The City of Lethbridge is ramping up its efforts to communicate its needs with the provincial government.
Council approved the hiring of Crown Strategic Consulting on Jan. 13 to lobby on behalf of the city’s key issues.
“What we consistently see is Calgary and Edmonton getting services that are never extended to Lethbridge,” said Mayor Chris Spearman.
“And we have exactly the same problems.”
Spearman said the decision to hire help has been in the works for some time.
“Back in November, city council received a report from Western Management Consultants,” he said.
“One of the recommendations was that we get additional support for our advocacy efforts.”
Spearman added that many of the funding commitments made by the Alberta government have not been followed through on.
“We want to make sure that we’re getting funds for housing in the city,” he said.
“It’s been a year and a half since our supported housing proposal was approved and we’d like to make sure issues like that go forward.”
Spearman said the $30,000-price tag for the six-month trial has taxpayers in mind.
“We’re not committing to a salary of $100,000 or $130,000, which is what some other municipalities are paying.”
Nathan Neudorf, the UCP MLA for Lethbridge-East, said he believes the city’s decision may be misguided.
“If they had asked me, I would have obviously advised them against it,” Neudorf said.
“This is not about Lethbridge being heard…. they are very well aware of the issues that we face in Lethbridge.”
He added that the provincial government’s mandate to become more fiscally responsible has been clear from the beginning.
“We’re here to balance a budget,” Neudorf said.
“We’re here to set forward a plan, we’re here to put things in a direction, and it’s not just Lethbridge that has need of additional funds here or there for different things, it’s across the province. And that’s just what happens in a season of fiscal restraint.”
Neudorf also noted that other groups already contesting some of the changes made are not seeing any success.
“What they’re proposing here is actual lobbying, and I don’t think it’s going to change the direction or decisions made by the provincial government,” he said.
“If you think an additional lobbyist is going to change anyone’s mind on that, just look at the health-care sector. I would say that they have a very loud voice, they have a very organized response to some of the changes being made there, and at this point, that has not changed the direction towards fiscal responsibility one bit. And I would say that response is a lot louder than a small lobby group from Lethbridge.”
On Tuesday, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West said that is exactly the issue.
“We are very much being ignored down south,” Shannon Phillips said.
“There’s no question about that.”
Phillips said that funding promised by the previous government that has since fallen through is a crucial part of the decision to hire outside help.