Ontario picks Manitoba expert as flooding adviser

The provincial government is turning to a man with decades of experience managing flooding in Manitoba to help do the same in Ontario.

Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski announced Thursday the province had appointed Doug McNeil as a special flooding adviser to review its flood management efforts and point out ways it could improve.

He will be paid up to $60,000 a year and will be expected to report back with recommendations this fall.

"This is in response to many requests from members of the public," Yakabuski said Thursday during a news conference in Constance Bay, a rural west Ottawa neighbourhoods hard-hit by flooding in April and May. "[We've been talking] about how we might take the next steps, and appointing this adviser today is our next step."

Hallie Cotnam/CBC

McNeil has worked for the City of Winnipeg and was once Manitoba's deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation. He has worked on water management issues since the 1980s.

His work has included handling the historic 1997 Red River floods and subsequent efforts to try to lessen the impact of flooding, including expanding the Red River Floodway.

McNeil retired in May as Winnipeg's chief administrative officer after a four-year term at the job that saw calls for him to resign or be suspended over the handling of a road extension project.

Yakabuski said he'd never met McNeil, whose new role will be arm's-length from the province. The comment follows recent criticism over appointments with ties to high-ranking government officials,

Giacomo Panico/CBC

Ontario has offered disaster relief money to flood victims and put together a task force to look at how it could better withstand floods in the wake of severe, record-breaking flooding in the Ottawa and Muskoka areas in May.

It's also been criticized for cutting funding to conservation authorities, which monitor water levels and forecast floods, and heard calls from some mayors to investigate the causes of Ottawa River flooding.

Yakabuski said Thursday he wrote to the Quebec and federal governments last week to ask for help setting up that independent review, since they all play a role in its management.