Redmond picks unusual fight with city; calls for third-party study from province
Snow removal in Charlottetown is an unusual topic to draw the ire of NDP Leader Mike Redmond. He just didn’t criticize the city’s efforts, which drew lots of comment before Christmas. He said the capital city’s snow removal plan needs auditing and called on the province for a third-party study of the service. And then he suggested that Municipal Affairs Minister Wes Sheridan should get involved.
Charlottetown’s act of incorporation is the creation of the provincial legislature and the province is the final arbiter when it comes to the capital city. If the province feels there is a serious problem or injustice in the city, it has the moral and legal right to step in. This issue certainly doesn’t appear to be one of those cases.
One can only imagine the reaction of Mayor Clifford Lee to this unwanted intrusion from a provincial politician into the city’s internal affairs. And one can be assured the mayor won’t be stumping on behalf of Mr. Redmond when the NDP leader campaigns in Charlottetown-Victoria Park, where he intends to run in the next provincial election, a seat now held by Liberal Richard Brown.
There were huge problems for businesses and residents following an unusual series of snowstorms this winter. There was lots of criticism about the city’s snow removal efforts, especially in the two weeks or so before Christmas.
While the NDP leader is correct when he said the bottom line of many downtown businesses over the Christmas period was adversely affected, and that it was difficult for motorists and pedestrians trying to get back and forth to work or shop, it seems like a case of overkill to demand the province audit the city’s snow removal service.
One expects the province would be extremely wary of intervening in city affairs over the issue of snow removal. There is room for co-operation on snow removal efforts and that could be expanded. Relations between the two levels of government have warmed in recent months and neither party wants to see that change during this 150th anniversary year of the Charlottetown conference.
There has been a call for the city to establish a defined snow removal plan so everyone knows where the priorities are and what areas are cleaned first. Some of the issues with snow removal include unions vs. private contractors, overtime, city budgets and who actually makes the final call. But if there is a storm, then snow has to be cleared. It really is as simple as that.
A lot of snow has fallen this winter and there is the problem of where does it all go? That issue should have been decided months ago on a worst-case scenario basis. The city cannot go into gridlock because of several snowstorms.
Mr. Redmond said he went public because no one in authority has said anything and he wanted to get the issue into the open. Mayor Lee has remained largely silent on the issue but that might change Monday during council’s monthly meeting when the topic will likely get lots of comment and attention. Coun. Terry Bernard, chairman of the public works committee, says the city did the best it could, considering how much snow fell in just a few weeks.
Mr. Redmond also used the snow removal issue to argue for more transparency concerning municipal governance in freedom of information legislation. P.E.I. is the only Atlantic province not to include municipal transparency provisions in legislation. He argues that more transparency means easier access to decisions on snow removal efforts. He does score some points in this particular argument.