Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

From left, Andrew Friesen, 17, Tyler Mitchell, 18, and Levi Friesen, 19, play hockey on the icy street near East 43rd Avenue and St. George Street in Vancouver on Tuesday. The city has used 7,000 tonnes of salt this year, compared with 1,000 in the previous two.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

More than 300 city employees in Vancouver have been commandeered from other jobs to help with salting and sanding roads, as well as picking up garbage and ticketing people for failing to shovel sidewalks, as the region enters its fourth week of an unusually cold and snowy winter.

That's the most extreme response in the Lower Mainland, where staff and politicians from Port Coquitlam to Surrey acknowledge that this has been a particularly difficult year because of alternating freezing and thawing that has turned many roads and sidewalks into sheets of ice.

Temperatures are forecast to hover around zero for the rest of the week.

Story continues below advertisement

Social media and complaint lines in various areas have filled up with people concerned about elderly people they've seen falling on the street, iced-over sidewalks, and in Vancouver, weeks without recycling pick-up.

Vancouver's head of engineering, Jerry Dobrovolny, said the city has already used 7,000 tonnes of salt this year, compared with 1,000 in the two previous years.

To catch up on missed garbage collections and to help the private contractor responsible for recycling to do pick-ups, Mr. Dobrovolny's team has shifted staff away from construction projects and other tasks to do things as basic as haul household garbage bins from lanes out to main roads where trucks can access them.

"The response is changing almost daily," said Mr. Dobrovolny, who estimated the city has spent $2.5-million already on dealing with the snow and ice accumulations since the first week of December.

Vancouver appears to be the worst off.

That's in part because it's the city in the region that has the highest proportion of laneways, where garbage and recycling are collected, and the laneways don't get plowed normally.

It also is one of only three of 21 municipalities in the region that turned over its recycling pick-up to a private contractor chosen by the new industry group, Multi-Material B.C., that is now responsible for the costs of getting rid of consumer packaging and discarded products.

Story continues below advertisement

Allen Langdon, the executive director of MMBC, acknowledged that the private contractor MMBC hired, Smithrite, has had some problems that will need to be addressed.

Although the company has pulled in trucks and drivers from other areas to try to deal with the backlog, he concedes there are troubles.

"The main thing is they're a lighter truck that's more susceptible to sliding. The trucks are also collecting lighter types of garbage – cardboard, cans, glass – that don't provide the heft that regular garbage does."

He said the goal now is to get everything back to a normal schedule, and then sit down to discuss a better strategy for whenever Vancouver gets its next blast of winter.

As well, Vancouver has a population that is more accustomed to walking and cycling, often on side streets, to get around.

In Surrey, the District of North Vancouver, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, mayors and staff say they feel like they are managing to stay ahead of the problem.

Story continues below advertisement

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said the city crews have not missed a single garbage, recycling or organics pick-up. His council chose several years ago not to use a private contractor for any of those services.

As well, he said, every road, even local roads and the few laneways that have garbage pick-up, have been plowed.

Most other municipalities' staffs said plowing local roads is just generally not possible.

However, they said they significantly changed some of their practices after the 2008/2009 winter, when Vancouver had a series of snowfalls during a period of about six weeks.

"We learned big lessons then," said Rob Costanzo, Surrey's manager of engineering. The city moved to a system of being more proactive and it now brines major roads ahead of a snowfall, which prevents ice from forming.

The city expanded the amount of equipment that could be used for snow conditions and now has four times the amount of trucks – 62 pieces in all – that can be deployed for the 2,700 lane-kilometres of road it designates as high priority. Vancouver, a much smaller city, has 44 pieces of equipment.

Story continues below advertisement

As well, Surrey has installed cameras at major intersections, which allows staff to direct plows to the worst-hit spots in Surrey's huge territory. And it has expanded its salt-storage capacity by triple, to 14 tonnes.

For recycling, it has a contract with a private company, but it manages that contract directly, not through MMBC.

In the District of North Vancouver, staff made a number of changes after the snowy winter eight years ago, including restricting parking on some streets to ensure there would be room for plows.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies