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Canmore council approves leave of absence for Councillor Comfort

Canmore Councillor Esmé Comfort battled her third cancer diagnosis earlier this year with radiation and chemotherapy treatment. The good news is that she is now cancer free – however a fracture to her spine has resulted in a six-month leave of absence to focus on her health and recovery.
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Canmore Councillor Esmé Comfort, far left, has taken a six-month leave of absence from her duties as an elected official to focus on her health after dealing with a cancer diagnosis earlier this year, pneumonia, a broken hip and now a spinal fracture. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – Canmore Councillor Esmé Comfort is taking a six month leave of absence to focus on her health.

Comfort attended the Sept. 1 and 8 council meetings online from a bed in the Canmore General Hospital and at the latter, council voted earlier her time to recover after she requested the leave due to health reasons. 

"I want to thank my colleagues and administration for the tremendous support I have had during this time with the health issues I have been struggling with," Comfort said. 

"We have an incredible administration and incredible council – I think you are all serving Canmore well through this crisis." 

Comfort was diagnosed with cancer earlier this term – and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. It was her third cancer diagnosis and this most recent treatment left her with neuropathy. The good news, she said, is her doctors have told her the cancer is gone.

But a bout of pneumonia, a broken hip, and now a spinal fracture, the result of a fall due to the neuropathy, have resulted in the two-term councillor asking for six month break from her duties to focus on her health and wellness. 

Comfort's fellow elected officials expressed support for her recovery and value for having her perspective back at council once she is well. 

"I am hoping and confident Coun. Comfort will be able to return to her council duties before the end of the term," said Mayor John Borrowman.

"I think 2021 will have some meaty issues before council and I really hope Coun. Comfort will be back at the table and able to engage in those issues."

Because councillors cannot apply for benefits under the federal employment insurance program, council was asked to approve the leave with pay and benefits included. 

Municipal clerk Cheryl Hyde told council the Municipal Government Act (MGA) provides some direction for a leave of absence, but there are factors not considered in the legislation.

"The MGA allows council to approve leaves of absence, but it really provides no other paramters or authorities beyond that," Hyde said.

"[Administration] had a look at what would be offered to a municipal employee making a similar request. Employees do have access to benefits and pay through our system."

She said because an employee would receive similar benefit for a medical leave of absence, administration recommended council approve the request. 

"It will have a small effect on quorum," Hyde said, adding it also makes it possible for a 3-3 tie, which results in a defeated vote. 

While Coun. Comfort sits on several committees of council, the upcoming organizational meeting scheduled in October will provide an opportunity for council to reassign those positions. 


Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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