Crime and hospital expansion were top of mind for City of Red Deer representatives present at the annual convention of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, which was held in Calgary this week.
The biggest news to come from the convention for Red Deer is the endorsement of a resolution which calls for the reinstatement of the Red Deer Regional Hospital to the Province’s capital plan.
Expansion was identified as a priority in 2015 and then mysteriously vanished from the Provincial budget this year.
City Councillor Ken Johnston has been one of the loudest voices in the call for Red Deer hospital expansion, and he said over the phone on Friday he's ecstatic about the support from the AUMA.
“It just makes me feel extremely proud for the work that we’ve put into this, extremely proud of the doctors and healthcare professionals that brought this to our attention last October, and all those people who came to the public meetings the doctors held,” Johnston said. “Now we get a provincial voice behind us, a large influential provincial voice and I just couldn’t be happier.”
Johnston added the news is emotional for him as it will be a year this Saturday since his wife suffered a heart attack and wound up spending weeks in a Calgary hospital due to the lack of cardiac care in Red Deer. She later passed.
“There was concern expressed on the floor from northern Alberta municipalities, who are really four or more hours away from a major centre, that this is really a provincial issue, not a municipal one,” Johnston went on. “I made it clear from day one when I took on this issue last fall that if you are a resident, it doesn’t matter what political stripe you fall under, all of us as municipal leaders, provincial leaders, federal leaders, have that concern about quality of life, which makes this issue transcend orders of government.”
Mayor Tara Veer also chimed in saying there remains great concern about the fact that a hospital which serves such a large area is not on the master planning radar for the Provincial Government.
Veer and her council colleagues held several other key meetings this week at the AUMA convention, most notably with RCMP K Division to discuss emerging concerns around increasing service demands on the 911 system.
“We shared how this is potentially affecting service to Red Deerians and discussed the need for additional staff for the operations centre,” Veer says, noting there hasn’t been an increase to staff levels at the Southern Alberta Operations Call Centre in a decade.
The parties agreed to meet again in the coming weeks to further discuss strategies to ensure crime prevention and enforcement are meetings Red Deer’s needs.
In conversations with various Provincial ministers, Veer also expressed the need for additional prosecutors to deal with the backlog of criminal and civil cases in Red Deer, while touching on other subjects like cannabis legalization, vacant provincial properties and needle debris.
The other resolution Red Deer had endorsed revolves around establishing a provincial combative sports regulator.
“Alberta is the only province without a provincial regulator, and standardized regulations are important in ensuring fighter safety while eliminating the growing cost of operating multiple commissions across the province," Veer says.
Last July, the City of Red Deer partnered with the City of Edmonton to seek support from other municipalities in calling on the Provincial Government to create such a regulatory body.
“Across Alberta, there is little to no regulation of matches hosted by private companies in our own communities,” Veer continued. “It is time for Alberta to modernize to the new best practice of oversight, as in other Canadian provinces, to ensure high standards of safety and governance.”
Next year's AUMA convention will be hosted in Red Deer for the first time.
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