BANFF – Controversial and colourful councillor Peter Poole has delivered his swan song.
Poole, well-known for his passion for birds and married to prominent mezzo-soprano Nan Hughes, is calling it quits after one term on council. He is the only incumbent not seeking re-election in the Oct. 18 municipal election.
During his final meeting on Oct. 4, the one-term councillor took the time to thank his council colleagues and administration for the work they have done over the past four years, noting two of those years have been under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poole, who was the first to flag Banff’s preparedness for the pandemic in January 2020 – the same month the first case was reported in North America – offered a special tribute to Banff’s emergency management team of Silvio Adamo, Alison Gerrits and Kelly Gibson.
“Among other actions, on Tuesday March 17, 2020, we declared a state of local emergency, leading other small towns in this province,” he said.
When he won his seat on council in 2017, Poole’s father-in-law sent him a package of aspirin, with a note saying: “You’ll need this.”
“Perhaps, fellow councillors, he should have sent packages to each of you,” he said, jokingly referring to the headaches he may have caused for his council colleagues over the years.
While he was more often than not on the losing side of the vote, that is not the only measure of a successful councillor. Though controversial at times, he repeatedly held administration and mayor and council to account publicly – a cornerstone of any democracy.
In his rookie years, he found himself in hot water for breach of privacy legislation under formal code of conduct complaints, leading to reprimands and the stripping of his ability to serve as acting or deputy mayor for the remainder of his council term.
More recently, he was cleared of conflict of interest allegations made by Adam Waterous over his participation in discussions on the train station redevelopment, which includes a gondola proposal, because he owns a hotel on the lower slopes of Mount Norquay.
Mayor Corrie DiManno thanked Coun. Poole for his time and talent on council, and for his strong love of Banff.
“With the precision and persistence of a woodpecker, Councillor Poole has a gift for drilling down into the heart of any issue at the council table,” she said.
“Thoughtful, thorough, and not one to shy away from ruffling feathers, he engaged us in tough debates and asked tough questions.”
The mayor said Coun. Poole reviewed budgets with a hawk’s eye, adding the community is better because of his perspective on goals related to the environment, heritage and Indigenous relations, to name a few.
“He was also Banff's canary in the coal mine when it came to COVID-19,” she said.
“He raised the virus up as an emergency management issue long before it had made its way to Canada and he continually challenged us to do all we could to keep our residents and visitors safe.”
While some might say Poole set off fireworks on council, it’s quite the contrary, because he worked to limit them.
One of his proudest accomplishments was his successful push, alongside Bow Valley Naturalists, that led to council’s unanimous decision to ban fireworks on Canada Day, Halloween and New Year’s Eve to lessen the stress, anxiety and disorientation on the park’s treasured wildlife.
The fireworks were replaced with special effect pyrotechnics, commonly referred to as silent or quiet fireworks.
“I am proud that we reached consensus on that,” Coun. Poole said. “Now, on Canada Day, the chickadees and mallards in the wetlands even tell me that they can hear their chicks chirp and ducklings quack,” he said.
Poole thanked Mayor DiManno and council colleagues Brian Standish, Chip Olver, Grant Canning and Ted Christensen, noting each of them brought their stamina, camaraderie, courage, and fair play to council discussions.
“I'll miss that,” he said.