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Oshawa, Ont. snowplow operators seeing increase in harassment

Click to play video: 'Snowplow operators seeing an increase of harassment on roadways in Oshawa'
Snowplow operators seeing an increase of harassment on roadways in Oshawa
Following the massive snowstorm last weekend, city officials say their drivers say a number of incidents while clearing the roads. One where a driver was attacked and a man was charged with assault. Frazer Snowdon has the story. – Mar 9, 2023

With another snowstorm on the horizon, the City of Oshawa, Ont., is reminding residents to be patient with city workers — including snow removal crews.

This is after crews had pushback from some homeowners, and at least one person has been charged with assault.

“Things are getting vicious out there,” says Mike Saulnier, operations director for the City of Oshawa.

Windrows are something everyone loves to hate in the winter, but over the weekend, Sauliner says some people lost their cool and blamed the snowplow operators pushing the snow.

“One of them got into it with one of our drivers and actually opened the door of our driver’s vehicle and was trying to pull him out, so they could go at it,” said Saulnier.

Saulnier says Durham Regional Police had to be called twice on Saturday. After one of the incidents, a 32-year-old man is facing charges of assault. Saulnier says there were others as well.

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“Another one didn’t want the plow to go through, and was essentially trying to halt the operation,” Saulnier says. “Opened the door and they got into it.”

In that incident, the driver’s fingers got caught in the door. On the same day, a female city worker was yelled at for blocking a roadway.

Saulnier says over the weekend there was more than 30 cm of snow in some parts of the region. He says when there’s that much snow, his crews work hard to clear it, and yes, there will be windrows.

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“We don’t measure this. Yes, there’s floater operation. We try to do our routing as efficient as possible,” Saulnier says.

“We don’t choose who gets how much on each side. It doesn’t work that way.”

He says every time there’s a snow event, it could take several hours to clear the roadways — meaning drivers are out on the road for hours.

“They are out there for 12-14 hours on the streets here. And after that, they get the privilege of going home and shovelling their own windrow.”

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Following the incident, the city put out a release asking for residents to respect front-line workers.

The statement said, in part, “In rain or shine, through sleet or snow, City of Oshawa workers are out in the community serving our residents, businesses and visitors.

“From waste collectors and snow plow operators to crossing guards, municipal by-law officers and frontline customer service staff at our facilities – your support makes all the difference to the people who serve our community.”

It went on to say any harassment or abuse towards city workers will not be tolerated. Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter says people need to be patient with the operation, adding the city is working on ways homeowners can be updated following a snow event.

“We’re taking steps at the city to make sure people understand where the plows are, when we’re going to get there,” he says.

“We understand everybody is frustrated, they are just trying to do their job. There is a process you can let people know your frustrations.”

But when it comes to the situation on the roads, it’s ice cold for some drivers, and Saulnier says it’s not because of the weather,.

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“Let’s just say my drivers are good at reading sign language, and reading lips as they are going by,” he says.

The increased tension is causing some to ask for a change.

Click to play video: 'City of Toronto warns drivers to move vehicles from snow routes'
City of Toronto warns drivers to move vehicles from snow routes

“I’ve had a discussion with senior drivers and they prefer now to work on the midnight shift,” he says.

He says during the day his drivers are often dealing with a number of issues on the street.

“The residents are giving them some sort of verbal abuse or gesture of some type.”

Police have charged 32-year-old Scott Patten with assault following one of the incidents.

The city says if people have a problem with service, they can reach out to Service Oshawa.

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