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September 2019 Mayor's Column

It has been a busy and exciting few weeks in our city and key amongst them have been the incredible events and celebrations taking place for Reconciliation Week.

Earlier this week, the Reconciliation flag was raised at City Hall by Blackfoot Elder, Blanche Bruisedhead along with members from the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee. With a large crowd to witness the flag raising and lots of people jostling to have their picture taken with the newly unveiled Oki project, it was a wonderful way to kick-off the third-annual Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge.

In a positive step forward to further reconciliation in our own community, City Council voted unanimously to adopt "Oki" as the official greeting of the City of Lethbridge. The traditional Blackfoot greeting is a way to use language to build stronger relationships and help all people feel welcome in our city.

The United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Language and acknowledges there are more than 70 Indigenous languages across 12 language groups currently spoken in Canada. Blackfoot is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Lethbridge.

Language plays an important role in the way connections are made with one another. Key amongst those connections includes transfer of knowledge, celebration of culture and welcoming those from outside the community.

Further to the adoption of Oki as the official greeting, City Council instructed administration to prepare a submission to the next Capital Improvement Program to identify opportunities to incorporate Blackfoot and where appropriate other Indigenous languages within City facilities, parks and neighbourhoods for Council's consideration.

City Council also unanimously approved a one-time proclamation of October 4 this year being named Sisters in Spirit Day. Sisters in Spirit is a movement which honours the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, supports grieving families, provides opportunities for healing and is a movement for social change encouraging education and understanding related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited Persons. As Councillor Crowson said in her opening debate when bringing this motion forward, only when we care for, support and uplift the most vulnerable and marginalized among us, can we all be uplifted.

I encourage you to take part in the many events taking place around our city not just this week but throughout the year which celebrate reconciliation. Reconciliation isn't something that should just be celebrated for one week a year, it should be celebrated in everyday life.

On September 12 and 13, I had the honour of hosting Mayors and Chief Administration Officers (CAOs) from across the province at the Mid-sized Cities Caucus at the Galt Museum and Archives. The Alberta Mid-sized Cities Mayors' and CAOs' Caucus is comprised of 22 cities and towns. Together the caucus represents approximately one million Albertans and we create solutions to respond to matters of common interest and advocates for the needs of Alberta's mid-sized municipalities.

We were pleased to welcome Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kaycee Madu to the meeting to discuss a variety of key issues ranging from the mortgage stress test, red tape reduction to a provincial drug strategy. A portion of Thursday's meeting focused on the MacKinnon Report with Minister Madu outlining potential impacts of the recommendations for municipalities.

On Friday, the Caucus heard from Premier Jason Kenney, who spoke frankly about how he will continue to partner with municipalities for economic growth, jobs, diversification, innovation and opportunities to grow revenue.

The Caucus made significant steps forward in establishing a positive working relationship with the Provincial Government and now look forward to furthering those discussions at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention next week in Edmonton. I was honoured to be elected as Chair of the Mid-sized Cities Mayors' Caucus along with my colleagues in Red Deer and Cochrane. This move to establishing an executive allows for more consistency and leadership within the Caucus and is a role I am thrilled to be working in. It will help cities like Lethbridge have more influence with our Provincial Government.

While positive steps were made during the business portion of the Caucus meeting, there were also positives made in the social portion of the two-day event. We toured the Mayors and CAOs around in one of our Transit busses to show them some of the amazing facilities and industry that is thriving in our city. As we toured the ATB Centre and the most common comment made to me about the facility was, "How do we get one of these facilities in our community? It's incredible". The feedback kept coming as we toured past several industry facilities including the new Cavendish Farms processing plant and the Black Velvet Distillery. They marveled at our regional park spaces.

Economic Development Lethbridge has recently reported that our economy has expanded by 5.8 per cent in 2017 and 5.1 per cent in 2018. This was evident to the Caucus who got to see the amount of investment from industry that has been made in our city and our thriving employment and population statistics as well. Our tour finished at the new Science Commons building at the University of Lethbridge and the Caucus was yet again blown away by the caliber of amenities and opportunities we can offer to our community.

One other community opportunity I wanted to highlight was the current recruitment period for new members to City Council's Boards, Commissions and Committees (BCCs). Any resident of Lethbridge is eligible to apply to become a member of any of our 16 BCCs which include the Lethbridge Library Board, Lethbridge Downtown BRZ Board, Combative Sports Commission and Sir Alexander Galt Museum Board of Directors. If you have a passion to contribute to our community and want to see change happen, sitting on a BCC is a great way to get involved. We're looking to include a wide variety of residents from different backgrounds, education levels and experiences to ensure our BCCs are a true representation of the community we serve. Applications close on September 29 and the application and information about all of the different BCCs is available by visiting Lethbridge.ca/bcc.