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New Canmore council weighs in on election

CANMORE – Canmore residents have chosen their council for the next four years.

CANMORE – Canmore residents have chosen their council for the next four years.

Sean Krausert was elected the mayor for the Town of Canmore, with Joanna McCallum, Tanya Foubert, Karen Marra, Jeff Hilstad, Wade Graham and Jeff Mah rounding out the councillor positions.

A former two-term councillor, Krausert secured 3,125 votes on his path to victory compared to Vi Sandford’s 1,346 and 259 for Jeff Laidlaw.

Krausert, originally from Edmonton but a Canmore resident since 1996, has been a staple in the community from his time as a councillor, working as a local lawyer and well known as the co-founder of groups such as Canmore Food and Friends and the resident emergency shelter temporary program.

“It’s surreal. I’ve been thinking about this for years. I’ve literally had this date in my calendar for years,” said Krausert shortly after learning of his election win. “Now that it has come true, I’m more than ready to work with the new council and do the work to make Canmore the best place possible.”

Krausert takes over from John Borrowman, who was first elected as mayor in 2012 and chose not to run in this election.

Though Krausert did not run for public office in 2017 due to personal reasons, he maintained a presence in local government as the chair of the subdivision and development appeal board and a member of the assessment review board from 2017 until announcing his candidacy for mayor. He has also been a part of the tourism task force since it was created in 2020.

As a councillor, he was on several boards and committees such as the Canmore Community Housing Corporation board of directors, the human use management review, the budget committee, the Downtown Canmore business revitalization zone board of directors and a longtime chair of the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission.

Krausert said a focus on the campaign trail he heard was affordability, traffic congestion, cycling, land planning and that “everything we do has to be seen through the lens of climate change and making sure we’re good stewards of the lands.”

Mayoral candidate Vi Sandford was pleased with the work that went into the campaign and was happy in the number of people who participated in the election both as voters and candidates.

“Democracy has been served. I think that’s the most important thing is to have candidates who put themselves out there and say ‘this is who I am and this is what I do’ and the people can decide the best candidate to represent them,” she said. “The worst part is not having options, so I think it’s great that we had lots of choices and everybody exercised that option.”

The three-term councillor will wrapup her time on council and said she’s optimistic for the incoming council and what they can bring to the community. While the learning curve can be steep for newly elected officials, she said it’s important to be inquisitive when doing the job.

“Be confident the decisions that you make are the best decisions for that day. If you don’t understand something, ask. It’s important to read the agenda, but you always learn a lot more and bring more to the conversation when you have debate and dialogue. You have to have a very enquiring mind to do the job and there are people around you to help.”

McCallum, Marra, Hilstad return as incumbent councillors. McCallum will enter her fourth term, Marra and Hilstad were each re-elected to their second terms. Rob Seeley – who was a two-term councillor – was not re-elected.

McCallum said the election was strange due to the COVID-19 pandemic that left all but two forums being run virtually. It also meant there was less knocking on doors and fewer chances for in-person engagement with the community.

“You give energy and you get energy from the forums, meeting people, knocking on doors. It was really difficult to gauge the energy of the community outside of what was coming through on your computer.”

She said she was excited to return to council and continue working to improve the community.

“It’s humbling. The people of Canmore trust my judgement and have become accustomed to my ways and they have faith in the work that I’ve been doing and the work I’ll continue to do. I feel like a Canmore girl. It feels like this is my hometown.”

Hilstad said he was eager to return to council and thanked voters for trusting him to continue to do the job. He said he returns with more experience from the lessons of his first council term.

The incoming council offers a diverse range of views, which he said should be a strength for the coming years of decision-making.

“We definitely have a wide range of candidates this time. Some have similar views and some have different, but I’m sure we’ll find a happy medium,” Hilstad said. "As long as everyone’s respectful of one another, that’s what’s important. We’re here to do what’s right for Canmore.”

Foubert, Graham and Mah were all voted in as first-time councillors.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to have the support of my community and be at the council table for the next four years and help shape the future of our community,” Foubert said. “It’s really important work and it takes a team.”

Graham was the lone candidate at the Coast Hotel polling station when the results were read out by Town of Canmore staff once tabulated and printed.

“It’s an honour, it’s a privilege, a responsibility, a huge weight and exciting and terrifying all at the same time,” he said of hearing his name called out as a councillor. “It’s a very unique experience to go through.”

He called the incoming council “progressive and diverse” and “very intelligent and strongly opinionated that I think will move the needle.”

“I think we’ve got a really good council. People want to see good discussion and debate that really brings good ideas.”

Mah secured the most votes of any Canmore candidate in the election with 3,281. He said getting that many votes was “very humbling.”

He noted the amount of work that goes into the campaign, but that each candidate, despite whatever differences of opinion they may have, ultimately has the same goal of helping the community.

“I have a lot of respect for people who put their hat in the ring,” Mah said. “It takes a lot of guts. Every person who ran, they love Canmore. I think we have to admire that in candidates.”

Rounding out the vote for council was Vijay Domingo with 1,988, Jyn San Miguel at 1,915 and two-term councillor Rob Seeley with 1,891. Hans Helder, a previous councillor, had 1,215 and Christoph Braier finished with 951 votes.

While the previous town council was known for their quietness, it’s unlikely to be a repeat with many councillors known for having strong opinions on the community and how to best reach the goals for Canmore.

“I’m looking forward to working with this council. There are some strong opinions, but that’s good,” Krausert said. “There’s varied perspectives and that’s good. The job of council is to make good decisions and if you have a variety of perspectives and speaking to them with passion you’re going to make better decisions.”

Cheryl Hyde, the Town of Canmore’s municipal clerk, said Elections Alberta tabulated 12,005 local registered voters. The advance polls had 1,712 people participate and 4,838 people – 40 per cent of those eligible to vote – cast their ballot.

The numbers were slightly down from when 41 per cent – or 4,500 of 11,000 eligible voters – participated in the election in 2017. It was, however, an increase from when 38 per cent – 3,350 of 8,900 eligible voters – voted in 2013.

The first meeting of the new council will be its annual organizational meeting of council Oct. 26.  The meeting approves the council schedule for the coming year, the deputy mayor rotation and appointments for boards, commissions and committees.

Their first committee of the whole meeting will be Nov. 16 and council will be sworn on Friday afternoon (Oct. 22).

The incoming council will have a slew of issues to deal with. The concerns on affordability are a major theme in the community, while affordable housing, transit, traffic congestion, development, the environment and climate change are all equally pressing to many residents.

“It’s an incredible privilege,” Krausert said. “I feel honoured. It’s a big responsibility and I’m feeling like I want to get to work.”