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Red Deer recovery summit delayed to next spring, if province agrees to more funding

City Council defeated a request for $50,000, which was needed to hold a local Recovery Summit in Red Deer this fall.
(Advocate file photo).

Red Deer city council defeated a request to take $50,000 out of the city's reserves to hold a local Recovery Summit in Red Deer this fall.

Council instead opted to delay the event until next spring — and ask the province for this money in the meantime.

As March 2025 is the spending deadline for $70,000 of provincial funding that was already provided to hold a local addiction recovery summit, council will be requesting an extension from the province. Council will also be asking the provincial government to cover the additional $50,000 needed to hire an event planner to organize the summit.

Councillors were told by city administrators on Monday that staff resources are stretched to the limit with other projects so a contractor is needed.

Coun. Lawrence Lee objected to "one-time funding" the conference, saying it's an unstable way to go in the long-run. "We had budget discussions," he added, so this should have been under consideration then.

Coun. Victor Doerksen expressed concern about dipping into depleted municipal operating reserves for the $50,000 since this fund is supposed to be built up. He argued the amount should come out of existing city resources, and suggested administration should find it within the city's 2024-25 budget.

But City Manager Tara Lodewyk responded she would then have to push other priorities further down the list. "It will take time to find this money" and consider where to shave dollars off already approved projects, she added.

Doerksen mentioned the province already holds a large and very successful recovery conference that draws international experts. He questioned whether a local recovery summit was ultimately necessary. "Is this just a repeat of the provincial conference? Are we just spinning our wheels?"

Mayor Ken Johnston replied the Red Deer conference is more regional in scope. And Coun. Dianne Wyntjes called the first local Recovery Summit, held last year, a success, noting about 300 people attended.

The provincial government provided $70,000 to the City of Red Deer for 2023/24 and 2024/25 local Recovery Summits, totalling $140,000.

Recovery is a model of dealing with addictions through treatment that's favoured by the Government of Alberta and Red Deer city council. Detractors argue it advocates for drug or alcohol treatment to the exclusion of other pathways, including overdose prevention, for the many addicted people who fall off the wagon after going through detox or treatment centres, or who are not yet ready to seek treatment. 

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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