Ontario puts up $1M to protect communities against extreme weather following spring floods

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High water levels along the Ottawa River in April. File photo

Ontario is launching a $1-million pilot project to help communities protect against effects of extreme weather after Ottawa and several others in central and eastern parts of the province saw flooding this spring.

The government has already activated a disaster recovery assistance program for them, which helps cover emergency expenses and the costs to repair or replace essential property not covered by insurance after a natural disaster.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced Thursday that a new pilot project will give municipalities that qualify for that program up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding public infrastructure that's been damaged.

"We want to help municipalities build back better – to flood-damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure – to a higher standard, so it can better withstand extreme weather and we know that some municipalities have limited financial resources to improve local infrastructure," he said in a statement.

"By not having to rebuild the same washed-out road or bridge again and again, communities will save money over the long-term."

The funds would allow municipalities to make their infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather, with measures such as raising roads, improving the footing of bridges or increasing the size of catch basins.

The disaster recovery assistance program was activated for residents in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Pembroke, Renfrew County, Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Champlain and Alfred and Plantagenet.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said improving the quality of municipal infrastructure damaged by extreme weather saves time and money.

Ontario recently established a task force on improving the province's resilience to flooding.

Earlier this year, 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.

The government has said it 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.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government's announcement Thursday is a good move, but it also needs to reverse decisions that have a negative impact.

"Throwing a million dollars at a pilot project won't reverse the damage the Ford government has done by cutting flood prevention programs, gutting environmental protections that limit flooding and spending millions to sabotage climate solutions," Schreiner said in a statement.