Ottawa needs 'paradigm shift' on snow removal, councillor says

A new report by an urban city councillor suggests snow removal needs to better reflect the needs of residents who walk, take public transit or bike in Ottawa.

Coun. Shawn Menard's office, which prepared the report ahead of a city-led review, said the quality of last year's snow removal and current winter maintenance quality standards are unacceptable.

The standards haven't been updated since 2003.

"Winter maintenance operations, much like the city in general, requires a significant paradigm shift," the report said.

The conclusions are based on a forum with people in Capital ward, which includes the Glebe and Old Ottawas South and East, in March 2019 and input from other central Ottawa councillors.

In an interview with CBC Radio's All in a Day Wednesday, Menard said better sidewalk and path snow clearing is desperately needed, even with new ice-crushing equipment and all-day, all-night schedules

Andrew Foote/CBC

"Staff have changed a little bit this year to try and prioritize more of a 24-hour snow clearing of our sidewalks, but in many cases you're not getting that bare-pavement standard that you would want where there's a lot of walking," he said.

A consultant is expected to begin a review into the city's snow-clearing standards this spring which could lead to changes by the 2022-23 winter season, if not earlier.

Any changes Ottawa makes to its winter maintenance quality standards should keep in mind several principles, including accessibility, equity between modes of transport and environmental concerns, Menard's report said. 

It also mentions climate change may lead to more severe winter weather, such as heavier snowfall or more freezing rain days.

"Our [winter maintenance operations] must be prepared to change and adapt to this new reality," the report said.

"Sufficient resources, quicker response times and service delivery flexibility must underpin changes to the [winter maintenance quality standards]."

Menard's report said residents would like to see the city do a better job clearing catch basins of snow and ice, prioritize snow removal on narrow streets, consider the use of electric snow removal equipment and look at more environmentally-friendly alternatives to road salt.