CANMORE – After months of speculation on who would come forward to run for public office in Canmore, the field has been finalized.
The mountain town will have three people vying for the mayoral seat and 11 up for the six councillor spots on council.
Candidates were able to put forth their names as early as Jan. 1 and the deadline was noon on Monday (Sept. 20).
The coming four years could serve among the most important in recent memory for Canmore. Concerns of transportation, affordability, development, housing supply, climate change, tourism, the environment and wildlife protection are all priorities for residents.
“The community is at a big crossroads and having seen what happened with the TSMV (public) hearings on this last set of ASPs, I feel these next four years there is going to be a lot to deal with. A lot of the social issues that were highlighted through the ASP process, which are world issues, macro issues we’re also seeing here on a micro scale,” said Jeff Mah, a councillor candidate.
“Affordable housing, climate change, social justice, reconciliation, transportation, which represents all these things that the world's grappling with right here in Canmore. Those issues are now at the forefront of our community's perspectives, I feel there’s an appetite for change."
Sean Krausert, Vi Sandford and Jeff Laidlaw will go for council’s top spot.
Sandford is in her third term as a councillor, while Krausert has previously served as a councillor and Laidlaw was a past councillor in Ontario.
One of the candidates will replace outgoing Mayor John Borrowman, who has served as mayor since 2012 and was first named a councillor in 2004.
To round out the council horseshoe, incumbent councillors Jeff Hilstad, Karen Marra, Joanna McCallum and Rob Seeley will look to regain their seats. They will be up against Mah, Christoph Braier, Vijay Domingo, Tanya Foubert, Wade Graham, Hans Helder and Jyn San Miguel.
The candidates have a wealth of experience in the private and public sectors, having served past terms on council, being part of committees or commissions and having key roles in the community either through employment or volunteering.
“We have world class scenery with the mountains, lakes and people come from all over the world. But I think the best thing tourists see is a sense of kindness from locals,” San Miguel said. “I think that’s something we should be proud of and having a multi-cultural community shows we celebrate inclusiveness, diversity and we see it as an asset. It’s nice to see people from different walks of life and see them as an asset to the community.”
The incoming council’s first major decision will be selecting a new chief administrator. Longtime CAO Lisa de Soto will retire from the public sector shortly after the election, meaning finding a new head for town administration to help guide council in its coming directives and policies will be imperative.
The concerns of development and how Canmore will grow have been a priority for residents, but highlighted during the public hearings for the area structure plans for the defeated Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village. Now before the Land and Property Rights Tribunal, an updated Town vision was often called for at the hearings.
Mining the Future, the Town’s key guiding document that was approved in 2006, will likely be replaced and need the engagement of residents and businesses in what will take more than a year to create and finalize.
“This town has grown a lot in the past 20 years. It’s doubled since I’ve been here. … We will have development, but what, how and where do we develop it? I think we need to be incredibly thoughtful for our vision for the future and sensitive to changing times,” said Graham, a longtime resident who was heavily engaged in the public hearings.
“The demand in this town is off the charts and we shouldn’t be selling ourselves short. If we want to have a community with people who can live here, we need to make sure we’re not as transient as in the past. I’m tired of my friends moving away because they can’t afford to live here.”
In the 1990s, the Town of Banff went through lengthy discussions on development, which led to a legislated cap on commercial growth. Thirty years later, Canmore is having similar discussions on what it will look like generations to come and how it will co-exist with the environment and wildlife.
Affordability has also heavily impacted the community as many residents are forced out due to rising food and rental costs.
“The one thing I'd like to take a look at is how to focus that because it's hard to be a strong community when we're dealing with so many issues at the same time,” said Domingo, who has served as a Catholic school board trustee for nearly two decades and been involved with developments such as Eagle Terrace, Spring Creek Mountain Village and Grotto Mountain Village.
“I think we need to start to prioritize those and focus them so we can do a very good job in each one of those being strategic about it, and being thorough about those conversations.”
The next four weeks until the Oct. 18 election will see a handful of election forums and have candidates attempt to reach voters to hear both their concerns and what should be prioritized in the coming years.
Recent years have seen people leave the community due to rising costs, making it significantly more difficult for residents to work and live in Canmore. For many to remain in the community, it often means working two or three jobs to pay rent and food costs to stay above water.
Many issues are often outside the power of council, but by setting strategic priorities as all councils have done they can focus on improving aspects of the community for residents.
“I think the work of every council is vitally important for the community and at this point in time there are many challenges that we have to face as a community as we move into the future, including appropriately managing tourism, climate change and one of the most important things we have to address is the affordability and housing challenge,” said Tanya Foubert, who covered Canmore council as a journalist for 15 years.
“If we can’t house the people in our community who work and live here and generations of Canmore residents are being driven out by the increased cost, we have failed to manage the challenges of the future. We have to maintain community and provide opportunities for people who were born and raised here.”