As I mentioned Montreal was hit with a large late-winter snowstorm last week. As a city that tends to take great pride in our ability to deal with these things, this most recent storm has been a bit of an anomaly. First there was the fiasco of hundreds of people stranded on a highway for many hours behind two stuck trucks. The truck drivers refused to be towed because of the $2000 fee. They wanted to wait until their company tow-truck arrived which was not going to be any time soon.
You might wonder why these two were not arrested, taken away and their trucks towed. But that would have required the intervention of police and it seems they had wrong information and did not think the situation warranted their presence. (Yet a few days later six cars and a dozen police officers convened on the scene of a 26-year old driver who danced outside his car to cheer up his girlfriend at 2:00 am. He was also eating ice-cream. And he was Black.)
If there is an up side to the highway snafu it is that not one of those marooned in their cars took matters into his or her own hands and attempted to throttle the stubborn truck drivers. My faith in humankind remains firm.
In yet another snow related situation there has been a vast problem with Montreal’s usually efficient snow removal. Sidewalks in some areas had not been ploughed several days after the snow stopped falling. One of the contributors to this was scofflaw private snow removal contractors placing snow in public places. They would arrive at a client’s place, shovel the walkways, plough out the driveway, deposit the snow on the street and off to the next client. In my part of town contractors must pay an annual fee for a license that allows them to do this BUT there are many restrictions. They cannot put the snow where it will block traffic, nor can they put it on sidewalks. With such a huge amount of snow in no time already massive snowbanks had been transformed into walls.
The mayor of one affected borough posted a photo on Twitter illustrating the problem. An immense amount of fallen snow was exacerbated by contractors having dumped snow from driveways.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this it is that contractors in general tend to cut corners in an effort to make money. These contractors were privately hired by residents, but over the years there has been a trend to cut back municipal employees, or at least not hire more when retirements occur, using attrition to save money. The work that was once carried out by full-time employees gets farmed out to contractors – gardening, refuse collection, road work – through a bidding process. If the only thing you are concerned with is the bottom line – the bean counter method – then this is the way to go. But if the ‘bang for your buck’ approach is taken, then municipal administrators should think long and hard about what they, and their constituents, getting for the money.