Somehow, the capital still manages to be caught off guard by snow. Sure, it snowed last year and the year before. Sure, the weather reports warn us for days ahead of time. Sure, we spend a week or two before it snows huddled in dark corners and whispering through teeth clenched in terror: “Did you hear? It might snow!” Yet when the day finally arrives we still find a way to convince ourselves that this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to us.
While this behaviour is almost endearing in the general population, it loses its charm when our region’s administrators — charged, one would assume, with preparing for bigger emergencies than a few inches of snow — follow us into our tropical fantasy.
Where other Canadian cities deal with feet of snow before the morning rush hour, we struggle to clear major arteries before nightfall, let alone sidewalks and residential streets.
It’s not the annoyance of traffic but a look at the region’s most vulnerable citizens that reveals the deeper impact of our collective refusal to accept reality.
“This morning I found 51 men and women sleeping on our streets; many of them without even a blanket covering them,” says Reverend Al Tysick, who spent a cold morning last week checking up on members of the street community who, for various reasons, were unable to find a place to wait out the snow indoors.
While there are emergency spaces available out of the downtown area for those who don’t make it into a regular shelter bed, Tysick says people still fall through the cracks.
“Up until this year we’d always opened up an extra place downtown, mainly for the most weak and vulnerable people out there who cannot get down to the Salvation Army to meet the van [for a ride to the shelter].”
Upon deeper examination, what presents itself as a humorous diversion or a mild annoyance hints at a disconnect between the actions of our local government and the needs of the region. When 380,000 people are rendered helpess in the face of flaked ice, it’s clear that the priorities of local polticians and their administrators must shift away from The Next Big Thing and move to address the practical realities of life in the capital. M