May 30th, 2024

Year In Review – 2021 Headlines January to March


By Lethbridge Herald on December 27, 2021.

Herald file photos - A speaker points in the direction of police officers monitoring an anti-restrictions protest in front of city hall. An ambulance leaves the downtown Fire Headquarters Station 1. The remains of the Grange Hotel in Carmangay are fenced off after being destroyed by fire.

Over the next days leading up to the new year the Herald presents a synopsis of the stories from Lethbridge and area that made headlines in 2021:

JANUARY

Protestors speak out against pandemic restrictions

A group frustrated with the restrictions, mandatory masks and the shutting down of local businesses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic staged a protest in front of Lethbridge City Hall. A group of roughly 40 protestors dubbed “WethepeopleYQL” gathered near the front steps of City Hall for a Freedom Rally with signs stating “No more lying 2021!!”, “We The People YQL” “Freedom is Mandatory” and “Keep Canada Free” in a roughly one hour demonstration which, aside from one counter protestor, remained peaceful.

Local MLAs speak out on travel scandal

Lethbridge’s sitting MLAs are weighing in on the most recent scandal to rock the Kenney United Conservative Party government after several members of its caucus and one cabinet minister were found to have flown out of the country for sunny holidays at the same time as additional public health restrictions and business closures were imposed on everyday Albertans.“The rage being felt by Albertans is certainly something I have never seen before in Alberta politics,” said Lethbridge-West MLA and Opposition Finance Critic Shannon Phillips. “Having been involved in Alberta politics for 20 plus years, and I was around during the outrage on Alison Redford’s use of airplanes and so on – that pales in comparison.”

Mayor Spearman not running in next election

Mayor Chris Spearman will not run for office again in 2021. Spearman spoke to The Herald in an exclusive interview, confirming he would be retiring from municipal politics after eight years following this October’s city elections. “I have been thinking about things for awhile, and this past year with COVID has certainly been challenging,” he said. “One of the things I notice is I miss my family a lot, and I want to look after my health. I want to spend more time with my kids and grandkids, and I want to travel a bit.”

Lethbridge lands the Brier

A major curling event is drawing into southern Alberta again. And this one completes an impressive sweep as it was announced the 93rd edition of the Tim Hortons Brier is hitting the pebbled ice at the Enmax Centre March 4-13, 2022. The landing of the Canadian men’s championship makes Lethbridge just the fourth city to host all four Season of Champions events, including the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the World Men’s Championship and the World Women’s Championship.

Mayor wants Shandro fired

Mayor Chris Spearman called for Health Minister Tyler Shandro to be turfed by Premier Kenney over his lack of understanding of the life-saving nature of integrated EMS dispatch in Lethbridge, and three other municipalities, impacted by an Alberta Health Services plan to scrap local EMS dispatch when the current contract ends. “I am very concerned this Health Minister is not listening to Albertans on a series of important issues related to health.” Spearman stated.

Coal lease pause not enough, say groups

Southern Alberta conservation groups and some public officials are welcoming the UCP government’s announcement that it will be putting a pause on new coal leases in the Eastern Slopes and cancelling new offerings on 11 leases with the Oldman River headwaters, but stress this gesture does little to address the many more lease offerings the government has already approved since unilaterally rescinding the Coal Policy in June of last year. “I think it is an important reward to the thousands of Albertans and Canadians who rejected the revocation of the Coal Policy, but it is also a very small reward, says Ian Urquhart, conservation director with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

 

Pipeline bet cost Albertans

Opposition Finance Critic and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips said Premier Jason Kenney made a risky bet on the Keystone XL pipeline that left Alberta taxpayers over-exposed, and now on the hook for billions of dollars. After on his first day in office President Joe Biden, as promised throughout the last year of his election campaign, rescinded permission for the pipeline to cross the border granted under the previous administration. “What we know now is Mr. Kenney gambled with $1.5 billion of our money,” Phillips said. 

FEBRUARY

Council expressing mining concerns to province

Lethbridge city council voted unanimously to have Mayor Chris Spearman draft a letter to the province expressing the City of Lethbridge’s ongoing concerns with proposed coal mining in the headwaters of the Oldman River watershed; despite the recent Kenney government decision to reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy, pending public consultations on a new coal policy for Alberta. Spearman acknowledged and thanked the provincial government for its decision to listen to the people of Alberta and reinstate the Coal Policy, but said the fact councillors voted unanimously to send the letter with other points of concern listed meant this was a vital issue for all Lethbridge’s citizens which cut across all political lines. 

Murder charge laid

The Lethbridge Police Service has charged a 35-year-old man with second degree murder after police discovered the body of a 65-year-old, identified as Glenn Lofthouse, dead in his apartment. Jade Trotter of Lethbridge, who is “very well known” to police, was arrested and charged on Tuesday after police found him at a residence in the 1100 block of 11 Street South. S-Sgt. Pete Christos of the LPS Criminal Investigations Section confirmed the victim and the accused were known to each other, and that the alleged homicide occurred over a property dispute. 

Allegations made against retired LPS inspector

Serious allegations of sexual assault and abuse of power went public on after the CBC reported that retired Lethbridge Police Service Inspector Bill Kaye, who at the time worked as a victims advocate with the city’s Domestic Violence Action Team and sat as board member with the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre, carried on unwelcome sexual encounters with a local woman who had come to him for help as a victim of domestic violence. According to the CBC article, the victim, known as Emma in the story, said she approached the LPS with her allegations, and they were dismissed as “regretful sex” by the investigator — named by the CBC as Sgt. Marc Smallbones — prompting her to approach the Coaldale RCMP with her allegations instead. 

Proposed sober site raises concerns

A group of business owners are expressing their concerns with a proposed new emergency sober shelter at the old Western One building at 110 13th Street South. “This business community on the upper eastside over the last couple of years has gone through the Supervised Consumption Site, and the amount of traffic of at-risk individuals have gone through that business community,” says Richard Daley, owner of Earl’s Lethbridge and a member of the group. 

City to seek control of EMS dispatch

City council has voted to pass a resolution to explore the possibility of once again assuming local EMS dispatch control from AHS in support of the RM of Wood Buffalo, and to have the City’s legal advisers sit in on the province’s injunction case against Wood Buffalo on Mar. 9-11. Since Wood Buffalo assumed control of its local dispatch again, Mayor Chris Spearman acknowledged he had received a “positive” letter from Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, who says he is now willing to sit down with the municipalities of Calgary, Lethbridge, Wood Buffalo and Red Deer to discuss things, but said now was not the time to take the “foot off the pedal” as he requested his council colleagues support his resolution.

Facemask bylaw extended

City council voted to reject a motion from its Community Safety Standing Policy Committee which would have allowed the City’s current Temporary Face-covering Bylaw to expire as previously planned, and instead voted to extend the bylaw until at least April 30. As chair of SPC, Coun. Ryan Parker brought the committee motion, which passed 3-1, forward for the full council’s consideration. He again reiterated that with a strong provincial masking order in place the local bylaw was now redundant, and he answered critics of himself and fellow Councillors Joe Mauro and Blaine Hyggen, who, he says, have wrongly accused them of being anti-maskers because of their respect for provincial health orders over local bylaw enforcement when it comes to COVID-19. 

Smuggler gets prison

A Calgary trucker found guilty earlier of smuggling a record amount of methamphetamine into Alberta in 2019 has been sentenced to 11 years in a federal penitentiary. Judge Gregory Maxwell handed down his decision in Lethbridge provincial court, and said even though Asif Mir was only a courier in the unsophisticated drug smuggling operation, his actions contribute to the disintegration of individuals and society. “Addiction to these drugs, simply put, destroys people, it destroys families, it destroys careers, and it jeopardizes a peaceful society,” Maxwell said. 

MARCH

Charges dismissed in Cardston wrongful workplace death case

Charges against a Cardston company following a work-related death of an employee three years ago have been dismissed. Judge John Maher ruled in Lethbridge provincial court that the Crown failed to prove Taurus Natural Inc., a livestock feed company, didn’t do enough to ensure the safety of 41-year-old Scott Forsyth, who died on the job Jan. 30. 2018. Maher said in his lengthy decision, Forsyth was adequately trained and competent to operate equipment, specifically a dry mineral mixing hopper, but he failed to follow company protocols which led to his death. 

Local mine opponents take their message to the streets

A local group speaking out against coal mining in the Eastern Slopes took their word to the street Saturday morning (March 20). Or more specifically, to the river valley. A fleet of vehicles representing the Mountains Not Mines Action Group met up Saturday morning out front of the Alberta Motor Association to spread their message about coal mining and the potential for damage to the Oldman River and the water supply. 

New school nearing completion

A state-of-the-art elementary school is set to open its doors in September. Dr. Robert Plaxton Elementary School, located on Lethbridge’s south side is nearing completion and architects and teachers alike provided a tour of the modern facility which will house students aged Kindergarten to Grade 5.“It’s such an exciting opportunity to start with a completely blank slate and such a modern, innovative building,” said Erin Hurkett, principal at Dr. Robert Plaxton Elementary School. Covering an area of roughly 4,800 square metres, the school contains 15 permanent classrooms, eight modular classrooms and two project centres as well a 616 square metre gymnasium, 180 square metre library commons and a 223 square metre student gathering space. 

Mustard Seed plans nixed by council

In the end the “Nays” had it after city council voted to reject The Mustard Seed’s bid to open a new sober shelter site at the 100 block of 13th Street South.While recognizing the need for such a facility in the community, all councillors, including those in favour, felt that perhaps not enough public engagement had been done by The Mustard Seed with regards to this particular proposal. “This is something I had high hopes for,” said Coun. Jeffrey Carlson prior to casting his opposing vote.

Multiple outbreaks in Lethbridge, Taber

There are 10 COVID outbreaks that Alberta Health has identified in Lethbridge and one in Taber, according to information supplied by Alberta Health. In some locations there are no longer any active cases. Sunrise Poultry Processors, Lethbridge, now has 92 COVID cases, up from 75. The first case tested positive on Feb. 5 according to Alberta Health Services (AHS). Of the 92 cases, 37 are still active and 55 have recovered. Alberta Health’s website states that outbreaks are declared at non-healthcare workplaces “when there are 10 or more cases.” AHS determined that the outbreak would be based on where transmission had occurred. 

Historic Carmangay hotel burns to the ground

An historical building in Carmangay has been lost. The Grange Hotel, a nearly 112-year-old building in the village roughly 60 kilometres northwest of Lethbridge, was destroyed in a fire early that started at approximately 1:30 a.m. The cause of the fire was unknown, but there were no injuries or fatalities. And in windy conditions that intensified later in the day and necessitated the brief evacuation of Carmangay when a grass fire near Claresholm burned out of control, Carmangay mayor Stacey Hovde gave credit to the fire department for containing the blaze with minimal damage to nearby buildings. 

Maxime Bernier promises federalist alternative in SACPA talk

People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier spoke at a special session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs YouTube livestream speaker series. During his speech, and in the question-and-answer period following his presentation to SACPA, Bernier kept a very narrow focus reserving his first remarks for potential Alberta separatists who may be disaffected by the current parties in power in Ottawa, and later promising a radical federalist alternative which decentralized even more powers to the provinces

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