A task force promised to towns in Muskoka by Premier Doug Ford has been made a reality.

Last week while touring Muskoka, Ford, who has cottage property in the area, made a promise that a task force would be set up and that the mayors of municipalities affected by flooding would have a seat at the table.

This followed a meeting with Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding, who had been critical of the Muskoka Watershed Management plan, saying it was based on decades-old flood data.

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen first-hand the devastating effects of flooding on our communities,” said a written statement from Ford and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski about the creation of the task force. “The people of Ontario can’t go through this every year. Something needs to change.”

“Our number one priority is the safety of the public and the protection of our communities,” the statement continues. “We want to assure the people of Ontario that our government is taking action to better plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.”

Representatives from Muskoka, Pembroke and the Ottawa Valley will be part of the consultation process.

Official Opposition NDP Environment and Sustainability critic Ian Arthur said a review of flood management in Ontario should begin with Ford undoing the damage his government has done to the environment by cutting flood management programs.

“Any review of flood management in Ontario should begin with undoing the damage done by the Ford Conservatives,” Arthur said. “Doug Ford has cut funding to flood management programs by half and forced Conservation Authorities to do more with so much less in the years to come. He cancelled a program to plant 50 million trees, a proven tactic to control soil erosion and reduce flooding.

“The Ford Conservatives set Ontario back decades in the fight against climate change by cancelling a cap-and-trade market program, eliminating energy conservation programs, and spending tens of millions of dollars to go to battle against environmental protection strategies. It’s time for Ford to get serious about the impacts of climate change, and support Andrea Horwath’s motion to declare a climate emergency in Ontario.”