Pass the Salt: The politics of snow


“Now is the winter of our discontent.” – W. Shakespeare

While doing talk radio I came to understand the things that irritate the citizenry on a visceral level. Topping the list are garbage collection and snow removal. Two functions the city provides felt directly and immediately. Some of the most lively debates surrounded the transparency of garbage bags. Really.

Snow removal brings everyone together. If streets and sidewalks aren’t cleared quickly and efficiently a fury is unleashed usually reserved for animal abusers and able bodied people who park in handicap zones.

The question is, what is quickly? Politicians are keenly aware of the wrath of the citizenry when their driveway is plowed in, the bus stop is a snowbank, the sidewalk isn’t t cleared and salted and god forbid if the corner crossing isn’t open.

Lousy snow removal in a Canadian city is tantamount to treason. This is Canada dammit. Why don’t those idiots running the city know how to deal with a simple now storm?

Fact is, they do. Things are done much more quickly these days. Remember when cities were paralyzed for days by this stuff.

The problem is, as a population we just don’t have much patience anymore. We drum our fingers waiting for the 3 minute popcorn, grind our teeth because a YouTube video is buffering, bitch about being stuck in tracffic (for 5 or 10 minutes in HRM…talk to someone who drives the Gardiner daily) and when it comes to having our streets cleared, when that last flake is falling, the salt spreaders better be rolling up our street.

Yes there were some problems earlier this week. HRM has taken over snow removal on sidewalks. It was a crappy, snotty mess on the roads and the combination of melting and freezing caused alot of ice. Should they have been spreading salt, probably. Were they prepared for mother nature to act as a giant Zamboni, probably not. Shit happens.

My pal Tim Bousquet from the Coast fell and broke his wrist as the result of ice near Gottingen and North Street. His subsequent article, Sidewalks of Shame is a severe indictment of the ice removal efforts (His comment “Balance is bullshit” in a recent journalism piece by Neal Ozano brought to life). I sympathize with Tim, he’s from California.

Complaining about snow removal is not unique to Halifax. People across our great nation have similar stories to tell about incompetence in getting rid of snow at almost all levels of government. Only the feds seem to come away unscathed on this front as they have people working 24/7 to keep the skateway open on the Rideau Canal. And it’s still kind of bumpy in places.

Perhaps we believe that technology should be able to solve all the problems mother nature flings at us. Urban dewellers see the forces of nature as mere impediments to all the really important things in life, like the buses running on schedule, the street lights working, pizzas being delivered and yes…the immediate removal of all natural impediments to mobility.

Folks in the country seem to have a healthier respect for the forces of winter. Often, when there’s a bad snow storm, like the one I’m looking at out the window, they’ll wait until it ends and then assess what to do with the resultant mess. They realize the road might not get plowed for a while, they might not be able to use the sidewalk for a bit and it might be a good idea to hunker down. With Canaian winters, patience is a virtue.

As for the politicians, they will likely listen to the grumbling, roll their eyes and realize snow removal is unlikely to cause them any problem at the polls. People don’t vote on issues around snow removal or remember them much beyond the time the crocuses appear. It’s just something we put up with and will as long as we carry a Canadian passport.

When it comes to dealing with winter,  take a deep breath and realize, yes we live in Canada, sometimes it’s hard to get around in the winter and everyone is trying to cope with this the best they can.

Why our ancestors decided to settle in this climate, well that’s another question.


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  • What I truly don’t understand about snow Removal in the HRM is the shock over the quality of the service. The HRM has taken the task of removing snow from sidewalks with the wrong equipment. . I can say with great confidence that there is no other place in Atlantic Canada with the amount of complaints over snow removal . Why does the HRM staff get advice on what other urban areas are doing right and adopt the observed differences . In New Glasgow and Stellarton we have dedicated sidewalk plows complete with salt dispensing trailers. Saint John New Brunswick uses the same set up and Saint John I am sure has the same conditions as Halifax during storms.

  • Those bloody ancestors.

  • The other side of it is that there is the expection that people are expected to show up for work. That is regardless of whether it is snowing out. Of course if a person has managed to secure a teaching job in which school is cancelled for a flake of snow they can be patient. Otherwise everyone else is expected to be at work. If we are expected to be at work then the roads need to be in a state in which travelling to work is not an exercise in fear. So add everyone having to travel to get to work with I think is shoddy snow maintenance, it is a recipe for disaster.

  • Winter Diary
    August 12: Moved to our new home in Nova Scotia.It is so beautiful here. The hills are so majestic. Can hardly wait to see snow covering them.
    October 14: Nova Scotia is the most beautiful place on earth. The leaves are turned all the colors and shades of red and orange. Went for a ride through the beautiful hills and valley’s and saw some deer. They are so graceful. Certainly they are the most wonderful animal on earth. This must be paradise. I love it here.
    November 11: Deer season will start soon. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill such a gorgeous creature. Hope it will snow soon. I love it here.
    December 2: It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed with white. It looks like a postcard. We went outside and cleaned the snow off the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snow ball fight (I won), and when the snow-plow came by, we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. I love Nova Scotia
    December 12: More snow last night. I love it. The snow-plow did his trick again to the driveway. I love it here.
    December 19: More snow last night. Couldn’t get out of the driveway to get to work. I am exhausted from shoveling. Fucking snow-plow.
    December 22: More of that white shit fell last night. I’ve got blisters on my hands from shoveling. I think the snow-plow hides around the curve and waits until I’m done shoveling the driveway. Asshole!
    December 25: Merry Fucking Christmas. More friggen snow. If I ever get my hands on that son-of-a-bitch who drives the snow-plow I swear I’ll kill the bastard. Don’t know why they don’t use more salt on the roads to melt the fucking ice.
    December 27: More white shit last night. Been inside for three days except for shoveling out the driveway after that snow-plow goes through every time. Can’t go anywhere, car’s stuck in a mountain of white shit. The weatherman says to expect another 10 inches of the shit again tonight. Do you know how many shovels full of snow 10 inches is?
    December 28: The fucking weatherman was wrong. We got 34 inches of that shit this time. At this rate it won’t melt before the summer. The snow-plow got stuck up in the road and that bastard came to the door and asked to borrow my shovel. After I told him I had broken six shovels already shoveling all the shit he pushed into the driveway, I broke my last one over his fucking head.
    January 4: Finally got out of the house today. Went to the store to get food and on the way back a damned deer ran in front of the car and I hit it. Did about $3,000 damage to the car. Those fucking beasts should be killed. Wish the hunters had killed them all last November.
    May 3: Took the car to the garage in town. Would you believe the thing is rusting out from that fucking salt they put all over the roads.
    May 10: Moved to Australia. I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would ever live in that god-forsaken province of Nova Scotia.Then again…!!!

  • I see what’s going on here. Jordi has obviously purchased a plow for his Jeep and is seeking lucrative HRM plowing contracts to make ends meet. This explains his refusal to be critical and risk being black balled.

  • “Folks in the country seem to have a healthier respect for the forces of winter. Often, when there is a bad snow storm, like the one I’m looking at out the window, they will wait til it ends and thassess what to do with the resultant situation. They realize the road might not get plowed for a while, they might not be able to use the sidewalk for a bit and it might be a good idea to hunker down. Patience is a virtue.”…..couldn’t be truer….enjoy your writings!!!

  • Why was it necessary for the government to take on responsibility of clearing sidewalks?? With the building owners doing it, at least there was repercussions for a poorly cleared sidewalks, fines would be issued etc. Now that the government is clearing them there is really no recourse. Capital Health has stated yesterday that 85 people have been to their emergency rooms for falling on the slippery roads in the past week, it would be interesting to see what the cost of that was!

    • Ahhhh…good old statistics to make a point !

      Now, quick question, how many did Capital Health say come into emergency rooms on average with a similar event??

      Oh, that’s right, no one knows as “context” is a lovely thing, but in this case, context may have taken the shine off of the sensational number of 85….yikes…scary stuff.

      So, before we start spouting out statistics to highlight a point, let’s put things in context first!

  • When it snows a lot I happily work from home and wait for things to clear. I have never had an issue with snow removal because of this. I know I am lucky I can do that but still, it’s winter. There will be snow, and there will be ice. But will we find patience?


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