« We need to find some concrete solution, » said Jean Saint-Pierre, Boisés Est spokesman, during a November 30 presentation to the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR).
The windstorm, also known as a derecho because of the severity and intensity of its high winds, blew through both Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec over the May long weekend this year, leaving a swathe of destruction in its wake with downed and broken power lines, trees toppled onto roads, and damaging farm buildings and houses in many rural areas of the two provinces.
In some parts of Ontario and Quebec the storm cleanup continues as private landowners determine how to remove fallen trees and, in the case of many woodlot owners, look at replanting their lands to try and raise a new generation of trees for their forestry operations.
The Ford provincial government promised disaster aid funding in the aftermath of the storm. But Saint-Pierre told UCPR council that efforts by Boisés Est to confirm funding help for its members in cleaning up and replanting the trees on their properties has resulted in a lack of response from Queen’s Park. Boisés Est also contacted newly-elected Progressive Conservative MPP Stéphane Sarrazin. He told Saint-Pierre and other representatives of the group that he had made inquiries and indicated that the local woodlot owners may not qualify for aid under the provincial government’s disaster relief program.
« We gave them (province) an ultimatum, » said Saint-Pierre during a previous interview on the situation, adding that both the provincial and federal government should state in clear terms whether or not they will provide aid to both Boisés Est members and other private landowners who suffered serious property damage to their holdings.
In his presentation Saint-Pierre also noted that some local beekeepers suffered damage from the derecho. The storm damaged hives and in some cases ruined flowered areas where bees would go to collect nectar for honey.
Saint-Pierre asked UCPR council to consider providing $75,000 in support funding to help begin a cleanup and replantation program for woodlots that suffered damaged from the windstorm.
Several mayors on UCPR council expressed sympathy for the problem that Boisés Est members and other private landowners face. But other mayors expressed concern that if the UCPR public tax money was used to assist private landowners it could create a precedent and potential problems for present and future UCPR councils. Other private sector outfits within the Prescott-Russell region might argue that they should be able to get the counties to provide them with financial aid.
Following further discussion council voted to approve a resolution asking Boisés Est to file a formal application for its financial aid request. UCPR council can then have administration review the request and determine the legal implications for a detailed report to UCPR council in the new year.