to assess costs and request provincial assistance, so that they have time to focus on emergency response after a disaster occurs.

The new Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program will provide faster assistance to individuals, small businesses, farmers and not-for-profit organizations who have experienced damage to, or loss of, essential property as a result of a natural disaster. The program will also do away with the current requirement for municipal volunteers to fundraise for matching provincial assistance.

BCF couple completing forms

The paper work was overwhelming – without the Burlington Community foundation in place to help – many people may not have been able to get financial assistance.

For those people who needed to take advantage of what ODRAP offered they were mighty glad that the Burlington Community Foundation was in place to help people get through the paperwork.

The province will launch the new programs in early 2016. Municipalities may continue to access the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program until the new programs come into effect.

It is too early to tell if the new program will be any better. What we do know at this time is that Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon pushed very hard for a change. She fortunately has the ear of Ted McMeekin, the Minister of Housing a municipal services. McMahon’s first-hand experience with a major flood that impacted more than 6000 homes was invaluable; kudos to the MPP for doing a fine job.

What also helped was that Burlington’s citizen of the year, Ron Foxcroft happened to have the Minister’s cell phone number. When word came from the province that Burlington was not going to be given a matching grant program – the cell phones rang – Foxcroft and McMahon combined were relentless.

McMahon was the first Liberal to hold the seat in 70 years – the chance of losing the seat the next time around must have been made pretty clear – it didn’t take long for a media event to be held at city hall where the politicians lined up to comment on how well we had done.

And this time there was merit to the comments – the city did do well. There were some exceptions – they are usually described as independently wealthy and they didn’t contribute a dime

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