By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 19, 2020.
On Thursday, the City of Lethbridge ended the State of Local Emergency that was declared three months ago as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is good news, but in no way does it signal the end of the risks associated with the virus and its spread. I want to commend all of the staff within the City, our partner organizations and our residents for their efforts over the last three months. As we continue to combat COVID-19 we will need this ongoing community support to continue moving forward. We need to remain vigilant with respect to physical distancing, wearing masks and limiting our gatherings.
As recommended by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, I plan in the next several days to get tested for COVID-19. As she said this week: “We are now encouraging every Albertan to get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not. By getting tested, you’re helping all of us better understand the extent of the disease in our province.” I encourage all residents to get tested. More information on how to do that is available here: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-testing-in-alberta.aspx.
This will also help as we keep progressing with Phase 2 reopenings. In recent weeks, I’ve visited the Galt Museum and Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, among others, on their reopening days. We have so many gems in southern Alberta and this summer will be a great summer to discover or re-discover them.
As far as plans for potential reopenings of other City facilities, including pools and arenas, I can say our staff are busy working towards these goals for as soon as we can ensure safety protocols can be completed for staff and patrons. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding. I encourage you to check the City website for the latest updates on these reopenings.
As we approach the end of June, I want to remind property owners who are able to pay all or part of their property taxes by June 30 to please do so. Understanding that some residents may not be able to pay all of their property taxes by June 30, city council has approved changes to the 2020 property tax penalty dates where penalties will not be applied to unpaid tax balances until Oct. 1. This is to help residents financially impacted by COVID-19. Council also removed the planned tax increase to help residents and businesses who need some assistance getting through these unprecedented times.
More information on methods to pay is available here: https://www.lethbridge.
This week, we’ve been celebrating Indigenous Peoples Week here in Lethbridge, culminating Sunday with National Indigenous Peoples Day. This past Monday, I was honoured to speak at a flag raising ceremony. Council understands there is still plenty of reconciliation work to do. As I said in my speech at this event and at a recent Black Lives Matter rally, “racism has been a part of our history in Lethbridge. Let’s make sure it’s not part of our future.”
June is also Pride Month and I will be attending a flag-raising ceremony on Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m. at Lethbridge City Hall. Due to COVID-19, Lethbridge Pride Fest is encouraging residents to attend virtually by tuning in to Facebook Live.
There were a number of significant items at this past Monday’s city council meeting. Council unanimously voted to rescind a pathway project for Six Mile Coulee and have asked City staff to work with user groups to find an acceptable alternative for safety and sustainability moving forward.
Lethbridge City Council voted to affirm its commitment to combatting the effects of the opioid crisis by formally providing support to a $10-billion class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, which was recently filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta by the City of Grande Prairie as representative plaintiff on behalf of all Canadian cities and municipalities that have been affected by the opioid crisis. Council agreed to participate on a contingency fee basis, which is a fee limitation clause to protect the City from any costs, and to explore the possibility of becoming a representative plaintiff in the litigation. I want to assure our residents that the City of Lethbridge is fully committed to continuing efforts in combatting the opioid crisis.
With economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as a major focus, city council also voted to provide $1 million in cash and in-kind support for a bid to bring the Tim Hortons Brier to Lethbridge in 2022.
The annual Canadian men’s curling championship is regarded as the world’s premier curling event and the documented economic benefits from the 2020 Brier held in Kingston, Ont. estimate a direct spin-off of between $10 million and $15 million. It would be a huge boost to our local economy and something for our local businesses to get excited for. The City’s financial commitment would only be enacted should the bid be successful and not until the event, which would be held in March 2022.
I will end the column this month by sending congratulations to the grad classes of 2020, across all high school and post-secondary levels. On behalf of the City of Lethbridge, we wish you all the best.
I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day this weekend to all the dads reading! And an early Happy Canada Day to all! It will not be as in years past, but I encourage everyone to celebrate in your backyard and virtually this year. The latest City of Lethbridge Canada Day information is here: Lethbridge.ca/CanadaDay.
Chris Spearman is the mayor of Lethbridge. His column appears monthly.