January 18, 2019 4:55 pm
Updated: January 18, 2019 9:22 pm

Edmonton councillors, mayor push back after city blog post on calcium chloride

WATCH ABOVE: Days after a Global News investigation looking into the controversial use of calcium chloride as a de-icer, it appears there's a disconnect between city administrators and city council. Julia Wong explains.

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Several Edmonton city councillors say they plan to question the city’s calcium chloride program at Tuesday’s council meeting – despite a blog post from the city’s internal newsroom stating the de-icing agent is not on the agenda.

The post in the blog, called “Transforming Edmonton,” outlines the memo Global News uncovered in its investigation about the controversial chemical and how city administration will only provide a snow and ice update.

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PART 1 OF OUR INVESTIGATION: Newly uncovered City of Edmonton memo raises questions about impacts of calcium chloride

“The merits of salt and calcium chloride are not intended to be under discussion. This will be a process update only,” the blog post reads.

Councillor Michael Walters said he still plans to bring up calcium chloride at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think everybody is,” he said.

“This is a debate that requires precise information from administration and hopefully in the future that’s what we’re going to get.

“Why information was not provided to us, I think, will be the source of some discussion of council this coming week.”

This latest development comes after a Global News investigation uncovered the four-page memo, which revealed calcium chloride can be tough on city roads and infrastructure, thereby potentially adding to long-term infrastructure costs. Global News’ coverage also revealed that the June 2018 memo never made its way to city councillors before debate over the program and a decision to extend the pilot project into its second year.

The city had previously told Global News late Tuesday afternoon that snow and ice would be added to the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting.

The de-icing agent has been controversial after residents raised concerns the chemical was causing rust and corrosion on their vehicles.

PART 2 OF OUR INVESTIGATION: Edmonton councillor seeks inquiry after calcium chloride memo fails to reach city council

Walters said there are many memos that don’t often make it to council, but he said the four-page memo Global News obtained “seems to be interesting.”

“It was a contentious issue for the public,” Walters said.

“I’m not going to cast any judgment yet on why the memo didn’t come out. We’ll ask about it in a public forum at a council meeting on Tuesday.”

WATCH BELOW: More concerns are being raised about the new calcium chloride mixture Edmonton may use to tackle snow on city streets going forward. Sarah Kraus reports. (June 5, 2018) 

Councillor Jon Dziadyk said he still has not received an official copy of the memo, days after he requested one. He plans to bring the issue of calcium chloride up next week.

“I don’t see how we can speak to the merits of this product – which is effective of controlling snow and ice – I don’t see how we can discuss that without talking about the project itself and calling into question whether or not we should continue with it,” he said.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors to debate snow-removal program after Global News investigation

Dziadyk said he plans to ask why the memo was not shared earlier with councillors and why it still has not been shared after it was made public.

“I’m going to take the opportunity to ask some hard questions about it,” he said.

“I would expect to have that type of information so we can make informed decisions.”

Global News shared the blog post with Mayor Don Iveson, who then said council will discuss whatever it wants.

“I suspect council will ask whatever questions it wants. I think the ultimate question of where we’re going on this is really best resolved once we have all the results of all the evaluations of this year then council will determine whether we want to continue with this or not,” Iveson said.

Iveson gave a measured response when asked how concerned he was about the line in the blog post.

“I think administration means to report on the process but councillors, again, can – I’ll give them a broad latitude at the council meeting to ask whatever questions they want,” he said.

“It’s ultimately up to council what we do with this issue.

“Motions can come forward to re-open the pilot or re-consider, so it’s ultimately in council’s hands. Administration is providing information – council remains the decision-maker.”

READ MORE: Chemical engineer pleads with city to stop using calcium chloride on Edmonton roads

Global News asked City Manager Linda Cochrane why the blog post stated calcium chloride wouldn’t be on the agenda.

“I think when we said we would come back to council to clarify why the memo was not part of their package in the original discussion, some people thought that would re-open the discussion,” she said.

“Our intent was just to clarify just what I said, that we didn’t mean to hold anything back and here’s how we think we referenced it.”

WATCH BELOW: An Edmonton city councillor plans to put forward an inquiry over why a memo outlining the impacts of calcium chloride on concrete and asphalt was never provided to city council. Julia Wong joined the noon news to explain. (Jan. 15, 2019)

Cochrane agreed when asked whether the merits of calcium chloride was integral to the overall discussion expected next Tuesday.

“Certainly, I think they’re related. It’s more a timing agenda.

“The agenda was full before we added that on and we added that on to clarify. Our expectation is, if that issue that [Global News] raised generated a wish to discuss or re-debate the issue of calcium chloride, which it might, our recommendation would be to do that on a separate day,” she said.

Cochrane said that, while she did not know who wrote the blog, she stands by its content. However, she will not stop whatever conversations come up.

“If that’s the case and if that’s the will of council as a whole, that’s their purview for sure.”

Have a tip about this story? Email reporter Julia Wong at Julia.wong@globalnews.ca or use the form below:

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