A fiscal and operational performance review conducted by KPMG on behalf of the City of Lethbridge may save the City as much as $8.5-$10 million a year.
City manager Bramwell Strain presented the findings to the Community Issues Committee of city council last Monday looking at several of the City’s business units, including the Enmax Centre, Facility Services, Recreation/Culture, Human Resources, Information Technology, Integrated Risk Management, Lethbridge Transit and Real Estate and Land Management.
This “Phase One” review included among its recommendations that the City consider selling the Enmax Centre and certain other publicly-owned facilities to private buyers, that paid parking be adopted in the Enmax parking lots for events and games, that school bus service, currently provided by the City, be turned over to the school boards, that Access-A-Ride parking become more selective in who qualifies to use it, and that the City and certain business units be integrated to reduce on administration costs.
Strain explained why city council should consider taking these steps, and others, in light of recent provincial budget cuts and to bring relief to the City’s taxpayers.
“We are the second-highest-taxed jurisdiction in Alberta, and that’s not sustainable” said Strain, while at the same time acknowledging service levels in the city are quite high and people were generally pleased with the levels of service they are getting. “We’re growing faster than our rate of revenue, and the only way to pay for that is to raise taxes. Obviously public sentiment, and your sentiment (on council), is that this is not acceptable.”
The City also pays higher costs than the average for the services it delivers, he added.
The fiscal and operational review put forth for consideration Monday, unlike the recent provincial cutbacks to deal with the deficit, identifies ways to find efficiencies and savings in a more surgical way than merely “cuts across the board” approach, stated Strain.
“What we’re doing is what I will call program-based reviews. So before we’re faced with that deficit, before we’re faced with the cuts, we look at our own programming.
“We’re talking to the community. We’re talking to stakeholders, talking to employees, talking to the unions, and saying what does the community want? What can we afford? How do we deliver it to make sure its sustainable so we don’t have to keep increasing taxes beyond the rate of inflation?”
Speaking on potential sale of the Enmax Centre, and other publicly-owned facilities, Strain said there was a business case to be made for doing so.
City 15th most dangerous place
The reports are not positive. The number of crimes reported across Canada has increased two per cent year over year.
But in many Western Canadian communities — including Lethbridge — the situation is getting worse. Statistics Canada data, cited in an annual report in Maclean’s magazine, shows Lethbridge now ranks No. 15 on the list of “most dangerous places.”
North Battleford, Sask., has the dubious distinction of being ranked No. 1, but Wetaskiwin is fourth-worst while Grande Prairie is ninth and Red Deer 10th.
Focusing on “violent crime” statistics alone, the report places Lethbridge in 34th spot. Other Alberta cities including Wetaskiwin, Grande Prairie and Edmonton saw proportionately more incidents, the magazine feature notes.
But many larger cities including Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were further down the list with greater success in reducing “violent crime” issues, in the per-capita ranking.
And once again, says Mayor Chris Spearman, the report points to the urgent need for drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities in Lethbridge.
Lethbridge police are doing all they can to arrest drug dealers and deal with other drug-related crime, he said. The City has been asking the province to locate a drug-house response team here, the mayor pointed out.
And it continues to press the Alberta government for rehabilitation facilities like those operating in Calgary and Edmonton, allowing opioid users and others to reclaim their lives.
SABRE wants cut of market
A new renewable energy co-op, backstopped by a high-powered board, is poised to launch its drive for new members and investment capital to take advantage of the burgeoning renewable energy market in Alberta.
The soft launch for the Southern Alberta Renewable Energy (SABRE) Co-operative recently took place at the Environment Lethbridge AGM at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre.
“I think the opportunity is right,” explained SABRE’s project manager Kim Welby. “There has been a lot of momentum in the renewable energy space (in Alberta), and there has been movement toward a more sustainable future which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is becoming more carbon neutral. This is occurring independent of the government steering. I think our previous (NDP) government had set up a very good framework, and even though budgets are tight with this new government, I think that there is real opportunities to be had, and these very technical professionals (on our board) see that.”
SABRE’s board includes Lethbridge College educator Shane Porter, environmental consultant Jessica Bekker, business owner Bill Spenceley, municipal consultant Layne Johnson and investment advisor Kevin Sassa.
“There is a real (renewable) opportunity to be had here,” said Welby in explaining why her board has such confidence. “Maybe it’s not a subsidized opportunity, but there is a way forward. And even though we don’t necessarily see direction coming from the (UCP) government, industry is sort of saying otherwise.
Hold onto your hats, scarves and gloves! We may be in for a long, frigid winter.
That’s the word from the Weather Channel, as Albertans slog through another wet snowfall.
Much of Canada will be dealing with a harsh winter, forecasters say, with temperatures at or below winter averages in many regions.
But while Saskatchewan and Manitoba will remain in the deep freeze for months on end, the weather experts predict Albertans will experience more changeable weather, with mild spells now and again.
Meteorologist Doug Gillham says “The Blob,” a recently discovered area of unusually warm water in the North Pacific, may have an impact on Alberta as well as British Columbia. As well as bringing milder-than-usual conditions to the West Coast, he says it may also move the prevailing jet stream a little east — putting much of Alberta on its warmer side.
The ocean is two to four degrees warmer than usual in some places, he says, and this could have more impact this year than a possible “El Nino” situation — on both sides of the Rockies.
“It’s a skiers’ delight,” Gillham expects, with above-average snowfalls in Alberta’s ski resorts along with resorts in southeastern B.C.
Alpine temperatures may remain warmer than usual, he adds, adding to outdoor sports enthusiasts’ comfort.
Kennel Club hosts the best
The Lethbridge and District Kennel Club welcomed over 300 dogs and their owners and trainers to Exhibition Park Nov. 15-17 for their annual dog show.
The Canadian Kennel Club-sanctioned obedience and conformation show brought the best of the breeds from all parts of the country to compete in an array of competitions, putting their best face and obedience skills to the test.
“This is our annual dog show, we have over 300 dogs entered this year per day, this is one of our biggest entries we have ever had,” says Evelyn Sera, Lethbridge & District Kennel Club. “It is an all-breed dog show as well as we have rally obedience and competition obedience, we also do baby puppies to best in show and we have the veteran dogs all the way to best in show as well.”
The competition starts off breed-by-breed and broken up into seven groups — sporting dogs, hounds, working dogs, terriers, toy dogs, non-sporting, and herding. In their respective groups, the dogs then are put up to the standards of their breeds and are judged on a variety of characteristics, which Sera says can take a long time in breeding to get right and can be a major commitment of their time.
“The Canadian Kennel Club has set down the breed standards,” says Sera. “For each breed it would be what the perfect example of that breed would be, so head, eye shape, muscle, angulation, body structure, how they move, and of course showmanship makes a big difference, too. There are some breeds that are a little higher maintenance than other dogs, but for everybody that is involved in this sport, it is a major commitment of their time.”
Applications open for scholarships
Applications can now be sent to try for one of two 2020 Agricultural Scholarships. Those interested can apply at exhibitionpark.ca and rotarylethbridgeeast.ca
Exhibition Park and the Rotary Club of Lethbridge East recently announced details for a second year of the Agricultural Scholarship Award program, designed to further recognize the importance of agriculture in the community by supporting two top students in their pursuit of an agricultural career.
In 2020, they have expanded the competition to have two top agricultural student winners — each for $10,000.
Applicants for the 2020 Agricultural Scholarship Awards must be legal residents of Lethbridge County, County of Taber, County of Warner, County of Forty Mile, County of Cardston, County of Pincher Creek, County of Ranchlands, County of Willow Creek, County of Vulcan, Blood First Nation, Piikani First Nation, Municipality of Crowsnest Pass or the city of Lethbridge.
The scholarships will be presented to students who have completed at least three years of college or university at a recognized institution. Plus, the students must have demonstrated high academic achievement and leadership qualities in an agriculture-related field.
Let the kids play
Lethbridge Early Years Coalition joined with other organizations across the country in celebration of children’s rights for the annual National Child Day Celebration.
National Child Day is celebrated annually across Canada in recognition of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. To celebrate the rights of children, LEYC partnered with 28 child-centreed community organizations to host a free family celebration at Lethbridge College on Saturday.
“National Child Day is about the United Nations declaration to the rights of children and it is looking at 54 articles that really give us a road map of how to raise happy and healthy children,” says Vicki Hazelwood, co-ordinator of Lethbridge Early Years Coalition.
“Today we want to raise awareness of those rights and let children know that they have the right to be safe, the right to have their basic needs met. We are gathering with the community and spreading the message with 28 different community organizations and agencies that are passionate about seeing children and youth reach their full potential, so they are here to connect families with what they are doing in the community.”
Red Nose launching
Operation Red Nose is launching for another holiday season to help Lethbridge residents get home safely from their various festivities.
In its 25th year, Operation Red Nose is a unique program dedicated to fighting against impaired driving. During the holidays, people who have been drinking or who do not feel fit to drive can be driven home in their own vehicle by a team of Red Nose volunteers. There is no fee for the service, but donations are encouraged as they go toward funding of Pronghorn Athletics at the University of Lethbridge.
“Operation Red Nose is a free ride service, so you give us a call and we get you and your vehicle home safely. There is no charge, although we do take donations for it,” says Ken McInnes, Executive Director of Sports at University of Lethbridge. “Over the last 24 years, we have raised about $775,000 for Pronghorn Athletics and most importantly for us it is a chance to give back to the community because they give back to us, so this is one of those really tangible opportunities for student athletes.”
From business holiday parties to family gatherings, groups of Pronghorn volunteers want to make sure residents get home safe.
“The donation goes right into the program and how we do it is each team has a night that they operate and the funds that were raised that night, go right into the team’s operations,” says McInnes. “When we come and pick people up for the rides, there are two ways to do it. We can pick you up with a ride and get you home safely and you can provide a donation right there, the crew can give you a receipt for the donation. You can also call us and if you are having a business party or a party at your residence and you would like to make sure your guests get home safe, just give us a call and it’s a flat fee as part of the donation.”
Operation Red Nose will run on Nov. 29 and 30, Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, and 31, from 9:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. nightly. If you are interested in volunteering for Red Nose, contact Pronghorn Athletics at email@example.com or go to gohorns.ca to download the volunteer application form. To book a ride with Operation Red Nose on one of the provided evenings, phone 403-320-4155.
Lethbridge Fire and EMS formally welcomed six new recruits into the department with a special ceremony at Southminster United Church on Tuesday.
Among the young men chosen out of an initial pool of 120 applicants to become the latest firefighters to join the Lethbridge fire department were Antony Smith, Aaron Eisses, Braden Burton, Luke Richardson, Michael May and Oliver Stokes.
“We did 12 weeks of extensive training, and now it is all paying off with a ceremony congratulating all of us for passing,” said Smith on behalf of his fellow recruits during a media scrum on Tuesday. “I feel like we are really well prepared, but at the same time we are still going to have a lot to learn. As far as training went, it has helped us a lot. I feel pretty confident getting on the road and serving the community.”
Smith gave a huge nod to his trainers and the support he has received from all the members of the department over these past 12 weeks of preparation.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” Smith stated. “There is obviously some really good paramedic-firefighters in this department, and I am hoping I can live up to the standard.”
“It’s just a giant family we are all fortunate to be a part of,” agreed Smith’s colleague Richardson. “The City of Lethbridge is great, and we just can’t wait to get out there and serve.”
Lethbridge Fire and EMS Deputy Chief Gerrit Sinke said it is a testament to the quality of the recruits chosen that they were standing in Southminster Church with their families watching them be inducted into the department on Tuesday as they prepared to take on a sacred commitment to serve the community no matter what may come.
Awards handed out
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Southern Alberta Chapter named its honourees for the fifth annual Inspiring Philanthropy Awards at a recent luncheon.
Award winners included: Michael Marcotte and Prime Catering, small business; MNP, corporate philanthropists; Bernadine and Toby Boulet, individual or family philanthropist; the Hurricanes Hockey Club, along with Nancy Graham, Ken Rogers and Fran Rude, for philanthropic group; and Cater Eli, youth award.
“Philanthropy is love and humankind, and to me, philanthropy is about kindness, giving back and putting others ahead of ourselves,” says Jess Fehr, president of AFP Southern Alberta Chapter, in a news release.
The Inspiring Philanthropy Awards luncheon, presented by the Community Foundation of Lethbridge & Southwestern Alberta, was part of the National Philanthropy Day celebrations held across the country and around 140 people attended the event in Lethbridge. The planning committee was thrilled by the size of the event and is looking forward to next year’s celebration.
“We see the generosity of the people of southern Alberta lived out each and every day through all of the non-profit organizations in our community and through the multitude of volunteer hours that are committed every year,” says Caitlin Gajdostik and Monica Loewen, co-chairs of the event. “We’re honoured to be able to celebrate just a few of the many amazing philanthropists in our community.”
City has adequate reserves
The City of Lethbridge has about $82 million in reserves spread out over 14 different funds. While on the small side compared to other jurisdictions across the province, city treasurer Haley Pinksen told council during this week’s Community Issues Committee meeting that she felt those reserves were adequate as they stand, albeit with room to improve upon if council so desired.
However, Pinksen also told councillors certain reserve funds may have outlasted their original purpose and should possibly be reconsidered and consolidated. She pointed to the Mayor Magrath Drive Beautification Reserve as a good example of this. It was established in 1984, and its original purpose is no longer clear. It holds $100,000 which does not get tapped for such beautification projects anymore.
The Municipal Revenue Stabilization Fund by comparison is tapped quite often, and at $28.7 million is the City’s largest reserve. Pinksen said the fund, while lacking a singular scope or purpose, acts as a useful catch-all to help “stabilize the effects of fluctuating revenue and expenditures.” Which, she admitted, could refer to a whole variety of things, and often does in practice.
It’s all a bit confusing, admitted Coun. Jeffery Coffman, as to how such reserves are established in the first place and what operating principles they are disbursed under thereafter. Coffman proposed to bring forth a motion to direct City staff to undertake a review of the usefulness and purpose of each of the existing reserve funds at Monday’s city council meeting, and to report back to council at a future date with their recommendations.
Festival raises over $160,000
Lethbridge-area individuals and businesses showed their generosity once again, when this year’s Christmas Tree Festival wrapped up Wednesday.
The 24 colourfully decorated trees and other donated items were auctioned during a festive event which raised more than $160,000, organizers say.
“Once again we are blown away by the support shown to us by the individuals and business in Lethbridge and surrounding area. We really can’t thank them enough,” says Jason VandenHoek, executive director of the Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation.
“There was a great deal of excitement around this year’s auction and we had an amazing evening.”
The gala event, presented by Stringam LLP, raises funds each year for hospital foundation projects. All of the funds raised will stay in Lethbridge, he says, earmarked to support ongoing renovations and redevelopment of the hospital’s mental health wing.
More than 5,000 people visited the festival, held in the Canadian Western Bank Lounge in the Enmax Centre, before they were purchased Wednesday — with many then donated to local organizations. The Interfaith Food Bank, Chinook Regional Hospital, Ecole Agnes Davidson School and St. Paul School are among those recipients.
Emotion played role in vote
Despite some politicians’ rhetoric, most voters in Alberta and Quebec have no real interest in separating from Canada.
But when they enter the polling booth, a Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs audience was told, many voters respond to their emotions instead of their reasoning.
Analyzing the results of last month’s federal election, University of Calgary political scientist Paul Fairie said few political leaders can claim much of a victory this time. The Conservatives received more votes than the governing Liberals, he noted — but most of those votes were in solidly Conservative territory and the party fell short of expectations.
The Liberals lost ground, but Fairie said they managed to keep the support of urban voters in Canada’s largest cities. Proportionally, the New Democrats suffered the biggest losses — but a well-received campaign saw their candidates hold onto enough seats to earn a potential balance-of-power role in the new minority government.
ATB exec honoured
Lethbridge’s own Tevi Legge has been chosen as one of the recipients of the Women’s Executive Network 2019 Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Awards. Legge, who serves as vice-president of Strategy and Activation for Everyday Financial Services at ATB, was recognized in the Emerging Leaders category for her efforts to advance the role of women in the business world and for her work to help foster diversity in the workplace.
“A big part of my role here at ATB is ensuring we can continue to drive diverse conversations with diverse people at the table,” she says. “A good example of that would be is we have a team member network we call Elevate, which is really dedicated to advancing women in the workplace. I am one of the co-leaders of that network, and we have 1,500 members across the organization. Our focus is really on driving gender equality and equity within the organization, and we also work with partners outside of the organization like the UN to understand what that means for us on a global scale, on a national scale, and on what that means for us in Alberta.”
Holiday train coming
It’s a photographer’s delight. But the brightly decorated Holiday Train also serves an important purpose, raising millions in support of food banks across North America.
Scheduled to arrive in Lethbridge at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, the Holiday Train is actually one of two illuminated 14-car trains, each including one car converted to become a mobile stage. Launched by Calgary-based Canadian Pacific in 1999, the seasonal project has since raised more than $15 million in cash donations plus 4.5 million pounds of donated food.
Dallas Smith, 2019 winner of Canadian Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award, is joining Alberta’s own Terri Clark on stage during visits to Lethbridge and six more southern Alberta communities. They’ll remain onboard for another 24 concerts in southern British Columbia cities and towns, arriving at Pacific tidewater on Dec. 17.
“Touring with Terri on the CP Holiday Train is an honour and privilege,” Smith said. “I look forward to performing from the train and seeing Canadians giving generously to help their neighbours in communities large and small.”
This year the trains will make concert stops in more than 150 communities across Canada and adjacent U.S. states.
Wrapping service starts
Christmas shopping has begun, and so has the gift-wrapping service at Park Place Shopping Centre.
Volunteer Lethbridge is offering that convenience during mall hours, daily until Dec. 24.
And volunteers will wrap gifts from anywhere, organizers point out. Individual gifts, gifts for staff parties, gifts for customers — they’re all welcome. And for a larger number of gifts to be wrapped, Volunteer Lethbridge says arrangements can be made by phone.
Prices begin at $3 each, they add, depending on size.
More wrappers are always welcome, organizers say, pointing out it’s a fun and festive volunteer opportunity. But there are many other ways to volunteer at this time of year, they add.
Yard waste sites closing
The three City of Lethbridge yard waste sites will close for the season on Nov. 30.
To date in 2019, officials say the sites have collected a total of 1.89 million kilograms of yard waste which was diverted from the landfill. This is an increase of nearly 500,000 kilograms from 2018.
Grass, leaves and garden waste collected at yard waste sites is composted at the Waste and Recycling Centre and used in city parks and for ground remediation at the landfill. After the yard wastes sites at Bridge Drive West Recycling Station, Stafford Drive North Recycling Station and South Side Recycling Station close, residents can take their material to the Waste and Recycling Centre (landfill) for composting between Dec. 1 and March 31, with no disposal fees charged on Saturdays.
The City’s recycling stations which collect cardboard, glass, tin cans and plastic, remain open year round. For additional information on other waste disposal options visit http://www.lethbridge.ca/wrs or call Lethbridge 311.
U of L iGem team earns gold
The University of Lethbridge Collegiate iGEM team set its sights on solving a problem that affects nearly nine per cent of the world’s population, and earned a gold medal for their efforts at the International Genetically Engineered Machines World Jamboree in Boston.
The collegiate team was accompanied by the U of L’s High School iGEM entry which achieved a silver medal standing for their project Algulin, which is the development of a novel method for the manufacturing and oral delivery of insulin to diabetics. “We wanted to do something different and meaningful, something that will have a positive effect on the people around us,” says Dia Koupantsis, third-year biological sciences student.
“We developed the project Algulin, an oral insulin manufactured in microalgae, in an attempt to democratize the manufacturing of insulin so that it can be widely available for individuals who need it.”
Diabetes is a global issue that requires lifelong management for those affected, imposing a large economic health burden that amounts to a $673-billion global expenditure annually. After interviewing diabetic patients, doctors and pharmacists, the iGEM team went about trying to find a way to deliver insulin to patients orally. The challenge, which has been attempted many times previously, is to find a way to get the insulin through the stomach acid and into the small intestine to absorb without becoming seriously degraded. Their solution — microalgae.