March 13, 2014

It’s not just your imagination – this is a truly terrible winter

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:46

In Maclean’s, Michael Friscolanti and Kate Lunau round-up the tales of cold weather misery from across the country:

From coast to coast, Canadians have done everything they can to survive this winter of discontent. The Old Man arrived early and never let go, unleashing a harsh brew of bone-chilling mornings, wicked gusts of wind and collective pleas for mercy. We learned a new scientific term — “polar vortex” — and felt it, firsthand, on our fingertips. It’s been so bleak that, as of early March, 92.2 per cent of the Great Lakes were covered in ice, the most since 1979. On March 1, Regina broke a 130-year-old record for that day’s temperature: -36° C, with a wind chill of -53° C. In Kenora, Ont., where all-time winter lows have wreaked havoc on its maze of underground pipes, the city is in the midst of a two-week boil-water advisory.

In Toronto, where the mercury also nosedived to the lowest point in two decades, the city surpassed its record for consecutive days with at least one centimetre of snow on the ground: 89, as of March 7, and counting. No town, though, amassed more white stuff than Stephenville, N.L. (population 7,800). The winter isn’t even over, and the seaside community has already been hammered with more than two metres (the same height, for the record, as Michael Jordan.) “In December, it snowed 26 days,” says Mayor Tom O’Brien. “The snow kept coming and coming. It wasn’t one big wallop.”


GDP fell by 0.5 per cent in December, a dip triggered almost entirely by the pre-Christmas ice storms that rocked Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Canadian retail stores reported their biggest one-month drop in a year. And in a spat that garnered significant headlines, the country’s two main railways — CP and CN — blamed “the harshest winter in 60 years” for their inability to ship millions of tonnes of grain sitting in bins across the Prairies.

Economists are fairly confident the gloomy numbers will eventually pass, like winter itself. By the second quarter, they say, the season’s losses will be almost entirely recouped, with the North American economy picking up significant steam on its road to recovery. But that rosy economic outlook glosses over a much frostier reality: This winter for the ages will cost Canadian cities untold millions in extra snow-clearing, pothole maintenance and other infrastructure repair bills that have yet to arrive. In this era of climate change — when scientists expect severe bouts of weather to become the rule rather than the exception — the past few months have provided a disturbing glimpse of the overwhelming costs to come.


In Toronto alone, the ice storm cost the public purse more than $100 million; throw in Hamilton and the rest of the GTA, and the liability climbs to $275 million. Point to any Canadian city these days, and it’s hard to find one that won’t be digging deeper into its pockets to pay for this brutal winter.

In Edmonton, potholes are already such an epidemic that the city is teaming up with the University of Alberta engineering department to figure out ways to make roads more robust in chilly conditions. (Last year, the City of Champions paid out a record $464,000 to motorists whose cars were damaged by craters.) In Chatham, Ont., one winter pothole went so deep, it revealed the city’s original yellow brick road. Down the highway in Windsor, councillors were forced to commit an extra $1 million to their snow-removal budget — by early January. And in Niagara Falls, the unbearable cold triggered 42 water-main breaks by the end of February, more than half the total of the entire year before.


  1. Why must they throw in the “climate change” trash? The climate is always changing, not because of humans, but in spite of us. We (humans) have not been keeping track of this weather thing all that long, so how can someone proclaim anything with certainty? Weather folks can’t even predict the weather out more than a day or two, how can they claim to know what the weather would be like 50 years from now? A good story brought down by one stupid sentance in one paragraph. Severe weather has always been, and will always be, that it makes the news more often now is that they are reporting it as severe! Making news where there is none.

    Comment by Dwayne — March 13, 2014 @ 09:06

  2. Also the built-in assumption that taxes will have to go up to pay for the infrastructure repairs/upgrades. Because there’s no possible way that any level of government could manage to shift spending away from optional items in order to cover off the requirements in the primary responsibilities, is there?

    Comment by Nicholas — March 13, 2014 @ 09:20

  3. Too right. It is sad to think that so many people out there do no know what the government’s primary responsibility is, they think the government should fund it all.

    I would love to see the government cut out all grants, that would be a start. Next, cut out all loans, that is what a bank is for. Next cut out all “investments” because that is what private investors are for. Not government that I am aware of was ever run as a business. Taxpayers are not customers, we have no choice in the matter!

    Comment by Dwayne — March 13, 2014 @ 15:26

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