A snow plow on Uplands Drive on Dec. 24. (News Bulletin file photo)

A snow plow on Uplands Drive on Dec. 24. (News Bulletin file photo)

Editorial: Snow plowing raises questions about spending priorities

Readers in Nanaimo make complaints, pass along compliments

Today’s Beefs & Bouquets section, the first of the new year, is bouquets only, keeping with tradition. But we can promise that there are a whole bunch of beefs waiting to be published – as well as some bouquets – related to plowing and shovelling of Nanaimo’s roads and sidewalks during last week’s snowfall.

Anytime balmy Nanaimo gets any kind of snowfall that’s out of the ordinary, it’s a talking point. There are invariably complaints about the promptness of plowing, the prioritizing of plow routes, the lack of bylaw enforcement around clearing sidewalks, and concerns about safety. Along with the complaints come compliments, to plow drivers working at all hours and to good neighbours shovelling more than their share.

As of press time, we were still waiting for context from Environment Canada about the snow accumulations, but we’re pretty sure last week’s weather was extraordinary. The freezing temperatures meant the snow didn’t melt, layers of ice and snow built up, and it was hard for plows and shovels to scrape their way to bare pavement.

The roads were bad, plowing was insufficient, sidewalks weren’t navigable – for a stretch of days. So, what should our expectations be? The City of Nanaimo budgets nearly $1 million for snow and ice removal, and sometimes it goes over budget in a given year, sometimes under budget.

Most of the time in Nanaimo, snow in the morning is slush by the evening. Would residents support, through property taxes, greater investment in snow and ice removal in a city that’s rarely a winter wonderland?

There probably isn’t one right answer. Safety should be the first priority, of course, but even then, not at any cost. On the other hand, streets, sidewalks and services must be accessible to all. We should avoid venturing out if it isn’t safe, but we can’t come to a standstill.

About the best we can do is make ourselves heard about what we think the balance should be between spending and safety when it snows. So make complaints and give kudos while together, we find a way to make it through another winter.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo tackling road clearing and garbage pickup after heavy snowfall


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