The snow hit the fan Tuesday morning, with La Presse reporting that Projet Montréal plans to change its snow removal policy for the Plateau and Ahuntsic-Cartierville (the two boroughs it holds the mayor's seat for).
Instead of paying expensive overtime and equipment charges, the borough would increase the minimum amount of snowfall before they bring in the dump trucks from 8 to 15 centimetres. They would also no longer truck away snow on weekends, instead leaving it until Monday, to save money.
Note that this applies to snow removal, not snow clearing. The plows will still push snow to the side of the street and clear the way for traffic. What this will affect is parking, which tends to get creative when there are snowbanks.
Note also that this won't apply to major thoroughfares, which are the central city's responsibility, and so probably won't apply to most places travelled by city buses.
But small residential streets that get significant snowfall on weekends might have to live with it for a day or two more.
Despite the reported non-trivial savings this move would create ($500,000 to $1 million, by Projet's estimate), the reaction has been negative (or, at least, skeptical). Tristan Péloquin did a video streeter for Cyberpresse and only found one person who thought it was a good idea. Catherine Handfield found merchants whining about how a lack of parking would affect their businesses. Even Patrick Lagacé picks up the flag of the Pro Car Party (albeit reluctantly, and with a tiny car), saying snow clearing is expensive but needs to be done.
Give it a shot
Even though I'm perhaps a little biased because I don't have a car, I'm willing to give Projet Montréal the benefit of the doubt and let them try this plan. I'm just as skeptical as the rest, in fact I have an added concern: If the idea is to save money by trucking away snow only during business hours, wouldn't that cause incredible traffic chaos? Plus, why can't truck drivers be regularly scheduled to work on weekends?
This is the first major policy initiative that Projet Montréal has come up with since the election, and unlike many of its promises during the campaign, it's a logical, conservative, money-saving idea rather than a bold vision for massive spending. If we're going to use their control of the Plateau borough as a testing ground for their eventual control of the city, we need to let them try stuff. If it fails, they can always switch it back with relatively little work.
They're talking and listening
Part of this plan that intrigues me is also how Projet is going about it. While the Tremblay regime would just declare it a fait accompli and present it to city council, backing down only under overwhelming public protest like they did the Park Ave. name change, Projet is setting up a public consultation, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at the police brotherhood office on Gilford St.
Luc Ferrandez, the Plateau mayor, has also taken to his blog to get his message out directly to the citizens, bypassing the media filter. While I don't think La Presse or other media got anything wrong here, hearing directly from a politician on his own terms can help people understand a bit more of the context and reasoning behind Projet's plan. This is a clear example of why Ferrandez was right not to shut down his blog after the election.
Even if this project fails, doing so with democratic principles and by deferring to common sense would go a long way toward showing responsible leadership on behalf of Projet Montréal.
For the sake of municipal budgets, let's hope this idea is a lot smarter than everyone thinks it is.