Ottawa—Today, Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard released a report on urban snow clearing and Winter Maintenance Operations (WMO) in the City of Ottawa. The report is informed by staff information and resident feedback presented at the 2019 Information Session on Urban Snow Clearance, which was hosted by the offices of Councillor Menard, Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney, Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper, Rideau-Vanier Ward Councillor Mathieu Fleury and Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward (which was without a councillor at the time).
The report is released in anticipation of the city’s review of it’s Winter Quality Maintenance Standards (WQMS). The city’s WMQS have not been updated since 2003, and the inadequacy of these standards were fully exposed in the winter of 2018-2019.
With the pressures of population growth and intensification, and the ever-increasing effects of climate change, it is imperative that new winter maintenance standards are forward-looking, seeking to foster winter mobility and active, sustainable lifestyles.
The report lays out five principles upon which the city’s Winter Quality Maintenance Standards should be based:
- Accessibility: WMQS and WMO should be structured to ensure our city remains accessible to residents with mobility issues. Sidewalks, crosswalks, pathways and bus stops must be sufficiently cleared and maintained so that all residents can access them.
- Equity: City operations must be modernized so that they are equitable. Decisions must be made as to which sidewalks, bicycle lanes, pathways, laneways and roads get priority snow clearance, but those decisions must be made in a way that residents are treated equitably, regardless of gender, age, income level or mode of transportation.
- Sustainability: Our current WMO foster and encourage car dependence, as roads—even those without bus routes—are given a higher level of service than sidewalks, bicycle lanes and pathways. As the city has recently declared a climate emergency and will be seeking to reduce or eliminate our contribution to climate change, city operations must support and encourage efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Further, operations should be conducted in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. This includes using less salt and incorporating more electric vehicles into the city fleet.
- Climate Change Resiliency: The city and residents understand that anthropomorphic climate change has drastically and irreparably changed Ottawa weather patterns. Paradoxically, unpredictability is now predictable. We cannot expect winter seasons to reflect past winter weather, and our WMO must be prepared to change and adapt with this new reality. Sufficient resources, quicker response times and service delivery flexibility must underpin changes to the WMQS.
- A Healthy and Livable City: Ottawa is going through a transformation. The need to create a healthier and more livable city is acknowledged in recent changes to city planning and policies. This new dedication cannot be confined to just three seasons a year. Residents need to be able to get outside, be active, avoid social isolation and live in community with other Ottawans throughout the entire year. Winter Maintenance Operations must allow for active lifestyles and vibrant communities.
Menard says that following the review of the WMQS, city snow clearing efforts must be directed to ensure winter mobility for all residents. This includes better priority for sidewalks, better access to transit and a fully-maintained winter bicycle network.
The updated standards should reflect the existential risk of Climate Change and reinforce the city’s efforts to create a more sustainable city. Winter Maintenance Operations should allow Ottawa to be a vibrant, healthy winter city.
“The current WMQS are a relic of 20th Century thinking,” argues Councillor Menard. “We know better now. We have a growing population and a new climate reality. Ottawa needs to be resilient, active and healthy, particularly in the winter. I hope residents will be engaged in the upcoming modernization of our snow clearing standards”.
Click here to download the report [PDF].