Sadly, the COVID-19 situation is quite bleak in our province at the moment, as our active case numbers continue to rise, more surgeries continue to be cancelled, our AHS South Zone ICU beds are full and as our hospitals are close to overall capacity limits. On behalf of City Council, I want to thank the doctors, nurses, EMS staff and all health care workers for helping our city and region now and always.
On Tuesday, the Provincial Government announced that Albertans can now print a copy of their card-sized COVID-19 proof of vaccination, or show it on their phone or tablet, through MyHealth Records. Work is also underway to make proof of vaccination through a QR code available in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, Alberta declared a state of public health emergency and implemented new health measures to expand capacity, increase vaccination rates and reduce transmission of COVID-19, as well as a Restrictions Exemption Program. See the full details here.
I am pleased the Province of Alberta is recognizing the current situation and taking some steps to help improve it.
With Covid numbers in Alberta continuing to rise at an alarming rate, I am asking every citizen to do all that they can to keep each other safe during this time of returns to school, more public events, multiple elections and the coming Thanksgiving weekend.
I continue to urge immunization, to wear masks, to wash hands and to stay home if sick.
Think of this approach like the Swiss cheese model. The key is layers. While there are holes in slices of Swiss cheese, by combining the slices you have a layered approach leading to fewer holes. The same is true for COVID-19 prevention strategies. Please watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uckS8EIehzo
Next week marks a very significant week for Lethbridge.
The discoveries earlier this year of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites have been a blunt reminder of the long-lasting wounds inflicted on Indigenous people by the residential school system and which have been passed down from generation to generation.
Since 2017, the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee and its community partners host a week of events to promote Reconciliation in Lethbridge.
Reconciliation Week this year will begin on Monday morning with the highly important action of permanently raising the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) flag to fly at the new flagpoles outside Lethbridge City Hall. This action is another notable step forward for our community.
For a full list of Reconciliation Week events, see the poster at: www.lethbridge.ca/indigenousrelations
The outgoing City Council has made strides towards Reconciliation and we are hopeful that the new Council will continue this critical work with further efforts, alongside City Administration, on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Recommendations and Work Plan, as well as the Indigenous Place-making Strategy.
Undertaking an audit of our public spaces, done through the lenses of Truth and Reconciliation and Inclusion, will allow our community to have a conversation around place-making and possibly determine outcomes where public spaces can further define us as a community.
The City of Lethbridge will also officially observe – and is proud to publically recognize – the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. We are encouraging staff to take time that day to attend community events organized by Indigenous community leaders and partner organizations and use it as a day of reflection and discussion. It's imperative that our community understands that Residential Schools existed in southern Alberta and have had lasting impacts. Recognition of Truth and Reconciliation is essential now more than ever.
As Mike Bruised Head (Ninna Piiksii) recently said: "Each holiday that we celebrate in Canada tells us something about our history and values. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day to honour the children who didn't come home from Residential Schools and all Lethbridge residents and Canadians should use this day to educate themselves and think about those who lost their lives."
Earlier this week, I gave my final State of the City presentation to the Chamber of Commerce, as I am set to retire after the next Council is sworn in on Monday, October 25.
I wanted to clarify some misconceptions in the community on some specific details on the City of Lethbridge's finances. I discussed a range of projects, not just for their merits – but specifically how they were funded and how Council and City Administration have worked to achieve them.
As my second term is nearing its end, I wanted to take the opportunity before Nomination Day – which is on Monday, September 20 – to help educate our voters, our Council candidates and ultimately the next City Council on what to expect and to plan for.
Here are web links to the presentation, as well as to one with further links to detailed source information on many items I mentioned:
The City's June 2021 Operating Forecast was presented to the Economic Standing Policy Committee on September 15. This is one of my favourite reports and I recommend it as essential reading for voters and anyone running as a candidate for city council. The report provides helpful explanations of dollars budgeted by department, projected year-end balances and the explanations for the differences. One of city council's main responsibilities is financial oversight and this report is an excellent tool. You will see information on policing costs, parks budgets, transit costs and city borrowing. View the report here.
The City of Lethbridge website has a wealth of resources to find accurate and factual information, so I encourage everyone to find opportunities to learn more in order to become well-engaged candidates and voters.
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 our residents can focus on the positives and that we can all collectively keep working to make Lethbridge the best city it can be.