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In Toronto, aid to flow even without emergency declaration

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Mayor Rob Ford stand together at Sunday’s news conference discussing the ice storm.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

In the aftermath of a severe ice storm that crippled large swaths of the GTA and left hundreds of thousands without power, the City of Toronto will receive aid from the government of Ontario regardless of whether Mayor Rob Ford declares a state of emergency.

City council limited Mr. Ford's powers last month – freezing the standing committee and deputy mayor positions, and delegating the mayor's powers in an emergency situation to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly – amid a revelation the mayor used crack cocaine and allegations of misbehaviour while in office.

That leaves Mr. Ford to make a decision that would strip away more of his powers, but the deputy mayor says an emergency declaration won't be needed to obtain assistance. "It was decided that the help's going to come anyway," Mr. Kelly said in an interview Sunday. He said that the decision arose through discussions during the day between senior emergency staff with the province and the city.

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Mr. Kelly joined Mayor Ford at the podium earlier in the day when the mayor briefed the public at a news conference. Mr. Ford called the weather disaster "one of the worst storms in Toronto's history." But it wasn't long before Mr. Ford, Mr. Kelly and high-level city staff were fielding questions about just who, exactly, is in charge.

Yet it remains the mayor's decision as to whether a state of emergency will be declared, setting up a potential impasse if the mayor chooses not to make a decision that would effectively remove him from the equation.

As to what determines whether a state of emergency should be declared, Mr. Kelly said, "There's no hard and set rules for this." He said he did not think the question had impeded the city's response to the storm.

Calls to the mayor's office were not immediately returned.

Help from the province could take the form of direct support from the Ontario Provincial Police, crews to help with the cleanup after the storm and other forms of technical support. Mr. Kelly said he was not aware of any financial implications for the city if a state of emergency was not officially declared. At the news briefing, Mr. Ford said the picture appeared to improve as he drove from his Etobicoke home into downtown Toronto, but said the hardest hit areas could be looking at several days without power.

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