On December 20th significant snow fell at least for our region. It was forecast well in advance so personally, I stayed at home with my family, walked nearby to go sledding with my niece. I was privileged in being able to stay home primarily because  I work from home although I did also cancel other plans. However, 4 days later, we had some things to buy, and drop off to friends and family, so I up Sooke. 

First thing I see on approaching the roundabout? An old man with a walker attempting to negotiate a cross walk with a hump of snow. I left my wife to do the shopping and pre-Christmas present exchanges and walked to home hardware and bought a shovel. Managed to clear all the cross walks and access points from the roundabout to Townsend road and back before she was done.

I’m a strong believer in volunteerism, and the Sooke community has long been known for the amazing productivity of its volunteers. But this isn’t a feel-good story nor a oh look how great I am case. This is a story of failure. Four days after a snow storm and the 2 blocks of sidewalks around the majority of our stores are inaccessible? That is quite frankly unacceptable. 

As a society we acknowledge that building sidewalks or replacing them over time is a public good.

Unfortunately, the day-to-day maintenance when it comes to winter weather is at least in BC close to universally treated as a private good – the responsibility of tenants and property owners and is frequent failure. This has a severe impact particularly on our elders, but also anyone with mobility issues, with kids in strollers.

Sooke as a community and the government in this room has committed to working to reduce private vehicle kilometers travelled. Yet, we are providing on the public purse clear roads and not clear sidewalks. Where we do and do not have sidewalks is a separate issue with complexity. Maintaining current infrastructure at a useable level is no more complex for sidewalks than roads especially in a community with such a paucity of sidewalks as ours. 

Tonight, I’ll be presenting to Sooke Council with the below slideshow and asking for the following:

Short term:

  1. Work with Victoria Contracting to ensure clearing of dividers/islands in intersections in a timely manner.
  2. Work with TranBC/MoTI to ensure clearing of dividers/islands in intersections in a timely manner.
  3. Provide direction to staff to educate on and enforce Bylaw 67 – 16.1

Long Term:

I ask that council investigates moving sidewalk clearing to the same system as road clearing – whether that is as now contracted out or within a Sooke Public Works department.