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Montreal snow clearing a blizzard of controversy

MONTREAL –By her own admission, Carolyn Wesley is living dangerously. She was trying to navigate the hill on Metcalfe Street by the city’s cathedral without spikes on her shoes.

“It’s bad,” she said.

Recently Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre controversially told Montreal media that “somebody didn’t do their job” in clearing the streets following the latest wave of winter weather, which came with several days’ notice.

He now has the city’s comptroller investigating how snow and ice removal operations broke down.

“Did we do what we had to do to make sure we’re protecting the citizens?” he said after a press conference at Complexe Desjardins.

“We’re not asking ourselves, ‘Okay, please give us something.’ We’re saying we want the thing and how can we get it in the fastest way?”

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Reports have circulated that a potential dispute with blue collar workers may be part of the problem, and Coderre said he will come up with a revised plan in a week.

Another potential issue lies in how the city delegates the snow removal operations — they are the responsibilities of individual boroughs.

This is part of the reason why some demerged municipalities have more efficient snow removal operations.

In Dorval, for example, “We take our own decisions,” said Mayor Edgar Rouleau, adding that financial considerations do not factor into his city’s decisions launch clearing operations — overtime is part of the city’s budget.

“When the snow falls we will do the work,” Rouleau said.

Although snow removal in Quebec has been an age-old problem, the solutions have changed over time.

Currently several municipalities are attempting to curtail their use of salt due to environmental concerns. Chateauguay, for instance, is currently analyzing the possibility of using alternatives like beet juice.

In the meantime, pedestrians remain frustrated at the street level in Montreal.

“I think they started too late cleaning the street,” said Lise Belanger, a pedestrian wearing spikes.

“I know there’s a dispute brewing between the city and its employees, but we end up paying for it.”

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