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UPDATED: DiManno wins Banff mayoral race

Incumbents Chip Olver, Ted Christensen and Grant Canning re-elected. Kaylee Ram, Barb Pelham and Hugh Pettigrew round out the council table.

BANFF – Corrie DiManno has been re-elected as Banff’s mayor and all three incumbent councillors have retained their seats at the council table.

Joining incumbent councillors Chip Olver, Grant Canning and Ted Christensen are Hugh Pettigrew, Barb Pelham and Kaylee Ram to round out the next Banff town council.

With 1,096 votes, DiManno secured twice as many votes as her closest competitor Brian Standish, who trailed with 500. Newcomer Karen Thomas secured 432 votes and anti-vaxxer Garry Gilmour, who was absent during the campaign, ended up with just 32.

The new Banff town council will be sworn in on Monday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m.

Taking over the role of mayor in August after Karen Sorensen was named to the Canadian Senate, DiManno was overwhelmed when she heard the election results about an hour after the 8 p.m. closing of the polls.

“Oh my gosh! I am absolutely honoured and I am humbled,” she said while celebrating her win on Monday night (Oct. 18) at the Banff Ave. Brew Pub.

“I want to thank the community for being so engaged during this election and for entrusting me to be the mayor for the next four years,” she added.

“I am proud to be a female leader in the community and proud to represent a significant demographic in our community.”

DiManno said she looks forward to working with the new council, but gave special thanks to her mayoral contenders, including outgoing councillor Brian Standish and long-time resident Karen Thomas.

“I thank them for putting their names in and for being part of the process, especially Brian who we will miss on council,” she said.

“He contributed 11 years to this community and we owe him a big thank-you. And to Karen, I hope she continues to be involved and stays involved.”

Clearly disappointed, Standish was gracious in his defeat, sending his heart-felt congratulations to DiManno.

“I know she will do a fantastic job as Banff’s mayor,” he said shortly after learning of the results.

“She and I share a common love for our community and I know that our community will be well served by her as mayor. Banff is in a good place.”

Thomas congratulated all mayoral and council candidates, adding there is no question DiManno is the people’s choice to lead Banff through the COVID-19 pandemic and into recovery.

She said she hopes resort municipality status plays a big picture in the future work of the new council and that the community plan gets done quickly and put into action.

“It was a great election. This is what democracy looks like,” she said.

“I look forward to continuing further relationships and contributing in any way possible to this amazing and wonderful place we all call home.”

With only 2,090 people casting a vote in the Banff municipal election, Thomas said she was disappointed more people did not exercise the right to vote.

“I know some feel their voice does not count, but if one does not vote, there really is not a possibility for change,” she said.

“We had fewer voters than four years ago in such a critical election. Each vote counts and it certainly did last night and those who wanted Corrie as their mayor were heard loud and clear.”

Pelham was the top council vote-getter with 1,251 votes followed by Ram with 1,146 votes. Pettigrew, who unsuccessfully ran against Sorensen in the mayoral race in 2017, found success this election with 831 votes, enough to win him a seat at the council table.

Christensen kept his council seat with 901 votes. Canning secured 879 votes followed closely by Chip Olver with 876 votes.

Pelham, who has grown up in Banff since age 12, is eager to sink her teeth into working for the residents of Banff.

“I feel so fortunate to be in a position in my life to contribute to the community I love,” said Pelham, who sold Canada House Gallery in 2018.

“I feel humbled and honoured to have the support that was shown to me by our community.”

She knows there are some big issues to tackle as the new council moves into this four-year term, particularly challenges around taxation related to the reduced tax revenue coming from the hotel sector.

This is made even more challenging, she said, by the need to eventually move within the 5:1 commercial-residential tax split cap mandated by the province of Alberta.

“It will be really gritty,” she said.

Ram, who was a strong voice for frustrated businesses during the contentious redevelopment of Bear Street into a shared space, said she was cautiously optimistic as her five-week election campaign drew to a close.

“But then I was in true disbelief when I saw the numbers. I am on cloud nine. I am thrilled,” said Ram, co-owner of Snowtips-Bactrax.

“I’ve been feeling the support of the community throughout, but to see the numbers, it’s a feeling I can’t describe.”

Ram acknowledged there’s much to learn, but said there are going to be some tough discussions around taxation given the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

She also said the newly newly-elected councillors may bring a different, fresh perspective heading into the budget.

“I think it’s absolutely of the utmost importance that I have a good understanding – that Barb does, Hugh does – of the past decisions,” she said. “But maybe from a new perspective, there are things that we could shed light on and add onto.”

In his second shot at municipal politics, Pettigrew was excited to find out he’d won a seat.

“My heart was pounding, but it feels great,” he said.

“I think we have elected a very good, diverse council and I think this is very important in any election.”

First up, Pettigrew said the new council has to figure out how to work together, noting there is the annual organizational meeting on Nov. 1.

“My goal is to be a strong contributor at the table and lend some good options, especially with what I believe to be a common goal with economic recovery,” he said.

With a strong knowledge of how service review and budget works, he’s keen to discuss some ideas with his council colleagues.

Some options include diverting some of the revenues from paid parking or consideration of increasing Roam bus fares so as not to subsidize public transit service as much.

“I am going to want to look at a number of solutions to reduce the impacts to taxpayers – to residential and non-residential,”  Pettigrew said.

Olver, who heads into her 28th year as a Banff town councillor, said she is excited and grateful for the support.

She said her re-election along with that of the two other incumbents is a sign of the hard work and commitment they have to this community, especially during the last 20 months of the pandemic.

“I think it’s an acknowledgment we were on the right track,” she said.

Olver’s top priority is getting started on the review or rewrite of the 2008 community plan – the long-term vision for Banff.

“All those troublesome conversations people feel we need to have, they will happen as part of that,” she said.

“We need to talk about the level of tourism, we need to talk about the environment, we need to talk about housing and we need to reframe our goals if that’s what’s reflected in the community.”

Entering his fourth term on Banff council, Canning said he believes the election results show first and foremost that Banff is a lot more progressive than many may believe.

“There’s a very strong majority of voters out there who really agree with the direction council is taking, and obviously that’s not everyone, and we know that, and that needs to be respected,” he said. “As a general rule, I think we got a mandate to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

That said, Canning said the next council will face some big challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly taxation.

“There’s going to be some really tough discussions around how to handle that,” he said.

“There will be discussions on the timing of projects, and the timing of spending, capital spending in particular.”

Christensen, once again elected to council, was not immediately available for comment.

Unsuccessful council hopefuls include Jessia Arsenio (447 votes), Allan Buckingham (790 votes), Stephanie Ferracuti (624), Dana Humbert (512), Shawn Rapley (494), Kerry-Lee Schultheis (183), Mark Walker (631) and Lesley Young (392).

The total number of residents casting a ballot for Banff town council in the 2021 municipal election was 2,090. In 2017, there were 2,215 votes. In 2013, 1,878 voted.

The most recent municipal census in 2017 registered a population of 8,865 people, but there is no certainty of the current total population or eligible voters, especially with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the resort community.

This year, 828 votes were cast on the advance voting days and 1,217 on the Oct. 18 election day. There were 39 special ballots received. 

Full election results are available at http://Banff.ca/electionresults. Official results will be posted by the returning officer at noon on Oct. 22.

DiManno said she is keen to get back to work.

“I am inspired by what I heard on the campaign trail and ready to hit the ground running,” she said.