Opinions

Now is the winter of our driving discontent

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Ask any Calgarian about the city's non-removal of snow on the main streets and you are likely be greeted with an expression of bewilderment and a rebuttal that surely, the snow is removed. However, ask the same question of a non-Calgarian and you may find yourself signing up for the bewilderment club, when you learn, to your amazement, that snow removal in other major Canadian cities not only constitutes a dedicated section of the city budget, but that snow removal actually involves removing snow from the road's surface.

Much to my surprise, not only are the main roads in Calgary simply sanded down (to the chagrin of snow removal scholars worldwide) but residential roads are not subject to even the modest snow "treatment" that main roads receive. If you are lucky enough to make it out of your neighborhood and on to the main roads, then consider yourself among the winter-tire elite, the four-wheel drive bourgeoisie or perhaps it's just that the token few Hummers in your neighbourhood may have, in an accidentally altruistic act, compacted some of the snow for you.

So here's the scenario: you're late to (if not completely absent from) work or school after several attempts to drive, dig, drive, dig and repeat. Your elevated blood pressure and already expletive-driven opinion of Calgary infrastructure and city planning drive you (since driving as a descriptor is the only driving you can do) to dial 311. This rare act of model citizenry, simply asking for snow removal for the welfare of all, is denied. Calgary Alderman Andre Chabot is calling for a legislative review of the policy that prohibits the city from hiring private contractors to remove residential snow, due to costs. Chabot astutely recognizes that the cost of residential snow removal (or lack thereof) is simply deferred to costs of health and auto insurance claims and taxation resulting from deteriorating roads. My own bespectacled peer noted that the poor city planning and high density of rural suburban expansion only adds to the volume and intensity of the problem, and the city's refusal to respond to snow removal rally cries (emergency situations notwithstanding) is a less than adequate solution.

Last winter, as Ottawa experienced record snowfall and the city was overwhelmed by the resourcing of snow removal needs, residents were (mostly) satisfied to pay a relatively small stipend on top of regular taxes to cope with the budgetary burden of the unforeseen snow. Heck, the city of Ottawa was prepared to forego snow clearance of the Rideau Canal, in order to ensure that residential areas received priority servicing. If CEO-- pardon, Mayor-- Bronconnier could react to this citywide plea for safer, more accessible residential roads similarly, then the city could potentially resource more publicly-owned snow removal machinery, create some job contacts and demonstrate a novel feat of reactive and transparent city management. Perhaps this manner of response could prove appropriate given the environmental as well as the economic climate.

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