City ombudsman monitoring snow removal concerns after hearing ‘many stories’ from public

Toronto’s ombudsman is closely monitoring issues relating to the removal of snow following broad-based public concern about the pace at which streets have been cleaned this winter.

“We have heard many stories of people reporting that sidewalks, roads, bike lanes or public paths have not been cleared of snow and ice in a timely way,” Susan Opler said in a written statement released Tuesday.

“People have also said that calls to the City to complain sometimes yield delayed responses or no response,” the statement reads.

The recent winter storm prompted Mayor John Tory to call for a review of Toronto’s winter operations in a letter to the head of the transportation services department.

In her statement, Opler pointed to the city’s very different approaches to sidewalk snow removal in different parts of the city, a holdover from before amalgamation more than two decades ago.

While the city provides mechanical sidewalk snow clearing in most parts of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, it does not provide this service in Toronto and East York because it says it is unable to.

Instead, residents in Toronto and East York are required to clear snow and ice themselves from sidewalks adjacent to their properties.

“Sidewalks not cleared of snow and ice affect many people,” said Opler, “including those with mobility challenges and young families with strollers.”

She said these issues raise important questions about administrative fairness in the services the city delivers to meet the needs of the people of Toronto.

“We await with interest the report that the Mayor has requested from the City’s Transportation Services division as well as upcoming City Council budget discussions on this topic,” Opler said.

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