FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 28, 2019
QUEEN’S PARK — The Ontario government is taking action to strengthen the province’s resiliency to flooding.
‘The safety of the public and the protection of our communities is our number one priority,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “After last spring’s flooding, we recognized that we needed an external perspective on the current roles and responsibilities of the governments, agencies and organizations involved in flood management – someone who could provide independent advice on improvements we can make.”
In July, Minister Yakabuski named Doug McNeil as Special Advisor on Flooding, and charged him with conducting an independent review of flood management and 2019 flooding events in Ontario. The Special Advisor delivered his report to the Ontario government on October 31.
In his review, McNeil confirmed that this year’s record-setting flooding in many parts of the province was caused by a combination of weather conditions: colder-than-average winter and spring, higher-than-average snowpack, lack of significant winter thaw, rapid snow melt and significant rain events in the spring.
“This has been a difficult time for many of our communities and we know that for many Ontarians impacted by the floodwaters, life still hasn’t returned to normal,” said Toby Barrett, MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk. “We understand the devastating impacts flooding has on our communities and that’s why we are taking action to improve the province’s resiliency to flooding.”
In his former role as Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Barrett was part of a flooding task force that held hearings in Huntsville and Ottawa in the wake of this spring’s flood. He has also been working to aid local residents in Haldimand and Norfolk impacted by Lake Erie flooding.
McNeil found that nothing pointed to human error or the negligent operation of water control structures as the cause of the flooding, and that the government and its partners were effective at reducing and mitigating flood risks.
“Mr. McNeil looked carefully at the core components of the Province’s approach to emergency management relative to last spring’s flood season and found that steps taken by individuals, municipalities, dam owners, and other agencies were effective in reducing further potential damage to communities,” said Minister Yakabuski. “We are pleased by this conclusion, and we appreciate Mr. McNeil’s practical advice for the Province and other parties to help us to become more flood resilient.”
Since the spring, the government has taken significant steps to help increase the province’s resiliency to flooding:
- the province, municipalities, Indigenous communities and other local partners make more informed decisions to keep communities and people healthy and safe.
Ontario has already committed to taking the following actions to address recommendations from the Special Advisor’s report:
The Province is reviewing the remaining recommendations along with its partners and will work together to increase the awareness of flood risks and help build Ontario’s resiliency to flooding.
- To date, the government has provided disaster recovery funding assistance of over $3.7 million to affected individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations as a result of spring 2019 flooding.
- In 2018, Ontario announced $5 million in a Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative to better identify risks and issues facing the Muskoka region and its watershed. The government also committed to matching tax-deductible donations from people and businesses to the initiative, and any funding from other levels of government, up to a total of an additional $5 million.
- In summer 2019, the government appointed nine members to the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group to help identify the types of projects to protect the watershed and support economic growth in the region.
- The Ontario government is committed to working with the federal government and Kashechewan First Nation to support the relocation of the First Nation to reduce the impacts of flooding on the community.
- In spring 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided approximately 890,000 sandbags to municipalities throughout southern and eastern Ontario and deployed over 60 Fire Ranger crews and additional support staff to many impacted municipalities.
Read Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding Report at Ontario.ca/floodreport
Flood Resiliency in Ontario [Backgrounder]
For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or [email protected]