Testy days at City Hall

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
January 30, 2018 - 8:10am

KAMLOOPS — Things got a bit testy at City Hall last Tuesday when Councillor Cavers introduced his motion asking staff to review and have a look at best practices when it came to snow removal.


What appeared to be a straightforward and good idea, turned into suggestions from the Mayor’s Chair that is was tantamount to accusing staff of not working hard enough or not being on top of their game.


Caver’s motion was a simple suggestion that City staff spend some time looking into our snow clearing strategies.  No consultants to hire, just take a look at what we do, how that compares to other cities and ask colleagues from those cities what they do that might differ from our current plan.  This was definitely not the $100,000 parking study fiasco of months gone by.


Councillor Singh was at first supportive, suggesting those with mobility issues do indeed have problems getting around when it snows.  However, despite the early and somewhat tentative support, he later followed the crowd and voted against the motion.


Councillor Lange came out of the gate opposed, saying she felt like she was in the movie, Groundhog Day.  She pointed out how people with mobility issues can take taxis or have items they need delivered to them.  She claimed snow comes with the territory, implying one better get used to it or be able to afford other alternatives.  Lange went on to reaffirm her belief that staff are good at their jobs, always looking for better ways and therefore not in need of any direction from elected officials.


Councillor Sinclair reaffirmed her concerns about those with mobility issues and wanted to find ways to at least improve snow removal when it comes to sidewalks and clearing bus stops.  However, she too pointed out that Kamloops has good taxi service and despite her stated reservations about mobility issues for the elderly and infirm in our City, voted against the motion.  


Councillor Duty focused on the money while pointing out that this year really wasn’t all that bad as far as total snowfall went.  He also challenged those living in Kamloops to come and talk about snow removal problems in May, suggesting no one would and by inference, that the public has pretty short attention spans.


Councillor Wallace began by explaining that she is always happy when people bring new ideas to City Council. But this obviously wasn’t one of those occasions and while confirming that staff are doing a great job, voted against the motion.


Mayor Christian came out firing both guns, suggesting that even questioning staff was tantamount to accusing them of not doing their jobs.  He talked flippantly of being able to clean up every flake of snow if he raised taxes, “to the moon”.  And closed his opposed argument by explaining that there are snow days, days we shouldn’t be out and that’s just the way it is.


Councillor Dhaliwal, as usual, said absolutely nothing and only raised his hand when it came time to register his vote against the motion.  Therefore, we have no idea why he voted no, other than he generally mimics the votes of the Mayor and Councillor Wallace.


There were many things I found interesting about this debate but two in particular stood out.


First is this fear of offending staff.  To suggest questioning is the equivalent of admonishing is so far out of line as to be nonsense.  We elect politicians to lead and represent us. Having ideas, suggesting new methodologies and having questions is all part of being a responsible leader.  To do otherwise is to abdicate your role as leader and in so doing pretty much negate the need for elections.


Secondly, and speaking of leadership, with the exception of Cavers, not one person around that table had an idea last Tuesday or even a pathway for getting to an idea.  Problem solving for this City Council always seems to come down to taxes and by-laws.  If you can’t raise taxes or restrict the practice through by-laws then there is no solution.  Creative thinking or the willingness to at least try as Cavers did gets slammed and slammed hard with this Council.