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Opinion

Latest report on pollution validates my Reason #4 for not supporting the status quo.

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Red Deer Advocate has a story detailing a report about our poor air quality being from human activities and needs government, industry and individual co-operation.
Anyone who has been following my blogs or reading my letters to the editor will know this is what I have been talking about for years. It also validates my reason #4 on why I cannot support the status quo blogged on Today Ville .com.
# 4 reason I cannot support the status quo is our air quality. We have the poorest air quality in Alberta and Alberta has the poorest air quality in Canada. Riverside Drive monitors have been in “requires immediate attention” range for years.
The report reads; “Red Deer air quality has exceeded national standards for fine particulate matter for three consecutive reporting periods — 2009-11, 2010-12, 2011-13.”
How long do we wait after the alarms go off, 5,6,7,8 years? The alarms started going off in 2009 and we watched, debated and waited for 8 years. I know we put up “Idle free zones” at schools etc. but we could have done more.
Part of the report talks about emmissions. Does it make any sense then to compartmentalize the city. All industries in the Northwest part of city, all high schools in the east/southeast extreme edges of the city, all new facilities built on the south side of the river creating a commuting city.
A blog I wrote in January, followed by CBC news from 2015 and a statement made by the Environment Minister.
My blog from January:
There are provincial quality standards for the air we breathe. Since 2010 our air quality has been in the “Requires Immediate Attention” category. The air in Riverside Park is the worst area in Red Deer. I have been writing about it for years.
A report came out, telling us to breathe easy, because downtown Edmonton is a little bit worse and downtown Calgary is worse yet. So Riverside Park is okay because it is only the 3rd worse in Alberta. Fort MacMurray was worse during the forest fires, but as a whole the oilsands city is better than Red Deer.
So, everyone relax, the air is worse in the concrete jungle in our 2 large cities, why worry? Lethbridge, has about the same population, and cleaner air, but we are better than Jasper Avenue by a point.
We can always console ourselves with comparing our air with Toronto.
How can we be so smug by comparing us to a high density area like downtown Calgary. If we wanted to live in an asphalt jungle with poor air, we would move there. If the air quality was better than all of Calgary or all of Edmonton, they would have reported it, but they didn’t. They found 2 areas, high density, high traffic areas that have poorer air and declared; we are not the worse. Let us celebrate.
Leduc has cleaner air, Airdrie has cleaner air, Nisku has cleaner air, and Lethbridge has cleaner air. Standards tell us, and have been for years, that “immediate action required” and I do not think that looking for pockets of poorer air is what they meant.
I guess I will have to be happy, that downtown Calgary and Edmonton have worse air than Red Deer. I am just giddy, not.
Compare apples with apples, and oranges with oranges. We know when we are being sold a line. By the way, the alarms are still going off. Remember” REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION”.

“CBC NEWS” SEPTEMBER 9 2015
Alberta on track to have worst air quality in Canada
Red Deer has worst pollution in province, while 4 other regions close to exceeding national standards

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the province is on track to have the worst air quality in Canada, and vows the government will put measures in place to reduce emissions from industry and vehicles.
“The time to act is long overdue,” Phillips said.
“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the health of Albertans.”
Phillips made the remarks after seeing the results of the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards report, which show the Red Deer region has exceeded national standards. Four other regions — Lower Athabasca, Upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan — are close to exceeding national standards.
Phillips said there is no immediate health risk for people living in central Alberta.
“These results are concerning,” Phillips said in a news release. “We can’t keep going down the same path and expecting a different result. Our government has a responsibility to protect the health of Albertans by ensuring air pollution from all sources is addressed.”
The province will initiate an “action plan” to deal with poor air quality in the Red Deer area, a move she said is required under the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.
The government said a scientific study looking into the cause of the air pollutants is currently underway, and people living in the Red Deer area, industry stakeholders and the provincial energy regulator will be consulted. That plan is expected to be complete by the end of September and will take Red Deer’s geography and air patterns into consideration.
As part of the plan, Phillips said the government will:
Review technology that could be used to reduce emissions.
Review whether polluters in Alberta are meeting national standards.
Look at other ways to reduce emissions, for example, ways to curb vehicle emissions.
The Pembina Institute, non-profit think tank focused on clean energy, was quick to follow up with its own statement about the air quality results, saying the report shows the need for a provincewide pollution reduction strategy.
“This new report adds to the mounting evidence that Alberta needs to reduce air pollution across the province. Measures that will produce more rapid results are also needed in the numerous regional hot spots identified by the report,” said Chris Severson-Baker, Alberta’s regional director at the Pembina Institute.
“The report shows that, unless emissions are cut, most of the province risks exceeding the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter. This places an unacceptable burden on people’s health and on the environment,” he said.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has also weighed in on the report, saying it is “dismayed, but not surprised” by the findings.
“This calls into question the pervasive belief that the clear blue skies of Alberta foster clean air, safe from the pollutants better known from smoggier climes,” said Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor and member of the association.
Phillips blamed the previous Tory government for contributing to the rising pollution levels, saying the PCs resisted meaningful action on climate change.
Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards are national standards for particulate matter and ozone exposure. This is the first year of annual reporting by all provinces and territories.
The Alberta government is now working on a climate change policy to take to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris this fall.

Shall we continue to debate? Let the province do something? Revisit this issue in 2021 election? Should we look at it starting with planning? Could we start by building a high school or a new recreation centre north of the river? Could we look at putting some industrial parks south of the river? Could we look at planning for less commuting? Can we start with small steps instead of waiting? I hope so.


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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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