A Jason Kenney-led government could kill 150 teachers’ positions in Lethbridge public schools, a city MLA warns. And Holy Spirit students could be hit just as hard.
Those dire predictions came Tuesday from Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, responding to Calgary reports that a United Conservative Party administration would cut as much as 20 per cent from some provincial services’ budgets.
UPC Leader Jason Kenney says this province’s services and budgets must be reduced 20 per cent to match the former British Columbia government’s levels, Phillips pointed out.
In a growing city with many young families, she told reporters, that could bring “severe consequences.”
“Even a five-per-cent cut could have a devastating impact on Lethbridge students.”
If District 51 funding is cut five per cent next year — with no allowance for enrolment growth — Phillips predicted that would result in the loss of 151 teaching positions by the end of four years.
“Even without cutting, failure to provide increases for enrolment growth could mean the division loses 15 teachers in the first year alone,” she added.
Educational assistance, student support staff and aides for special-needs children would also be impacted.
It’s important to let parents know what could happen, Phillips said, because Kenney has failed to tell Albertans how essential services could be cut.
BILD Lethbridge Region says the City could be doing more to increase its competitive advantage in attracting businesses by reducing taxes, evaluating the size of its civil service numbers and possibly lowering municipal expenditures relative to other comparable jurisdictions in Alberta and around Canada.
These were the conclusions of a benchmarking study commissioned by BILD from Nichols Applied Management and presented to city council. The study looked at 27 different indicators to gauge Lethbridge’s overall attractiveness to business investors. And where Lethbridge ranked well on the lower cost of its utilities, its high quality of life, its relatively good debt-to-debt ratio and the amount of total property taxes collected relative to other similar-sized jurisdictions, the study also found Lethbridge lagging behind in its mill rates on residential and non-residential taxes, top heavy on its civil service numbers per capita of population and in the higher percentile of communities in municipal spending.
The study, stressed BILD Lethbridge Region executive officer Bridget Mearns, was intended as a jumping-off point for future evaluation and discussion, and not definitive or prescriptive in its nature or intent.
“We brought forward this report and we knew there were perhaps some things in it that might be a little prickly,” said Mearns. “At the same time, it’s not information they are unfamiliar with. So to see this accepted with the spirit it was given with, and to develop partnerships and look at different ways to do business — if we can help in that way we certainly will.”
Killer gets day parole
After serving barely two years of an eight-year prison sentence for killing her mother, Jessica Lee-Ann Praill has been granted day parole.
The Parole Board of Canada granted Praill’s release late last month, but with conditions that she take prescribed medication, follow a treatment plan and not consume alcohol.
“Alcohol use aggravated your mental health symptoms leading up to your index offence,” the board states in its decision. “Mental instability and poor emotions management were direct contributors to you committing a violent offence that took a life. Therefore, you are to follow a treatment plan/program to be arranged by your parole supervisor in the area of emotions management and mental health.”
City adopts Play Charter
Lethbridge City Council unanimously agreed to sign off on a new Play Charter for the City of Lethbridge at a recent council meeting.
Modelled on a similar charter passed in Calgary last winter, the Lethbridge Play Charter will support play that encourages the physical, emotional and social development of children in the community. It will also embrace geography and climate of Lethbridge to support play year-round, and educate and inform the community about value of play. It will encourage “risky play” to promote the development of risk-taking skills. And it will celebrate and share Lethbridge residents’ experiences with play.
Vicki Hazelwood of the Lethbridge Early Years Coalition brought the proposed charter before council and advocated strongly for its adoption.
Most support flu shots
With free vaccinations now available, nearly 80 per cent of Albertans surveyed believe it’s important to protect themselves against “the flu” every year.
But only 61 per cent plan to get their shot this year. That’s what a recent Insights West study found at flu clinics across Alberta.
When asked, the study found more than one-third of those who said they’d give it a miss believed the vaccine was not effective — or that it only works with previous flu strains.
But fully 98 per cent of Albertans who said they were vaccinated last year plan to return this fall.
The study was released by the London Drugs group, as pharmacists and family medical clinics prepared to offer the no-charge service.
Davis play space opens
Young students at École Agnes Davidson Elementary School have a new opportunity to explore, create and play in the new Davis Auto Group Little Kids Play Space, the first interactive outdoor play space attached to a school in Lethbridge.
The space was constructed as a car theme, and includes a gas pump station, car wash, road ways, sandboxes and interactive sensory walls. The space will be used to help the children at the school to use their imagination, play, work and solve problems together, all while developing their gross motor skills and encouraging outdoor activity.
“The idea comes from our early learning teachers as well as instructional services at the educational centre that strongly believe in outdoor play spaces,” says Cheryl Gilmore, Lethbridge School District 51 superintendent. “As a school district we are incredibly fortunate to have businesses like Pontiac Davis who take an interest in spaces that children are in within the city and take an interest in the type of programs. We have a lot of overwhelming support and this is one of those extraordinary example of support from a business that made a dream of having a play space for our younger children in this school come true.”
Indigenous Celebration Day
Lethbridge College unveiled a colourful new display in its Centre Core on Thursday to mark Indigenous Celebration Day on campus.
The display features an original artwork, by Indigenous artist William Singer III, of a bison, representing education as the new bison (self-sustaining focus) of local First Nations people. Front and centre in the display is a half-formed Stone Pipe, a pipe used in sacred Blackfoot ceremonies to make offerings to the Creator or Source of Life.
The half-formed pipe represents the work yet to be done going forward at the college in terms of Truth and Reconciliation.
Stone Pipe, or “Ohkoti’aahkkoiyiinniimaan,” was also the Blackfoot name given to Lethbridge College at last year’s Indigenous Celebration Day.
Stephans want help getting lawyer
The former southern Alberta couple found guilty of failing to provide their young son with the necessaries of life six years ago, have hit a few snags as they continue to prepare for a new trial next year.
David and Collet Stephan were in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench Thursday for a pre-trial conference, during which they told the judge they still haven’t received disclosure for the new trial.
That trial, which was ordered last May by the Supreme Court of Canada following Stephans’ successful appeal of the 2016 conviction, is set to run for four weeks beginning June 3, 2019. Pre-trial applications and a voir dire — which will be subject to a publication ban — is scheduled to be held Feb. 25 to March 8, 2019.
David expressed concern that he did not receive all the disclosure for the first trial, and suggested some evidence had been falsified and destroyed. He said he wants an investigation into the matter.
Justice Madam Beth Hughes, who presided over Monday’s hearing by closed-circuit TV from Calgary, advised the Stephans to wait until they had received disclosure for the new trial and could determine whether they had received all the information they expected.
David also pointed out during Thursday’s hearing they need to hire a new lawyer, and hope they can receive assistance, even though the couple has already been denied Legal Aid coverage. David told the judge they are facing financial hardships caused by the new trial.
Opinion divided about pot
Marijuana is now legal across Canada. Retailers will be opening soon in Lethbridge.
And Albertans strongly agree it should be available for medical treatments.
But they remain divided when asked if they agree with its “recreational” use.
The latest study by the long-running Citizen Society Research Lab shows more than 92 per cent of Albertans support the use of marijuana products “for medical purposes.”
But the province-wide survey, completed just days before ordinary “recreational” use became legal, shows there’s no consensus on that question. In fact, 50.6 per cent of those polled said they were opposed to legalization.
Here in southern Alberta, opposition is just fractionally lower — 50.3 per cent — while support for medical use is marginally higher, at 92.4 per cent.
Firefighters get flashover training
Some residents may have noticed smoke in the air of north Lethbridge over the last few days, which could be due to the new training simulator at the Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services training facility.
The simulator helps firefighters recognize dangerous smoke and fire patterns using specialized fuels found in standard structure fires, which could result in a flashover fire. A flashover fire is when fuels are sitting in the smoke of the fire and heat up to the point of combustion where fire is surrounding the firefighter and can lead to death.
“It simulates these fire conditions that we would normally see when we go into a structure fire which could be hazardous to the life of a firefighter,” says Gerrit Snike, Deputy Chief of Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services. “It is essential for our firefighters to see that. Normally we burn propane and propane is good for training, but it doesn’t perfectly simulate what a firefighter might actually see inside of a burning building because it is not propane that is on fire inside of a building.”
Inside a sea-shipping container, groups of firefighters get to watch fuels being released and heated to the point of a full flashover while being at a safe distance to observe and identify the different stages and identifiers of smoke.
“They can learn to read smoke, and learn when the fire heats up that they actually get to a point of flashover which is when the smoke actually starts to catch fire,” says Snike.