BANFF – The Town of Banff has a full slate of candidates for the October municipal election, including five incumbents and 14 new contenders.
Councillor Peter Poole is bowing out of municipal politics after one term on council, but councillors Chip Olver, Ted Christensen and Grant Canning all filed their papers for the Oct. 18 election late last week or just before the Sept. 20 noon deadline.
Corrie DiManno and Brian Standish are in the mayoral race against newcomers Karen Thomas and Garry Gilmour.
Jessia Arsenio, Allan Buckingham, Stephanie Ferracuti, Dana Humbert, Barb Pelham, Hugh Pettigrew, Kaylee Ram, Shawn Rapley, Kerry-Lee Schultheis, Mark Walker and Lesley Young are all vying for a council seat.
Coun. Canning, the last council incumbent to file his nomination papers, said he is proud of the work the past council has done, including its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year-and-a-half.
Canning, who is working to become a real estate appraiser, said one of the biggest issues facing the community is a shift in taxation between the residential and commercial sectors, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said about 80 per cent of Banff’s municipal taxes come from the commercial sector, with 60 per cent of that coming from hotels, which are taxed based on the revenues those properties generate.
“Given the pandemic and the impacts it has had on our hotel industry, their revenues will be down dramatically. When that happens the scales shift and the other sectors – residential, industrial and other commercial – will need to make up that shortfall,” he said.
Canning said there will be no easy answers in addressing this shift.
“Cuts to the operating budget will not be enough,” he said. “The next council will need to look at everything, including the operating budget, capital budget and contributions to the capital reserves.”
Coun. Olver, who has served on council since 1994, said she still finds the work of council personally satisfying and would like to finish off some of the initiatives council has been working on.
“I’d like to continue working on our affordability programs, quality of life, on our pandemic response and recovery, housing and sustainability,” she said.
Asked if she thought of stepping aside after more than 25 years on council to allow for fresh blood or what she thought of being dubbed a career politician, Coun. Olver said she still has lots to offer.
“I feel I am still working really hard for the community, that I’m still excited, that I am still reaching out for new ideas,” he said.
For Olver, both economic and environmental sustainability are big issues over the next four-year term.
“With environmental sustainability, I think of initiatives like reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” she added, noting Banff is on target to meet or exceed its target to reduce corporate emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.
“When you think of economic sustainability, we need to be really careful with the money that we have, stretching it as far as we can, and really watching how we spend and what we do.”
Coun. Christensen said age awareness is an important issue for him, including the need for more care and accommodation for seniors and those with disabilities.
Other issues, according to Christensen,include public-private partnerships to further community needs and share costs more equitably, ongoing and enhanced work for FireSmart programs, increased transparency with the exploration of forming an ethics committee.
In addition, he said discussion on debt and spending is a must, including a proposal of an independent audit on operating procedures and expenditure and a review of the Town’s capital projects
“I have spent a great deal of my life in Banff; have been critiqued, learned and grown here; have been mentored and educated here; have laughed loved and cried here and have forged strong friendships; seen extraordinary acts of kindness, married here, helped raise our family here and hope to die here,” he said.
Kerry-Lee Schultheis, a 36-year resident of Banff who threw her hat in the ring last week for a seat on council, said she would bring a balance of skills between business and community to the council table.
She said she has owned a hotel in the Rocky Mountains and managed a hotel/hostel at the YWCA, adding she has both built housing and managed housing at the YWCA.
"My 26-plus years at the Banff YWCA as the CEO has given me the skills to balance business with community. This experience with balancing between the two will help as we navigate our way through COVID," she Schultheis.
"Some of the issues that I see in the community is the lack of housing on all parts of the continuum. I also am concerned about the rise in taxes over the past several years."
Stephanie Ferracuti, who has lived in Banff for almost a decade working in the public sector for Parks Canada and has experience in the hospitality, service, and banking industries before living in Banff, said she’s running because she believes a fresh, working class voice would be beneficial at the decision-making table.
Important issues for Ferracuti include development of an economic recovery plan for Banff; climate change strategies and mitigations; and the continued affordability challenges around housing, transit, and food.
She said she understands and appreciates the complexities that come with living in a national park townsite.
“I also understand the role that we must play as a town, in providing a visitor experience, while being environmental leaders along the way,” she said.
Dana Humbert, who is a public member on the Banff Municipal Planning Commission, said the civic process has always interested him and he is keen to run because he has fallen in love with the community of Banff.
He said he will push town council to take bold action to address Banff’s affordability crisis.
“I will work with residents, businesses, communities, and social providers to identify ways to reduce the cost-of-living for everyday Banffities,” he said.
“I will tackle the escalating cost-of-living in Banff head-on by implementing innovative solutions to make housing more affordable, transportation more accessible, and communities more family-friendly.”
Continuing to champion sustainability to create a thriving urban core for the people who live, work and play in Banff is top of mind for Humbert.
“From transportation and infrastructure to local programs and urban green spaces, I will embed sustainability into every decision we make,” he said. “A thriving economy is also key to our sustainable future.”
That said, Humbert said there are some tough decisions that will need to be made this year, especially given most of the town’s tax revenue comes from the commercial sector that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“This will have a direct impact on the Town’s revenue,” he said. “I will strive to find a balanced budget that is reasonable and fair for all.”
Garry Gilmour, a last minute mayoral contender with no election platform other than giving away his mayoral salary or opposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for Town of Banff employees, doesn’t expect to win, but wants to give voters more choices.
If elected, the 63-year-old retired garbage collector for the Town of Banff said he would donate his roughly $98,000 mayoral salary to local charities, including the Bow Valley SPCA.
Gilmour said his main election issue is opposition to the Town of Banff’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations requirement for all municipal employees.
“It’s a heinous thing to fire someone for standing up for their beliefs,” said Gilmour, who said he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
In Banff, the polls are open on the Oct. 18 election day at Banff Park Lodge, 222 Lynx Street, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Advance polls are at Banff Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 14, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and Friday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Residents can apply for a special ballot for mail-in voting until 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 if unable to vote in advance polls or election day because of a physical disability; if you are absent from the local jurisdiction or you are an election officer.