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Ontario premier says province ready for spring flooding amid COVID-19

Posted: May 3, 2020

(May 2, 2020)

By: CBC News

Ontario premier says province ready for spring flooding amid COVID-19

Premier Doug Ford says the province is ready for spring flooding season and is actively monitoring risks across Ontario as it continues to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ontario’s surface water monitoring centre in Peterborough is keeping a close eye on water levels and flows in areas that could face flooding, Ford told reporters on Saturday. Areas at risk include communities along the Great Lakes, in the Ottawa Valley and in First Nations.

“As the weather gets warmer, flooding is top of mind for many and it’s top of mind for us because we have all witnessed the devastation that flooding brings with it,” Ford said at a news conference at Queen’s Park.

“We must be prepared to act, and we are.”

Ford noted that at least 10 regions in Ontario last year declared states of emergency due to flooding. He said the province prepared a flooding plan in March, and under that strategy, emergency staff are on standby to sandbag and evacuate areas as needed.

“With everything that is happening this year, it’s more critical than ever that we’re ready for this season,” Ford said.

“But despite our best efforts, we can’t stop the flooding. But what we can do is be prepared.”

Ford said Ontario is making sure that it can access federal and non-governmental resources, such as the Canadian Red Cross, to reduce the burden on local communities.

John Yakabuski, Ontario’s natural resources and forestry minister, said there is a moderate-to-high risk of flooding for northern Ontario and James and Hudson Bay coasts, where staff from the ministry are closely monitoring all major tributaries ahead of ice breakup, which is expected in early May.

As well, since April 30, surveillance flights have begun across the far North to monitor ice breakups. Operations will be based out of the ministry’s office in Moosonee field office, Yakabuski said.

Water levels are high in southern Ontario due to snow melt along the Great Lakes, he added.

“We know there’s nothing we can do to prevent flooding. We can only become better prepared for it,” Yakabuski said.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told the news conference that leaders of First Nations have expressed a desire to stay on their lands as long as it is safe to do so.

In a news release, the provincial government said some members of First Nations could be temporarily relocated to higher and safer ground in their own communities.

Yakabuski noted that fishing season, along with the turkey and bear hunts, have begun in Ontario and fishers and hunters are urged to engage physical distancing when out on the water or in the bush.

Premier irked at Canadian flag flown upside down

Ford denounced protesters who gathered on the grounds of Queen’s Park on Saturday to demand the province ends its lockdown amid COVID-19. It’s the second weekend protest one on the legislative grounds.

Last weekend, Ford called the demonstrators “a bunch of yahoos.”

This weekend, the premier stopped short of calling them names but said it irked him that the Canadian flag was being flown upside down.

“People are hurting out there and people want to get back to work. And there’s a lot of people hurting and I can appreciate it,” Ford said. “But what they are doing is putting their lives in jeopardy, as far as I am concerned, with congregating, side by side.”

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