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August 2018 Mayor's Column

We are in the midst of Whoop-Up Days, and I hope you're making the most of everything this annual community celebration has to offer!

This month, we welcomed our new City Manager Bramwell (Bram) Strain to Lethbridge. Bram's first day with the City of Lethbridge was Aug. 15, and he embodies the qualities that we on City Council were seeking to lead our organization into the future.

Bram's extensive experience at senior levels of federal and provincial government departments will be an asset as our city strives for effective partnerships to help achieve our community's priorities. He has come from Winnipeg, where he served in provincial and federal government as a deputy minister and assistant deputy minister. In the coming weeks and months, Bram will be getting to know many people in our community. If you have the opportunity to meet him, I hope you'll join us in extending a warm welcome to our city.

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It's been two months since WestJet introduced daily flights to and from Lethbridge, adding their service to the existing Lethbridge service provided by Air Canada. I'm pleased to report that the early uptake on flights has been excellent for both airlines. This confirms our belief that there is a solid long-term business case for expanded airline service. Whether you're a leisure or business traveler, please continue to use our airport at every practical opportunity and take advantage of the increased flight options, competitive pricing and convenience it offers.

In July, the City of Lethbridge formally assumed ownership of the Lethbridge Airport from Lethbridge County. As we go forward, we are developing a new governance and operating model for the airport. At the same time, we are actively seeking federal and provincial grants for the improvements and expansion that are necessary to enhance the airport's viability and help foster the development of a distribution hub for our region as well as support the growth of aviation-related businesses.

In late July, Councillor Belinda Crowson and I attended the SMART Airports and Regions 2018 Conference & Exhibition, hosted by the Edmonton International Airport. The information we heard there confirmed that effectively-run airports are economic assets for the cities and regions they serve. It also confirmed that Lethbridge is on the right track in seeking to invest in enhancements to our airport that will expand its capacity to serve as a catalyst for economic development.

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City Council continues to take action within our jurisdiction as a municipality to deal with community safety issues and other emerging issues stemming from the opioid crisis.

Your City Council is committed to the safety of all residents. Since early this summer, additional resources have been dedicated to monitoring and clean-up of discarded needles in public places. We want you and your children or grandchildren to be able to enjoy these areas safely. If you should encounter discarded needle debris, the best thing you can do is call the ARCHES Needle Pickup Hotline at 403-332-0722 to report the exact location and arrange for a prompt cleanup.

My Council colleagues and I continue to hear from some residents and business owners who are frustrated with having to deal with this kind of fallout from the opioid and drug crisis. We don't like the fact that we have a drug crisis any more than anyone else does. If you scan the news, you'll find that this crisis is playing out similarly in many other Alberta and B.C. cities and that we are all facing the same types of challenges.

We are all in this situation together as a community, and the best way to find solutions is to work together as a community. Earlier this month, Council resolved to hold a series of facilitated community sessions where stakeholders and interested community members can collaborate on solutions and develop a community response strategy that can be implemented quickly.

We also voted to establish a special committee as soon as possible to address the challenges facing residents, businesses and others in Lethbridge because of the opioid crisis. As Council members, we agree that it's time for us to bring people from all sides of this issue together to collaborate on solutions that respect the range of interests that exist and meaningfully address the difficulties we face because of this crisis.

We recognize that this unprecedented drug crisis is probably one of the most significant challenges our community has ever faced. In addition to the human cost in terms of addictions and overdose deaths, it has created critical and pressing challenges for residents and businesses in our city.

This new committee will follow the guidelines set out by Health Canada which identify a multi-faceted approach to dealing with the opioid crisis including prevention, harm reduction, enforcement and treatment. Terms of Reference setting out the committee's mandate and structure are to be presented for consideration and approval at our Sept. 4 City Council meeting.

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I want to close by wishing the very best to the local bid committee that is seeking to host the 2020 MasterCard Memorial Cup junior hockey championship here in Lethbridge.

Committee representatives came before Council this week to outline their plans and request financial support from the City of Lethbridge, which would be needed if their bid is successful. They are modelling their projections on the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer, which was a financial success. They also are committed to ensuring ticket prices would remain affordable for families over the course of the 10-day event.

Council approved a request by the Lethbridge 2020 Memorial Cup Bid committee to provide $1 million ($750,000 cash plus $250,000 in-kind) in support if the local bid is successful.  The projected total economic impact of hosting the event is estimated at $12.9 million, based on actual financial results seen in Red Deer in 2016.

We will find out in early October if the bid is successful. Until then, let's keep our fingers crossed!

Mayor Chris Spearman
August 24, 2018