Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong is asking for a detailed post-mortem report on how the city fared dealing with last week’s snow storm — including an answer as to why the city didn’t declare the 30-centimetre snowfall a snow emergency.
If it had, Minnan-Wong said, the city could have more aggressively towed the numerous cars that were parked so as to block streetcars moving through the downtown.
“The thing I’m concerned about the most is those stoppages on our streetcar routes,” said Minnan-Wong.
“That’s not acceptable to me and those individuals who were selfish and did that — they should be punished and fined.”
Minnan-Wong suggested that the snowfall, which dropped 30 centimetres of snow on Toronto over the course of a single day Friday, Feb. 8, might have been enough to warrant invoking Toronto’s snow emergency bylaw.
Part of the report he’s asking for will be looking into ways to beef up the bylaw, which allows the city to declare a snow emergency if more than five centimeters of snow falls and the city’s chief transportation official deems it necessary.
The bylaw was last invoked in 1999, when Mayor Mel Lastman famously called in the army to help the city dig out from under the combined accumulation of a series of walloping winter storms.
This time, city officials didn’t invoke the bylaw because the forecast indicated there would be only one storm, and it would be followed by a thaw. It allows the city to tow cars that are parked in such a way that they block snow removal efforts, and prohibit parking along streetcar routes.
Minnan-Wong said the city’s decision not to declare a snow emergency had nothing to do with the possible embarrassment of reminding the rest of the country of the time Mel Lastman called in the army.
But he did say that using the term “emergency” in the bylaw’s name did make it more provocative than it had to be.
“I think there’s some value in calling it something less than snow emergency,” he said.
“Emergency is a pretty strong word. If we could find some language that conveys the importance of keeping the streets clear without thinking we’re going to have tanks rolling through the city... I think there’s a middle ground there.”