February 2023 Mayor's Column
Happy February, Lethbridge!
I want to begin by sharing some recent positive news on ambulances for our city and region.
The City of Lethbridge and Alberta Health Services (AHS) are adding two additional ambulances starting in April. This will improve Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response times, keeping rural ambulances in their communities and ensuring people in the Lethbridge area get the care they need.
The ambulances will provide Advanced Life Support – the highest level of care possible on an ambulance. These were made possible through net new funding of $304,954 from AHS and will be staffed through the creation of 10.8 new full-time employee (FTE) positions with an associated ongoing contract annual revenue of $1,790,340, funded by AHS.
This is great news for our community and for the safety of our residents. We are very pleased to be working collaboratively with AHS on this delivery of essential services for Lethbridge. You can read more here.
In another good news story, three local organizations could soon be able to help with affordable housing needs in the community thanks to the unanimous support of Lethbridge City Council earlier this month.
Council conditionally approved up to $4.97 million in municipal funding requests in an effort to capitalize on the Federal Government's Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) program. The money could be used to leverage up to $38.89 million for the proposed projects. Our Council support will enhance the strength of their applications for proposed projects that would each add affordable and social housing units in Lethbridge. Council has conditionally approved:
- $1,970,240 of the Blackfoot Family Lodge's total project cost of $4,925,600
- $1.5 million of the Blood Tribe Housing's total project cost of $14 million
- $1.5 million of MyCityCare Lethbridge's total project cost of $19,968,571
All municipal funding is conditional upon each project receiving RHI funding. If a project does not receive RHI funding, the municipal funds would be available for future housing projects. This is an enormous opportunity to create housing for low-income residents and help Lethbridge close the gap in affordable housing in our community. If successful, these projects would also create additional jobs in the community through construction activities, as well as operation, management and maintenance of the future properties and future tax generation.
As per Council's resolution, I will also provide letters of support for each project and City funding is to be provided upon confirmation of successful RHI approval and subject to the execution of a third-party contribution agreement. Read more here.
Next week, I will be in Edmonton for the 2023 Alberta Provincial Budget announcement. On behalf of City Council, I am optimistic to hear good news for our community. We have been vocal about the needs and issues we are facing, so we look forward to hearing the results of our advocacy.
Another big announcement set for next week is the launch of the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP) in Lethbridge. The CEIP is Alberta's innovative financing tool that enables residential property owners to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. CEIP will be available to City of Lethbridge residents beginning on February 28.
The program helps make your home's energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades affordable. With access to financing, you can install a range of upgrades that will start lowering your energy bills immediately. The money you save on utilities every month can then help you pay back what you borrowed. To learn more about the CEIP program, please visit here.
I was recently in Ottawa on a collaborative trade mission with the Lethbridge and District Exhibition to accelerate support for the Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre and southern Alberta's agriculture sector. The goal was to advocate to generate investment by targeting association professionals, meeting planners, large agricultural corporations and government officials in order to attract. national users, supporters and funders. We also celebrated Canada's Agriculture Day at Parliament Hill.
The 268,000 square foot Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre, set to open in late spring, will held drive our visitor economy and assist to secure commitments in trade and tourism revenue to Lethbridge and southern Alberta.
While in Ottawa, I was also able to meet in person with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation about the aforementioned RHI projects. I am very hopeful that Council's support and lobbying will bring good news for these projects when approvals are announced.
On the note of advocacy, City Council this week passed an Official Business Motion to authorize myself to write letters to the Provincial and Federal Governments requesting funding for the Functional Planning Study and Preliminary Design for a proposed third river crossing.
As I stated during Tuesday's meeting, my goal is to lobby the other orders of government and to be ready for the next stages should funding become available. I am strongly against any possible future river crossing being built solely at the expense of local taxpayers. This advocacy to other orders of government is extremely important for Council and our taxpayers.
More background from October's discussion is here.
Last week, I was pleased to be part of the announcement for the 2023 Lethbridge International Air Show. Council recently voted to allocate funding of $17,500 from the 2023 Operating Budget for a Lethbridge International Air Show event in 2023 and $17,500, from the 2024 Operating Budget, for the 100 Years of Royal Canadian Air Force 2024 celebration. This is always a great event for our city and we are pleased to support it.
I will close this month by wishing a belated Happy Family Day to everyone. As always, be safe and kind to one another.