Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
TORONTO, QUEEN’S PARK — Say what you will about Doug Ford, the premier is on the flooding file.
With waters still running high in Muskoka — and now Pembroke in particular — his PC government is acting fast to at least understand what went wrong.
In the legislature today (Monday, May 13), he promised to begin that work immediately.
This Friday, May 17, in Muskoka he said an “internal task force” will start consulting with municipal, Indigenous and industry leaders “to discuss how to better prepare for floods and respond to them when they happen.”
Engagement sessions will also be held in Pembroke on May 23, and in Ottawa on May 24.
This first step comes after a loud outcry from local residents up and down the Muskoka watershed and their municipal representatives, including several Muskoka mayors who expressed their annoyance face-to-face with the premier in meetings with him along the Muskoka River’s north and south branches.
In Minett at the recent Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM & Convention, Muskoka Lakes Township Mayor Phil Harding spoke to Ford reiterating local concerns.
He has been a leading voice as the water makes its way through Bala.
Ford is fully aware, having been to the Bala Falls last spring during his run-up to government and he has toured the Huntsville and Bracebridge flood scenes the past few weeks and meeting property owners, community volunteers, first responders and an army of sandbaggers.
Today in the legislature, a government news release says, Ford highlighted the government’s “commitment to improving the province’s resilience to flooding.”
“I want to assure the people of Ontario that we are taking action to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.
“We will start by creating an internal task force that will hear directly from people in flood zones about how we can all work together to protect their property and keep them safe.”
Ford said: “It will consult with municipal, Indigenous and industry leaders to discuss how to better prepare for floods and respond to them when they happen.”
Meanwhile, John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, said: “Our number one priority is the safety of the public and the protection of communities and private property.
“After seeing first-hand the impacts of flooding in communities across Ontario, we are taking immediate action to help.”
And in a full-court government press, Steve Clark the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing added: “We want to help Ontarians protect what matters most to them, whether that’s their home or local business, or local infrastructure like roads and bridges. Making our communities more resilient to the extreme spring flooding we’ve been experiencing across the province over the last few years is a priority.”
And Solicitor General Sylvia Jones waded surprisingly in also saying in the release: “Spring flooding is becoming more and more common. While Ontario has excellent emergency personnel and resources in place, the need to respond in multiple communities at the same time puts a significant strain on local, provincial and federal responders, not to mention the residents, businesses and communities affected.”
The release concluded: “A key commitment of the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan is to undertake a provincial impact assessment to identify where and how climate change is likely to impact Ontario’s communities. The results from this assessment will provide decision makers with the data and information needed to better plan for more frequent extreme weather events such as flooding. Homeowners across Ontario can be assured the Government of Ontario is taking action to protect public safety by better planning for and mitigating the effects of flooding.”