Hamilton

Hamilton's sidewalk snow-clearing debate will be back this summer

Hamilton city councillors have put off making a decision for another six months about clearing all of the city's sidewalks after winter storms, a move one councillor sees as a way to avoid dealing with the subject. 

The issue of the city clearing all municipal sidewalks has been to council many times

A lone walker braves the cold on Upper Paradise Road last year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton city councillors have put off making a decision for another six months about clearing all of the city's sidewalks after winter storms, a move one councillor sees as a way to avoid dealing with the subject. 

Councillors voted to revisit the issue in August, which means the city likely wouldn't see a program until early 2022. Between now and Aug. 10, city staff will report back on what other cities do, and talk to its advisory committees for seniors and people with disabilities.

The report Thursday was the 18th since 2003, but councillors still weren't ready to make a move.

"I do see it as kicking the can down the road," said Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 (central lower city) councillor, after the vote. City-led sidewalk snow clearing would give seniors, people with strollers, and others with mobility issues the ability to move freely around the city, she said.

Others said property owners clear the sidewalks faster than city-hired contractors would. They'd rather see the city crack down on property owners who don't shovel.

"I know the intentions are good, but I'm telling you the outcome is going to be drastically different," said Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 (east end). "We're literally going to punish the majority for complying."

Sidewalk snow clearing has been a long-standing debate at city hall. Right now, residents and business owners have to clear the sidewalks connected to their properties and risk a fine if they don't. The city only clears 397 kilometres of Hamilton's 2,445 kilometres of sidewalk. It costs $1.58 million a year.

Some councillors and disability advocates, notably the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, want the city to clear all the sidewalks. The city estimates it would cost $3.36 million to clear sidewalks on major streets after five centimetres of accumulation, and $5.36 million to do every urban sidewalk in Hamilton.

It's not uncommon for cities to do this. Burlington, Oakville and London, for example, clear sidewalks on major and residential streets.

The city also clears the sidewalks in Ancaster, which Ancaster residents pay for. Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said there are endless complaints, and he'd like to get rid of it.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger moved to look at the issue again in August.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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