QUEEN’S PARK – Thunder Bay MPPs Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle were up in Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on Wednesday.
Here is the text of their exchange:
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Over the last several days there has been severe flooding in Thunder Bay. In fact, the city of Thunder Bay has declared a state of emergency. And in fact, two other communities in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan, Conmee and Oliver Paipoonge, have both declared states of emergency. There has been severe, widespread flooding. Hundreds of basements have been flooded out. Large sections of highway have been completely removed, and power and gas turned off to hundreds of homes.
Minister, we know water flows can become dangerous and very high very quickly. We’ve got a number of dams in our regions that have released water or will be releasing water, and that can have dramatic impacts.
Can the minister please inform this House what our government is doing to assist the municipalities affected and to ensure the safety of the residents?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: I want to thank my colleague for the question. The member for Thunder Bay–Atikokan and I are working very closely together to provide whatever support we can to the municipalities that are impacted by this major flooding crisis. There’s no question that the enormous amount of rain that resulted in the declarations of emergency by Thunder Bay, Conmee and Oliver Paipoonge required many agencies to work closely together on an urgent basis to deal with this crisis.
Certainly, the Ministry of Natural Resources is playing a vital role in providing up-to-date and immediate information to the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, the OPP and Ontario Power Generation regarding ever-changing water levels in our area watersheds. Through our Surface Water Monitoring Centre we can accurately monitor and we can predict water levels where flooding may take place, particularly as river and lake levels crest. We will continue to work closely with all of our partners to provide any assistance as requested.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Minister, I thank you for that. There still remains a very serious situation. The ground is saturated. It can’t take any more water and we don’t know what will happen with the weather over the course of the next several days. If the region is to experience further significant rainfall, it could force water levels to rise very quickly and potentially displace hundreds of residents, creating challenges for emergency vehicles and school buses, and the list goes on.
The residents in the affected communities need to know that they will have somewhere to go in the event that they are displaced. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Natural Resources, what will the government do to ensure that an emergency precautionary plan is in place should the flood situation worsen? Will there be support in place to help the residents of Thunder Bay–Atikokan?
Hon. Michael Gravelle: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: We always take great interest in emergency declaration. Water flows and levels can become dangerous very quickly and without notice. That’s why it is of the utmost importance that Ontarians in the area stay clear of waterways and be careful on roads. All residents should take heed of flood warnings on municipal websites and contact local officials for regular updates.
Emergency Management Ontario will continue to contact the affected communities daily to ensure we can help address any challenges they may face. With that said, EMO will work with our emergency partners, monitor the situation very closely and make the necessary preliminary preparations so we are ready in case the northwestern Ontario flood situation escalates. If need be, the OPP will go door to door to advise people to stay out of a dangerous situation.