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7 Questions For Council Candidate Brice Unland

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I received the following questions from a citizen of Red Deer. I thought they were indicative of the general population’s feelings about the election/concerns of the city. I asked if I could share the questions and my answers, and she was kind enough to agree. I hope they provide you with some understanding on how I am approaching the election. I warn you now, it’s a bit of a longer read. You might want to grab a snack and a drink.

1) WHY are YOU running for council?

Glad you asked. You can take the short easy way to the answer here via video:

www.facebook.com/unland4rd – it’s pinned to the top of the page.

Or, you can take your time and really dive in with the response below:

Why I Am Running For City Council

2) Of three of your opponents, who would you like to see successful in this race with you and why?

If I stopped to ask some politically minded folks about how to answer this question, I think they would likely be hospitalized by the sheer audacity that I want to answer it (I can hear them screaming: “it’s a trap!” and “you can’t win by answering this question!”). Good thing (for both them and me) that I am not asking them.

Ken Johnston. I recently spoke with Ken at the Saturday Market, and while I had heard many good things about Ken, it was obvious right away from our conversation that he is a councillor for the right reasons. He has a big heart and is trustworthy of such an office.

Matt Slubik. Full disclaimer, Matt and I are friends. With that said, I take my endorsements (in all aspects of life) very seriously. I would like to see Matt on council because he is smart. I don’t mean that in the academic sort of way (though I think he fits that description too), but rather in a social/political sense. Matt and I disagree often which results in vigorous debate. Where I see Matt being good on council is that despite disagreements, what is always most important is not position or being right, but instead finding the best answer.

At this point I do not have a third I feel comfortable endorsing. This is not necessarily a reflection on the candidates but more so because I need to learn more about the reasons they are running and what qualifications they bring.

3) What is the single most important issue to you?

Safety/crime. Everything else we have in this city is a moot point if we don’t have safety. Nice parks, services, etc, all matter little and less if crime is a problem.

4)  What is the best thing that you have seen happen in Red Deer in the last 4 years?

The community response to the windstorm we experienced earlier this year was positively reaffirming. It reminded me (and others) on how important community is and also how great of a community we have. It demonstrated that we are not just people living beside each other, we are neighbours and we look out for one another.

5)  What is the worst thing you have seen happen in Red Deer in the last 4 years?

Crime. Both petty and serious crime. It’s unacceptable.

6)  Crime is a big topic lately.  People are talking about needing more policing.  Do you feel the same?  If you do, how do you think this can be done financially?  Some things are worth spending money on – of course – so if you feel the same, where would you cut funding?  Or would you?

As you can see from previous answers, this is important to me. I am of the firm belief we need more police. We can’t read the news each day and hear from our neighbours about more break-ins, theft, and violence and ignore the fact that we simply don’t have enough police to deal with the situation.

I don’t want to mince words. This is a cost item. More police will cost money. I am 100% okay with that statement. We can talk about fiscal restraint all we want, but if we aren’t safe, paying less tax is no longer a significant benefit.

So where do we get the money? Two options. 1. Raise taxes. 2. Cut spending somewhere else. I’ll briefly speak to both. I don’t want to raise taxes. However my friend that had his truck broken into this week and my neighbour that had two of his vehicles broken into in the past month would pay more in taxes to avoid this situation. So I am not convinced that increasing taxes for a cause like this is a non-starter. Of course a more palatable approach would be to find money by cutting something else. As a candidate from the outside looking in this is difficult for me to speak to with any sort of certainty or educated direction because I have not had the benefit of debating and having the different budget items explained to me in depth. With that said, one of the first places I will be investigating is the cost of hiring temporary workers (think grass cutters) during the summer. This seems like an area that could be hired out to private industry at a much lower cost than the city currently pays.

The other side of this coin is preventing crime in the first place (not just being able to react to it). To me, this is just as important as having the ability to respond. In “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference”, Malcom Gladwell explains how cracking down on petty crime (this was in New York), such as graffiti and not paying for public transportation, had a significant impact on decreasing more serious crimes. There is a good reason to believe that this would also apply to us.

7)  Due to the fact that every year I come close to having a heart attack shovelling snow from the street in front of my house, Snow removal is a hot topic for me.  How do you feel about the current program?  How would you improve it?  Again, how would you propose funding for changes?  (Side note, personally, I would rather take the risk of heart attack every other year, instead of once a year. )

In my twelve years of living in Red Deer I can certainly say that snow removal has gotten better. When I first arrived it seemed to be common practice to start ploughing main roads at 8:00am when everyone was heading to work. Thankfully this practice seems to have been put aside. Your comments are focused on the windrows that are created from the surface-ploughing that occurs on the side roads. When it comes to this, we have made things worse. Expecting citizens to shovel out the space in front of their house so they can park is just not feasible for a good portion of our residents. Add to this, the problem of potholes and roughness that surface-ploughing creates and you have roads that would make even rural Saskatchewan blush!

Like the policing question above, this comes down to money. Is this where we should spend tax payer money? Personally, this issue is below policing to me, but certainly providing basic services (like road clearing) to citizens that pay the city to do just that is more than reasonable. Funding improvements in this area would be similar to the policing answer above.

Thank you for the questions!

Sincerely,

Brice Unland
www.unland.ca

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Addictions

‘Harm Reduction’ is killing B.C.’s addicts. There’s got to be a better way

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Susan Martinuk 

B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy

Since 2016, more than 40,000 Canadians have died from opioid drug overdoses — almost as many as died during the Second World War.
Governments, health care professionals and addiction experts all acknowledge that widespread use of opioids has created a public health crisis in Canada. Yet they agree on virtually nothing else about this crisis, including its causes, possible remedies and whether addicts should be regarded as passive victims or accountable moral agents.

Fuelled by the deadly manufactured opioid fentanyl, Canada’s national drug overdose rate stood at 19.3 people per 100,000 in 2022, a shockingly high number when compared to the European Union’s rate of just 1.8. But national statistics hide considerable geographic variation. British Columbia and Alberta together account for only a quarter of Canada’s population yet nearly half of all opioid deaths. B.C.’s 2022 death rate of 45.2/100,000 is more than double the national average, with Alberta close behind at 33.3/100,00.

In response to the drug crisis, Canada’s two western-most provinces have taken markedly divergent approaches, and in doing so have created a natural experiment with national implications.

B.C. has emphasized harm reduction, which seeks to eliminate the damaging effects of illicit drugs without actually removing them from the equation. The strategy focuses on creating access to clean drugs and includes such measures as “safe” injection sites, needle exchange programs, crack-pipe giveaways and even drug-dispensing vending machines. The approach goes so far as to distribute drugs like heroin and cocaine free of charge in the hope addicts will no longer be tempted by potentially tainted street drugs and may eventually seek help.

But safe-supply policies create many unexpected consequences. A National Post investigation found, for example, that government-supplied hydromorphone pills handed out to addicts in Vancouver are often re-sold on the street to other addicts. The sellers then use the money to purchase a street drug that provides a better high — namely, fentanyl.

Doubling down on safe supply, B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy — though for now that effort has been stymied by the courts.

According to Vancouver city councillor Brian Montague, “The stats tell us that harm reduction isn’t working.” In an interview, he calls decriminalization “a disaster” and proposes a policy shift that recognizes the connection between mental illness and addiction. The province, he says, needs “massive numbers of beds in treatment facilities that deal with both addictions and long-term mental health problems (plus) access to free counselling and housing.”

In fact, Montague’s wish is coming true — one province east, in Alberta. Since the United Conservative Party was elected in 2019, Alberta has been transforming its drug addiction policy away from harm reduction and towards publicly-funded treatment and recovery efforts.

Instead of offering safe-injection sites and free drugs, Alberta is building a network of 10 therapeutic communities across the province where patients can stay for up to a year, receiving therapy and medical treatment and developing skills that will enable them to build a life outside the drug culture. All for free. The province’s first two new recovery centres opened last year in Lethbridge and Red Deer. There are currently over 29,000 addiction treatment spaces in the province.

This treatment-based strategy is in large part the work of Marshall Smith, current chief of staff to Alberta’s premier and a former addict himself, whose life story is a testament to the importance of treatment and recovery.

The sharply contrasting policies of B.C. and Alberta allow a comparison of what works and what doesn’t. A first, tentative report card on this natural experiment was produced last year in a study from Stanford University’s network on addiction policy (SNAP). Noting “a lack of policy innovation in B.C.,” where harm reduction has become the dominant policy approach, the report argues that in fact “Alberta is currently experiencing a reduction in key addiction-related harms.” But it concludes that “Canada overall, and B.C. in particular, is not yet showing the progress that the public and those impacted by drug addiction deserve.”

The report is admittedly an early analysis of these two contrasting approaches. Most of Alberta’s recovery homes are still under construction, and B.C.’s decriminalization policy is only a year old. And since the report was published, opioid death rates have inched higher in both provinces.

Still, the early returns do seem to favour Alberta’s approach. That should be regarded as good news. Society certainly has an obligation to try to help drug users. But that duty must involve more than offering addicts free drugs. Addicted people need treatment so they can kick their potentially deadly habit and go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. Dignity comes from a life of purpose and self-control, not a government-funded fix.

Susan Martinuk is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and author of the 2021 book Patients at Risk: Exposing Canada’s Health Care Crisis. A longer version of this article recently appeared at C2CJournal.ca.

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Community

$1,000,000 boost from province for upgrades at Red Deer’s Centre for Social Impact

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BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF RED DEER RECEIVES $1,000,000 CFEP GRANT IN SUPPORT OF THE CENTRE FOR SOCIAL IMPACT

Youth HQ is proud to announce that Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Red Deer and District has been awarded $1,000,000 through the government of Alberta Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) for the purpose of facility upgrades to the Centre for Social Impact.

The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) is an inspiring place where charities and non-profits can
collaborate; a place centrally located where families can readily access a variety of supports and
services; and a place where organizations can share resources and minimize operating costs.
“We are grateful for the support from CFEP, which enables us to address facility enhancements
and upgrades in support of the charities and non-profits that share this place where community
connects.” States Rob Lewis, Executive Director, YouthHQ.

Board Room at the Centre for Social Impact. Priority upgrades are the roof of the building and the HVAC systems

“Investments into non-profits in our communities, like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Red Deer
not only support new activities and programming but uplift youth and help build stronger
communities. Alberta’s government is proud to provide this million dollar grant to Red Deer Big
Brothers and Big Sisters, as they provide essential supports and services for the youth of Red
Deer and surrounding area.”

Tanya Fir, Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women

“The CFEP grant awarded to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Red Deer and District is very
exciting news for Red Deer and surrounding communities. This substantial investment will
directly benefit our community by supporting essential youth programs, providing lasting
benefits for our youth in the years to come. I was happy to write a letter of support, as I am
continually inspired by the work Youth HQ does in our community. This grant will undoubtedly
enhance their ability to make a positive impact.”

MLA for Red Deer-North and Minister of Health, Adriana LaGrange

Conferencing area at the Centre for Social Impact. Priority upgrades are the roof of the building and the HVAC systems

For more information on the Centre for Social Impact please visit www.youthhq.ca

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer and District

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer and District enables life-changing mentoring relationships
to ignite the power of young people. Providing life changing mentoring experiences since 1976,
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching children and youth with adult role models who help
them achieve their biggest possible futures. We believe we are #BiggerTogether, and currently
work with over 220 young people to ignite their potential.

About Youth HQ

Youth HQ empowers youth by fostering a community of support. Our network seeks to instill
young people with confidence in their unique identities and abilities, providing them with skills
for life through knowledge, healthy relationships, and quality experiences while providing safe
environments to learn and grow. Youth HQ coordinates programming for Big Brothers Big
Sisters of Red Deer & District and Boys & Girls Club of Red Deer & District, offering numerous
programs and services that support children, youth and families.

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