The cost of shoveling snow, or rather, of not shoveling snow

By Nenad Tomanic

It appears that no one is more burdened by the weight of the recent heavy snowfalls as our city council and, more specifically, our bylaw chief Bill Bruce. Over the past three months, Bruce and his department have dealt with just over 10,000 complaints from citizens about their neighbours leaving snow and ice unshoveled from city sidewalks. If that neighbour of yours (the one you’ve said a total of three words to) decides to complain to the council about that snow on your sidewalk, a bylaw officer is sent to your house to give you a warning and threaten you with a fine should you mess up again. Doing this is costly and Bruce told the Calgary Herald, “We’re spending quite a lot of money having very expensive officers go and remind them [offenders] again.”

Just exactly what he means by “expensive officers” is unclear. Perhaps bylaw officers are overpaid and their wages need some attention, but that is beside the point. The point is people feel unsafe walking on some unshoveled sidewalks in the city and council is disappointed in us for not doing our part. In fact, the city has issued a new bylaw that increases the fine for unshoveled snow to a total of $400. This will consist of the current $150 fine (the one that you are charged after the city sends a crew to clear the snow for you) and another $250 fine, to pay for those expensive bylaw officers, no doubt. It should be noted that the latter fine was decreased from Bruce’s suggested $350 after the rest of the council considered it a tad overzealous.

This is bold action coming from a council that refuses to clear snow from any residential street. Our municipal government, to this day, claims that clearing regular roads would be logistically unfeasible. A citizen has to wonder how many complaints the city gets about uncleared residential streets. After all, as the council has made clear, it only takes one per cent of the city population (the above-mentioned 10,000 people) to be dissatisfied with something in order for our council to take immediate action to impose a system of financial penalties on the remaining 99 per cent of the population. Perhaps this issue is not something that ought to be on top of our government’s priority list.

I pondered a few solutions to this white crisis and I’ve come up with some suggestions that range from my favourite to the most reasonable. The first (my favourite) need only be expressed in two words: heated roads. Let’s put those wind turbines to good use by installing electric coils in all our roads to heat them and melt snow upon contact, eliminating this problem all together. Should this prove to be too troublesome (and costly), our city could lay off some of those expensive bylaw officers and buy more snow removers to clear streets and sidewalks. The most reasonable solution would be to keep the government out of this entirely. It’s time to walk on over to our neighbour’s home and engage in some civil conversation while politely requesting that he or she clear that dangerous ice or snow from their sidewalk so that we may all enjoy the increased traction of concrete.

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