The vote was unanimous, but councillors still found plenty to argue about on Monday as they formally requested storm aid from the provincial and federal governments.
On the second day of a special council session, councillors voted 44 to 0 to ask Ottawa and Queen's Park to pay for two-thirds of the estimated $171 million in damages the city sustained from a pair of storms last year: the December ice storm that knocked out power to a million people, the intense downpour that flooded parts of the city in July.
The summer storm cost an estimated $65 million, while ongoing recovery efforts from the ice storm are expected to top $106 million. Council's proposal is to have the feds, province, and city each contribute $57 million.
In addition, council approved nearly two-dozen motions aimed at improving the city's response to future weather disasters. It took 11 days to fully restore power after the ice storm, and some councillors and residents have criticized the city for acting too slowly and failing to effectively communicate progress with the public.
Council authorized staff to hire an outside consultant to review Toronto's emergency operations, while other motions requested the report consider additional measures including:
• Creating a registry of vulnerable people who may need assistance during disasters
• Ensuring the central emergency management centre, which lost power during the ice storm, can remain online during a blackout
• Updating the tree maintenance strategy and burying overhead power lines
• Creating an "emergency social media coordinator" position, and devising non-digital means of communicating with the public
A report on the storm response will go before the deputy mayor's executive committee in the spring.
Once the funding request was complete however, debate quickly devolved into squabbling as Ford tried to take credit for leading the city's ice storm response while accusing several councillors, including TTC chair and mayoral rival Councillor Karen Stintz, of abandoning their duties.
During one testy exchange that could be a preview of the 2014 election debates Ford accused Stintz of being missing in action after the crisis hit on December 22.
"I was here for 10 days leading the charge, and I sacrificed my holidays and I'm very proud of the job I did. I did an excellent job," said Ford, who held daily press conferences following the storm.
"I was dealing with [TTC CEO] Andy Byford... day in and day out, and I still don't know where you were," he told Stintz. "But I guess you took credit for getting the TTC up and running. You must have a magic wand because you were nowhere to be found."
Stintz shot back that she was working behind the scenes, and criticized Ford for deciding not to declare a state of emergency in response to the unprecedented storm.
As a result of council's November decision to revoke many of the mayor's powers, calling an emergency would have put Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly in control of the city for the duration of the disaster. Stintz said that doing so would have ended any confusion about who was coordinating relief efforts, but that Ford didn't want to give up the spotlight.
"You could have made one person in charge but that person wouldn't have been you, so you chose not to," said Stintz.
Stintz wasn't the only council member who sparred with the mayor. Ford also let fly at Kelly, who took one-day trip to Florida during the storm recovery to visit an ailing relative. The mayor accused him of being AWOL.
Kelly countered that the city's emergency management committee, not the mayor, deserved credit for getting the lights back on. The deputy mayor replaced the mayor as head of the committee when Ford was stripped of his powers last fall.
"The people who were in charge of the city's response were the members of the emergency committee," said Kelly. "And that leadership was there consistently throughout the crisis. I was a part of that leadership."
Kelly demanded that the mayor retract his comments. Ford refused.
Debate over who is at the helm of Toronto's storm response is likely to continue this week. Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion has called a meeting of regional mayors for Friday to coordinate funding requests, and although she invited Ford, Kelly wouldn't say on Monday if he will be attending.
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