BANFF – The first female candidates for Banff’s municipal election have thrown their hats in the ring, including two mayoral hopefuls and one council candidate.
Incumbent Mayor Corrie DiManno and long-time resident Karen Thomas have filed nomination papers to run against Brian Standish in the mayoral race, while second generation Banffite Kaylee Ram has declared her candidacy for a council seat.
Ram, 27, who owns and and operates Snowtips-Bactrax, said she was thrilled there are now female candidates in the run-up to the Oct. 18 election, which has been male dominated until now.
“There was someone who said to me females in politics need to be encouraged so much to feel the confidence to put their name forward,” said Ram.
“I have felt that encouragement and support since the get-go and my heart is overflowing with gratitude.”
DiManno, who has served two terms as a councillor until her council colleagues voted her to the top job in August after former mayor, Karen Sorensen, was appointed to the Canadian Senate, was pleased to see female contenders.
“We’re really lucky in Banff… my experience has always been respectful, but as soon as I go outside of Banff, I have felt in my eight years like a bit of an anomaly sometimes,” she said.
“When I see a young woman like Ms. Ram putting in her papers, that is very heartening and inspiring to me and I am really happy to see another young woman stepping up to run for office.”
Ram, who filed her nomination papers on Friday (Sept. 10), joins other council candidates Jessia Arsenio, Allan Buckingham, Dana Humbert, Hugh Pettigrew, Kaylee Ram, Shawn Rapley, Mark Walker and Lesley Young to officially declare their candidacy.
For Ram, what is being seen as a growing divide between tourism and community is an important topic heading into this municipal election.
“A common theme is that I feel and have heard from other members of our community is there seems to be, over the last few years, a bit of a disconnect that locals feel between our ever growing tourism industry and the support that locals feel,” she said.
“I think that I can try to bridge that disconnect by being someone who is a small business with Bactrax – we are a business that obviously benefits directly from the tourism industry – but also someone who is an active member in the community and someone who grew up in town, so I know that Banff hasn’t always been booming huge industry hat we see now.”
Born and raised in Banff, Ram has sat on several boards over the years, including the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital board, the police advisory committee and three advisory groups to Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.
She pointed to the pedestrianization of Banff Avenue as one issue where she hopes she can bridge the gap between the needs of tourists and residents.
“I know that decision will be in the upcoming future,” she said. “It is of utmost importance that we take into consideration residents who live on Lynx Street, Beaver Street, and those that are feeling the overflow of cars.”
In the mayoral race, DiManno filed her papers on Monday morning (Sept, 13) and Thomas officially declared her candidacy on Friday (Sept. 10). They join Standish, who announced his intention to run in mid-August.
Stavros Karlos, who suffered a concussion while mountain biking in July, bowed out of the mayoral race last week due to health reasons.
After two terms on council, DiManno said she is ready and excited by the opportunity to lead as mayor.
“I believe that I’ve had a strong and dynamic voice on council and I will bring that confidence and tenacity to the mayor’s position as well,” she said.
One of the big issues for DiManno is the concept of living where the world visits.
For DiManno, that encompasses continuing to be an advocate for Banff’s tourism economy, especially as the municipality explores recovery strategies from COVID-19 with Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association.
“At the same time, we’re going to need to support our residents that are in the community – which is so reliant on tourism – we know there was burnout before COVID, and now we also know that residents are experiencing financial stress and anxiety more than before,” she said.
“That will involve continuing to support needed resources and programs and initiatives that can help improve the quality of life for residents.”
Another election issue important to DiManno is to continue acting upon the municipality’s environmental strategies – many of which come with a big price tag.
“If elected, I will be a strong advocate when lobbying for funding from the provincial and federal governments because these projects cannot be paid for alone off the Banff taxpayers,” she said.
While the past two councils have moved the needle on housing sustainability, including policies to encourage development of rental apartments and building affordable housing, DiManno said there is more to be done.
“It’s going to be a crucial part of attracting and keeping employees as we move out of the pandemic… we are hearing about labour shortages,” she said.
“Whether it’s exploring the build on Cave Avenue or continuing to look at density incentives, I want to continue to work on a healthy vacancy rate and on any of the solutions we can put forward that help us make more housing available.”
For Thomas, her election platform includes fiscal responsibility and concerns around tax increases, as well as accountability for new projects and ensuring seniors who call Banff home can remain in the community, said she was excited to declare her intention to run.
“Many people already know me, my personality, and what I stand for – and for those who don’t, what you see is what you get,” said Thomas, who was a long-time Bow Valley physiotherapist after starting her own business in Banff in 1986.
“I am excited to commit to my community and to work for the people of Banff. I have life experience, leadership skills, listening skills as well as my love for Banff.”
One of the big issues facing Banff, according to Thomas, is the number of seniors and people with disabilities being forced to leave Banff due to limited access to appropriate housing.
She was instrumental in forming the Banff Inclusive Housing Committee (BIHC), which is advocating for future development of new accommodation and additional services for seniors and people with disabilities.
The BIHC has also asked Banff town council to consider making Banff an age-friendly community as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote a more thoughtful approach to the health and wellbeing of the aging population.
“We have to advocate for the seniors,” Thomas said, noting she was also involved in getting a Town of Banff survey in place to create a snapshot of current housing and potential future needs for seniors..
“I am excited to be able to move that forward so that our seniors are acknowledged and respected, and have a place to continue their life and share their experiences, knowledge and history, and continue to do that for their entire lives should they choose it.”
As part of her campaign, Thomas said she believes it is important for the municipality to work collaboratively with all levels of government and have a strong relationship with Parks Canada.
“Anybody who lives in this town serves as an ambassador of the park and we must protect it,” she said.
“I want to work with Parks Canada for the best solutions to traffic density in all aspects, of people coming into Banff, making it the best experience possibly, and the best life possible for the people of Banff.”