Fines for Calgary's snow-shovelling scofflaws won't hit for a year

City council might want to get tough with Calgarians who refuse to shovel their snowy sidewalks — but the pinch won't actually be felt for another year.

Last summer, council approved $250 fines for people who do not clear their walks.

That would come on top of the $150 to $200 charge if the city dispatches a work crew to do the work.

However, no fines will actually be handed out this winter.

The city's bylaw services will focus on education before any tickets are written up.

The city's community standards manager Damien Cole said they don't want anyone to be able to say they didn't know the fines were coming.

"The practice for this winter will be no different from any other winter," said Cole.

"We will still have contractors going out and there will be a charge for that contractor going out if the sidewalk hasn't been cleared after 24 hours." 

Escalating fines

Council authorized fines of $250 for a first offence, with $500 for a second ticket and $750 for a third.

Cole said if a property owner continues to refuse to clean the snow after that, subsequent offences can result in a mandatory court appearance.

Given the change, he said they'd decided public education is a key part of changing behaviour.

"It is a drastic change from the way we've done operations in the past," he said.

John Gibson/CBC

The education will happen through the media but also by sending letters and leaving door-hanger notices at individual properties.

The issue took on greater prominence during the heavier-than-average snowfall in Calgary last winter.

Cole said the city received 17,000 complaints last winter and contractors were sent out to clear snow at 4,000 properties. He said that was about double the number of calls for an average year.

A matter of public safety

It became a concern for council because it was a question of public safety and also accessibility for people with mobility issues.

"Our job is to try and keep the public safe and with the extra fine on top of a city crew going out, we're hoping that this focuses people's minds on how dangerous it can be to have a sidewalk that is covered in ice for longer than that 24-hour period," said Cole.

The education-first strategy means tickets will not be handed out until the final months of 2019.

In addition to fines, city council is also putting more money into clearing snow from its sidewalks.

Council approves a budget increase of $9.5 million as well a new strategy that prioritizes popular pathways and wheelchair ramps for the attention of work crews.

There are approximately 5,700 kilometres of sidewalks in Calgary. The city is responsible for clearing about 10 per cent of them with the rest being left to adjacent property owners to keep clear of snow.