June 22nd, 2024

State of the City address puts spotlight on key issues

By Lethbridge Herald on January 26, 2022.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen answers questions after giving his first State of the City address hosted as an online event by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning.

Trevor Busch – Lethbridge Herald

There are no lack of critical issues facing the City of Lethbridge in early 2022.

That was the message from Mayor Blaine Hyggen on Wednesday as he delivered his inaugural State of the City address.

Hyggen, who spoke with attendees virtually, covered a plethora of topics from cityLINK transit to airport development to city finances, while elucidating council’s short and long-term goals in many of these areas.

The mayor’s State of the City address was facilitated through the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

One of the key areas of concern that Hyggen would highlight is the city’s ongoing struggle to recruit and retain doctors in the community.

“We’ve heard from the community that this is a significant issue, and we’re working with Alberta Health to recruit family physicians, and Alberta Health Services, to provide the other health services in our community, which are also being impacted by the family doctor shortage. Even though the municipal government does not have jurisdiction over health care in Alberta, we want to look at what other things that we can do as a city to attract new doctors. We’re hoping to contribute in any way we can. A healthy and thriving community has to include a strong base of family doctors.”

The City is currently developing an action plan for recruitment and retainment which will be brought back to council at a future date. 

Hyggen also focused on community safety and policing, as well as the addictions crisis that has claimed many lives in southern Alberta.

“The crime severity index is on a downward trend in Lethbridge as it is in many parts of the country. The city has a role of insuring a clean and safe community, facilitating partnerships and navigating other orders of government for the services that we require. Much work has been done by City administration and past city council to move this initiative forward.” 

“Responding to a drug crisis is a very complex issue. The City is one partner in the response as we work to support the provincial government and agencies to provide the programs and services related to addictions and mental health in our community.”

Assisting struggling families with their house payments during the pandemic ties into the City’s affordable housing strategy, according to Hyggen. 

“Secure housing is a key to keeping communities safe and healthy. The Housing Supplement program was established in February 2021 when City council approved $500,000 in one-time funding working with the Lethbridge Housing Authority as the administrator of the program. This program is designed to help families struggling to make their housing payments during this pandemic. At the Alberta Municipalities conference, our message to the ministry was ‘we’re here, we want to work together, we’re creative and we want to find a made-in-Lethbridge solution’.”

Hyggen would also touch on the continuing work of truth and reconciliation with the region’s Indigenous peoples, including the permanent raising of the Blackfoot Confederacy flag at city hall in 2021.

A big question on the ballot in the October 2021 municipal election asked residents if they would support a third bridge for the community. 

“Of course we’ll explore that and look at what the costs may be,” said Hyggen. “That is going to be coming back from our city manager in the future, as far as some of those direct costs. Last month council voted to have administration investigate further potential sites for that third river crossing, further south from the current proposed location, as well assess the approximate cost to construct a third river crossing at a potential site, or sites to be identified. This report will be coming back at a later time, September 2022.”

Last but not least, Hyggen is excited for the upcoming 2022 Tim Hortons Brier national curling championship, which will place the City in some elite company when it comes to hosting these types of events.

“Our city is the gateway to opportunity, and we are so proud to have a storied history of hosting major curling events to show for it. Lethbridge has previously hosted the 2019 Men’s World Curling Championship, the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship, the 2017 World Senior Curling Championship, the 2012 World Women’s Curling Championship, and the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. By hosting the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier, Lethbridge will become the only city to have hosted each and all of these events.”

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