Ford stands by decision not to declare state of emergency
Rob Ford stands by his decision not to declare a state of emergency after an ice storm hit Toronto days before Christmas, despite revelations in an email made public Friday that the deputy city manager wanted that designation and pledged to make his case to the mayor directly.
The Dec. 22 email, sent by deputy city manager John Livey to senior city hall officials, said that “we are getting ready to ask the mayor to declare this an emergency, largely because it will assist the staff at the Province to make resources available to us, crews, generators, facilities for warming centres.”
In his email, Livey said he “will call the Mayor and deputy to discuss directly.”
Livey’s email was sent shortly before 5:30 p.m. that day, when residents woke up to ice-covered trees, cars, sidewalks and streets-- and hundreds of thousands of customers were left without power.
Ford did not declare a state of emergency, and a City of Toronto spokesperson said Friday that at the time Livey sent his email, he was under the impression that provincial funding and assistance was contingent on the emergency declaration.
The province, however, offered assistance without it, and so the decision was made to not declare an emergency.
Ford’s press secretary said Friday that during the storm, Ford was receiving regular updates from the city manager, the head of Toronto Hydro, the head of the TTC, the fire and EMS chiefs and other city officials.
“The City Manager and the President of Toronto Hydro, among others, advised Mayor Ford that everything possible was being done, and because every available resource was called for and made available by other municipalities and the Province, there was no need to cause unnecessary panic by declaring a State of Emergency,” Amin Massoudi told CTV Toronto in an email.
Ford has faced questions about his decision not to declare a state of emergency. Because the declaration would have transferred authority over the emergency to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, critics have suggested Ford was reluctant to relinquish any more powers.
Army could still be called in
Meanwhile, Kelly said earlier Friday that, considering the massive cleanup effort facing city staff, he's willing to consider making a request for the army to pitch in.
Kelly said he's open to the idea, after learning that it could take as long as two months to clear the ice storm debris littering Toronto's streets and parks.
At a news conference on Thursday, city officials confirmed the cleanup will take 6-8 weeks and will cost the city more than $75 million.
"I thought: 'Well, what would be the next available source of manpower?' And I think that's the army. And if we can get more people on the job, and meet this challenge sooner rather than later, why not explore that option?" the deputy mayor said.
Kelly, who has extra powers after city council stripped Ford of some of his authority, said his staff have made “exploratory” phone calls on the subject. As a result, he now knows such requests would have to be made to the province, which would then ask the federal government to make it happen.
Ford came out against the measure on Friday, saying on Twitter that he sees “no need to call in the army when we have over 600 staff dedicated to clean up efforts. The City of Toronto is on top of the situation.”
In another tweet he said: “Calling in the army now would undermine the efforts of city staff. A strategic plan is in place, divisions have the situation under control.”
Meanwhile, Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby said Friday that “We could use the help at any point, absolutely.”
But Coun. David Shiner said the move is “a little bit late. Last week was a disaster situation here.”
Toronto's public works committee chair, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, told CP24 that the city's present circumstance does not warrant calling in the Armed Forces.
"It remains to be seen what benefit calling the army will have," Minnan-Wong said. "There is certainly going to be a cost and that is going to be borne to the taxpayer in one way or another."
It's been 15 years since winter storms covered Toronto with more than a metre of snow. At the time, then-mayor Mel Lastman requested the army's assistance, prompting both criticism and ridicule.
Ford has called a council meeting for Jan. 10 to discuss the city’s response to the storm, as well as how to pay for the clean-up. In a tweet, Ford said he will be asking the province for financial aid.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Natalie Johnson