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Opinion

Election 2017 is but a week away. Will we be missing in action when Opportunity comes calling?

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“Sometimes, we are so attached to our way of life that we turn down wonderful opportunities simply because we don’t know what to do with it.” Paulo Coelho.
What wonderful opportunity am I talking about? Let me give you a clue.
Lethbridge Alberta, population just shy of 100,000, Surrey B.C., population of 500,000, Singapore, population of 5,000,000, London England, population of 8,800,000 and Beijing, population of 21,500,000 all have man made lakes.
These cities, some are land locked, and some on the ocean, all invested in creating a man made lake. Parks, recreation, sports or works of art they were all investments for their residents.
So what do these wonderful resident based investments have to do with Red Deer turning down a wonderful opportunity?
Red Deer does not have to build a man made lake for it’s residents because it has natural lakes. It already has a 100 acre lake with 2 miles of shoreline. It has Hazlett Lake. So?
Hazlett Lake sits besides Hwy 2. So? Gasoline Alley sits besides Hwy 2 and is a huge economic success story, so huge that is pulling businesses out of Red Deer.
Now comes huge plans for Gasoline Alley, new accesses, new traffic circles, 200 assisted living homes and something like 800 new homes. Will Red Deer now see their population decrease more with the migration of residents to Gasoline Alley?
We have seen big box stores like Princess Auto leave the city recently along with Greyhound Bus, add in the accounting firms, businesses, dealers, stores, hotels, restaurants, that could have been within city limits, but are operating in gasoline alley and paying county taxes, and residents could be next.
I read in an article that the Red Deer County gets 3 times as much tax revenue from Gasoline Alley as from all the agricultural land in the county. That is before this major expansion.
Gasoline Alley is along Hwy 2 south of 32 Street and it is siphoning money out of Red Deer. Why not learn from their successes and emulate it on the north side of Red Deer. Why not build a gasoline alley along Hwy 2 north of Hwy 11a?
We have something that Gasoline Alley does not have, Hazlett Lake. The city is talking about building an Aquatic Centre. What could be more appealing than an Aquatic Centre with a lake? Attracting stores, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, tourism industries and residents.
Hwy 2 is one of the busiest highways in the country, and Hazlett Lake is Red Deer’s largest lake and is highly visible from Hwy 2. Hazlett Lake could be a destination more popular than Gasoline Alley.
Aren’t we talking about a lot of money? You are correct and that is why we will miss this once in a generation opportunity.
We are talking about 100 million dollars to build an Aquatic Centre with a much needed 50 metre pool, and that is a big chunk of change. City hall balks at spending that kind of money for the residents of Red Deer, to kick start development, to attract provincial and national competitions. Now we did spend 135 million moving the public works yard to make way for the Riverlands, was it 47 million to re-align Ross St. and Taylor Drive for the Riverlands, they support a 23 million dollar footbridge for the Riverlands parallel to Taylor Bridge.
The Winter Games has a budget of 77 million dollars to accommodate 20,000 visitors over a 2 week span in 2019, but a 100 million dollar swimming pool can wait.
The Collicutt Centre cost the city about 35 million dollars when it opened 16 years ago and it is the most popular recreational centre in Red Deer and look at the development in that corner of the city, now.
Someone down at city hall, retired now, told me in 2014 that it would cost over 100 million dollars if we built it then in 2014.
The budget for the Aquatic Centre in 2013 was 87 million so I rounded it up to 100 million. We hit economic recessionary times and labour costs, material costs, and other costs declined and our interest rates were low. We could have kept people working and kick started our development in the north west sector of the city like Collicutt helped in the south east sector.
The city is still blind to opportunities except notable exceptions like incumbents Frank Wong and Tanya Handley. The plan is to save for later development. Can we save faster than inflation?
Collicutt cost 35 million, now it would be about 135 million. If we had waited we may have saved up 100 million and then took out a 35 million dollar loan.
The economic picture is supposed to be improving and infrastructure inflationary delays are expected to increase costs by 10% per annum. So every year we delay the budget goes up 10% or 10 million in the first year, 11 million in the second year, 12.1 million in the third year. So if we wait 3 years, we would have to save 33.1 million dollars and still borrow 100 million dollars at a possibly higher interest rate. Simplified but it does show another side of the issue. We also do without a 50 metre pool and postpone development, jobs, and residential income for 3 years.
The current plan is to wrap the lake with residential development and a trail. What a wasted opportunity.
Hazlett Lake is our opportunity, will we waste it? Do we know what to do with it? I offered an option but I often really wonder if some folks down at city hall know what to do with it.
If interested call or e-mail the candidates before voting, on Monday October 16, 2017.

Reddeer.ca has on their website an official list of candidates with phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the public. I am listing them;

CANDIDATES FOR THE OFFICE OF MAYOR
Number of Positions to be filled: 1
Name -Phone -E-mail Address
Sean Burke 403-392-2893 amltpro@outlook.com
Tara Veer 403-358-3568 tara@veerforreddeer.ca

CANDIDATES FOR THE OFFICE OF COUNCILLOR
Number of Positions to be filled: 8
Name Phone E-mail Address
Sandra (Sam) Bergeron 403-304-9884 sam.vandergulik@gmail.com
S.H. (Buck) Buchanan 403-348-3240 bucky@xcops.ca
Valdene Callin 403-348-9958 vcallin@shaw.ca
Matt Chapin 403-347-1934 chapin141@hotmail.com
Michael Dawe 403-346-9325 michaeljohndawe@gmail.com
Rob Friss 403-597-1355 rfriss@shaw.ca
Calvin Goulet-Jones 403-872-4253 calvinforcouncil@gmail.com
Jason Habuza 403-597-8712 mrstonecold2002@gmail.com
Tanya Handley 403-596-5848 rthandley@shaw.ca
Vesna Higham 403-505-1172 highamclan@gmail.com
Ted Johnson 403-396-5962 ted.johnson.work@gmail.com
Ken Johnston 403-358-8049 kencjohnston1@gmail.com
Cory Kingsfield 403-352-6450 ck4500@gmail.com
Jim Kristinson 403-318-0330 jkristinson@hotmail.com
Lawrence Lee 403-346-7388 llee@alacapital.ca
Kris Maciborsky 587-679-5747 kmaciborsky@yahoo.ca
Doug Manderville 403-318-0545 dougm4rdcouncil@hotmail.com
Bobbi McCoy 403-346-0171 bobbi-mccoy@shaw.ca
Ian Miller 403-392-4527 Ianmiller_623@hotmail.com
Jeremy Moore 403-357-4187 mm.3@telus.net
Rick More 403-340-9330 rmore@reddeerchamber.com
Lynne P Mulder 403-392-1177 lpmulder@shaw.ca
Bayo Nshombo Bayongwa 403-307-1074 bayongwa@yahoo.com
Matt Slubik 403-848-3762 slubikmatt@gmail.com
Jordy Smith 587-377-4384 jordysmith.reddeer@gmail.com
Brice Unland 403-597-4321 briceunland@me.com
Jonathan Wieler 403-358-8270 jonwieler@icloud.com
Frank Wong 403-872-3238 fwong55@shaw.ca
Dianne Wyntjes 403-505-4256 dwyntjes@shaw.ca


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Opinion

Is Lethbridge population 100,129 larger than Red Deer population 99,832?

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Red Deer’s latest census in 2016 showed that our population shrank from 100,807 in 2015 to 99,832 or by 975 residents. We have not done a census since 2016, because it is costly and needs growth to justify undertaking the expense of a census.
Lethbridge’s census of 2016 showed that their population grew from 94,804 in 2015 to 96,828 or by 2024 residents, a growth of 2.3%. 2018’s census for Lethbridge showed a population of 99,769 a growth of 1.7% over 2017 or 1571 new residents.
Let us optimistically assume that Red Deer has halted it’s outward migration of residents, without any indications or proof, and that our population has stabilized at 99,832. This is the population number that is currently being used by planners in budgeting etc.
Let us pessimistically assume then that Lethbridge maintains it’s slowest growth of 1.7% or 4 new residents per day. The latest census was done in the spring and announced in June so if we say 90 days have passed and Lethbridge only grew by 4 residents per day or 360 new residents, then, to give them a current population of 100,129 today.
So is Lethbridge, now Alberta’s third largest city? Will we find this out next June?


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LOCAL MOM AND SON: EMPOWERING CHILDREN THROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF MENTAL HEALTH & ADDICTION

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Yesterday was the last day of Suicide Awareness Week. It was also my brothers birthday. But for me, like millions of others around the world it doesn’t end this month or this week or on September 15th. How I see the world and the people in it was forever changed just after 3 am on March 18, 2012.

I see you. I see the ones so ashamed and scared to speak the truth. I see trauma. I see secrets. I see family members fighting and blaming. I often see doctors and therapists looking in the wrong direction. I see our loved ones dying. I see love. I see hope. Mostly I see love and hope.

I come from a long line of alcoholics, which is now known as substance use disorder (SUD). I say this with complete love and respect for my loved ones, and even though no one discussed this within my family, from the time I was a 5-year-old child it was impossible to ignore as I could see the devastation, heartbreak, and struggle with my own two eyes.

However, what wasn’t so obvious was that mental illness also ran in our family. Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder was, and continues to be, a well-kept family secret.

But silence and secrets perpetuate an unhealthy environment of shame. I know, because I was that little girl once, the one who overheard secret whispers. And although no one told me directly, the message was loud and clear, “Addiction and mental illness are shameful, you don’t ask questions; you look the other way and you hide them at all costs.”

We need to begin the conversation in our own homes. No one will ever find the courage to seek help or speak publicly if we can’t even speak about these topics privately in our own families.

My son, Ryan, started struggling with severe anxiety in Grade 1. With no explanation, advice, or whisper from my family that this might be a non-obvious kind of illness — something that is sometimes called an “invisible illness.” His dad and I were left on our own for months trying to maneuver our way through what was causing his panic attacks and tears. At appointment after appointment, while poking and prodding Ryan, and carrying out countless blood tests and medical exams, doctors assured us there was nothing wrong with him physically.

I was tortured. What is happening with my little boy? How can I make this better for him?

With no other explanation at the time, I was convinced that he must have been sexually abused at school. I was so relieved to find out eventually that I was wrong. I can’t help but think about how much time, effort, and unnecessary trauma we caused our young son. Had we known earlier about the mental illness in our family tree, we might have all walked an easier path.

Years later, we lost that much-loved member of our family — a sweet, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken man — to alcohol addiction and mental illness. My younger brother, Brett, Ryan’s uncle, lost his brave battle in March 2012. He was 39. I watched helplessly as shame and discomfort stopped him from talking about his feelings, broke down his spirit, and made him feel that the situation was hopeless.

And it wasn’t hopeless.

I was raised in the 1970s. It wouldn’t have been a reasonable expectation to have these open discussions back then, and I accept that. But I can’t help wondering if things might have turned out differently for my brother if we had worked through some of our early childhood trauma in our adult lives.

But we can’t go back; life is about moving forward. My perspective is that I am blessed and proud to be part of a changing world where we are encouraged to speak openly and honestly about our experiences, including addiction and mental health. And I believe that encouragement starts with young children.

Years later, Ryan and I were reminded once again that life has unexpected challenges and doesn’t always go as planned.

On June 3rd, 2017, I had a mental health breakdown that landed me in the hospital.

One day I was myself; the next day I wasn’t. During the next twelve months, I came to understand firsthand what it is like to wrestle with thoughts and feelings you can’t control, thoughts that plague your mind every waking moment as I fought my way through fear, anxiety and clinical depression.

Since my son was a little boy, I tried to do things differently than how it was done in my family when I was a child. Ryan and I have always talked about things openly, ever since that first experience when he was 6 years old. We discussed understanding his feelings and anxiety, and later addiction and the dangers of self-medicating with alcohol. We did that all so that he is aware not only of himself, but has empathy and compassion for others; you never know what someone else is going through.

I have two young nieces who were only 6 and 13 when their beloved Uncle Brett died. Unlike other family members of mine, I have spoken to my nieces openly and truthfully ever since that very day. As they grow up, I talk about the topic more in-depth, being sensitive to how old they are at the time; always with honesty, love, and without shame.

My niece Kaddi is now 12 she graduated last year from the sixth grade. The class had to do an oral report on a topic that meant something to them, and she chose alcoholism. She is as comfortable speaking about it as she is with the knowledge that her grandmother passed away from breast cancer before she was born. I was overwhelmed with pride and thought to myself, “I hope that teacher knows how amazing and brave that little girl is.”

Her sister, Payton, is now 19. She has a big bold tattoo on her left arm of bear paws bearing Brett’s name. When people ask what it means, she answers kindly, lovingly, and honestly, “That is my uncle who struggled with alcoholism and died by suicide.”

When we talk honestly and openly to our children, they can grow up to have no stigma or judgment toward those struggling through addiction and/or mental illness. These young children will not only grow up to be more aware but to be more empathetic, kind, caring, and compassionate as they maneuver their way in this world and lead others to be more kind and caring too.

I am proud to see those qualities in my son; he is no longer a child, but a 25-year-old man. It should not go unnoticed that one of the traits I am most proud of is his desire to challenge himself and come out of his comfort zone. As he is typically more reserved and has a quiet personality. His commitment to help others by being a positive role model not only to young boys but to grown men is admired. He knows that it does not make us weak to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help. We could use more people like him in this world, as his quiet demeanor means he listens and sometimes that is all someone needs, someone to listen.

We both know how blessed we are every minute of every day, and that some people aren’t so fortunate for a variety of reasons, including possibly not having the loving support of friends and family. It is important to both my son and I to give back and to use our experiences to bring people together, to give them strength to speak their truth.

I am proud to stand beside my son, sharing our story and speaking without shame.

May we all have the courage to open our eyes and our hearts a little wider. Not this week. Not today. But everyday.

Jodee Prouse and her son Ryan are advocates to help eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. Jodee is the author of the powerful memoir, The Sun is Gone: A Sister Lost in Secrets, Shame and Addiction and How I Broke Free. To contact them for a speaking engagement from a loving family perspective on mental health, addiction, childhood trauma and other topics email- jodeeprouse@gmail.com


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