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Red Deer

Chamber of Commerce battling city council’s massive proposed tax increase

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News release from the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce

The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce has reviewed the proposed 2024 City Operating and Capital Budgets and have concluded that the City’s growth in expenditures is unsustainable that will have significant impacts on the Business Community in these times of slow economic growth and elevated costs related to labour and persistent supply chain issues.  

The Chamber would like to commend The City of Red Deer for its efforts to provide transparency and accountability with the 2024 Amended Operating & Capital Budget Report released on January 8, 2024.   The information provided gives a solid overview of the current operations of the organization. The Chamber was provided an opportunity for direct consultation with the City on this budget and the opportunity to provide our views before final council deliberations is welcomed and appreciated.  

“We are glad to provide feedback from our members on behalf of Red Deer’s business community through our consultation on the City’s amended 2024 budget,” says Chamber CEO Scott Robinson. “Our response to the City centers on the need for smart financial decision-making and recognition of the impact of the continued tax burden in the current economic environment.  We are asking the City to assess overall spending and the resultant substantial tax increases that are significantly above the rate of inflation.  The City needs to look for opportunities to decrease costs and to determine priority areas for spending.  Passing on the costs for unchecked growth of the City’s budget to businesses is simply not sustainable”. 

The proposal of $488.3 M in operating and $117.3 M in capital for 2024 includes options for a 6.15%, 8.55%, and 13.86% tax rate increase.  These options represent an increase in overall spending from the 2023 approved budget of 9.5% ($31 M) and do not include any reductions to service levels or projects. 

“After review of the report, the City intends to increase spending substantially without providing any review or consideration for a reduction in services or outsourcing to reduce costs,” remarked Robinson. “While it is important to acknowledge the impact of inflation, higher costs, and reductions in grants from other levels of government, these circumstances should trigger the City to look at cost reduction opportunities not just tax and/or fee increases. We expect the City to complete a prioritization of services and in turn make changes to operations that will decrease expenses.  We need to keep the cost of doing business competitive and protect our local economy.  Tax rate increases at this level will certainly have negative consequences for business, but our real concern is a lack of planning for change.”  

The following recommendations were included in the Chamber’s response to the City:  

  • Minimize Tax Rates – Tax increases should remain in line with inflation. 
  • Review User Pay Revenue – Review the rates of fees and fines to ensure that fees are in line with the fixed cost increases of services and facilities.  
  • Prioritize City Services and Outsourced Service Delivery – Engage an external consultant to analyze core City services and identify opportunities for outsourcing and/or private sector delivery.  
  • Create Opportunities for Flexibility – Consider delay or reductions to the scope of activities to future years. 
  • Economic Growth for the City – Re-evaluate Economic Development Activities. 

“We look forward to working with City Council and administration in identifying opportunities for sustainable City operations in the coming years and to ensure that Red Deer is a community with the infrastructure and services that position Red Deer competitively as a vibrant business community”.  CEO Scott Robinson 

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City of Red Deer

City introduces new phone number to report non-emergency mental health, addiction, or homeless issues

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New streamlined way to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team

Since launching in 2021, the Social Diversion Team (SDT) has been responding to calls throughout Red Deer for individuals in need of non-emergency support, whether experiencing mental health struggles, addictions issues, or homelessness.

Beginning March 1, 2024, the community will need to call the non-emergency police line at 403-406-2200 to connect with the Social Diversion Team. This move from the previous 2-1-1 call line will improve the caller’s ability to quickly connect with a Police Communications Operator who can quickly determine the nature of the call and dispatch the appropriate resources in a timely and efficient manner.

“This change simplifies calling and dispatching the Social Diversion Team,” said Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Services Superintendent. “Red Deerians now need to remember only one contact number for all non-emergency community safety concerns and our experienced, well-trained Police Communications Operators can assess the circumstances of the call, determine which resource is appropriate and dispatch accordingly.”

Though the Alberta 2-1-1 has been the dispatching service since the onset of the program, the move to internal dispatching will simplify the call-in process, removing barriers like pre-recorded messaging and on-hold wait times, improve internal communication between the dispatchers and the responding Social Diversion Team, and allow for operators with local community knowledge to provide enhanced response.

While the phone number has changed, all other elements of the program remain the same. The two-person Social Diversion Team consists of a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Social Diversion Specialist, who respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team connects clients with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

“We are excited to continue providing individuals with the right response at the right time,” says Ryan Veldkamp, Social Wellness & Integration Supports Superintendent. “We know that not every call is an emergency call, and that’s why the Social Diversion Team is the right choice for these situations where individuals are in crisis. The team continues to allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”

In its three years of operation, the SDT has averaged a response rate of 185 events per month or approximately 6 calls a day. The teams use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support to those in need.

Stephanie MacDonald, Outreach and Housing Services Manager for Safe Harbour Society said, “The Social Diversion Team is very excited for this change over and believes that this will allow for a more effective and timely response.”

While the SDT continues to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week, the 24/7 non-

emergency line will dispatch the SDT based on their availability, or utilize other policing and medical services when they are not.

To learn more about the Social Diversion Team, visit www.reddeer.ca/SDT.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 403-406-2200

The team’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the non-emergency (403-406-2200) line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911, or offered a follow-up.

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Education

$13 million for RDP’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing-Technology Access Centre in Alberta Budget

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Provincial funding to expand RDP’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing (CIM-TAC) will significantly boost applied learning and research opportunities

Expansion of Red Deer Polytechnic’s nationally recognized Technology Access Centre will provide more than 2,400 students direct and indirect innovative learning opportunities by 2030.

Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP) is celebrating a significant capital investment of $13 million by the provincial government to expand RDP’s Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing-Technology
Access Centre (CIM-TAC). The funding was announced today as part of the Government of Alberta’s 2024 budget.

“Red Deer Polytechnic is playing a critical role supporting technological innovation while creating opportunities for students. That’s why Alberta’s Government is making a strategic investment to expand the CIM-TAC and give RDP even greater capacity to train apprentices and help sectors across our economy remain competitive,” says the Hon. Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Advanced Education.

“We thank the Government of Alberta for the $13 million provided in Budget 2024 to expand our Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing–Technology Access Centre (CIM-TAC). This funding will help create new and innovative teaching and learning spaces at Red Deer Polytechnic, while expanding our applied research capacity to support Alberta based companies,” said Stuart Cullum, President of Red Deer Polytechnic.

“Because of this investment, Alberta based manufacturers across multiple sectors will have greater ability to develop, test and scale their ideas, while RDP students will be engaged at the forefront of made-in-Alberta technologies and manufacturing solutions. This expanded and enhanced innovation ecosystem will enhance productivity and social impact within our province,” said Cullum.

Students in a breadth of RDP’s programs and disciplines already benefit from education and skills-training opportunities within the CIM-TAC each year, through project work, internships, and workshops. The expanded CIM-TAC is anticipated to provide direct learning opportunities to 450 post-secondary students and indirect learning opportunities to an additional 2,000 students by 2030. These opportunities will afford RDP’s students direct interaction with community and industry partners to tackle real-world challenges in manufacturing and
advanced manufacturing. Additionally, over 500 junior and senior high school students will benefit from experiential learning within the CIM-TAC as part of dual-credit opportunities afforded through the Central Alberta Collegiate Institute (CACI).

RDP is Alberta’s third largest provider of skilled trades education. Learners enrolled in RDP’s apprenticeship and technology programs are among those who will benefit from the CIM-TAC expansion as this capital investment will support unique training opportunities.

“With the expansion of Red Deer Polytechnic’s CIM-TAC, our students will gain unparalleled access to advanced manufacturing technologies and immersive learning spaces. Students will have the hands-on experience and expertise needed to excel in the modern manufacturing sector. This expansion underscores our commitment to providing students with the tools and skills necessary to become industry-ready professionals, ensuring they emerge as highly sought-after innovators and contributors to Alberta’s economic prosperity,” says David Pye, Dean, RDP’s School of Trades and Technology.

The provincial Government’s $13 million investment in RDP’s CIM-TAC complements the recently announced historic $20 million gift to RDP from the Donald Family that will establish the Donald Family Institute for Healthtech Innovation. This parallel public and private funding support will be a game-changer for post-secondary training in central Alberta, in particular for healthcare providers and healthtech innovators.

“As RDP’s CIM-TAC grows capacity, it will undoubtedly provide new ways for students and faculty to engage in education and applied research with external health practitioners and researchers in this unique innovation ecosystem. Our students will have even more opportunities to gain valuable skills that prepare them for successful careers while also making meaningful contributions to Alberta’s healthcare sector,” says Heather Dirks, Interim Dean, RDP’s School of Health and Wellness.

Red Deer Polytechnic’s expansion plans for the CIM-TAC are in alignment with the Government of Alberta’s economic and social priorities, including the Ministry of Advanced Education’s 2030: Skills for Jobs Strategy.

This strategy outlines a need to increase student access, build capacity for skills training in technology and trades, and support research and commercialization through the post-secondary sector.

“As one of Canada’s Top 50 Research Polytechnics and Colleges, we already make a significant positive impact across our province and country,” says Dr. Tonya Wolfe, Associate Vice President, Applied Research.

“The future is very bright as we plan for the expansion of our Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing-Technology Access Centre. This means we can create even more impact in productivity in the manufacturing sector through collaboration between students, faculty and industry that help people solve challenges in their daily lives.”

The overall cost of the capital expansion of the CIM-TAC is projected to be approximately $21.3 million. This includes the $13 million provided by the Government of Alberta in Budget 2024, with $4.8 million in capital and equipment provided through Government of Canada grants, and $3.5 million from Red Deer Polytechnic’s own reserves. Construction on Red Deer Polytechnic’s CIM-TAC expansion is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2024.

Quick Facts:
• Red Deer Polytechnic’s expanded CIM-TAC will support a variety of sectors through advanced
manufacturing capabilities including energy innovation, transportation, aviation and agriculture. The Centre will also support RDP’s future expansion into more medical device manufacturing and healthcare innovations to support both patients and providers.
• RDP’s expansion of the CIM-TAC will grow the facility’s footprint from 15,000 square feet to
25,000 square feet.
• The CIM-TAC currently houses $7.6 million of advanced manufacturing equipment. As the facility expands, so too will RDP’s capacity to house additional technologies and equipment used for product development, advanced manufacturing and medical device manufacturing.
• In 2022, Red Deer Polytechnic attracted more than $2 million in applied research investment. RDP also completed 64 projects for 57 companies and participated in more than 1,300 engagements with industry partners.
• Since the CIM-TAC’s inception in 2009, Red Deer Polytechnic has supported more than 300 industry partners (including repeat clients).

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