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Walking in a winter wonderland

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Another winter, another Canada-wide attempt to keep the snow at bay. In previous years, standard seasonal dumpings have reduced Halifax to a city-wide slip ‘n slide, making travel by foot a dangerous pass-time. This year, the HRM is trying out a new snow removal policy, lifting the burden of sidewalk-shoveling from residents’ shoulders and assuming that responsibility for itself. Halifax streets have been zoned into three priorities. Depending on which priority your street falls under, you can expect your sidewalk to be cleared within 12, 24 or 36 hours after a snowfall.

I hope it works, because winter 2014 is shaping up to be a doozy, and for some reason sidewalk-clearing doesn’t seem to be a Haligonian strong suit. Even I—strong, able-bodied student that I am— have been felled by the treacherous ice and snow combos on Vernon Street. Ironically, however, I’m sure I’ve been a factor in the HRM’s decision to take on snow removal for itself: in my four years of living here, I have never once wielded a shovel to help clear away those pedestrian paths. Why? Partly because (I’m realizing as I write this) I’m a horrible human being, and partly because I’m never sure whether it’s my job or the landlord’s to take the snow away. According to Dalhousie Legal Aid’s Tenant Rights Guide, services provided by the landlord should be specified in the lease. I’m sure most students take time to look it over for the basics, but for most of us, snow removal probably isn’t something we look for. In some cases, and certainly in mine, this means it just doesn’t get done. Multiply that scenario by the hundreds of student or tenant households around Dal and SMU campuses, and you’ve got yourself a problem.

Unfortunately, it’s not the able-bodied who are most impacted by dangerous sidewalks. Our elderly neighbors, people with a disability, and others for whom mobility can pose a problem on a sunny summer day are those who have the most to lose when the snow comes down. For me, those icy sidewalks are a minor inconvenience; for others, they’re a real threat to health and safety.

So I commend HRM for taking snow removal into their governmental hands. Clearly, love for our fellow human beings was not enough to motivate me and many others to scrape away the weather so others could walk safely through the winter. This winter will certainly be a test of the HRM’s ability to follow up on the overhaul for more efficiency, and for the sake of my neighbors, I hope they pass. If not, I like to think I’ll take it upon myself to carry an emergency haul of rock salt at all times.

Samantha Elmsley
Samantha Elmsley
Samantha was Opinions Editor of the Gazette for Volumes 145 and 146.
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