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Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer reflects on 2018

Veer said the year was characterized by great challenges and opportunities

Mayor Tara Veer says 2018 was characterized by great challenges and great opportunities.

“Certainly there was progress made on a number of fronts, which are in the long-term best interest of the people of our community, but 2018 can certainly be characterized by the challenges that we faced together as a community.

“The continuing recession and some of the social divisions and challenges that we were faced with were significant throughout the past year and came to bare on a number of issues that we dealt with,” she said in a recent chat with the Express.

Because of the infrastructure dollars that the City has attracted, they’ve secured major event opportunities like the opening of the Gary W. Harris Canada Winter Games Centre at Red Deer College this year, a project of over 25 years in the making.

The City was also able to open the new Red Deer Arena, and saw the results of some of their successful community advocacy.

“The QE2 interchange is now open and that was as a result of our community advocacy. And one of the most significant milestones of 2018 – which is one of the most long-standing strategic initiatives for our community – was the provincial announcement that Red Deer College will become a university, positioning Red Deer as Alberta’s next university city.”

In terms of another positive achievement for Red Deer, the City’s plan to diversify the local economy through major event attraction and tourism proved to be successful.

“We partnered with the City of Edmonton on the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the WHL draft was located in Red Deer for the first time and of course we attracted the World Juniors back to Red Deer after a couple of decades,” said Veer.

On the operations front, one of the key milestone announcements of the City after many years of community request, was the launch of a downtown foot patrol unit to help resolve some of the community safety concerns that have been identified.

Veer added that when it comes to challenges, continuing economic recession is one of them.

“There were signs of some cautious optimism and some signs of recovery in some sectors from the recession in 2018, however in recent months and particularly with the lack of progress being made on pipelines to ensure the transport of energy to market, it has exacerbated the financial tensions and the recessed state of the local economy as well.”

On another challenging front, Red Deer, much like other major urban centres in Alberta, was challenged on the crime and social front, which Veer said became evident because the recession and addictions were playing themselves out in the community.

“We saw significant challenges on property crime overall and the systemic lack of shelter space in Red Deer has manifested itself in terms of some of the spill over into downtown and the park system that we see.”

Veer said two of the most challenging issues that Council dealt with in 2018 had to do with the response to the federal legislation with respect to cannabis and to provincial intentions to designating supervised consumption services in Red Deer.

“We have found the best possible resolution that we could on what were highly challenging issues and highly divisive issues in the community. We hopefully brought some resolution to those late in 2018 although we fully expect to have further discussions in 2019 in response to the needs of our community.”

Looking ahead to 2019, Veer said the City will continue to advocate for sufficient shelter capacity before the Provincial Government and for much needed infrastructure and programming expansion at Red Deer Regional Hospital.

She added that they will continue to stand with other colleagues across the province on calling on the Federal Government to get Alberta’s energy to market.

“And of course, 2019 will mark the final arrival of the Canada Winter Games when we welcome 20,000 of our fellow Canadians to Red Deer.”

Veer said the City will continue to work with the Province to see the Red Deer Justice Centre project come to fruition.

“It’s the provincial government that’s building the courthouse although this is an important initiative for our community safety objectives because obviously it’s in the public’s interest for charges to be upheld and it’s in the interest of victims and families for that courthouse to be built to ensure that cases are not triaged or thrown out of court because of (additional cases) in the justice system.”

They hope it will go to construction in 2019.

Also looking into 2019, the downtown culture centre will be opened along with the Canada Winter Games Plaza.