June 15th, 2024

Mayor Blaine Hyggen looking forward to a brighter 2023


By Al Bieber on December 27, 2022.

Herald photo by AL BEEBER Mayor Blaine Hyggen is seen in a year-end interview.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

His first full year as mayor was one of accomplishments and challenges for mayor Blaine Hyggen.

2022 was a year in which the spotlight shone on several issues, including homelessness and the physician shortage, but also on the volunteer spirit of Lethbridge – which hosted the Canadian men’s curling championship – improvements to the Lethbridge airport and other initiatives.

The much-publicized doctor shortage is being addressed with four new physicians currently working in the city while 17 others have made a commitment to Lethbridge and are waiting for their College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta practice readiness assessment so they can begin work in the new year, said the mayor in a year-end interview.

Construction started this year on a provincial $18 million addictions recovery campus just east of the city limits which will have about 50 treatment beds and will be able to help 200 people at a time to address their addictions.

This facility will help those experiencing homelessness and addictions in the community get back on their feet and into housing, said the mayor.

While some in the city may prefer to look at the negatives in the community, 2022 was a year in which Lethbridge residents had good reason to be proud of their community.

“It’s far too often that the community wants to focus sometimes on those negatives but there’s so many positive things we’ve had,” said the mayor.

Among those positives is the hiring of a new city manager in Lloyd Brierley.

“Working with him has been delightful; he’s focused, he’s worked very well with council,” said the mayor.

The airport which underwent more than $25 million in upgrades and renovations is a big boost for economic development in the city, said the mayor.

And while the cancellation of the Flair Airlines trips to Tucson was unfortunate, he says the airline will be going ahead with those flights in a year.

The new skating rink in Festival Square is also a bright spot for Lethbridge, providing families with an opportunity to get in some exercise and explore what downtown Lethbridge has to offer.

The mayor said the Neuron e-scooter pilot program was popular with residents and while there is some frustration with residents over aspects of it, the mayor has gotten great feedback, especially about those who use them in the downtown core.

The mayor said there was an increase in shopping downtown due to the e-scooters.

The opening of Festival Square is another highlight.

“There are so many different events, and honestly coming through COVID when there was so much doom and gloom for over two years, it’s great to have people back out again. Festival Square’s opened at the right time – people can get out and enjoy what we have downtown. . . .we’re seeing more businesses opening in the downtown core,” said Hyggen.

The 2022 Brier at the Enmax Centre was a huge feather in Lethbridge’s cap. With the Canadian mens championship, Lethbridge has now hosted every major curling event in the world, the Brier being the largest.

“What that brought for economic development into our community, especially coming out of COVID, it couldn’t have happened at a better time,” added Hyggen.

“It was packed, hotels were packed, restaurants were packed, shopping was up in the community. It was an amazing attraction for Lethbridge and really put Lethbridge on the map,” he said.

Hyggen said the Brier organizing committee loved Lethbridge and they know the volunteers here are “second to none. They’re out there when you need them, they’re there to support which to me is amazing. They’re the unsung heroes and so often it’s difficult to find people to help with some of these different projects but in Lethbridge it’s never been an issue.

“People are always out there to help,” added the mayor.

From the arts to minor hockey to senior citizens organizations, volunteers play a huge role in Lethbridge, the mayor suggested, with so many programs relying on volunteers.

Another highlight for Lethbridge was the opening of Lethbridge Housing Authority’s Southgate facility which is providing subsidized housing for seniors.

“That is amazing,” said the mayor, adding it brings much-needed affordable housing to the city.

About 300 people are on the LHA waiting list for housing and between that initiative and a new project being developed for First Nations residents, that will take pressure off the local affordable housing market, the mayor added.

The new doctors coming here will provide some of the thousands of city residents who lost their physicians with an opportunity to get a new one.

“It’s going to make a huge difference,” said the mayor, with those doctors awaiting their assessments expected to start practising by April.

The addictions recovery centre will also be important, he said.

“This will help with recovery. The government is helping with those who are struggling with addiction,” he said.

“This group is great in the fact that they help with getting those that are going through the program into work, into housing.

“The plans are to work with Lethbridge Housing and to get those individuals off the street, into recovery and then to go on to continue a life of sobriety,” said Hyggen.

He said the second Mayor’s Hockey Challenge to raise money for the food banks was a success, adding many people have been using food banks this year for the first time.

“So many of those individuals within our community are accessing the food bank that never have in the past so food banks are struggling to keep food on their shelves,” he said.

The mayor also pointed out the results of the community survey which showed 90 per cent of respondents ranked their quality of life here as good or very good.

“Would you like to have 100 per cent? Absolutely but to have 90 per cent is pretty positive,” said the mayor.

In the future, the mayor said council will be continuing to work on its action plan and tackling advocacy efforts with the province which he calls the top priority for council. Those efforts include expanding the waste water infrastructure to attract more business and industry to Lethbridge.

Council will also continue working on the homelessness situation, and expanding shelter space for the vulnerable here.

“I know it’s (the shelter) busting at the seams now which is really due in part to this pandemic and those that have lost jobs. Not everybody that’s on the street is addicted,” said the mayor. “Sometimes people need a hand up, not a hand out. We have to address that.”

The mayor is also part of a health round table involving the federal and provincial governments, the Blood Tribe Department of Health and the City of Lethbridge that discusses how all partners can work together through collaboration on solutions to addictions, encampments and health in general.

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Say What . . .

Obviously, there have been a lot of good things that the community can appreciate and be proud of. On the other hand, nothing has been done to deal with the encampments and criminal activity downtown.
“While some in the city may prefer to look at the negatives in the community, 2022 was a year in which Lethbridge residents had good reason to be proud of their community.”
Easy to say Mayor Hyggen when you do have a business downtown. Didn’t you move your business out by Costco a few years ago to escape the impacts of the Safe Drug Consumption Site?
“The mayor also pointed out the results of the community survey which showed 90 per cent of respondents ranked their quality of life here as good or very good.”
LOL LOL LOL LOL Whodid talk to? How did you ask the questions? Lethbridge surveys are well known to be worded to get the answers that the City wants to support their ideas.
The responses would be very different if you asked people in the center of Lethbridge, the London Road area, to the east and west, and the ease of City Hall. You see what you want to see!
“The mayor said there was an increase in shopping downtown due to the e-scooters.”
Simply astounding! Without eScooters, none of those people would have gone shopping downtown. LOL! Seriously you want us to believe that?
“Council will also continue working on the homelessness situation, and expanding shelter space for the vulnerable here.”
Not much to indicate that you listened to businesses and concerned citizens. Smoke and Mirrors!
And welcome to Vancouver DTES – Lethbridge version? Dig deep into your deep pockets Lethbridge, the ride is going to be expensive.
There is nothing in this to indicate that change is coming, so prepare for another year of encampments and crime when the weather warms up!
I liked this Council at the start!

Sheran.

Since 2014, I’ve lived in the London Road area. That has been sufficient opportunity to see that those in city hall have sold out the midtown region.
It has demonstrated to me that we are disposable, and the true NIMBYs are all of the leadership at city hall, who believe that they will be safe if they give central Lethbridge to addicts and criminals.
It has already reached your neighborhood, and as this cancer metasises, these problems will only get worse.
You don’t realize that the mall and even the city hall are in the downtown area. But you don’t care, even turning the downtown bus terminal into a shelter, where people arrive on the Red Arrow bus from the Calgary Airport, to see all the addicts doing drugs, running around high and even overdosing, while intimidated bus users.
Under this leadership, this city has no hope left.
I am pleased that our family is selling our home and will be moving in June. The city was lovely but my children will not be safe here!