Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman shares his thoughts on 2016
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman sat down with Global Lethbridge’s Liam Nixon to discuss 2016. Spearman shares his thoughts on city accomplishments in 2016, welcoming Syrian refugees and social issues.
Liam Nixon: Very happy to be joined by the Mayor of Lethbridge Mr. Chris Spearman. Thanks so much for coming in and merry belated Christmas. How did you spend your Christmas season? How did you celebrate?
Chris Spearman: We were out in the backcountry, we did a bit of snow-hiking, a little bit of skating, played a little hockey, a little bit of snowmobiling so we had a great time out in the snow.
Liam Nixon: So you made good use of all the white stuff we’ve been seeing so far?
Chris Spearman: That’s right, it was a real Canadian Christmas, we had about 30 centimetres of snow and it was just fantastic to do a lot of snow activities.
Liam Nixon: Let’s rewind the last year. It’s been a busy one for yourself and for your fellow members of council. Some big ticket items being dealt with. Curbside recycling, preparations for the city continue for when we welcome that 100, 000th resident in the not-too-distant future. If you had to pinpoint something from the last 12 months that you think yourself and council should be most proud of in terms an accomplishment, what would you say that would be?
Chris Spearman: It’s probably something that most people aren’t aware of and that’s the progress we’ve made on social issues. We have decades old social problems in our city and we’ve begun to address them. We created a diversion outreach team, we funded them with $138,000. Everybody complains when we spend a little bit of money, but what it does is it relieves the stress on the police officers, it provides support. We train people who are trained to deal with mental health issues and social issues. So we’re dealing with those issues in a more humane way. I really think there was significant success, there were 6, 500 interventions by the diversion outreach team in 2016. People are being provided with solutions in ways that they have never seen before.
Liam Nixon: Lethbridge was one of many centres across the country welcoming some new Syrian families into our mix. There have been some recent reports about some of the challenges that some of the centres have been facing as far as employment and there’s been language barriers. As far as it goes with the assimilation of our new Syrian families here in Lethbridge, how has that played out since they arrived?
Chris Spearman: It is a work in progress. The good news is that we’ve formed a committee with 14 different agencies. Right off the bat, we met weekly to make sure that they could be assimilated very quickly, that we understood what the issues were. A lot of these people were small business people when they were back in Syria, and if people can get a start here form their own businesses, become self-supporting, I think Lethbridge is the perfect type of city for them to immigrate into.
Liam Nixon: We talked about the successes in 2016. If we were to look at the flip side of the coin, is there any missed opportunities, or challenges, or anything along those lines in 2016 that you look back on and say, ‘you know, I wish we could’ve done this, or maybe this could’ve been tweaked a little bit?’
Chris Spearman: I think 2016 was an amazing year, and there really weren’t any significant negatives. When you look at the business community, our business licence permit values were up 25 per cent over 2015, that’s amazing. The first year on record where we had zero bankruptcies. We were rated as the fourth best city in Canada for business investment, and the second best business friendly city. I think with the announcement of the investment with Cavendish, the $350 million – an outstanding investment – I think people are starting to sit up and notice Lethbridge is a great place to be.
Liam Nixon: I’d be remised if I didn’t ask you this. 2017 is an election year, October will be hear before we know it, it is 10 months away, but we know how time flies. Anything in the back of your mind as far as taking another run at your current spot?
Chris Spearman: Well, what I want to do is work with council. I don’t want to kick off the election before we need to. I think we need to get the transportation master plan, and the capital improvement plan finished. Then after that I hope people will wait for those processes to be complete, before they declare their intensions, that’s my approach. I’ll let people know towards the end of June and early July.
Liam Nixon: OK, we’ll check back in with you around that time. We’ll get you out of here on this, it’s the time of year where people commit to going to the gym, stop smoking, going for more walks with their dogs. It is New Year’s resolution time. Are you a New Year’s resolution guy?
Chris Spearman: I’m not very good at keeping them.
Liam Nixon: You and me both.
Chris Spearman: In my life there’s a lot in my schedule. I think if I could have more balance in my life, if I could pay more attention to my physical condition, I would like to do that. But I don’t want to make promises and commitments that I’ll break in the first week. I’ll set a goal of participating in the Moon Light Run this year, and that gives me a three month project to work on.
Liam Nixon: Well, thank you sir. Thanks for coming by and all the best in 2017.
Chris Spearman: Happy New Year Liam, it was a pleasure to be here and I wish a Happy New Year to all the citizens of Lethbridge.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.