For the past couple of months, or basically since it’s started snowing I’ve been posting on Twitter and Facebook about Calgary’s snow removal…or lack there of. If you’re not from Calgary, it’s hard to not be in disbelief in just how bad it is.  That’s because, for some reason, Calgary has never made it a priority, despite it snowing here sometimes six months a year.

I moved to Calgary 12 years ago and I’ve honestly can’t believe just how bad it is.
But it’s not just that it’s bad. It’s incredibly mean-spirited.

Calgary’s snow removal strategy is based on the idea that everyone is in perfect health, have no children, have no pre-existing injuries, is young and fully able to move without the assitance of a walker or wheelchair.

So congrats, some people in high school!  The City has based their entire snow-strategy around you!

Snow removal is not just about snow removing, it’s about giving people the access to the sidewalks and road that we pay for.  For me, this issue is all about accessibility.   I’m not in a wheelchair, but I know people who are. I’m not a new parent, but I know people who are. I’m not a senior, but guess what, we’re all going to be someday, if we’re lucky.   

And Calgary’s snow-removal plan or lack there of, leaves thousands of our most vulnerable citizens at risk of injury or feeling trapped in their homes for months on end. Making things like work and even just getting fresh air, practically impossible.

Whenever the topic of snow removal comes up, one of the first things that comes up is not wanting to spend more money. I mean, sure. No one wants to spend more money on anything, but isn’t allowing our fellow citizens to be able to get to transit or leave their homes, kinda important and maybe worth spending some money on? We can’t just paint blue squares on parking spots and think we’ve taken care of accessibility. It’s much more than that, and Calgary is falling dreadfully behind.  Just because we’ve barely spent money on accessibility in the winter before, does that mean we never can?

And that idea of Calgary not willing to invest in accessibility, is no doubt being passed on to private businesses.

And I can’t help but think that anyone that thinks we shouldn’t spend money on snow removal will instantly change their minds when it affects them. When they become a new parent who wants to walk their baby in a stroller. Or when they injure themselves and have to try and get around on crutches or a wheelchair. Just because it’s not an issue for you, doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for your fellow Calgarian.  No one falls on an icy sidewalk, injures themselves and thinks “That’s okay, I’d rather a broken leg than pay more taxes.”

And staying on the topic of money, fine, maybe we don’t spend an extra penny on snow removal, even though it’s the snowiest February on record.  Why can’t we at least look at where we are wasting money?

The City of Calgary has a seven-day snow removal program, which I don’t have to tell you, is pretty much a disaster. The snow-route ban is about as effective as when my mom tried to ground me as a kid. Which is to say, not effective at all.  The routes don’t make much sense, and then the clock completely resets if it snows another 2cms.  So even if you’re lucky enough to be on the snow removal route, but you’re Day 7, you might now see a plow for weeks or months. And what about all the streets and sidewalks that will never get serviced? Well, they just have to wait for chinooks.

Ah chinooks. Is Calgary the only city whose main strategy to deal with weather is to wait for weather?

The chinooks are fine if you want to sit on a patio and have a pint in January, but for removing weeks worth of snowfall? Not so much. One, because all they do is melt just enough snow for it to turn into ice when it dips below zero and again.

And two: What if a chinook isn’t in the forecast?

On a semi-related note, I find it funny that many who thought we shouldn’t have bike lanes because it snows in Calgary six months a year, who also don’t want to invest in snow removal because it only snows in Calgary six months a year.

For me, the problem becomes extremely apparent when it comes to using the Calgary 311 system, which City Hall would like us to use to report snow-clearing issues. Ask anyone who’s reported something on the app and the problems become hard to ignore.  The app will close files, even though the work is not complete. Or they simply don’t even acknowledge the complaint in the first place.

I was shocked a few weeks ago when I made a complaint about a crosswalk that had been filled with snow and someone responded saying that Crosswalks are the lowest priority. I’m sorry, is that an official City of Calgary policy? So having us report time and time again things that should just be done in the first place, continues to waste money that maybe just be put towards snow removal to being with.

Then there’s the actual snow removal. For one, when a plow does come, it doesn’t seem to have any regard for crosswalks or sidewalks, so then people like me end up reporting them. But thousands of Calgarians depend on sidewalks and crosswalks to live. Again, to live.

So you report a crosswalk (wasted money), then they send out a crew (wasted money), the crew clears only the part of the crosswalk that was reported without looking around at the three other crosswalks in the intersection (wasted money), so then I have to report each crosswalk individually and even if the crews come back (wasted money), they have to do it all over again when it inevitably snows (wasted money.)  It also doesn’t allow you to talk to anyone that actually closed the file, meaning that when the work isn’t done, there’s even more wasted money.

So where does the money to improve snow clearing come from? We’re already wasting it.

If you’d like to read some interesting numbers about the actual cost of snow removal in Calgary, CBC’s Robson Fletcher excellent story which breaks in all down. But the story doesn’t address my biggest concern about our snow removal, and that’s how it limits the accessibility of some of Calgary’s most vulnerable.  The City’s administration likes to scare us with big scary numbers but it doesn’t take into very important things:  We aren’t all able bodied and why does it have to be all or nothing?  What if we paid $10 million more?  Or $15 million more? What does spending more get us?  Because waiting for chinooks or being asked to just be patient, isn’t working.


The crews that do work on Calgary’s snow-removal team do not have an enviable job. They work their butts off in the cold and at all hours of the night, but they are doing the best they can, with what little they have.  Departments are not talking to each other, and in many cases, causing more work than what’s necessary. But, hardly anyone at city hall wants to talk about it.

All we can do is keep asking questions, because winter isn’t going anywhere.  As much we wish it were.


Mike Morrison


  1. its easy solution.

    STOP BLOWING THE STREETS FFS! instead spend the money on supplementing winter tires for everyone. winter tires should be half the price they currently are and pass a law that requires you to have them on from october-march.

    Absolutely no reason to waste money blowing the streets just because blow-joe in his RWD bmw with summer slicks cant get out of his driveway, instead spend the time blowing the side walks and various foot paths.

    my garage is full of salt and rocks, why? i have studded tires, i dont need that shit. destroys/rusts my car, eats up city money, and denies people walkways/paths<—– and these are the people that really need it!

    dont think im right, then move to florida where you can drive on summer slicks all year round.

  2. City of Calgary snow clearing is a joke! No other city in Canada has such terrible streets and sidewalks in the winter! Please do something to correct this ongoing situation… instead of relying on the Chinooks!!

  3. Excellent Story. The city of Calgary are stuck in a no wins situation with entitled Calgarians that don’t want an increase in their property taxes to cover decent snow removal. You see them on the news complaining about the lack of snow removal. It’s people like Rick Donkers and his “Ready to Engage” campaign that are stifling

    At the same time we’re bidding on an absolute waste of money, namely, the 2026 Olympics. I’m sure that Ken King will eventually profit from this bid via a new taxpayer funded Olympic Arena. For the sake of “ordinary Calgarians” I just wish that the Calgary Sports Entertainment Group would stop holding Calgarians hostage and leave already.

  4. Another part of this ludcirous snow “removal” system which deserves a mention in my selfish opinion is the policy of the city to do a single pass down the center of residential streets.

    Up in Cougar Ridge, right behind the ski hill, we get more than our share of snow, both natural and man made, and we work diligently to clear our driveways and sidewalks. The volume of snow often means we have to also shovel a path for our vehicles on the street at the end of the driveway to allow us to make it out onto the road.

    This winter we had the dubious honour of having a snow plow do its single pass down the center of our street, ripping up the compressed snow and thick ice in big chunks and conveniently creating a burm a few feet high along either side of the street at the end of our driveways.

    For those of us not being owners of monster trucks or CATs this mound of ice chunks and packed snow was a rock hard completely impassible wall when many of us headed out into the windy -25 morning. Whilst standing and wondering how I was going to get our car out and resigning myself to the fact shovels and picks might be involved, I witnessed first one then two of my less alert neighbours grind and ram their cars into the obstacle.

    After helping point the way for a couple folks down the sidewalk between burm and driveways I spent a solid hour and a half pounding away at the ice and basically having to reverse the handywork of the plow.

    With the help of one neighbor with a large truck we successfully broke the burm down for the nearest handful of homes, shoveled it back into the center of the street and packed it into place so that we could once again gain access to our road system.

    When I phoned to provide my opinion on the situation and to ask which moron decided to mindlessly trundle the snowplow around without any intelligent thought or intention to actually provide any assitance to city residents I was told that its standard city policy and that 311 often warns people to not request having their street plowed because it will make it worse.

    Throughout this winter Ive had the pleasure of having our street, sidewalks and driveways completely blocked by mounds of ice and snow shoved across them by the snowplow equivalent of Roombas.

    Im curious if there is any strategy or training being applied to our city’s snow removal and why we are expected to pay for an often substandard service?

  5. Mike, the city spends more for supporting the arts than it does for snow removal, if the roads manager worked for any other city in Canada, including Vancouver, he/she would be fired for the total lack of care for the roads and sidewalks.
    Best part is, not many know about this, if you get into a car accident, fall trying to cross one of the snow banks at an intersection or bus stop and can get a lawyer to take the case, there is actually case law with the supreme court of Canada, regarding the lack of proper road maintenance, the province of Ontario paid out millions of dollars to one person after it was found negligent just getting the sanders out during an ice storm, Ontario tried to say they had the prerogative to decide when to send out the sanders, but the high court stated they had a 12 hour prior knowledge of the storm coming as such they should of had the sanders on the road when the storm started, not 2 hours after. They also stated, it is the governing body responsible for the maintenance of the roadway to make sure there was adequate equipment to properly maintain the roads in a safe manner, when it came to snowfall, roads and sidewalks must be made safe for vehicles and pedestrian traffic within 48 hours of the finish of the snow fall. Our side streets have not seen a plow (Not a sander with a belly plow) or sander once this year, we are left with roads that cannot be traveled safely with any type of vehicle.

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