Mayoral candidates really began to dig in to a subject near and dear to Edmontonians’ hearts Tuesday: snow removal.
Karen Leibovici initiated the debate, promising a program that would clear snowy sidewalks for seniors.
“It's to allow for seniors who don't have the ability to remove the snow from city sidewalks the peace of mind that we're not going to be ticketing them at the end of the day,” Leibovici explained.
Currently, residents have 48 hours to clear their sidewalks after a snowfall – or face the consequences.
However, candidate Kerry Diotte argued it is time for city crews to clear all sidewalks in Edmonton.
“It's done routinely everywhere else east from Manitoba ... I don't know why we can't do it we're a thriving city, so it's something we should certainly explore,” said Diotte, adding he had not yet priced out the cost of such a program.
This would be difficult to do given Diotte’s pledge to freeze taxes, though, rebutted candidate Don Iveson.
As part of his argument, Iveson referred to a 2011 report which stated the sidewalk clearing budget would need to increase nearly fivefold – up to $25 million every year – in order to guarantee all sidewalks were cleared after a snowfall.
“The city's struggling actually to properly look after the sidewalks we are responsible for, so expanding our snow clearing program to every sidewalk in the city is doable but it ain't gonna be cheap.”
“You could either cut some other service that Edmontonians already rely on – or you could come up with new revenue to do it,” he added. “There's no magic pot of money to pay for new things.”
Iveson said he would increase the roads and sidewalks budget by 25 per cent if elected.
However, Diotte, who was absent from council the day the 2011 report was tabled, remains optimistic the money can be found.
“If people say that they're just being lazy and that not being very inventive and we've heard that excuse far too long,” he said. “There are cost efficiencies to be found in this city and we will find them.”