News / Winnipeg

Snow-clearing app concept nixed by Winnipeg's innovation committee

Coun. Russ Wyatt, who first proposed the innovative solution, says he's disappointed his idea was met with such skepticism.

This could have been YOU, claiming a neighbourhood as your own to plow and profit in at each snow fall. But the idea was shot down in City Hall.

Metro File

This could have been YOU, claiming a neighbourhood as your own to plow and profit in at each snow fall. But the idea was shot down in City Hall.

One city councillor's idea to put snow-clearing back in the hands of the people has been shovelled aside.

Public works director Lester Deane told the city's innovation committee Friday that the concept of an uber-like system of micro-bids for clearing residential snow was "wrought with risk for the City of Winnipeg."

His chief concern was that even if it worked well most of the time, policies binding the city to removing snow by a certain time after it falls would require his department to have a full redundant system in place anyways, to cover for any shortcomings of the app-system. 

"Let's assume he or she has the proper equipment, proper insurance in place, knows what they're doing and carries out the work, what happens if nobody chooses to bid on a street?" Deane said. "Our policy would require the City of Winnipeg to react... what really that entails is having to run a parallel system. 

"In that respect, we'd have all the costs anyways." 

Coun. Russ Wyatt, who first proposed the innovative solution, was extolling its potential benefits right up until the committee voted to take no action on the file. 

"I see the benefit as being first of all improving our service levels... our system is based on sections of the city, fairly large areas being tendered out," he said. "I would foresee this where you break it down on a far smaller scale, where you break it down block by block, where you'd be able to get individuals (involved)." 

Wyatt felt if anyone with a plow on their truck or quad, or a powerful snow-blower in their garage were able to get in on the plowing, things would get done faster and like Uber, it would offer those people casual work and pay on the side. 

"It could be quire empowering, create some entrepreneurs," Wyatt said. 

He expressed disappointment that his idea was met with such skepticism at each step of the way leading up to Friday's meeting, saying it may seem a far-fetched idea but "it has to be given a chance." 

"(The executive policy committee) was wise enough to create this innovation fund (that would fund the app development), let's use it," he implored. "I don't think it would take a lot to design and develop something... maybe not succeed... but well, we were trying to be innovative."

Wyatt said his council colleagues had told him plainly "this is not going to work."

"Well, how do you know that if you don't even try?" he said. 

In the end, Deane's concerns won out over Wyatt's optimism and the city will not be changing its snow-clearing system to a sharing-economy model.