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March 2024 Mayor's Column

March is here with plenty of notable topics and events to mention in this space.

I was pleased to attend several local events on March 8 in celebration of International Women’s Day. In addition to my wonderful Lethbridge City Council colleagues Belinda Crowson and Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, the City of Lethbridge has some amazing women across the organization. Let’s continue to empower, uplift and amplify the voices of women to ensure they have equal opportunities to succeed and lead. Together, we can build a world where gender equality isn't just a goal, but a reality.

Last week marked the groundbreaking ceremony for a new $10.2-million permanent supportive housing project, which is a joint initiative between the Government of Alberta, the City of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Housing Authority. Together we are building a more compassionate and inclusive future for all residents of Lethbridge.

On behalf of City Council, I’d like to thank Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, for the Alberta Government’s commitment to this project, as well as Robin James of the LHA for her dedication to help ensure those experiencing homelessness have a safe place to call home. Construction will begin this spring and, when complete, the facility will provide 30 units of permanent supportive housing.

I was pleased to attend the recent 2024 Provincial Budget announcement in Edmonton. As always, City Council and I will continue to advocate for the supports we need in our city to best serve our residents.

One highlight was the $43 million announced for the University of Lethbridge’s Rural Medical Teaching School. It's a great initiative to train and retain doctors in southern Alberta and will build off positive numbers we have already started to see. As a reminder, the municipal government does not have jurisdiction over health care in Alberta and this work has not typically been done by us, but Lethbridge City Council continues to support efforts to attract and retain medical professionals for the community.

Dr. David Stewart from the South Zone told me recently that in 2023, we were collectively successful in recruiting 43 physicians to Lethbridge, 23 of whom are family physicians. Of those, nine have not yet commenced practice in Lethbridge. We currently have three full-time OBGYN specialists (up from one a year ago) with five others who have now signed a contract and will be commencing in 2024 or 2025.

City Council met earlier this week, with one of the primary topics of interest being bicycle lanes. We have seen plenty of interest on this matter, both for and against, and we appreciate everyone who came to the meeting. We believe we owe it to the community to have a further discussion and evaluation on the bike lanes to determine what future they will have here. Council voted to refer the matter to the May 2 Assets and Infrastructure SPC meeting to receive further public input on the matter. Administration will have additional information on the project and will work with Downtown BRZ to invite downtown businesses to the meeting. There will also be an information booth at the April 25 Community Conversation event at the ENMAX Centre.

April 7 is coming soon and that means it will once again be Green Shirt Day. It is still heartbreaking to think about the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. As with most Canadians, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news.

Logan Boulet will always be remembered as a remarkable young man. He saved lives and his inspiring legacy will continue to save lives. I commend his parents, Toby and Bernie, and sister Mariko, for continuing efforts to promote Green Shirt Day. I am pleased that my colleagues on Lethbridge City Council have supported my resolutions, first in 2019 to rename Adams Park Ice Centre to Logan Boulet Arena, then each year since 2021 to declare April 7 as Green Shirt Day. I want to keep bringing this item to Council annually, rather than as a one-time declaration, to continually highlight Logan’s impact.

I want to thank Deputy Mayor Mark Campbell and Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope for their efforts during the past several months. The responsibilities of Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor change every six months, with each member of Council spending time in each during their four-year terms. The next rotation begins on April 1, with Mark Campbell stepping in as Acting Mayor and Jeff Carlson becoming Deputy Mayor until October 1. More information here.

Last weekend was the start of Daylight Saving Time and I am just double checking that everyone checked their smoke detectors. If you haven’t already, please also spend a few minutes making sure everyone in your home recognizes the sound of the smoke alarm and knows what to do in case of a fire.

Thanks to the organizers and participants at the recent International Peace Powwow at the ENMAX Centre. If you’ve never been to one, I highly recommend attending a Powwow to immerse yourself in a vibrant celebration of Indigenous culture.

Congratulations to the organizers of the recent Ag Expo at the Lethbridge and District Exhibition’s Agri-food Hub and Trade Centre. Attendance was up more than six per cent and the sold-out exhibit space, all indoors for the first time, was packed with more than 300 booths. LDE staff say that that feedback from both exhibitors and attendees indicated that the show was indeed a resounding success. This event is huge for Lethbridge and I’m happy the new facility brought new opportunities.

The next big event at the Agri-food Hub & Trade Centre is this week with the return of the Southern Alberta Home, Garden and Leisure Show. It continues Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I am personally interested in checking out some the landscaping and xeriscaping options that may involve less water usage this year and in the future.

On that note, our Admin staff have been working on water strategies and will be coming to SPCs and to City Council in April. Please stay tuned for more information.

March 11 was 311 day and marked five years of Lethbridge 311. Since launching in 2019, Lethbridge 311 has taken 539,882 calls from the community. Residents are encouraged to contact 311 for the most up-to-date information regarding City services, ongoing events and service availability. Live agents are available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with an after-hours trouble line available for urgent requests like power outages and watermain breaks. 

Good luck to all those set to participate in the upcoming Moonlight Run on March 23!

I will close this month by wishing everyone an early Happy Easter and a happy spring season.

And as always, be safe and kind to one another.

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