July 21st, 2024

Carlson rose to the occasion at city council

By Lethbridge Herald on January 26, 2024.

Al Beeber – managing editor
Lethbridge Herald

“It’s the eye of the tiger

It’s the thrill of the fight

Rising up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor

Stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger”

Jeff Carlson on Tuesday had the eye of the tiger. The veteran city councillor showed a spirit and put up a fight that was one for the ages in his assault on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the City of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge and District Exhibition.

Take a bow, Jeff. Take a well-deserved bow. Because you deserve a standing ovation for your eloquence and your passion on this touchy issue.

If you weren’t watching council’s discussion on the Exhibition situation, you can still check it out on the City’s YouTube page and when you do watch it, you will see Carlson at his finest, making an impassioned argument why council should have put the Exhibition and it’s new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre out to pasture, a facility we all learned wasn’t even designed to accommodate livestock. Seriously? An agriculture facility that isn’t meant for livestock? That revelation almost mooo-ved me out of my chair in shock.

Carlson told his fellow councillors he couldn’t stomach the thought of asking taxpayers to endure yet a higher tax increase than they will see in November when council will be approving the second of four years of increases contained in the 2023-26 budget that they approved late in the fall of 2022.

Depending on what the initial findings of the third party review shows, taxpayers may indeed be facing a larger tax increase if council votes again to support the Exhibition. Mayor Blaine Hyggen on Tuesday told we two remaining media members in early evening after the vote he would have to say no to a higher increase.

If council in November votes to continue supporting the Exhibition in 2025, an operating grant of up to $6.5 million will have to be provided. If it chooses to abandon the Exhibition, there will still be a mothballing cost of $2.8 million for 2025.

In the meantime, Carlson and fellow councillor Rajko Dodic made abundantly clear why they didn’t feel the City should making any more effort to help what some might call a lame luck try to take wing.

But the majority of council disagreed, and they as well made compelling arguments for trying to see the Exhibition survive and the nearly $80 million hub become viable.

The City has a huge investment in the hub and will be on the hook financially even if it decides to mothball it because there are ongoing expenses.

As a presentation to council by city manager Lloyd Brierley and chief financial officer Darrell Mathews showed, there were pros and cons to either choice council was faced with.

As one member of council told me a couple of weeks ago, council was handed a dung sandwich – “dung” not being the word he used – with a choice of mustard or ketchup for condiments. I think you get the point.

Mayor and council were put in a spot they didn’t want to be in and had to make a tough decision for the community. 

And the presentation showed just how tough that had to be, a decision which is going to subject them to scrutiny for the rest of their term.

If you missed the presentation, here are the risks that the City faced if council had declined to approve the MOU:

• Lethbridge permanently loses Exhibition & Ag Society.

• No revenue generation opportunities.

• Exhibition job losses.

• Major events go to other cities.

• Lethbridge residents lose signature community events.

• Impacts to relationship with province.

• Impacts to community reputation with future investors.

• Impacts to relationships with current sponsors.

• Prohibitively expensive to restart.

• Restrictions on selling or re-purposing facility for five years.

• Prime city real estate is unusable.

The only benefits would be that the City will have a good idea of what fixed costs will be and there will be less impact on the budget.

Those were huge considerations for council.

The benefits by approving the MOU are, says the PowerPoint presentation:

• Preserves Exhibition & Ag Society.

• Opportunity to reduce operational costs and increase revenues.

• Potential development opportunities.

• Preserve Exhibition jobs

• Maintain major community events.

• Maintain quality of life for residents.

• Protect City and provincial investments.

• Keep current sponsors support/relationships.

Risks include the amount of operational funding that will be needed and “future decisions on City operating budget pressures.”

In either case, the Hub is going to cost money. And the amount of money that it potentially costs on a daily basis is staggering – I heard the figure of $30,000 brought up during talks. If that is accurate, then that’s $10,950,000 per year. 

By approving the MOU, council is giving interim transition leader of the Exhibition Kim Gallucci, who also serves as general manager of the Enmax Centre, a chance to generate revenue for the facility and reduce whatever potential tax burden residents and businesses may be faced with in the future.

One matter that struck me during discussions, along with the livestock matter, was a comment made by Brierley that the building might be bigger than Lethbridge needs. This is a comment we’ve heard often from people  who have been in the facility. It is huge, especially that long wide main floor hallway. But to channel Belinda Crowson who late last year brought up how other facilities were initially considered white elephants, will it be too big in 10 or 20 years? 

Are criticisms about its size and scope showing shortsightedness?

The answer we won’t know for years and I personally doubt I’ll be above ground long enough to see an answer.

But I’ve heard from people there are problems with the facility, including from exhibitors who had booths at the farmers market when it was moved into the hub, and from one individual involved with a recent event.

On the surface, the hub is looking like a financial train wreck, especially given the revelation that the Exhibition’s business plan which forecast a surplus of $2.3 million – excluding debt and other expenses – for 2023-24 in reality turned out to be a deficit of $6.5 million, a figure which was $7 million before a half million dollars in savings were found in recent weeks. This figure does include debt and other expenses, it should be pointed out.

Can the hub be put back on track and become viable? Can the Exhibition be saved?

Time will tell. None of us knows what to expect except perhaps for one thing:

That Jeff Carlson will once again take centre stage, eloquently and vehemently arguing his viewpoint on behalf of the public who elected him.

Take a bow, Jeff. 

Regardless of what people think of your views the Exhibition – and I’m as confused as a cat chasing a laser light on the whole matter – you deserve props for speaking up and speaking out. You did what politicians are elected to do – you fought and you fought hard.

“Rising up straight to the top

Had the guts, got the glory

Went the distance, now I’m not going to stop

Just a man and his will to survive.”

Eye of the Tiger, man. Eye of the Tiger.

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Dennis Bremner

Well said Al!
I have been a supporter of the Agri-Center but this new news that it was never intended for Animals is the straw that broke the Camels back for me. Especially, in light of the fact we were ready to demolish the remaining buildings at a cost of millions to ensure the “Magnificence stands alone”? So did we avoid another disaster by a fluke? Does this not say that the old buildings have to stay? Ensuring the enshrining of the “The Magnificence” in all its glory, may be the only option?
I have also heard, no idea if true and I am not interested in starting rumours, that there is also no “wash down facility” installed in the Center, so that any machinery brought in for display can be cleaned. Thats something Mr Beeber, you might want to look at. If true, whom here thinks anyone wants to use a hose to wash down a “combine”? I can see a rather large lineup so why bring it?
I have maintained for years that Lethbridge has a natural tendency to shoot it self in the foot because of complacency of the informed, or just skipping over the details as if they will correct themselves.
We hire a Michelangelo to chip away at the city hoping for a marble “David” and when its done, it resembles a “turd”. Then we spend our time trying to defend the turd, say its not a turd, have people study the turd to see how much it would cost to take the turd to a resemblance of David?
We chip away at our downtown and the statue is not finished but its really starting to shape up as a turd. Council produces a Lawlessness Committee to study the partially finished statue and try to convince each other, its not a turd in the making!
We obviously had no one studying the Agri-Center drawings and asking critical things like where do the animals go? Where do you wash a Combine? I don’t remember seeing anything resembling a spray down facility but don’t remember looking either. Meanwhile Michelangelo sits in front of city hall chipping away at the next turd.
This all would be laughable if the turd was not made of stone!
Thank you Mr Carlson for standing up to another fiasco! Thank you Al Beeber for enlightening me!

Last edited 5 months ago by Dennis Bremner

just to say, we are hardly even in a position to bring in things that require a waste of our water.


Dennis, your comments are George Carlin worthy however, without the humour and pointing out the truth. Mr. Carlson’s stand yesterday was in fact admirable. I too have heard that there is no wash down facility as here is no accommodation for washing and drainage. Brilliant. However, this is just another turd in the long line of turds, CASA, the Airport, Chinook tourist and of course the downtown. The airport is an interesting in that the latest excuse for Flair non service is something to do with the lack of a loading ramp. Let’s see!!!. Probably numerous companies in Lethbridge who could build one to the specifications required, Calgary YYC would lease you one or sell one of theirs in storage. Failing that the local Colonies could whip one up in a week. So that is lame, in that it is doubtful we will every see Flair here. Wonder what the deal is here. The Chinook Tourism taken over from private contract and moved downtown and left the MM Drive building vacant. One year later move it back as someone must have done a “study” and determined with ultimate wisdom that “no one is bringing their 35’ fifth wheel downtown to find out where the Japanese Gardens are.
I will close with a famous line from the one and only George Carlin, modified to fit Lethbridge.

The City of Lethbridge Council and administration is one big club and you the TAXPAYER, AIN’T IN IT. There are only two who think you are.
Maybe somewhere along the line a non profit will plant a SEED as to what to do with the “Magnificence”. It’s a leasable building.

Last edited 5 months ago by buckwheat
Dennis Bremner

My complaints about “the process” in this city is it has a propensity to accept “experts” and their credentials without first determining if they have had success.
“Experts” stating that an SCS is the greatest thing since sliced bread while having a conflict of interest and appearing because the future operator knows what they will say, is not a good source.
Having “Experts” who carry a Rosary in one hand and a Bible in the other are not “Experts” on whether destruction may occur while doing the “Head Honcho’s suggested path.
Having “Experts” that have never farmed in their lives, or raised animals or put equipment into farmers hands, are also not experts.
Having “Experts” that suggest that Lethbridge will have 1000s of people fly into it without having the knowledge of what the “abov experts are going to do to the downtown, makes no one an expert.
There are numerous Military Individuals here, younger than I. They can smell a conflict, or a conjob, or a spin a mile off. Do you know why? The military has been handed equipment that should have never been purchased, never been modified, and never to be used for its intended purpose because the “Same Experts” con the people that never use it!
So we build minesweepers made of metal which of course attracts mines and after we have the money we call Costal Defence Vessels even though fitted as a Minesweeper. I have no stories of Guns,missiles but I can tell you we purchased submarines that had never been tested and tied up the day their build was completed. Why does this matter?
Simple, really, if you have lived a life of being conned, being handed a bill of goods, witness experts that do not have a clue what they are talking about, you soon realize that COMMON SENSE supercedes all the experts of today and yesterday!
Charlie/Shiela the Farmers
Charlie/Shiela own a farm, they slug their guts out day in and day out to keep animals alive and healthy and ensuring they have a good source of food. They buy equipment attend auctions and have their children in 4H.
Did anyone talk to them? Likely not because Charlie/Shiela are not part of Lethbridge Royalty.
Whats my point? Well I do not blame council of this city, There are truckloads of experts with NO COMMON SENSE and pedal themselves as experts on EVERYTHING. The only failure this council and previous councils make EVERY time is the simple Military rule when dealing with EXPERTS and that can be summed up with 3 words
The Regimental Sargent Major(RSM) for a battalion watches many an expert march in with Rosaries, or Guns, or Ammunition, etc etc peddling the same. I have not met one RSM or Chief Petty Officer who got their without running into con-artist, shiesters, fraudster who are the masters of double speak. So while the royalty is being entertained by the experts with “Carved Davids” the RSMs are finding out whom of those people “carved turds”. Then when its all over Royalty gets both the modified David demo and the Turd demo. Now Royalty can make an informed decision!
As a sidebar, I have never met a Commander worth his weight who wanted his Chief or RSM to be a yes man. Every Commander needs someone who he can rely on to speak the truth (no matter how painful), then when a decision is made, to then support that decision 100%
Councils now, and the past, only get the David demo, and as a result, have to deal with the turd. Why is this? Sparkly things, righteous things, Holy things, get the nod without any interjection of the number one Rule;
So I do not blame councils, I blame those in this city that have the common sense to see the Turd and for not speaking up in a large enough group to grab attention, This isn’t a popularity contest I can assure you!
“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”! (Orwell)
So we will now have a breakdown of what went wrong, this fall.
I do not even have to guess, I can pretty well guarantee you it was an Expert who suggested we would be rolling in the money for all the attractions that we would attract.
Then, no one VERIFIED that this enthusiasm was justified while the Council were caught looking into the headlights. It was “Sparkly” and they really wanted to believe what they were being told. So you really need an “RSM” to tell you this EXPERT is a Turd Carver!
No animals, no food, no way of displaying CLEAN Agri-equipment and only one way to garner $18-$30K a day to pay the bills, and, thats to kill other businesses in town, and we called this building, what? We renamed the street its on, too what?
One turd begets another…..3.8% tax hike because of this fiasco?…hmmm verify, verify, verify!

Last edited 5 months ago by Dennis Bremner

two intriguing entries, d.b food for thought and, i, too, feel that if it looks and smells like turd, it is no doubt why this outrageous mess is leaving one helluva turd taste.


indeed, quite a legacy have our councils overseen. so many wonderful white elephants that help bloat our taxes, and, undermine services that better address our needs.
while most, or all, will not have gained personally, there sure are some in, and/or associated with city hall that one may suspect have been rather enriched over the years.


We have needed a new exhibition for years but the Cadillac building that they built we didn’t need. 70+ million was spent and millions more to come. The lack of livestock capability is not oversight it’s negligence pure and simple. They spent taxpayer money like drunken sailors(no offence to sailors, drunk or not) and then came hat in hand for more. We are now stuck with this money pit and paying for it. The old board has to wear this debacle and bear the shame. I sincerely hope the city isn’t going to try to punish taxpayers with this next year with a raise over the 5% increase in property taxes we’re budgeted for.