The anniversary of Mel Lastman calling in the Canadian Army for snow removal

Randi Mann
·2 min read
The anniversary of Mel Lastman calling in the Canadian Army for snow removal
The anniversary of Mel Lastman calling in the Canadian Army for snow removal
The anniversary of Mel Lastman calling in the Canadian Army for snow removal

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"Tonight, the army moves in. Another blizzard hits southern Ontario, and Toronto just can't cope," reported CBC's The National on January 14, 1999.

On Saturday, Jan. 2, 1999, Toronto was hit by a heavy storm that made its way north from the U.S. The storm consisted of substantial snowfall, freezing temperatures and aggressive winds.

A total of 40 cm of snowfall accumulated in Toronto.

chinatown
chinatown

The next weekend, Toronto still hadn't fully recovered from the storm when another round of snow fell on the city. And a few days after that, Toronto received another extreme snowfall.

On Jan. 14, a CBC reporter said that Toronto had already received more than 100 cm of snow and more was coming, adding that this could be "the snowiest January in 200 years."

people in snow
people in snow

So, Mel Lastman, the city's mayor, decided to call in the Canadian Army to help with snow removal.

During an interview with The National, Lastman told Peter Mansbridge that his biggest concern was that "when the snow melts, which could be on the weekend, we could have a lot of flooding."

The army was called to assist with cleaning the catch basins and shovelling around fire hydrants. Lastman also appreciated the capabilities of the Bison armoured vehicles. He's quoted saying that "They're fantastic, those things go where no car can go."

By Jan. 15, 1999, Lastman called off the army's services as he was sure the worst was over.

Lastman visited the army at the Downsview base. He met the troops and had "a little fun," taking a ride in a Bison armoured vehicle.

Mel Lastman
Mel Lastman

Lastman received national attention for calling in the army for snow removal. The Mayor, and Toronto, were ridiculed by other provinces for the aggressive reaction to the snowfall.

In a 2019 interview with The National Post, Lastman said he "was in a taxi the other day. The taxi driver says, “I came the year you brought in the army!” It was really funny. It happens to me all the time now."

It seems like calling in the Canadian Army for shovelling duties endures as Lastman's mayoral legacy.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.