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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brodsky

Article review - CBC and snow removal services budget in Toronto

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

This blog post is just a personal response to a July article discussing Toronto's snow removal services budget ""

The discussion in this article appears to surround some potential inefficiency issues with two contracting companies that are set to handle Toronto's snow removal efforts over the next decade. The author writes "due to issues with GPS installation and poor accountability practices, there's no way to ensure the city got the work it paid for" referring to last year's snow removal budget and expenditure.

The number "26.4 million" is mentioned a few times to express that whoever is handling snow removal operations is mishandling them. Personally, I'd like to know how the payment scheme works for these companies. How could they be over budget on flat rate contracts? It seems reasonable to say that the contracts are variable (more snow, more money).

The article mentions the fact that the city had trouble helping the contractor acquire correct plowing and salting equipment. I understand that I'm a small scale service provider (teensy-weensy scale, imagine someone who plows out 3-4 houses per season with a shovel and occasional helper). However, if you don't have equipment for the job, why are you being awarded the entire city's contract for this work? I stopped asking clients to borrow their tools as soon as I had a car to move my own.

They mention something about a daily rate, which makes up "80 per cent of the contract cost" - something I don't fully understand.

Later in the article, they clarify that "The auditor said that $18 million may not be an overpayment, but without documentation the city can't be sure." So, we have a nice case of the deadline being hyperbolic and misleading. It's quite possible the snow removal contractor did a normal job, but because they weren't ready and couldn't track results, it appeared as though an overpayment had occurred.

This actually clarifies an earlier point. The city does have a flat rate contract then with snow removal companies. However, if they pay "X" for the contract to be executed in a particular way, and the execution is botched (in this case due to dysfunctional GPS units), then the city may be entitled to a partial refund. That's not overpayment, that's just the city trying to get some money back on work that, in all likelihood, was completed.

What's kind of hilarious is that they write that:

"The auditor found city staff decided in December 2022 that "if the equipment was at a depot and operational… but was still missing GPS, it was still eligible for the daily rate." "That happened some 633 times, the auditor said. The total snow-clearing fleet was approximately 1,300 vehicles.""

This is quite funny. Half of the vehicles didn't have GPS trackers on them, so it's difficult to determine how much work anyone actually did. Quite chaotic. Furthermore, city staff were the ones that approved the whole business, so they have no one to blame but themselves. They argued later that they didn't seek damages against those companies for a lack of GPS units because "if we'd issued [liquidated damages], of that size, these companies may not have been able to be financially viable.'"

Personally, I'm wondering how these companies got these contracts in the first place.

Scarborough is mentioned as the worst-hit of the areas in terms of service quality. They filed the most complaints.

The explanation below about what happened with the other companies that did the work in the past was unclear.

Anyways, I'm sure we can all look forward to a chaotic and ridiculous winter season. Stay safe, and keep winter tires on!

snow removal services - plow doing its plow job

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