Montrealers keen to have safer sidewalks as city launches de-icing, snow-clearing operation

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has faced criticism over the past week over the pace and quality of snow clearing and the icy conditions on roads and sidewalks.

Mayor Valérie Plante's letter to boroughs told them to get cracking

Raymond Querel says Montreal sidewalks have been icy in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. He is one of many residents eager to see the snow and ice cleared. (Ainslie Maclellan/CBC)

Raymond Querel is not impressed with how icy the sidewalks are in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough, and he says the situation is even worse downtown.

"It's dangerous for young people and old people," he said.

Many Montrealers have been criticizing the city's efforts to keep walkways and roads clear this winter, but just as the mayor put pressure on boroughs to improve de-icing, another storm hit yesterday.

Now Montreal is launching another snow-removal operation tonight, even though the last operation isn't done yet.

Crews will be out starting at 7 p.m. to cart away the roughly 10 centimetres of snow that fell yesterday, and in some places, the remnants of last Sunday's storm.

"We're going to try to [remove] as much ice as we can over the next few days, while doing the snow-removal operation, because that's the time period we have before the next precipitation," said Craig Sauvé, associate executive committee member for citizens' services.

You may be seeing these again around more as the boroughs get a move on the snow-removal operations. (CBC)

Crews will be de-icing and scraping the sidewalks, adjusting the shovels and sending out special ice-breaking equipment to get the job done, he said. It's slower and louder to grind the ice down to the pavement, he said, but that's the aim of the new operation.

This winter has been a roller-coaster ride so far, delivering rain, snow and ice, making the situation difficult, Sauvé said, but "I think our employees did a good job."

Plante scolds borough mayors

On Tuesday, Mayor Valérie Plante  sent a letter to the 18 borough mayors, telling them to up their game when it comes to snow and ice removal.

It's a matter of security, she said.

"My expectations are very high, and I will not accept, under any circumstances, that the execution is inadequate because Montrealers are, justifiably, expecting to receive flawless, quality service," she wrote in the letter.

In a tweet, opposition leader Lionel Perez called the letter a publicity stunt.

He pointed out that on Monday, Plante defended the snow-removal operations, saying the city has been devoting as many financial and human resources to getting the job done as it can.

Montrealers reactions are mixed

Maria Ciccotti, an NDG resident, said the roads were "awful" Wednesday morning. Montreal, she said, has not been spreading enough salt or clearing the snow fast enough, making it difficult to navigate the city. 

"I have been getting stuck," she said. "I actually fell on ice twice this week."

Raymonde Gagnon also fell on the ice, breaking her arm earlier this month.

"I just slipped," she said, showing her cast to CBC. "Surprisingly, there's not that much pain — but a lot of anxiety because you have to get to the hospital, and then you wait."

When out for daily walks in the city's west end, she now takes extra care with each step and only goes out in the daytime.

Raymonde Gagnon slipped on the ice in NDG earlier this month and broke her arm, but she still heads out to walk twice a day — stepping carefully, she said. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

However, for Andrea Moore, it's all par for the course.

She said she visited Ottawa over the weekend, and the conditions were worse than they are in Montreal.

Overall, she said, the city has been doing a good job this year, and residents are able to cope with the slippery conditions.

"We make it through," she said. "We're Montrealers."

With files from Jay Turnbull and Ainslie Maclellan


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