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Toronto a 'disaster area'

Toronto city council was urged Friday to ask the Ontario government to declare Canada's largest city a "disaster area" — a move required to qualify for funding to deal with the havoc wreaked by two major storms in 2013.

The recommendation was made by city staff who advised Toronto to seek financial help from Ontario and the federal government for the storms' $171-million damage bill.

That figure included at least $106 million in damage from a vicious pre-Christmas ice storm and $65.2 million in costs related to a severe rainstorm on July 8 that flooded parts of the city.

Toronto did not declare a state of emergency during the ice storm which downed hydro lines, cut power to hundreds of thousands and stalled road and air travel for days.

The city's controversial mayor — who late last year had many of his powers stripped away from him — repeatedly said he did not see the need to declare an emergency and the province noted all aid it could provide was available whether such a declaration was made or not.

Mayor Rob Ford has since said he plans to move a motion asking Ontario and Ottawa for an initial $60 million in disaster relief aid to cope with storm-related damage.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who would have been in control had Ford declared an emergency, said the current advice to declare Toronto a disaster area is a bit of an "awkward" situation.

"But it shouldn't be a hurdle that we can't get over," he said. "This is a big bill for us and I know it's a big bill for other municipalities and if you don't ask, you may not get."

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