This winter is bringing Toronto not only brutally low temperatures, snowstorms, and freezing rain, but also a massive salt price hike. This is making getting around that much more difficult for Torontonians.
Clearing roads seems to be a priority for the city. Sidewalks and walkways, on the other hand, are a different story, as pedestrians report finding it difficult to find safe routes on foot.
Post-secondary student Jack Bull was walking home from the Eaton Centre and decided to cross St. James Park on King Street. His usual path, however, was covered in ice and he was forced to attempt the trek across the ice.
“There was no good place to walk,” Bull said. “It was either step in a deep puddle or slip on the ice.
Bull managed to reach home without injuries, but others were not as fortunate.
Drake Lees fell victim to the ice while trying to get home after work walking through Dieppe Park on Cosburn Avenue.
“I couldn’t find a path without ice, so thought I could just walk carefully and try to get through,” Lees said.
He ended up spraining his knee and he has not been able to work since the accident which happened last weekend.
“There were literally no safe paths throughout the entire park and it seemed there was no effort to try and clear a path either,” Lees said.
Cyclists also face with obstacles when trying to commute.
Glendon Mellow, a daily bike commuter, said he has been lucky that the one time he did crash due to icy conditions, he avoided injury.
“This was at Queen’s Park where it meets Hoskins [Avenue],” he said. “The bike lane and open-tiled area on the park were clear, but the tiles weren’t salted and ice had formed.”
He said he was slowing down for the light ahead when his bike went out from under him. “I was in no danger from cars — however, this is a spot where bikes mix with pedestrians, mostly U of T students, so losing control means I could have injured someone.”
Despite the problem with the icy roads and paths in the city, there is no true shortage according to Toronto government workers and officials.
Eric Holmes, media contact for transportation services, said: “There are no concerns about the city’s salt supply and the city continues to receive shipments from suppliers following each winter event”.
Root of the problem
A few factors are causing this salt problem, the main factor one being the 12-week strike that occurred at the world’s largest salt-mine in Goderich, Ont. Workers did agree to a deal, but a freeze on manufacturing for the three-month period heavily affected the amount of salt that was able to be transported.
Although there is no legitimate shortage, the price-hike of salt is causing it to seem that way.
One tonne of salt originally priced $90 to $110 is now costing suppliers $140 to $160. This is not only making it difficult for suppliers, but is in direct correlation to the average consumer like Tony Zambri, who can’t find salt at a reasonable price.
“I went to three different places before I found a small gas station that was selling salt at almost $16 a bag,” Zambri said. “It’s ridiculous. How can people safely walk into their home if they can’t even buy salt.”
Companies who rely on their salt sales throughout the winter are being affected as well.
Parkview Building Supplies Ltd., a contracting business whose main source of revenue in winter comes from supplying salt to snow removal companies throughout the city.
They would have already placed double the orders of salt at the same time in past years and, although Marc Anthony Lucente doesn’t have an exact number, he would estimate a 30-per-cent decrease in business this winter.
“We didn’t expect this much of a change this year, unprecedented for sure,” Lucente said.
Parkview Building Supplies Ltd. purchases their salt from Draglam Salt, located in Concord, Ont. and they’re directly hit from the hike in price.
Draglam Salt is one of many businesses adapting to the price hike and has worked diligently to prepare in order to keep up with demand.
Stephanie Sinclair, a representative for Draglam Salt said prices for bulk-salt were definitely higher this year.
”It’s a result of several factors including the three-month strike at the Goderich mine, flooding issues at another North American mining site as well as an ice-storm last April that depleted most local stockpiles,” Sinclair said.
Fortunately, Draglam Salt has been aware of the market situation since mid-summer and did everything they could to prepare.
”We’re in good position to supply,” she said. “This week marks the beginning of March so we’re heading toward what is typically the end of the winter season.”.
The city has enough salt to supply
Eric Holmes, media representative for the city’s road maintenance and snow removal department, did not acknowledge an issue with the city’s salt supply.
“Currently, there are no concerns about the city’s salt supply and the city continues to receive shipments from suppliers,” Holmes said.
“When the winter season began, salt supplies were fully replenished and the city was entering the final year of a four-year contract with three major suppliers: Cargill, Compass Minerals, and Windsor Salt,” he added.
Canadian Tire says that due to the recent weather, it has received a higher-than-usual demand for salt.
“Canadian Tire is constantly getting shipments of new products daily so we encourage customers to check back frequently,” media representative Cathy Kurzbock said.