By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on May 21, 2021.
By Mayor Chris Spearman
I want to begin with a thank you to the nurses and doctors and health care staff who continue to work tirelessly through this pandemic. I also would like to express my condolences to families who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19.
Mass vaccination efforts continue across our country, province and city. Our immunization rates for Lethbridge are an encouraging sign, as is the downward direction of our local case count. We all have a part to do make sure they keep climbing and decreasing, respectively.
Variants are still a significant concern, especially to younger age groups, so I strongly encourage everyone to continue following all public health protocols and to get vaccinated. AHS South Zone has vaccination appointments available for next week and beyond. Vaccines are a critical way to limit the spread of COVID-19. They are effective and safe. Plus: more vaccines into more people will equal a faster re-opening for the businesses most affected by the current public health orders. If you have questions or want to learn more about vaccines, visit ahs.ca/covidvaccine.
Some big news arrived on Wednesday this week, when the Federal government announced more than $7 million, through Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), for rehabilitation of the Lethbridge Airport airfield pavement. On behalf of City Council, I would like to issue a huge thank you to the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister and Special Representative for the Prairies.
This economic boost comes after City Council in February 2020 approved funding for detailed design and renovation of the passenger terminal and an upgraded water service. The Lethbridge Airport has now received more than a combined $18 million in funding from the Provincial and Federal Governments. This investment helps to ensure our airport remains a priority for our community, not only for the convenience of residents, but also for the advancement of our economic landscape.
The creation of a ‘Distribution Hub’ to support supply chain and logistics are key to a robust local economy and these upgrades will strengthen our city’s portfolio when attracting business and development to southern Alberta. Renovating this facility as a major economic driver for southern Alberta are exciting and we’re thrilled to be moving forward on these improvements. Investing in the airport means we are investing in our ability to grow our economic potential and be a leader in our region.
On the topic of big investments in our city, City Council recently met for a week as Economic Standing Policy Committee to discuss the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). On Tuesday, Council voted to postpone a full approval until its June 1 meeting. A full recap of the CIP deliberations and of the recommendations can be viewed here at https://www.lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/Pages/2022-2031-Capital-Improvement-Program-(CIP)-daily-recap.aspx.
Council had several other items of significance this week, which included a unanimous vote to approve and sign a Memoranda of Respect, Understanding and Partnership (MOU) with the Kainai/Blood Tribe. While this agreement is a positive step forward for both communities, it also represents and acknowledges the racism and social difficulties many in the Indigenous community have experienced in our city. The agreement gives us the opportunity to better understand and reflect the needs of Blackfoot and other Indigenous peoples in the City’s plans, policies, programs and services.
The purpose of the MOU is to establish stronger communications, planning and opportunities for joint advocacy between the City of Lethbridge and Kainai/Blood Tribe to advance issues of common interest and resolve issues of common concern. This work is intended to improve the social and economic wellbeing of both communities. I’d like to thank Chief Roy Fox and the Kainai Council for their continued partnership with our city and their commitment to improve our communities while working together. A public signing and celebration of the MOU will take place at a later date when public health restrictions allow gatherings and events.
Council also voted unanimously to proceed with a micro-mobility pilot project featuring rentable, battery-powered e-scooters, to see if they can be viable in the city. Community engagement is to be conducted during the pilot, which itself is to be cost neutral to the City. The project would determine a competitive process in order to select a micro-mobility service provider, define pilot parameters and measures of success, where the units could travel (geo-fencing), as well as where and how to park them, then issue a report back to the Civic Works Standing Policy Committee with findings from the pilot.
Another item approved by Council this week is the streamlining of three independent urban core incentive program allocations into one fund with an additional $2 million from the Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve (MRSR). Combining funding and adding funding will now support in-demand projects much sooner. The estimated rate of return on the grant funding has been 13:1 with a stimulated construction value of nearly $7.5 million. Interest remains high, with daily inquiries and a queue of six potential projects that could be approved now that funding is available.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown, there has been significant development and reinvestment into the core commercial districts – largely being attributed to the incentives available.
This supports broader community outcomes of vibrant central neighbourhoods, local economy due to construction-related jobs and the creation of safe and useable buildings, as well as expanding the assessment base positively impacting future taxes.
More information on this week’s Council decisions can be found here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/pages/default.aspx
Right below the News Centre on the City of Lethbridge website is a section called Beyond the Headlines, where we provide further context to issues. Recent items have been on Transit and Waste and Recycling that help to clarify concerns some residents have had and to provide further transparency from the City. They can be viewed here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/Pages/NewsOurStories.aspx
To end this month, I would like to congratulate everyone involved at the Galt Museum & Archives on their recent Canadian Museums Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Stewardship of Collections.
I want to thank all health care staff – especially nurses as last week was National Nurses Week.
And, as we head into the Victoria Day long weekend, please make every effort to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19 and the growing number of variants.
Long weekends have often resulted in a spike in COVID cases, so please have a happy and safe May long weekend!