TORONTO _ Ontario is creating a task force on improving the province’s resilience to flooding, following high water levels this spring in several communities.
Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski said in a statement that the government will work to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen first-hand the devastating effect of flooding on our communities,” they said in the statement Friday. “The people of Ontario can’t go through this every year. Something needs to change.”
The task force will consult with municipalities, including in the Muskoka region, Pembroke and the Ottawa Valley.
Ontario has activated a disaster recovery assistance program for residents in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Champlain and Alfred and Plantagenet.
The task force announcement comes not long after the Progressive Conservative government cut conservation authorities’ funding for flood management in half.
Conservation authorities forecast flooding and issue warnings, monitor stream flow, regulate development activities in flood plains, educate the public about flooding and protect natural cover that helps reduce the impacts of flooding.
Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.
Yakabuski has said the government is trying to eliminate the deficit _ currently at $11.7 billion and has asked conservation authorities to focus on their core mandate, which includes flood control.
NDP environment critic Ian Arthur said the task force should start by reversing those cuts.
“Any review of flood management in Ontario should begin with undoing the damage done by the (Doug) Ford Conservatives,” Arthur said in a statement.