Should Canadians have to shovel snow off the sidewalk? Depends on your city

In Saskatchewan, Regina’s city council recently made headlines after two councillors proposed a by-law amendment that would officially put the onus on residents to clear sidewalks of snow.

Under the city’s current policy, residents and property owners are expected to shovel snow from sidewalks adjacent to their homes, but there are no repercussions if they don’t.

If the amendment proposed by councillors Andrew Stevens and Lori Bresciani passes, residents could face fines for not clearing sidewalk snow within a certain timeframe. The motion will be read at a city council meeting on Feb. 26.

The amendment states 257 kilometres of sidewalk in Regina are not being cleared, either by residents or by the city, and suggests the issue should be addressed by both sides.

“It’s not reasonable to expect the City of Regina, or any city for that matter, to clear snow from over 1,600 kilometres of sidewalk,”  Stevens said in a statement on his website, pointing to Saskatoon as an example of a city that enforces a snow-clearing bylaw.

“Residents shoulder some of the responsibility.”

Stevens listed concern for community members who rely on clear sidewalks — like parents with strollers and people with mobility struggles — as another driving force for the amendment.

“The main reason we’re bringing this forward is hearing the concerns of residents who confront mobility challenges and in some cases are forced to remain in-doors when neighbours don’t bother to clear their sidewalks,” Stevens said on his website.

“I think we can do better as a community.”

Just as people have their own methods for surviving the sometimes dark days of winter, Canadian cities each have their own policies for clearing winter’s bounty — snow — from city sidewalks.

Here’s how nine other snowy Canadian cities deal with their sidewalk snow, from sending out a fleet of pint-sized sidewalk plows, to making tenants and property owners do it, to a combination of both.

Sidewalk plow busy at work.

The city clears sidewalks 

  • In Winnipeg, Manitoba, where 110 centimetres of snow falls every year, the city plows the sidewalks.
  • In Ottawa, Ontario, where 235 centimetres of snow falls each winter, the city clears the sidewalks.
  • Montreal, Quebec gets 220 centimetres of snow and is another place where the city plows the sidewalks, prioritizing main arterial roads.
  • One of British Columbia’s snowiest cities, Prince George gets 216 centimetres of snow each winter. The city keeps the sidewalks clear.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick gets 350 centimetres of snow each year, and the city plows the sidewalks, prioritizing sidewalks along downtown arterial roads and near schools.
  • More than 175 centimetres of snow falls in Halifax, Nova Scotia every year, and the city plows its sidewalks.

The city and residents clear sidewalks

  • About 125 centimetres of snow falls in Toronto each winter.
    The city plows sidewalks along bus routes and roads with high pedestrian traffic, but mostly requires residents and property owners to do it.
  • In St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, residents and property owners on certain downtown streets have to clear bordering sidewalks if snowfall amounts to less
    than five centimetres. Outside of downtown, the city clears most sidewalks.
  • Calgary, Alberta gets 126 centimetres of snow each winter. The city plows some sidewalks in high-traffic areas, but mostly requires residents to clear sidewalks bordering their property.