Would Toronto really call the army to clean up after snow storm, again?

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

Cue the Mel Lastman jokes, Toronto could be calling in the military to help with another snowstorm.

The Globe and Mail reports that Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly is "exploring" whether to call in the army to assist with the city's extensive clean up, following a powerful ice storm that hit the city shortly before Christmas.

The storm shut down power for as many as 300,000 residents, toppled trees and left some road impassable. The city said on Thursday that cleanup will cost approximately $75 million and last up to eight weeks.

Toronto has, of course, called the army for help before. In 1999, then-mayor Mel Lastmas called in military support to respond to a heavy snowstorm. The measure was chided, and continues to be mocked, in other parts of the country as overly extreme.

Now, every time the city faces a noticeable amount of snow, the jokes come and the teasing begins.

Before calling in the army to help with Toronto cleanup, might be useful to make sure they have parkas. I've heard stories ...

— CC (@canadiancynic) January 3, 2014

Kelly told the Globe that the idea of calling the army was considered early in the ice storm but was "was met with guffaws because people remember Mel Lastman moving around town in an armoured carrier."

It should be noted that Kelly was a Scarborough councillor in 1999, so he surely remembers both the storm that prompted the call and the fallout. If he thinks this ice storm damage is worth risking another round of the latter, perhaps it is worth considering.

The city is still reeling from the pre-Christmas storm. And while Mayor Rob Ford did not declare a state of emergency, it surely counts as one.

Optics aside, what it really comes down to is a question of manpower. Six-hundred city workers are expected to work 12-hour days, seven days a week for up to next eight weeks to cleanup damage across the city.

That's a breakneck pace for the collection of city staff and contractors.

In the end, however, one suspects the city with take care of this without the army's help. Its reputation has taken a bit of a hit lately, it wouldn't be ideal to add to that.

And with the worst of the storm recovery behind Toronto, it's just a matter of putting in the work.