In part 1 we discussed the reasons why residential street plowing as it is currently done in Winnipeg, offers little value to the driver or taxpayer. Assessing the whole of the City of Winnipeg’s snow removal efforts takes an even deeper look which is what we will do in this article.
The newly brewing talking point around snow removal in Winnipeg is the public vs private option. The debate is purely political over whether a public private partnership is better or worse than doing the plowing in house with city employees. We think this debate is a bit misinformed by politicians and citizens as well.
Nearly all of the current municipal snow removal in Winnipeg is done by public private partnerships or PPP’s. This arrangement has been long been hailed as a golden goose in merging big government proponents and free market proponents. The current trend is to change from a PPP to a fully in house solution where unionized city employees complete the snow plowing. This proposal is being considered based on some quality issues that were realized in early 2014 when considerable ruts were present on main Winnipeg arteries for quite a long period of time. It is of importance to mention this occurred during a very severe winter.
Big government proponents argue that evil private companies are greedy and sacrifice service quality to earn a higher profit. They argue that this could potentially be what is occurring with the current PPP arrangement and causing service quality to suffer as experienced with the period of deep ruts on main Winnipeg roads. So naturally, the suggested solution is to propose an opposing method of offering service by city of Winnipeg staff who are not profit motivated. This is not our opinion, this is the trend of public sentiment.
The problem with this solution is that it assumes that any service issues with snow removal is solely the fault of the private contractor doing the job. This assumption is incorrect. All contracts are listed on the City of Winnipeg website for public to observe and the contracts are written by public City of Winnipeg staff.
The buyers of snow removal services are Winnipeg bureaucrats, and these bureaucrats are the ones who decide how snow removal is to be done. The contractor simply signs what the city writes and does what they are told. The contractor—who is the expert in the field of snow removal—doesn’t get to “sell” or propose better quality options to the city that could result in better quality for drivers and taxpayers.
Let’s think about this. Imagine you were going in for knee surgery. Instead of taking the advice of the surgeon (who is the expert at knee surgery), you hop onto the operating table and tell the surgeon where to make the incision and how to do the operation. This probably isn’t going to work out very good. The expert should be makings the calls on the topic at hand.
Back to the Winnipeg snow removal situation. If the problem is service quality and the city currently writes all of the terms of the contracts and the city is responsible for calling plow trucks to start plowing when it snows; how does giving the city more responsibility improve service? It defies logic. The current trend to get rid of PPP’s is pretending to be a results based approach but it fails to look at who’s running the operation, the city of Winnipeg! The trend cites bad results but it fails to hold any responsibility to the public officials calling all the shots and instead points the finger at the experts who are basically gagged and have no say in the matter.
Hero thinks a better solution is to change the current “Contract Tender” process to a “Requests for proposal” where snow removal experts can propose solutions to snow removal problems based on what the city needs solved. This way the experts are the ones coming up with solutions, instead of the inexperienced buyer.
Hero has no horse in the race either as we refuse to offer municipal snow removal. This is due to the massive liability, horrid pay, obscene red tap, and the fact that the contractor ends up as the scapegoat as proven in the above situation. Simply put, the City of Winnipeg government is not an attractive customer to Hero. Especially when our current residential customers appreciate our work, pay us well, have 0 red tape and liability almost non-existent.
Our assessment of City of Winnipeg snow removal services is from an unbiased but educated standpoint. We’re simply offering our observations and possible ways to offer a better end result to the taxpayer.