By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 18, 2020.
Next week, I will be heading to Calgary to meet with the mayors of Alberta’s other mid-sized cities, then on to Edmonton to meet with Health Minister Tyler Shandro regarding our goal of retaining our local EMS dispatch.
On Aug. 4, Alberta Health Services announced that it will discontinue its contract with the City of Lethbridge to provide EMS dispatch, essentially taking a cog out of the wheel of the local integrated service model. This change will pose significant hurdles, create inefficiencies and, most concerning, could result in negative patient outcomes.
We believe the current model is providing a high level of service to Lethbridge and surrounding areas and removing EMS dispatch will threaten the safety of our community. In an emergency situation, every second counts and the City’s current integrated EMS/Fire system provides a responsive, efficient and effective way to provide excellent patient care. We would welcome collaboration with AHS to work towards reaching these goals together.
We invite the community to continue telling your stories, write to our local MLAs and to the health minister – and copy city council on them. EMS dispatch has been raised three times in the last 10 years and each time the serving Minister of Health overruled Alberta Health Services when made aware of all the facts. Now is the time to express your views. For more information, please visit http://www.lethbridge.ca/EMSdispatch.
Earlier this week, I was pleased to be a part of a Team Lethbridge meeting to discuss provincial and federal funding that is welcomed for our region and places an emphasis on what Lethbridge and area has to offer post-recovery.
In line with the province’s priorities, there are a number of projects the City of Lethbridge is currently working on. These include, as discussed at last week’s Economic Recovery Committee meeting, items for the Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) such as prioritization for the Lethbridge Airport. In a community survey prior to COVID-19, we heard from more 1,500 residents and more than 600 businesses that airport improvements are a priority. A viable airport is seen as an economic catalyst and beneficial to the recently approved Lethbridge Exhibition Park project.
These projects under the province’s MSP recovery funds have an application deadline of Oct. 1. City Administration put forth a short list of project ideas specific to this funding, which includes criteria of not being a previous Capital Improvement Program project, not to increase property taxes, and must create local jobs. New development of Festival Square (part of continued efforts to Downtown Revitalization) could be part of this, as well.
Last month, council also voted unanimously to support the Lethbridge and District Exhibition for its Agri-food hub. The provincial government previously invested $27.8 million into this project and city council followed by committing a grant of $25 million as well as a 30-year loan from the City of Lethbridge for $17.8 million. This investment will be a big piece of economic recovery and additional forward thinking for our city and our region.
Further to economic recovery projects, we are also working on a revised City of Lethbridge incentive program to make our city as attractive as possible to investors and/or business owners/operators. The Economic Recovery Committee of city council has reviewed a number of potential incentives and has directed administration to edit existing policies to make Lethbridge more attractive for investment in the areas of: affordable/social housing; market housing in the downtown; renewal investment for downtown properties; and industrial property tax abatement.
Each project we have underway directly aligns with the Alberta government’s economic development priorities. Lethbridge City Council is prepared to work with our provincial MLAs and federal Member of Parliament to ensure our city benefits from available funding. I am pleased Lethbridge elected representatives have joined together this far in advance to discuss Lethbridge as a whole, and to help us all realize our shared priorities and vision as we move towards 2021 – an important year for recovery. I look forward to the progress we make in discussing how we can best align with our government partners to maximize grant opportunities for the common good in Lethbridge.
Last week, I was honoured to attend a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Bunka Centre, a new cultural centre funded through the City’s Capital Improvement Program.
This is an incredibly important project to our community. Not only does this construction represent a boost in our local economy but it’s also an exciting evolution for Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. This new centre will expand the offerings at the Garden making it a truly year-round attraction for residents and visitors alike.
At this week’s Community Issues Committee meeting, council members heard reports from a variety of volunteers from our boards, committees and commissions. First, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your time, contributions and ideas. Second, for anyone else who wants to potentially get involved, this year’s deadline to apply for BCC roles is on Monday, Sept. 21. More information is available here: http://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Boards-Commissions-Committees.
Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge will begin on Monday at 10 a.m. with a flag-raising ceremony on the steps of city hall. Residents will also see city hall glowing in red, yellow and blue throughout the week to draw awareness to the importance of Reconciliation in our community.
On Tuesday, in partnership with SAGE Clan, there will be a teepee transfer ceremony taking place in Galt Gardens. The teepee will remain in Galt Gardens until Sept. 25 and will be used for cultural connection with the Indigenous community during the week.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, there will still be many exciting events celebrating Reconciliation Week happening in Lethbridge. More information can be found on the Reconciliation Lethbridge Facebook page, or by visiting http://www.lethbridge.ca/reconciliation.
Chris Spearman is the mayor of Lethbridge. His column appears monthly.