With the active case numbers and ICU capacity issues, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have significant impacts in our local community and province as a whole.
With the safety and health of employees at the top of mind, the City of Lethbridge recently made the decision to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for all City staff. I strongly support this decision and the strong leadership from our City Manager and all those involved.
We know the seriousness of the COVID situation in Alberta and we need to be doing everything we can to keep our community safe. Ensuring people are vaccinated is the most effective way to do that.
Our current City Council and City Administration continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely, working with other municipalities, local organizations and all orders of government to understand the changing landscape and make informed decisions that will best protect the community. I continue to ask for every citizen to do all that they can to keep each other safe during this time. I continue to urge immunization, to wear masks, to wash hands and to stay home if sick. I am fully vaccinated and would expect this policy to apply to all members of City Council.
As my time as Mayor is nearing completion, I want to discuss some other significant issues regarding the health of our community, namely: perception, tone and commentary.
When the latest Crime Severity Index (CSI) report from Statistics Canada came out in July, all the headlines blasted Lethbridge as being the No. 1 crime city in the country. To make it very clear: this is false. The CSI report only includes cities with municipal police forces, leaving out all large communities enforced by the RCMP. There are half a dozen cities in Alberta alone that have higher crime rates than Lethbridge.
For comparison in 2020, Lethbridge had a CSI score of 138.7. In 2020 – Red Deer had a CSI of 165.6 and Grande Prairie had 164.9. Both are enforced by the RCMP, rather than by a municipal force. Also of note, the crime severity index is on a downward trend in Lethbridge as it is in many parts of the country. From 2019 to 2020, crime was down by about 10 per cent in Lethbridge.
So I invite everyone to stop damaging Lethbridge's reputation with the false narrative of being the top crime city in the country. We are not. I implore everyone to engage in positive discussion to correct our image to both residents and those outside the community. When I hosted 22 mayors in this city two years ago, they hadn't heard good things about Lethbridge. When they toured the city and saw all we had and all we were doing, they were very, very impressed. There are 22 cities who would love to have our programs and amenities. It is time we shift the conversation to speak about the great aspects of our city.
There are many accomplishments Council achieved during my two terms as Mayor that I will look back at with a great sense of pride. Among them are:
- Progress on Truth and Reconciliation
- The acquisition of Lethbridge Airport and $23 million in Provincial and Federal funding
- Funding of the AgriFood Complex at Exhibition Park, with $25 million from the Government of Alberta
- ATB Centre, a $155-millon project
- Legacy Regional Park
- Lethbridge Regional Park N Ride Transit Terminal, a $19-million project 75 per cent funded by the Federal and Provincial governments
- Cavendish Farms, a $430-million project
- Twinning the west end of Whoop-Up Drive and extending Metis Trail, completed in 2018 instead of 2022
- Fire Hall #5
- Residential blue bin pick up of recyclables
- Bunka Visitor and Interpretive Centre at Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, nearing completion
- Henderson Pool, Spitz Stadium and SAAG upgrades
- Downtown incentive programs
- The introduction of 311
Council achieved these projects and many more – all with the lowest tax increases in decades. In 2019, there was a 1.82 per cent municipal tax rate increase – which was the lowest in 20 years. For 2020, we adapted and created a 0 per cent municipal tax rate increase – which continued for 2021 and will continue for 2022.
You can see a full and detailed recap in my September 2021 State of the City address here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9QVsuxD3rU
Lethbridge is the Gateway to Opportunity and I believe we have many reasons to be optimistic for the final quarter of 2021 and into the future. I truly hope you see all the positives as we all collectively keep working to make Lethbridge the best city it can be.
Now, as my eight years as Mayor is nearing completion – a few final thanks. A major thank you to my colleagues in the previous Council as well as in the outgoing City Council. As Mayor, you are still only one member of Council and nothing gets accomplished individually. During my two terms, we have collectively accomplished and initiated some great changes that will have lasting impact to Lethbridge and area.
Thank you to City of Lethbridge administration, from the City Manager's Office to the City Clerk's office and Communications, as well as all the various departments, for all of their help during these years.
Thank you to our local Lethbridge media. I have always felt well and fairly treated by the media and I thank them all for providing the opportunity to speak on often difficult and complex issues facing our community.
And thank you to you, residents of Lethbridge. It has been a true honour and privilege to serve the city for the past eight years.
Congratulations to all the candidates for the 2021 Municipal Election, set for Monday. I wish all the best to the next Mayor and Council. I am encouraged by the advance vote numbers we have already seen. Not counting the final advance voting days, set for the ATB Centre October 14-16, we already had 5,162 Lethbridge residents cast their ballot. I hope this momentum on increased voter turnout continues for the final advance voting days and on Election Day – Monday, October 18.
For more information and a wealth of resources, please visit the City's election website at Lethbridge/ca/election. Please go vote.