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Ontario premier working with deputy, not mayor, on ice storm recovery

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly speaks to the media as Mayor Rob Ford stands in the background at a news conference after an ice storm left over 250,000 customers across the city without power on Sunday, December 22, 2013.


Premier Kathleen Wynne said today that she hasn't spoken to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford since the ice storm hit the city late Saturday, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without electricity and heat.

Instead, at a Tuesday morning press conference meant to provide an update on power restoration efforts throughout Ontario, Ms. Wynne said she has been in discussion with Toronto City Hall "decision-makers," including Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

After recent revelations about Mr. Ford's drug use and behaviour, Toronto city council voted to strip him of certain powers and hand them to Mr. Kelly. That has raised questions about who is co-ordinating the city's storm response.

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Calling a state of emergency has been an item of contention at City Hall, with Mr. Ford vowing that the city did not need to ask for formal help from the province. Other councillors, including Josh Colle and Mike Del Grande, questioned the mayor's decision. Because Mr. Ford has been stripped of many of his powers, if a state of emergency is called, mayoral duties would fall to Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly stood behind Mr. Ford throughout a news conference earlier Tuesday morning, but did not answer any questions. It has been reported that Mr. Ford had not been communicating with his deputy mayor throughout the storm's relief efforts.

"I have spoken with Deputy Mayor Kelly, and our officials are in regular communication – constant communication, I would say," Ms. Wynne said.

Ontario's premier stressed that internal politics at City Hall have had "no bearing on the province's ability to work with officials in the city."

"I have said consistently that we are dealing with the decision makers at City Hall," she said. "I'm doing my job in terms of making sure the information I'm getting is being coordinated and we are playing the role that the province has a responsibility to play. And my officials are in touch with the city on a constant basis, as they are with other municipalities. So I'll continue to work with the people who are making decisions at city hall."

Ms. Wynne also said that although municipalities, including Toronto, did not declare an official state of emergency, all resources the province has have been made available.

"They're being made available to municipalities, and they are being mobilized, including to the City of Toronto, even without a formal declaration of emergency," Ms. Wynne said.

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With files from Josh Wingrove.

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