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January 2021 Mayor's Column

​As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, I want thank everyone following the provincial health guidelines and restrictions in order to keep our community safe.

Every single effort and choice we make is essential in helping to protect our most vulnerable populations including seniors, health care staff, emergency workers, marginalized residents and employees at essential services.

I commend the sacrifices Lethbridge residents and businesses have made. We have made great progress together in reducing the number of cases in Lethbridge and we need to maintain our commitment to each other to minimize the spread in our city. I and all members of Lethbridge City Council remain committed to this important task. We encourage everyone to continue to take the restrictions seriously. Thank you for staying vigilant and following the public health orders.

For more updated information on the City of Lethbridge's response to COVID-19, visit www.lethbridge.ca/covid19. Stay well and let's keep each other safe.

Speaking of safety, I want to ensure residents the City of Lethbridge will do our collective best under the new EMS dispatch consolidation model that began this week. Safety of our residents is always the top priority. Despite our consistent pleas to the Premier and Health Minister for the past several months, as well as our offer to pay our share of $1.2 Million in order to retain EMS dispatch in Lethbridge, we have no choice but to adapt to the new Alberta Health Services model.

Fire Chief Marc Rathwell and his team will be monitoring any issues so they can hopefully get resolved. He and our integrated Fire/EMS team will continue to do their best in serving our community and saving lives. In the future, if you experience a degradation in service when you call 911 for health emergencies, please keep City Council and our provincial representatives informed.

At City Council's first meeting of 2021, held on Tuesday, we also took our first significant action of the year by voting to approve the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Recommendations and Work Plan.

This Work Plan, with a one-time budget request of $435,000 to be used during a three-year period, builds upon Council's existing commitment to Reconciliation as outlined in the Reconciliation Implementation Plan. It provides an overall implementation strategy for the 25 recommendations first presented to Council in October 2020. It also aligns with Council's Strategic Plan with deliberate community engagement, development of and leveraging relationships, and enriching the community through diversity, inclusivity and culture.

Implementation of the MMIWG Work Plan – which includes the creation of Indigenous awareness training for City Staff, an anti-racism campaign and an expansion of employment and economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples – will be managed by Indigenous Relations staff, with the advice and support of Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee (RLAC) and community partners.

Our first meeting of 2021 was also the first on a Tuesday under our new Standing Policy Committee (SPC) Governance Model that came into effect January 1, 2021. Of the notable other changes, agendas will be published one week in advance of the meetings, thus allowing extra time for the public to review them and consider whether to provide written submissions.

The SPC model also provides extensive public participation opportunities. The public can speak for five minutes to a committee about an agenda item and Councillors may ask them questions. Any public wanting to participate in an SPC is asked to contact the City Clerk at cityclerk@lethbridge.ca. The public may also submit comments in writing through an online form that will be available in late January. Resident input at the appropriate SPC would be a key part of the role of these committees.

A full 2021 meeting calendar is here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Agenda-Minutes/Documents/Council%20Calendar.pdf.

In a major announcement last week, Curling Canada revealed Lethbridge will host the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier. Thank you to Kirk Mearns, Gord McNab and everyone at the Lethbridge Curling Club who worked on this bid. Thank you also to Visit Lethbridge for their support. This will be a great opportunity to showcase our city. I know we will do an amazing job!

Lethbridge and the ENMAX Centre have previously hosted the 2019 World Men's Curling Championship, the 2012 World Women's Curling Championship and the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Next year, we will become become just the fourth city that has hosted all four major Season of Champions events — the Tim Hortons Brier, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the World Men's Championship and the World Women's Championship. The others are Winnipeg, Brandon & Saint John.

Here is some background on the bid and support from Lethbridge City Council: https://www.lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/Pages/City-Council-to-support-Lethbridge-2022-Brier-bid.aspx

The other announcement from last week is that I will retire in October and will not seek re-election. It has been a privilege to serve our city as Lethbridge Mayor since 2013 and I have very much appreciated the opportunity. I am now past the age when most people retire and this past year has made me realize how much I miss spending time with my family.

This gives me time to plan for retirement and gives others time to prepare if they want to offer to serve our great city of Lethbridge.