Red Deer has become more than a place that I live; in 20 years living here, it has come to represent a community, family, opportunity, and friendships. I moved to Red Deer when I was 16 without much happening to provide a leg up in the world. I fell through the cracks of social programs and assistance every time I tried to access them. I was incredibly fortunate, and I would go a step further to say that I was a significant exception to the reality that many youths face in similar situations. I managed to find belonging and connection in different aspects of life. Through mentorship and opportunities presented by the community, I forged ahead and found my situation improved. We live in a city of great opportunity, and our citizens are willing and eager to bolster the successes of their neighbours. Those that sit at the helm need to keep these strengths in mind every day that they enter the council chambers; community leaders are only made great by the efforts of a great community.
I have put roots down here as a homeowner, father, and business owner, and I am invested in seeing Red Deer thrive in every sector. I see sustainable growth as a great way to keep the population growing and the books balanced so long as things are going smoothly, but it is the obligation of those at the helm to be mindful that they may not always be so. Long-term planning and implementation of regenerative policies towards growth must replace the current status quo of decision-making practices. The challenges we currently face require a head-on approach using every tool available to make wee-informed decisions bearing in mind that long-term vision. Inaction is not an option afforded to us, primarily influenced by previous council decisions. Those fortunate enough to take the helm in the coming term must be willing to meet these issues with resolve and humanity.
The challenges Red Deer’s homelessness and addictions crisis present affect every aspect of our growth. I would argue that we would be hard-pressed to find a single citizen in this city that is more than a single degree of separation away from this issue in one way or another. The issue is divisive, but the fact of the matter is that an approach of “not in my backyard” will not get us to where we need to be. The issue cannot be exported or further neglected, and the individuals directly struggling with it are members of this community regardless of their station. As a council, we need to decide to do more than what is required collectively. Instead, we need to do what is best. Hubert Humphrey said, “The moral test of government is how the government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” In dealing with the issue proactively, we invite the possibilities of not only minimizing this social challenge in the long term but, more importantly, inviting an entire group of people into a long-term investment in Red Deer.