THUNDER BAY – Flood relief funding was the topic of an exchange between Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Wednesday. Both politicians traveled to Thunder Bay during the flooding to get a first hand view of the situation. Former Premier Dalton McGuinty never made it to Thunder Bay to witness the disaster.
Flood Recovery Funds
People on Thunder Bay donating money to the Flood Relief effort were repeatedly told that the Province would match those donated funds $2 for every $1 donated.
Right now it is appearing that is not the case. Many people in Thunder Bay are very upset feeling that the province has reneged on this agreement.
Bill Mauro, the MPP for Thunder Bay Atikokan explains that the issue is not one of the Thunder Bay District being mistreated. “I am very disappointed that Andrea Horwath is making this issue a political game,” stated Mauro. “The rules set out in the program are very clear. The province is set as a back stop.”
Mauro explained that the infrastructure money coming to Thunder Bay District is massive and should restore all the roads and damaged infrastructure.
There is a public component, and there is a private fundraising component. The Fundraising committee, which is not a part of the City of Thunder Bay, but had representation from the city. The money raised by the committee was from funds donated by residents and companies.
There appears to be a certain degree of frustration being expressed by residents as to how the system works as opposed to how the City presented the fundraising effort. Requests for comment from the City are still outstanding.
Andrea Horwath stated, “Last May, the people of Thunder Bay saw the worst of nature and the best of their neighbours when massive flooding tore through their community. When the waters finally receded, people were left with wrecked basements and ruined possessions.
“I saw the devastation with my own eyes, and the Premier did too. She looked flood victims in the eye and promised them disaster relief assistance funding of up to $3.2 million for private losses, saying, “This is the number that we think was necessary, but it may very well be that it has to be adjusted.”
“Yesterday, the people of Thunder Bay found out that they’re only going to be getting $300,000. Does the Premier think it’s a fair adjustment for people who have already lost so much?”
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of the Environment is going to want to comment on the details, but I will just say that at the time I was the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I went to Thunder Bay. We announced the disaster relief funding. If I recall correctly, it was up to $17 million. I met with some of the communities surrounding Thunder Bay that also were going to get relief. My understanding is that that process is under way, that there are ongoing claims that are being filed, and that there’s a discussion with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
I will let the Minister of the Environment deal with the supplementary, but we were very clear that we were there with the people of the communities around Thunder Bay and in Thunder Bay to provide that disaster relief.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The people of Thunder Bay are proud and they’re tough. They don’t back down from hardship and they don’t ask for help until they’ve really tried to help each other out first. That’s what they did.
After the floods, volunteers with the Thunder Bay Disaster Relief Committee raised $1.5 million at fundraisers like dinner-dances and things like that—
Ms. Andrea Horwath: —absolutely, they deserve an applause for that—in order to help their neighbours.
In the past, the Ontario disaster relief program has given $2 for every $1 raised locally. Private damages from the flooding are pushing up to the $4.2-million mark. The Premier had no qualms about spending $275 million to save Liberal seats in the last election, so why is the government, in this situation in Thunder Bay, only offering 20 cents on the dollar to the people of that community?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: First of all, I just want to say that the two members from Thunder Bay, from Thunder Bay–Superior North and Thunder Bay–Atikokan, have worked diligently with the municipality and with our government to make sure that the money flowed to people in the community. I am so clear that the disaster relief fund that is in place is available to the people in the community. If there are anomalies, if there are situations where the applications haven’t been followed up on or if there is more work that needs to be done, I know that the members will work with the minister to make sure that happens. We were crystal clear, when I was the minister and I was there, that there were many, many people who would qualify for relief and that the municipality would qualify for relief. So I’ll certainly be talking to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make sure that all of that is in place, but our commitment to the people who are affected by the flooding—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.
Thunder Bay Administration
Administration with the City of Thunder Bay, appear to be taking the quieter path here, issuing no official statements or explanation. The work of the fundraising committee in raising the funds was tough work that was often uphill. Some people reportedly didn’t want to donate because of the class action lawsuit.
Others are taking their frustration out online on Facebook.