Walkin’ in a Winter Blunderland

I knew coming home to a full Canadian winter would be challenging. I never expected it to be this challenging. I know I am not just a whining wimp who hasn’t had to deal with a real winter for too long, though; Ok, I am one, but I am not the only unhappy Edmontonian lately! Even people who have lived in Edmonton most or all of their lives, and who were here the whole time I was away, are frustrated not only with the weather itself, but also with the City of Edmonton’s response and the responses of a good many businesses and homeowners as well.

Let’s face it Edmonton is a winter city. If we choose to live here, we have to deal with the weather. I accepted that when I moved back. Like many Edmontonians, however, I am stunned by how badly botched the snow removal has been.  True, we have had an unusual amount of snow this winter. It snowed every single weekend for the entire month of January, and for two consecutive weekends, we had storms that lasted for days, with massive snowfall, icy temperatures and forceful winds. Also true, we have had an unusual number of unseasonably warm days that caused significant melting and turned roads into slush highways between snow events. Nonetheless, the outcomes for drivers and pedestrians have been remarkably poor. And to what do Edmontonians owe this nightmare-poor planning on the part of the City of Edmonton. The planning was so poor, in fact, that at the end of January, Mayor Mandel was forced to apologize. I’d like to start by responding to some of his specific comments.

“We need to do a better job.” Really? Do you think so? [I am holding the sarcasm sign here and shaking it vigorously.] And all this time, I thought you were doing a bang up job. Oh, wait! That banging is the sound of cars smashing into each other on icy roads that have not been properly sanded or cleared.

“Our policy failed, and that’s what we need to correct.” I’d like to know more about what the policy actually says—and why it has not been corrected well before now.

“I apologize. This should have been done better and it’s really all of our fault. This is not the graders fault. It’s our fault for not putting together the proper strategic plan for dealing with a situation like this.” Yes, it is your fault, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Like many residents, though, I want an explanation of why you didn’t do better, of why you didn’t have a strategic plan for such situations. Heavy snow in January should not come as a surprise to you. A tornado or a hurricane might come as a shock, but a blizzard—even two—should not. The city was not just suddenly picked up from a warm climate by some strange cosmic force and dropped into winter. Edmonton is a northern city, and it snows here. It’s that simple. How hard it is to plan ahead for something that always happens?!

 “We have to realize that the weather fluctuates so quickly here.” How can you not have realized this sooner? How can anyone who has lived here for even a single year not be aware that our weather is changeable in every season? Variable weather is an unwavering fact of life in Alberta, so why was this fact ignored in our planning policies? There is simply no excuse for this.

“I want to thank our citizens and apologize to them . . . for not doing the type of job should have done.” Good for you for having the guts to stand up and take the blame, but that is not enough. We deserve a better policy, and you better make sure you have one in place by next year. Oh, and by the way, city council, I think it takes unmitigated gall to turn around just weeks after this debacle and vote yourselves a raise! Your 4.5% should be returned to the coffers to replace the extra money you had to spend on snow removing this year because you didn’t plan properly!

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