A well-known social campaigner for troubled youth in Lethbridge is voicing his dislike for the Supervised Consumption Site.
Brian Nimijean is the co-operator of Camp Carmangay, a ranch which gives at-risk youth, many with criminal histories and histories of drug problems, a chance to experience a healthy, safe and positive environment in the country. Nimijean says the Supervised Consumption Site’s harm reduction approach is adding to the problems of these vulnerable members of the community instead of helping.
“This site was billed as one thing, and is not succeeding as that,” said Nimijean. “It is not working. Families are being decimated, lives are being destroyed and our society is breaking down to the point where you compound in 10 years what we have now we’re going to be a community of zombies.”
Nimijean says a better approach would be to take the Supervised Consumption Site’s budget and put it toward the creation of additional detox, rehab and supportive housing in the community.
“Supervised injection doesn’t work because it doesn’t have a healing component to it,” he says. “They are addressing the opiate, not the human being. Most addicts are traumatized, so continuing the enablement of drug consumption is just absurd. We want addicts taken off the streets and rehabilitated in a completely different way. This (opioid crisis) is an epidemic that won’t end.”
Milder winter forecast
You’ve got your toques, parkas and snow blowers ready?
Relax! We’re due for a mild winter, according to AccuWeather.
The global forecast company says southern Albertans should experience a warmer-than-usual winter, with less snow.
That could mean safer roads — but a shorter ski season.
Canada’s winter weather pattern is expected to be dominated by a developing El Niño in the equatorial Pacific, explains Brett Anderson, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.
That happens when the waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean are warmer than normal, influencing the global weather pattern and the track that storm systems take — especially during winter.
Bitterly cold air often blankets the Prairies throughout winter, but Anderson says it will focus more on the eastern part of the region including “Winterpeg.”
“The winter will be a fairly typical one across the eastern Prairies, with the highest chance for Arctic blasts during the second half of the season,” Anderson says.
But out west, winter will be milder than usual.
“Chinook winds will be quite common across southern Alberta this winter, as a westerly flow of air dominates,” he says.
So ski conditions may not be ideal.
Pay system under fire
Some workers have lost their homes. Others have filed for bankruptcy.
But after years of promises, the federal government has failed to fix its payroll system.
“Everyone knows someone who has been affected,” said Krysty Munns, as dozens of federal employees rallied downtown Wednesday outside MP Rachael Harder’s office.
Munns, regional chair of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is an employee at the Lethbridge Research Centre. It’s been more than three years, she said, since federal employees began reporting incorrect or missing payments from the new Phoenix pay system.
It was inaugurated by the previous Conservative government, she pointed out, but the Liberal government hasn’t yet got the Phoenix program working accurately.
“I’ve been overpaid, and I have to pay it back,” Munns said.
But others have missed their paycheques entirely.
“Some people have lost their home,” she said, when they couldn’t make their mortgage payments.
“Some people have filed for bankruptcy.”
City sites protected
Built more than a century ago, Lethbridge’s iconic post office building is recognized as an historic resource. So has the site of the original Fort Whoop-Up, just south of the city.
Both are designated as nationally important, under federal legislation.
But officials in Lethbridge have also been selecting historic buildings for protection. They started with the one-of-a-kind Spudnut Shop, along with the ornate Annandale house on 13 Street South — site of an elaborate Christmas scene every year.
Today, 10 years after it began, the City’s Historic Places Advisory Committee has moved to protect 27 sites across the community as Municipal Historic Resources.
“Historic designation provides protection for our historically- and architecturally-important places that include buildings, architectural sites and engineering works,” says Jean Johnstone, chair of the advisory committee in Lethbridge.
“This protection ensures that these elements of our past are preserved for our future generations.”
Once approved by a town or city council, the structures and sites are protected under the Alberta Historical Resources Act. As municipally designated historic resources, they can’t be altered haphazardly or destroyed.
And to assist with their preservation, their owners may apply to the province for annual matching grant funding to help with conservation and restoration costs. But it’s up to the property owner to decide on applying for designation, Johnstone says.
Hen issue up in the air
Council has decided to throw the idea of backyard hens in Lethbridge up in the air to see if it would fly by voting in favour of holding public consultations on the matter, the results of which would be reported back to council by March 31 of next year.
Council had requested the City’s regulatory services manager Duane Ens explore the issue with other jurisdictions which already allow for urban hen coops in backyards, such as Red Deer and Edmonton, after the idea was brought before council at the Sept. 10 public meeting by Kelti Baird of Environment Lethbridge.
While most of the feedback received by these jurisdictions was positive, Ens admitted he had already heard forceful opinions in Lethbridge from citizens completely opposed to the notion. He had also heard strong opinions from those who believe it is an idea whose time has come, he said.
“What we found looking into this, there were some people who were very unhappy we are even considering this,” he admitted. “And then there is a group of individuals that really think this is a process happening in other cities and something we should follow.”
Ens acknowledged a 2012 opinion poll done by Faron Ellis of the Lethbridge College Citizen Society Research Lab which showed 52 per cent of respondents were strongly opposed to the idea of urban hens and a further 21 per cent somewhat opposed.
Rezoning OKed for pot shop
The ongoing cannabis legalization debate was on full display during a public hearing in city council chambers afternoon as a store owner on Columbia Boulevard West requested council approve rezoning to allow for retail sales of cannabis at the strip mall where his business will be located.
The issue in this case was the strip mall is located immediately beside the Westside Community Church, and near other churches in the area with young families, whose congregants oppose the sale and consumption of cannabis. The strip mall in question already has an existing liquor store on site as well as a convenience store which sells tobacco products, but cannabis is a different story, said Donna Faulkner, who husband serves as pastor at the Westside Community Church.
“This location is directly beside our church playground, and parents have expressed worry about their children’s safety,” Faulkner told councillors on behalf of the 160 adherents at her church. “It’s less than 60 metres.”
In the end, council agreed the location of the store was suitable for a retail cannabis store given it would simply be moving into an existing retail space, and that it met all permit requirements to operate as such. Council voted 7-1 in favour of rezoning the strip mall to allow for retail cannabis sales, subject to the approval of the AGLC.
Fatal fire ruled non-criminal
The death of a 39-year-old man last weekend has been ruled as non criminal, after a joint investigation by Lethbridge Police and Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services.
An autopsy was completed Tuesday at the Medical Examiner’s office in Calgary, LPS said in a news release Wednesday. Police say there is no evidence to suggest foul play and the matter is deemed non-criminal, pending toxicology results.
On Nov. 10 at approximately 4:23 a.m., the fire department responded to a fire alarm at the Landmark building along the 500 block of 6 Street South.
Three stations and 22 firefighters attended. Fire crews extinguished the fire, which was isolated to one unit.
A man’s body, identified as the 39-year-old occupant of the unit, was located inside. Due to extensive smoke, numerous occupants from other units were initially displaced from the building but were able to return to their homes within a few hours. No other injuries were reported.
Operation Red Nose ready
Operation Red Nose will begin Nov. 30 and continue until Dec. 31.
The campaign is a designated driver program aimed at making roads safer during the holiday season.
The mission of Operation Red Nose is to encourage responsible behaviour with regard to impaired driving in a non-judgmental manner.
Now in its 24th year, Operation Red Nose has been a major fundraiser for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Athletics department. A total of $72,500 was raised last year with 967 rides provided with the help of 753 volunteers.
Ken McInnes, U of L executive director for sport and recreation services, said the partnership with Operation Red Nose and U of L students is an opportunity to give back to the community.
“A big part of what we do is our chance to give back to the community, it’s a chance for our student athletes to get involved with Operation Red Nose and the community,” said McInnes.
Lethbridge will be one of 102 communities across Canada providing this service.
With students away for Christmas break by Dec. 20, Pronghorn Athletics relies heavily on volunteers.
The department supplies the majority of the volunteers in teams of three, including an escort driver who drives their vehicle, a designated driver who drives the client’s vehicle and a navigator who looks up the destination and completes the paperwork.
Home prices among lowest
Home prices have been moderating across Alberta.
But Lethbridge remains one of the province’s lowest-cost cities for home buyers, a national report shows. The annual Century 21 survey shows buyers can expect to pay $193 per square foot in Lethbridge, compared with $276 in Red Deer or $294 in Calgary.
On a hypothetical 1,500-square-foot home, that could mean a $289,500 home in Lethbridge would fetch $414,000 in Red Deer, $432,000 in Edmonton or $441,000 in Calgary.
“Clearly the softness of the Alberta market is due to a slower oil and gas industry,” notes Brian Rushton, Century 21 Canada’s executive vice-president. “Relative to other major markets, both Calgary and Edmonton remain a bargain.”
They’re similar, Rushton says, to prices in the suburbs of such high-cost cities as Vancouver or Toronto. Even so, the study found 21 per cent of Calgary residents said their accommodation is “far from their ideal” while only eight per cent were dissatisfied in Edmonton.
Here in Lethbridge, Century 21 Foothills South Real Estate broker Kyle Lebeau reports prices are holding steady for homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.
But “anything above $300,000 is taking longer to sell, and prices are sliding.
“It’s a great time to trade up to something above $300,000 right now,” Lebeau says.
Sales activity has been impacted by recent restrictions on qualifying for a mortgage, he points out. They were designed to cool down markets like Vancouver and Toronto, but “they’re hurting the Lethbridge and area market.”
And that’s giving prospective buyers an opportunity to consider a range of listings in various parts of the city — and in nearby communities as well. City-wide, Lebeau reports last year’s average selling price was $286,000 but it slipped to $283,000 earlier this year.
“Compared to the rest of the province we have one of the lowest average home prices,” Lebeau says.
But we are “still maintaining better-than-average rent prices and vacancy rates, due to a diverse and balanced economy.
“That makes Lethbridge a great city to live and invest in.”
City to gauge insights
The City of Lethbridge’s Community Social Development department is developing a strategic plan to gain insight on the range of social needs in the city and guide its efforts over the next five years.
To aid in this work, officials said in a release, Lethbridge residents are invited to complete a short online questionnaire, which asks about their thoughts on what they see as the dominant social issues in the city. The questionnaire can be completed until Nov. 29 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SocWellbeing.
Participation in the questionnaire is voluntary, and it will take less than 10 minutes to complete.