July 17th, 2024

Year-in-review: Top stories from January – March


By Lethbridge Herald on December 27, 2023.

As we all prepare to turn our calendars to the new year we take time to reflect back on 2023 and examine all the highs and lows, ups and downs and leading stories that graced the pages of The Lethbridge Herald.
This is the first of a four-part series.

JANUARY
The New Democratic Party is calling on the provincial government to provide Albertans with a date for when they can expect their promised inflation relief payments. NDP Finance Critic and MLA for Lethbridge West, Shannon Phillips told the Herald on Monday that it has been 41 days since Albertans were promised their relief payments the UCP still has no system for distributing the money to them.

The Canadian Taxpayer Federation is applauding Premier Danielle Smith’s government for fully suspending the provincial fuel tax to start the new year. Alberta Director for the CanadianTaxpayers Federation, Kris Sims said the provincial fuel tax suspension kicked in on Jan. 1, and will last for at least the next six months. She said the best way to explain it was by going back to last year changes, as the fuel tax changed throughout 2022.

Interfaith Food Bank executive director Danielle McIntyre said she was very grateful to have the Christmas Hope partnership, because through that partnership they were able to do what they do best and take care of the food part, while knowing their toy partners were taking care of making sure children had something under the tree. She said the Interfaith Food Bank did 40 per cent more hampers over Christmas 2022 that they did the year before and they saw an increase of 47 per cent in people they served.

Lethbridge-based company Triple M Modular Housing has been acquired by ATCO Ltd. Terms of the deal were not immediately available. Triple M, according to ATCO, will operate as a specialized housing division of ATCO Structures.
Established in 1981, Triple M employs more than 300 highly-trained employees and an experienced management team.

The Rotary Club of Lethbridge Downtown is assisting 18 families and four single adults resettle into new lives far from their war-torn homeland.
The Rotarians have been working with Lethbridge Family Services and other organizations since last year to provide help to the evacuees.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Lethbridge Local 237, which represents firefighters and paramedics in Lethbridge, recently voiced their concerns about ambulance availability and EMS response times across the city on social media.Fire Chief Greg Adair said they recognize there is a lot of strain on the EMS system provincially and is not only isolated to Lethbridge.
In a recent Tweet, the union said that over the last few days they have seen situations where no physical ambulance is available to respond.

Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services has implemented new protocols that are saving the lives of cardiac patients. A cardiac monitoring system called CaseReview that was purchased along with new cardiac monitors in 2020 has increased the number of cardiac patients resuscitated by LFES crews arriving at the hospital with a pulse to 90 per cent.

Playgoers of Lethbridge is celebrating a big milestone this year.
It will be a 100 years since their very first meeting took place at St.
Augustine Church on Jan. 20, 1923. “We’re celebrating 100 years and at this point still going strong, and look-ing forward to continuing for at least another 100,” said Elaine Jagielski, president of the board for Playgoers of Lethbridge.

BILD Lethbridge Region announced that the Home and Garden Show will not take place this year in order to make it bigger and better in 2023. “The decision was not made lightly. We know what this show means to
the citizens of Lethbridge and to our vendors, and for the businesses in our community, but this will allow us the proper planning and time to produce the 2024 Home and Garden Show to the highest standards that our vendors and our partners, and our community deserves,” said executive officer Bridget Mearns.

A ceremony was held in Brocket on the Piikani Nation to inaugurate the new chief and council. The election was held Jan. 9 with Troy “Bossman” Knowlton replacing the previous chief, Stan Grier.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen gave his first in- person State of the City address to about 200 people at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre. In a talk that lasted about an hour, the mayor addressed numerous initiatives being undertaken by city council and administration as well as the issues of homelessness, the physician shortage and community safety.

A new PrairiesCan office has been announced for the city. Gathering at the Galt Museum, dignitaries celebrated the new service location in the city along with federal investments in southern Alberta. The new PrairiesCan office will be located in the historic post office, at 4 Avenue South and 7th Street, intended to allow local entrepreneurs, municipalities, community organizations, and more the opportunity to access these services.

The City of Lethbridge and Blood Tribe Department of Health have agreed upon a lease agreement for a shelter at the location of the former Lethbridge Shelter and Stabilization Centre on 2 Ave. N. Under the agreement the new tenant will pay annual rent of $99,975 for each year of the term and any renewal terms to be paid in two instalments.

Tensions ran high outside the Lethbridge Courthouse while the parents of a six-week-old child who had been assaulted were before court. Between 40 to 50 people attendeda rally in support of the baby outside of the courthouse, while some went inside to hear what the judge had to say Wednesday morning.

FEBRUARY
The historic Bow On Tong building was ravaged by fire on Tuesday morning, leaving the building heavily scarred. At around 5 a.m. Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services responded to a structure fire at 316 2 Ave S, with crews from four city stations as well as from Coaldale Fire Rescue.

The Crossings Leisure Complex, formerly known as the ATB Centre, will now be named Cavendish Farms Centre thanks to a new sponsorship from Cavendish Farms. The City of Lethbridge announced Tuesday that they entered a $1 million, 10-year sponsorship agreement for $100,000 a year with Cavendish Farms.

The University of Lethbridge welcomed its seventh president and vice-chancellor Digvir Jayas on Tuesday. Assuming his new role on July 1,
Jayas will be coming to the ULethbridge campus from the University of Manitoba where he was the vice-president for research and international for the past 12 years.

Lethbridge city council on Tuesday gave its unanimous support to three applications for federal Rapid Housing initiative funding. Three organizations made presentations to council about housing projects aimed at helping Indigenous peoples and others in need of affordable housing.
Total cost to the city for funding the projects will amount to 4,970,240 if all three projects receive RHI funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Deadline for applications to apply for the latest round of RHI funding is March 15.

Downtown businesses fear they may be hearing the death knell in the face of increased parking fines. City council is considering amending a traffic bylaw that would increase park- ing fines to $50 from $25, minus the $15 reduction if paid within seven days. But businesses say that could be the final nail in the coffin for many of them.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Cyndi Bester is optimistic about the future of this city. The Chamber has seen the downtown core grow into a city over the decades. “I appreciate that growth,” she said, adding it’s important for every area of Lethbridge to feel part of the community and to let them have their own community identity.

A request that city council approve up to $215,460 of Reaching Home federal funding for the Streets Alive Mission to operate outreach programming brought a strong response from a member of city council at Thursday’s Cultural and Standing Policy Committee meeting.
John Middleton-Hope, who is not a member of the SPC but was present at the meeting, questioned the capability of Streets Alive to conduct such programming in light of how it handled the warming centre for which it also received funding in December. In a 2-1 vote, the SPC voted in favour of a motion recommending council approve up to $215,400 per year of Reach- ing Home funding for 2023-26.

A report presented to the Cultural and Social Standing Policy Commit- tee of Lethbridge city council recently shows the majority of users of the pilot CultureLINK bus service last summer were local residents.
The report was presented by Darrin Martens, CEO and executive director of the Galt Museum and Archives. The project offered free transportation between six tourist attractions in the city from June until September.
Those attractions included the Galt Museum, Casa, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, as well as Fort Whoop-Up and Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Indian Battle Park.

A suspicious fire has destroyed a historic downtown building. Emergency responders from four stations responded to the fire along 5 St South
across from Galt Gardens at around 2:15 a.m. with 28 members.
The blaze at the Lethbridge Hotel resulted in the closure of 5St. S. from 1 Ave to 3 .Ave, and the closure of 2 Ave. at 4 St. with the city asking people to avoid the area for safety.

MARCH

Budget 2023 was unveiled Tuesday with a strong emphasis on securing Alberta’s future but mayor Blaine Hyggen says while the budget’s broad funding will be helpful for residents, the important needs of this community have been left out. “Some of the more important Leth- bridge community needs, that council has been advocating for, are unfortunately absent from this budget. We will dig deeper into it and see if they are hid- den somewhere else. But for right now, I am seeing some of those things absent,” said Hyggen.

Both city school divisions had something to celebrate in the 2023 budget with a new westside elementary school promised for the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division while Lethbridge School Division will see modernization of Galbraith Elementary.

Finance Minister Travis Toews, who tabled the provincial budget Tuesday, has found a good balance between spending and saving, says Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf.
“There are a lot of things in this budget, and there are all kinds of challenges faced by any government,” Neudorf told the Herald Wednesday. “Do you save more? Do you pay down the debt more?”

Some residents and board members of the River Ridge condominium complex are pushing back against further rezoning and development at the Castle Apartments. The apartments, located
at 221-2 Ave S, are one block east of the River Ridge community and run by the Lethbridge Housing Authority (LHA). The LHA offers supportive housing units in the apartment building and is seeking permission from the City to add more. A source contacted the Herald with an invitation to speak with a representative before a Feb. 24 ‘residents only’ meeting at River Ridge.

Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, and Rob Miyashiro, NDP candidate for Lethbridge- East, tag-teamed as they took shots at Premier Danielle Smith and the provincial budget during a news conference at the Galt Museum Friday.
“You know, like so many of us here in Lethbridge, I am truly disappointed by the provincial budget,” Miyashiro said. “Danielle Smith doesn’t care what matters to our community. This budget is also a brutal failure by the MLA for Lethbridge East, Na- than Neudorf, who’s also the infrastructure minister and the deputy premier. Somehow, he came back from Edmonton empty-handed.”

The province has announced a $330 million increase over three years to support front- line social sector workers.
Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, Jeremy Nixon made the announcement Monday at Christopher’s Place, a residential facility in Lethbridge for adults with developmental disabilities who experience mobility issues.
Nixon said Monday’s announcement builds on the $26 million the government announced before Christmas, to increase funding for homeless shelters, family violence prevention organizations and disability service providers.

Lethbridge city council has defeated by a 6-3 vote a motion to provide federal Reaching Home funding to Streets Alive Mission to operate outreach programming. In initiative C 11.2 that was passed by council last November during budget deliberations, municipal funding was put aside for four years for Lethbridge outreach programs. The initiative called for two outreach teams which council deemed key in helping to move people into the housing and recovery continuums through approaches best for each individual.

The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown BRZ, and City
of Lethbridge are working together to bring monthly education sessions to the public related to safety, security and community issues. Located in Casa’s Community Room, the monthly talks are aimed towards businesses and non-profit organizations located in the downtown, addressing the need for more information and education about initiatives that impact their operations.

Lethbridge College kicked off its two-day Stone Pipe Days celebration by signing on to the Buffalo Treaty. “The importance of the Buffalo Treaty is huge for the college,” said Brad Donaldson, college president and CEO.
“It is a major step as we move forward with our Truth and Reconciliation journey. The buffalo is so culturally important to the Blackfoot community, representing food, shelter, and clothing, the essence of sustainability and survival for their people. Now that education is the new buffalo, it is a way to create the future for young people.”

The Lethbridge and District Exhibition needs more than $4.6 million to proceed with demolition of the three existing old pavilions on site at the Agri- Food Hub and Trade Centre.
On Wednesday the Economic Stand- ing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council unanimously passed a motion calling on administration to work with the Exhibition to provide progress payment amounts for the requested funds, the current operating forecast and project milestones and timelines and to return to the April meeting of the SPC.

The City should advocate and work with the Blackfoot Confederacy as well as the provincial and federal governments to establish more recovery-based services outside Lethbridge for those wishing to be removed from temptations in urban centres.
That is one of the final recommendations by the now disbanded Social Services Integration Group.The group’s final report was presented to the Cultural and Social Standing committee. In its recommendations, SSIG says establishing services outside the city “could also assist in removing pressure from services and enforcement organizations within the urban boundary.”

Visitation to the Galt Museum was up 186 per cent over 2021, says an annual report provided to the Cultural and Social Standing Policy committee of Lethbridge city council Thursday.
The report submitted by CEO/executive director Darrin Martens and Devon Smithers, chair of the Galt board of directors, also shows that visitation to Fort Whoop-Up was up 35 per cent last year from 2021.

The YWCA Lethbridge and District has decided not to enter into a new contract with he Permanent Supportive Housing Women’s Residence Program at the end of the month.
YWCA Lethbridge and District CEO, Jill Young said the program is a funded program for 24 women age 18 plus, that require additional supports for various different needs and takes a housing- first approach in terms of being able to provide those supports.
She said they have chosen at this time for the long-term success of the
organization and for their growth opportunities, to discontinue this particular program.

The Liberal government’s budget on Tuesday has failed Canadians in the opinion of Lethbridge MP Rachael Thomas.
Thomas, in a telephone interview late Tuesday, said she and her Conservative colleagues will be voting against it but expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to be propped up by the Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.
“At the end of the day, Canadians are hurting, they’re having a hard time making ends meet, whether its putting food on their tables, or paying their mortgage or their rent or being able to drive their kids to school. So Canadians are feeling the pressure more than ever, they’re feeling that life is unaffordable and this budget is a failed attempt
to fix the massive affordability problems that the government itself created with its out-of-control spending and over-zealous subsidy programs,” said Thomas.

Lethbridge is among at least 85 communities in Canada which still use asbestos cement pipes to deliver drinking water, according to an investigation by CTV’s W5 program. The City of Lethbridge on Wednesday confirmed there are 177 kilometres of asbestos cement pipes here, which equates to 29 per cent of the total.
A statement from the City said during the most recent winter, the water was tested in six neighbourhoods where most of the pipes in the city exist and no asbestos fibres were found in the water.

Torry Tanner has resigned as the UCP candidate in Lethbridge West after the surfacing of inflammatory comments in a social media video made during the nomination process about Alberta students being exposed to pornography and being helped to change their gender identity by teachers.
In the now deleted video, Tanner stated “we are seeing increasing instances where kids, even those attending kindergarten, are being exposed to porno- graphic materials.”
She added “worse yet having teachers help them change their gender identify with absolutely no parental consent or knowledge whatsoever.”

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