Many provinces reviewed their driver training rules after the Humboldt hockey tragedy. In Alberta, the government announced a Mandatory Entry-Level Training initiative for new drivers, along with introduction of an “S” endorsement program for already-licensed commercial drivers.
But now the United Conservative government has put that upgrade on hold. While that may put more students’ lives at risk, observers say it might help northern school districts attract more drivers.
For one of Alberta’s geographically largest school divisions, however, that advanced training requirement is already in place. Dave Shaw, transportation supervisor for Lethbridge-based Palliser Regional Schools, says fully qualified drivers are already lined up for all his 58 full-time routes.
“We run our own training school,” he points out.
Since the previous New Democratic government announced the upgrades, that’s what Palliser’s new drivers have been learning.
The new program calls for 53.5 hours of training, Shaw says — followed by testing.
As well as serving students in local communities like Coaldale, Coalhurst and Picture Butte, the Palliser district’s buses run as far north as Milo and Arrowwood. They travel about 1.9 million kilometres each year, he says.
The upgraded training is one of the ways Palliser works to keep its students safe. Another, he adds, is extensive use of bus-mounted video cameras.
Rescue groups helped
The Union Salon and Barbershop hosted their third annual Back Alley Bash for community members to hang out in the back alley of their shop and enjoy an afternoon filled with live bands, shopping, and supporting local organizations.
For the last three years, Union has been hosting the alley party in downtown Lethbridge as a way to invite people into the area for a fun afternoon, and to offer support for local organizations in need. This year, Union decided to help support animal rescue organizations to possibly find some furry friends new homes.
“This is our third annual Back Alley Bash, every year this weekend we do a charity event for different local charities, this year we chose the Last Chance Cat Ranch and Misty Creek Dog Rescue,” says Lacey Day, manager of Union Salon and Barbershop.
“We have been doing it for three years in this location and with Bad Apple Salon and Spa for a few years, so it was something fun to offer and a way that we can give back to the community.”
The afternoon back alley bash kicked off with a performance from Adequate, followed by Atomicos, Biloxi Parish, and finished with Bomb Hugg. People were also able to shop an artisan market, enjoy some food from their barbeque, or take a swing at dunking someone in the dunk-tank.
“We have some local bands playing throughout the day, we have the artisan market which is one of the main events as well, we have a dunk-tank sponsored by Nectar Tattooing, and a barbeque,” says Day.
“We want to raise as much money as we can, as well as raise awareness of these local organizations that are totally volunteer run and to encourage people to adopt when they are looking for a pet.”
BILD to renovate kitchen
Building Industry & Land Development Association (BILD) Lethbridge Region has announced the winner of their Home Renovation Contest Giveaway.
Katie Taylor and her family received a renovation up to $20,000 to help upgrade their kitchen, with BILD Lethbridge Region members donating their time, labour and materials toward the project.
The contest first launched at the Home and Garden Show in March, and hundreds of people entered their photos of cringeworthy bathrooms and kitchens, along with a reason for why they deserved the renovation. On Monday morning, the Taylor family was surprised by the Lethbridge BILD team who presented them with the contest winnings.
“It is a pretty small space and my kids are getting older and wanting to help in the kitchen and we all just run into each other all the time, so I thought what is the harm to enter,” says Taylor. “I am so excited to create a space for my family to be together and to cook together more and to give some of those life skills that they could really use, and all those little things that are on my list but I couldn’t do anything about.”
Taylor is a single mom of two boys, one who has cerebral palsy, and works as a substitute teacher in and around Lethbridge, as well as a cashier at a pharmacy. When Taylor first purchased her house, renovations to improve the outdated home were started, but were never finished.
Ticket tally down
Lethbridge Police and Alberta Sheriffs issued 61 traffic and liquor violations during the 2019 Street Machine Weekend, down from 179 a year earlier.
Police say the most prevalent offences, consistent with previous years, were speeding, stunting and equipment violations. In addition, police laid several impaired-driving charges.
Police, in a news release July 15, said they want to thank the local Street Wheelers club for their co-operation and ongoing efforts to keep the event safe for everyone to enjoy.
Food bank celebrates anniversary
The Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge, which serves and assists citizens of Lethbridge and area, celebrated its 30th anniversary last week.
The Interfaith Food Bank was started in 1989, in response to community hunger needs, by caring citizens who showed that collective efforts could help many families. Over the past 30 years, Interfaith has grown from providing just the basic needs to offering many programs, referrals and skill-building sessions to help families move past the food bank lineup.
“Today we are celebrating 30 years of service to our community here at Interfaith Food Bank and we are inviting community members down to look at the facility, highlight some of the history and some of the events that have happened over the years,” said Danielle McIntyre, Interfaith executive director. “We want to show how we’ve come to grow from just neighbours helping neighbours to an organization that is able to serve so many families in southern Alberta.”
Interfaith Food Bank has grown from a small church basement to their current building they own and fully operate. During the decades, the organization’s workers and hundreds of dedicated volunteers have raised money and food to support the operation of the food bank.
“Most food banks focus on that immediate need, emergency food assistance when people don’t have enough on the table, but over the years we have been evolving to help address the underlying issues of why people are accessing the food bank in the first place,” says McIntyre. “That really brings out that community nature of what we do and in having a facility that we can offer for space for programming and partner with those groups to address those issues really helps to empower families.
Instead of just keeping to the food bank, we want to show pride that it’s a hand up, not just a hand out.”
Replica cannon donated to fort
Thanks to dedicated community members and their donations, an important part of the visitor experience at Fort Whoop-Up has returned with the gift of a cannon to showcase the history of the area with a boom.
Local historian George Kush, Bill Peta from Fort Whoop-Up Black Powder Society and the Galt’s curator Aimee Benoit all helped to get the project started.
Kush provided drawings and measurements of the original cannon that was used at Fort Whoop-Up in the 1870s. And D&D Machine Works Ltd. in Lethbridge donated their time, skills, labour and materials to design and craft a brand new replica of the cannon.
“We are thrilled to have worked with historians, the Fort Whoop-Up Black Powder Club and D&D Machine Works to create a nearly exact replica of the cannon based on scale drawings and historical photographs of the original,” says Benoit, in a news release. “The original Fort Whoop-Up had two cannons, one of which was mounted on a carriage and was fired to signal the arrival of trade goods from Fort Benton. This will help us interpret an important part of the Fort’s history and bring back an exciting experience for visitors.”
Iconic sign to illuminate the past
An iconic piece of Lethbridge history will light up the night once more at the Galt Museum and Archives.
The former Alberta Meat Market sign, first erected by the Creighton family and donated last year to the Galt by the building’s current owner Chris Sirias, has had its neon glass tubes restored and will be a prominent part of the museum’s permanent display gallery for years to come. The museum held a public lighting ceremony to show off the colourful sign on Monday.
“It’s exciting because it adds a really strong visual element to the gallery that wasn’t there before,” said the Galt Museum’s curator Aimee Benoit, “and it provides a way for people in the community to come and still see the sign.”
Benoit said in the end the decision to restore the lighting function of the sign was a relatively easy one to make as it is in keeping with the best museum practices across Canada, but stressed there was also an important balance to maintain in doing so.
“It was an easy decision to make,” confirmed Benoit, “but we chose very carefully just to restore the (neon tube) glass and not the other aspects of the metal and wood framing. That way its original character is still there, but the neon is able to be illuminated again and the sign is able to convey its full role as an advertising device and landmark statement.”
City to annex land
Lethbridge will be growing in size as well as population.
With more than 101,000 men, women and children, Lethbridge has reclaimed its historic rank as Alberta’s third-largest city.
Before long it will also be expanding its land base, stretching south to incorporate Lethbridge Airport.
That annexation will add 1,400 acres to the city’s footprint, now calculated at about 30,715 acres. Michael Kelly, land and real estate manager for the City of Lethbridge, says the annexation is part of the airport operations agreement between Lethbridge County and the City.
That agreement, completed a year ago, left operations in the County’s hands for a transitional period which ended July 1. In the meantime, city council has approved a master plan for airport improvements, to be implemented over a number of years.
Public engagement will take place as those plans are created, he adds.
Kelly says the annexation would take place by 2028 if not sooner, and by agreement would not be opposed by the county council in office at that time. It would serve to put the City-owned facility inside city limits.
It’s not certain how much the annexation procedure would cost, he adds. The last annexation was back in the 1980s, and added land that’s now being developed as a new neighbourhood east of Fairmont.
New West alum hitting the road
Growing up in Lethbridge, he says his musical interests were diverse.
“I sang in the LCI Chamber Choir,” says Kyle Gruninger. “And I played in a metal band.”
But he didn’t pay much attention to Queen, the British band that had recently lost its lead singer, Freddy Mercury.
Flash forward: the New West Theatre veteran is about to tour North America as a lead performer in “We Will Rock You” — a full-scale celebration of all the enduring, energized hits that have made Queen one of the top names in rock music.
“It’s the greatest band of all time,” Gruninger says now.
And starting in September, he’ll be sharing that enthusiasm with audiences from New York to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, with many stops in between.
The 17-member cast will also be performing in both Jubilee Auditoria, Dec. 27-28 in Calgary and Dec. 30-31 in Edmonton. Tour promoters will also be announcing a show in Lethbridge, he adds.
Peace officers sworn in
Dressed in their distinctive gray shirts under tactical vests, Lethbridge’s nine new Community Peace Officers were officially sworn in Wednesday as bylaw enforcement officers in the city.
The swearing-in ceremony took place in the Lethbridge Police Service headquarters atrium as the nine recruits vowed to enforce the City’s bylaws to the best of their abilities.
LPS Chief of Police Rob Davis said the designation of bylaw authority is the next logical step in the CPO program’s progression in the community as the officers get set to take to the streets for field training over the next 16 weeks with regular LPS officers.
“Earlier this week, we talked about the authorities we asked for from the Solicitor General for the provincial statutes and some criminal code violations,” explained Davis. “In addition, we asked for bylaw authorities to tackle the issues in the downtown. This is great because there are a number of bylaws that will help us to address the challenges in the downtown. So today is significant because all these CPOs gained those authorities (after being sworn).”
While the nine now technically have authority to enforce all city bylaws, Davis said the scope of that authority will be focused primarily on downtown safety and maintaining good order.
Police nab 18
Lethbridge Police have arrested 18 people, including a couple allegedly trafficking prescription drugs with their three young children, as part of an ongoing initiative targeting criminal activity downtown.
On Tuesday, members of the Downtown Policing Unit and Priority Crimes Unit conducted a targeted sweep of the downtown core, police said in a release Wednesday. The project resulted in the arrest of 11 subjects who are facing numerous charges, as well as the apprehension of seven subjects who were wanted on a combined total of 28 outstanding warrants.
In addition, police seized a stolen Toyota 4-Runner worth $55,000.
A 24-year-old man and 29-year-old woman are charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, and child endangerment, in relation to an incident where police observed the pair working together in Galt Gardens allegedly selling prescription narcotics with their three children — all under age four — in tow. Child and Family Service apprehended the children. The pair cannot be named to protect the identity of the children.
More hunger pains in schools
More Lethbridge school children will be feeling hunger pains this fall.
Public school officials say funding cuts by the United Conservative government will hit local schools’ attempts to help kids from low-income families.
Ten Lethbridge School District 51 schools received funding through the provincial program over the last year, they report. Based on a $252,000 “nutrition grant” from Alberta Education, students in six elementary schools, all three middle schools and one high school were assisted.
Students have difficulty learning when there’s nothing to eat before school, educators point out.
“The potential loss of our school nutrition grant will certainly have an impact throughout the district,” says spokesperson Garrett Simmons.
“We had 10 schools access grant funding, for a wide variety of initiatives, and a few of those schools offered universal breakfast programs with those funds.”
The provincial government grant had a positive impact on learners “throughout the district, at virtually all grade levels,” he adds.
And the funds led to community collaborations, Simmons adds.
“Lethbridge schools also benefited from some very meaningful community partnerships to help with things such as kitchen renovations, along with assistance in providing food items.”
School officials were also able to create a fruit and vegetable “enhancement program,” providing greater nutrition in breakfast and lunch programs.
“Throughout the year, schools received a fruit or vegetable delivery once a month to support and enhance nutritious eating and programming for students,” he reports. “That initiative was very well received by our students.”
New exhibit at SAAG
The Southern Alberta Art Gallery is hosting a travelling exhibition by Vancouver-based artist, Adad Hannah called “Glints and Reflection,” which runs until Sept. 15.
Hannah’s work endeavours to re-establish museums and galleries through a new lens in today’s context. To achieve this concept, he uses mirrors to reflect images of average people he meets, to pose in rooms of museums and galleries to give a reverse view to show the reflection on art, and the perceptions of the work.
Throughout his career, he has worked internationally to create a variety of pieces which are on display.
“This is a touring show, organized by the Musée d’art de Joliette and four other galleries across Canada, and this is the third stop on the tour, and I suppose this is a mid-career survey of my work,” says Hannah. “This is from different projects that I have done over the years, from different parts of the world. Some are from Seoul, South Korea, Spain, Quebec, Montreal, Georgia, Texas, Russia.”
Blast at the Fort
With a blast heard throughout the river valley, the new Fort Whoop-Up replica cannon announced its arrival in the City of Lethbridge on Thursday.
The cannon was painstakingly reproduced by Lethbridge-based company D & D Machine Works Ltd. based on blueprint drawings of the original cannon provided by local historian and western artist George Kush. Kush drew up the plans over 20 years ago in the event the original cannon was lost to flood, time or misadventure. He admitted he did not conceive when he did those blueprint drawings and accompanying photographs that they would ever be used in his lifetime.
The original historic cannon was misplaced somehow, confirmed Kush, when the former society which ran Fort Whoop-Up was superseded by the Galt Museum and Archives in managing the Fort.
“The (original) Whoop-Up gun was sold to John D. Higinbotham, and taken into the City of Lethbridge,” stated Kush, presenting a historical context for the cannon’s presence. “It was in front of the Higinbotham home in Lethbridge for many years, and then it was donated to the City of Lethbridge probably about 1940. Where it is today, I have no idea. But wherever it is, it is one of the oldest non-Indigenous artifacts in southern Alberta, and very valuable.”
Kush hoped for the original cannon’s eventual return to the Fort, but felt the replica fired-off publicly for the first time Thursday was almost as good.
MLA proud of achievements
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf said his first session in the legislature was a rewarding and challenging experience, and he is proud of what the Kenney government accomplished in such a short period of time since being elected.
“Many of us were new to government so there was a steep learning curve,” he admitted, “and our government had a very strong and aggressive plan of legislation they wanted to bring forward. I think, as everybody saw, we got down to business really quickly on that.”
Neudorf is particularly proud of passing Bill 2, the Open for Business Act.
“We came through on our platform promises and we were very supportive of business, in particular,” he stated. “Just coming from the construction sector, and understanding the needs of those employees and employers, it was all about trying to make it easier for businesses to get people back to work. I was happy to stand on that platform promise.”
The spring session was not without its share of drama and conflict as the NDP Opposition filibustered on three different occasions over the creation of the youth minimum wage and changes to overtime pay policies, the deferral of scheduled wage arbitration proceedings with the government’s 24 public sector unions, and the repeal and replacement of the NDP’s new Alberta Schools Act with the old Education Act. On the latter, the NDP tried to paint the government as anti-LGBT youth over its scrapping of GSA policies that required schools to keep any youth’s involvement in GSAs private from even parents in all circumstances. Neudorf said it was just Opposition rhetoric.
Industrial real estate strong
The Lethbridge industrial real estate market saw good returns through the first quarter of 2019, and those are only going to get better in the next year when the fourth, fully-serviced subdivision opens up in Sherring Industrial Park, says Vinko Smiljanec, an associate with Avison Young’s Lethbridge office.
“The Lethbridge industrial real estate market is strong,” confirms Smiljanec. “With all that land (125 acres) becoming available in north Lethbridge land prices are going up.”
In a broader view, Lethbridge mirrors much of what is happening with a bullish industrial real estate trend expressing itself across the country; albeit not to the same degree as other major markets. Avison Young’s national report released last month pegs Lethbridge’s industrial vacancy rate at a not too hot or too cold 8.4 per cent. Across Canada there is currently a record low industrial vacancy rate average of about three per cent.
Lethbridge also averaged a lease rate of $8.16 per square foot (psf) in the first quarter, a number which has remained consistent year-over-year while other cities have had their ups and downs. For example, while Calgary sits at about $9.46 psf on average and Vancouver remains king of the market price-wise with $11.49 psf, cities like Toronto register at only $7.64 psf at the moment. Montreal is at $6.71 psf.
“Lethbridge is generally pretty stable,” Smiljanec confirms. “The benefit of that is on the investor side — people investing in real estate here and then leasing out that space can know, ‘I am going to get somewhere in that $8 or $8.50 a square foot for my industrial space.’ It makes for a great incentive to buy because you know what you are getting with that strong backbone.”