Replacing spoiled food one small step in Ontario ice storm recovery

Matthew Coutts
December 30, 2013

For residents of Toronto who lost power – some for as long as nine days – during a recent powerful ice storm that wreaked havoc across Central and Eastern Canada, replacing spoiled food may be top of mind.

But the problems go deeper than that and more than a week after the crisis first struck, much of the province's recovery efforts remain clouded and uncertain.

"This was an unprecedented storm for this region in Ontario. We haven't felt anything like it in this region in the past," Premier Kathleen Wynne told a Monday press conference. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we did everything we could to respond in a timely way to help people and restore their power.

"But there are always lessons that can be learned."

On Monday, Wynne announced the launch of a gift card program to replace food that spoiled during the massive power outages that followed a December 22 ice storm. The announcement means more than $200,000 in funding from the province and private companies will be made available to replace food that went bad during severe the power outages to hit the city last week.

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In short, several grocery and drug stores stepped forward with donations, which will be matched by the province and available to those worst hit through gift cards. To give those retailers their due, here is a list of those who stepped forward: Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro and Sobeys each donated $25,000; Coppas Fresh Market donated $5,000.

The assistance will be made available to those left without food following the storm, and available for pickup at Toronto’s 15 Ontario Works offices.

"Those who have had to throw away food and those who are not able to replace their food, I think this is important," Wynne said. "We are talking about people who aren't able to replace the food that they lost."

The gift cards – $100 for families and $50 for individuals in need – will be made starting on Tuesday.

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More than 300,000 Torontonians were left without power at the height of the disaster, with some 300,000 other Ontarians also left in the dark.

The recovery efforts have been marked by communication issues and unexpected delays. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declined to declare a state of emergency, which would have made available extra resources and funding. Ford is now asking the province to provide relief funding for the city. Wynne said the question of funding has not yet been addressed.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said that about 725 customers remained without power on Monday, nine days after the trouble first struck. Haines said he believed they were in the "final hours" of the crisis.

The remaining issues could be cleared by this evening. About 13,000 other Ontarians also remained in the dark. Wynne said the food card program would be established outside the provincial capital as soon as possible.

The power outage may finally be behind us, but for many the recovery efforts are just beginning, and none too soon. They would hope help it doesn’t end with a $100 gift card.