We've lit the tree at City Hall and the building has resonated with the joyful sounds of local school choirs. We played the annual Christmas Hope charity hockey game - City vs media and attended the Mayor's prayer breakfast. Community bands also delighted crowds at South Minister United Church during the Mayor's Christmas Concert. These are just some of holiday activities I enjoy taking in this time of year.
I love how the holidays showcase the generosity and community spirit of the people of Lethbridge. As we come together with our friends and family, we are reminded of the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate. Here at City Hall and throughout the community, there are many opportunities to do simple things like donating to our food banks or giving to Toys for Tots. We want to celebrate the season but we also want to recognize and support those who maybe won't have a Merry Christmas without our help.
Lethbridge is a community that cares. This has been evident in the work we've been doing to prepare to welcome Syrian refugee families over the next several months. To date, we are very grateful to have received about 70 offers of available homes suitable to house refugee families and an overwhelming number of donations of food, clothing and household items.
As part of the Steering Committee to Welcome Syrian People to Lethbridge, the City is working closely with Lethbridge Family Services – Immigration Services, the lead agency for this initiative. We are meeting with key local stakeholders on a weekly basis so everyone can share information, get updates, plan and prepare to support these new refugees to our city. We also participate on twice weekly conferences calls with the provincial government and other Alberta cities to receive the latest information.
According to the most recent information we have, Lethbridge is expecting to receive an estimated 240 Government-Assisted Refugees from Syria by the end of 2016. Of this total, 125 are expected to arrive in Lethbridge by March 1, 2016. Privately sponsored refugees, supported by community groups, will be in addition to these numbers. I offer my thanks to everyone who is working so hard to make sure our new citizens feel safe, supported and welcomed.
An exciting event that recently took place was Team Lethbridge's visit to Edmonton in late November. This was an opportunity for a wide cross-section of community partners to meet with different provincial ministries and talk about the priorities in our city. Along with some of my Council colleagues, we joined a group representing 19 different organizations to make the trip up north. It was a very positive meeting that opened doors for working collaboratively with our new provincial government. We look forward to continuing to grow these relationships as we raise the profile of Lethbridge.
We have exciting new projects on the horizon in the coming year, not the least of which I hope will be a residential recycling program. Over the last year, we have established a waste diversion policy for the City that sets important targets. A five-year target of a 30-per-cent overall per-capita waste disposal reduction by 2021 and a 15-year target of 50 per cent by 2030. Council's approval of the Industrial/Commercial/Institutional (ICI) waste diversion strategy addresses the sectors generating the majority of waste disposed at our landfill and the next step is looking at the best overall waste diversion options for residential recycling.
Council has now gather a great deal of information and background needed to make a decision on residential recycling. Current recommendations would see a pilot curbside recycling project begin in 2016/17 with city-wide implementation in 2018. I anticipate council will discuss the options put forth and make a decision early in the New Year.
All of these important initiatives work together to address our goal of protecting and preserving our natural environment in Lethbridge. I thank residents for their patience and input as we work to ensure our decision making on this issue is as informed as possible.
As I look back on 2015 I am proud of how well our city has done and how we are progressing. While much of the province has seen a significant economic down turn, our community remains strong, stepping up to support those individuals and families impacted by the changes in the oil industry. We are fortunate to have an economically diverse community.
Vibrant communities have involved citizens who bring forward their ideas and passion. In 2016, the City will be reaching out to ask for your involvement on many new projects. We want to hear from you, get your input and embed your voice into how we plan for the future.
While you make your New Year's resolutions for 2016, consider putting community involvement on the list. That might include being involved in some of the City's community engagement events or simply helping a neighbour, volunteering with a non-profit or making a donation to help those in need. Every little bit helps build stronger connections to those around you, and giving back always feels good.
We have a wonderfully diverse community and although everyone comes from different backgrounds with different traditions and beliefs, there is always a common theme during the holidays. It's a time to be with the ones you love with a focus on giving and sharing. As we look forward to 2016, I encourage you to embrace these ideals and take them forward, not just during the holiday season but all year long.
On behalf of Lethbridge City Council I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Mayor Chris Spearman
December 18, 2015