TORONTO – While 2019 spring flooding conversation made the rounds at the recently held Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) 2020 conference, Coun. El-Chantiry says he still doesn’t know the province’s plan is if flooding returns during the 2020 spring freshet.
El-Chantiry is the ROMA board vice chair and spent Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 in Toronto at the annual conference which is often used as a platform for rural municipal politicians to lobby their interests and issues to provincial politicians. There were 444 Ontario municipalities represented at the ROMA conference this year.
Premier Doug Ford was a keynote speaker and announced a commitment of future funding to help bring natural gas and improved broadband service to rural Ontario. But there were no official announcements related to flood remediation.
“There’s a lot of side issues,” El-Chantiry said. “When you have 1,400 politicians, the wish list is long.”
One of those side issues was the huge issue of record-breaking extreme flooding that plagued rural communities (and urban) up and down many of Ontario’s major waterways including West Carleton last spring.
El-Chantiry said many rural politicians had questions for the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski, who has the flood issue in his portfolio.
“There were questions asked to Minister Yakabuski, but he was short on answers,” El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online last week. “There’s no plan for 2020. There’s a lot of people worried out there, not just West Carleton.”
Many victims of flooding in West Carleton have still not fully recovered from last spring’s flood. Homes and foundations are still damaged. Roads and infrastructure still need work, to the tune of roughly $5 miillion according to El-Chantiry, and aside from a special flood advisor report filed last November containing 66 recommendations, there is no indication as to what action items the province will accommodate stemming from the report, which claims there was no human error related to the record flooding.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps is predicting the Great Lakes may see record high levels this year, which as of this month, are higher now they were at this point last year.
At ROMA, Yakabuski indicated Premier Ford sent a letter to the International Joint Commission asking for more room at the table for Ontario representation.
“Is that it?” El-Chantiry said. “I wrote a letter to the feds – that’s your best answer? Is there money available? We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Quebec did it and did it the best.”
Quebec Premier François Legault and the Coalition Avenir Québec government offer up to $100,000 to homeowners dealing with damage caused by the April 2019 floods. Once the government pays out $100,000, it would then offer to buy the home at a maximum cost of $200,000 to move out of high flood risk areas. Quebec can also provide homeowners an additional $50,000 in compensation for the land around their homes. Anyone who chooses recompense for home repairs will not be eligible for future renovation compensation.
“We really need incentives to move the people when it’s happening every year or almost,” Legault said at the time.
While El-Chantiry says the program isn’t perfect, it has merit in Ontario.
“At least there’s an option,” he said. “There’s no plan from this province. I don’t care who’s (the flood) fault it is. We want to know what are we going to do? We can’t spend $6 million every year and bring in the army.”
Meanwhile, Easter Weekend, when last year’s waters really began to rise quickly in West Carleton, is only 10 weeks away.