The City of Edmonton's snow and ice clearing program needs revised guidelines and improved monitoring, according to a newly released report by the Office of the City Auditor.

The audit examined the city's Parks and Roads Service Branch between 2015 and 2020 and found that there are "opportunities to improve" the program citing issues with consistency, communication and the handling of complaints.

One councillor said the audit is 70 pages long, and identifies a lot of problems.

"What our snow and ice program is trying to do doesn't necessarily align with what citizens are expecting," said Coun. Tim Cartmell.

"They're not necessarily getting what they want." 

The report makes a dozen recommendations to the city, including: 

  • A review and update of guiding documents on the snow removal plan "to improve their clarity, accuracy and consistency"
  • Improve decision-making and change management processes
  • Improve measuring and monitoring of the program's effectiveness, efficiency and economy
  • Develop cost-reduction and revenue generation opportunities
  • Improve staff oversight and public communication
  • Strengthen complaint handling processes

The audit report also highlighted a high level of turnover in leadership positions starting in 2016 that included the deputy city manager, branch manager, director and general supervisors.

"This means that decision-makers were constantly changing and trying to keep abreast of the changing SNIC program," reads the report.

"People are seeing less getting accomplished than they used to," said Cartmell. "Nothing has been consistent except the rate of change."

“If I was a frontline worker in that department, I’m tired of the talk, I’d like to see some more of the walk,” said Coun. Mike Nickel.

But another councillor thinks the audit is a good place to start.

“We haven’t really allowed folks to work through the changes that have been coming, and to engage them in that change process,” said Coun. Bev Esslinger.

“This has some great recommendations I think will let us do that.”

The city's snow removal efforts came under scrutiny in the past years in part due to its prior use of calcium chloride to help clear streets.

In 2019, councillors decided that the chemical would be used only on bike lanes and sidewalks after concerns from motorists that the de-icer was eating into their undercarriages as well as damaging to roads.  

Since that decision, the city has used salt to clear Edmonton roads.