Question #1. When it comes to economic development in Canmore, some have suggested "if we aren't growing, we're dying." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
This is a commonly heard expression that leaves the reader/listener to guess as to how to interpret the suggestion. Nothing is ever quite as simple as ‘either/or’. As our primary sector the tourism industry generates approximately $350M annually, which filters out to benefit most other sectors and all of the staff that maintain those other businesses. However, we can’t continue to depend on only one industry for our economic health. I have advocated for economic diversification for years, with real promise now on the horizon for this to occur. For example, there is an initiative that I have been involved with – Innovate Canmore - which is actively growing a centre for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Rocky Mountain Ventures and The Rockies Institute are two other local initiatives working towards this goal.
I am committed to working to diversify our economy, rather than simply building within one sector.
Question #2. There has been a lot of discussion in the past year about developments in Three Sisters and Silvertip, and what it could mean for wildlife corridors in Canmore. What are your thoughts about having a cumulative review to address the impacts of the developments in Canmore and throughout the Bow Valley? What would you do to help make that happen?
This is a suggestion that is worth exploring, and I support the concept in principle. The devil is in the details. The Town of Canmore is actively engaged in cumulative studies on a regular and ongoing basis. While these studies relate primarily to development within our own municipality, they inform many long range masterplans that were developed to guide our future sustainability. These plans are generally based on a possible future population for Canmore as defined through approvals that have been in place for ten years or more.
These include such plans as the Municipal Development Plan, Utilities Masterplan for Water and Sanitary, Integrated Transportation Masterplan, Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, Open Spaces and Trails Plan, Recreation Masterplan, and the Fire Strategic Plan.
I agree that we have important work to do that will inform connectivity throughout the region, and will commit to working with our regional and provincial partners to that end.
Question #3. With recent research showing overwhelming use of people and their dogs in wildlife corridors, would you support town council spending taxpayer money over the next four years on better signage and education focused on the appropriate use of trails in those areas? If so, how big a budget? If not, why not?
Yes. We have been doing that for some time, through various initiatives as informed through the Human Use Management Review, Open Space and Trails Plan, and other planning reports. The projects that are developed each year in response to such direction will inform the amount of funding that is required, and Council should then balance the funding request with all of the other project funding demands and priorities.As an example, in the 2017 budget Council approved four capital projects that respond to these initiatives - totaling $95,000. We also dedicated a budget for approximately ¾ of a full time equivalent position within the operational costs (staff time) for this work.
Question #4. What do you consider the biggest obstacle for wildlife in the Bow Valley and how would you work toward fixing that problem?
The biggest obstacle for wildlife in the Bow Valley is us - we don’t seem to grasp the concept of co-existence in the valley. We have to change the culture, to one that fully endorses the importance of managing human use and co-existence. Town Council initiated a process in the spring of 2014 to address the community-wide issue of human use in wildlife corridors and habitat patches, resulting in the 2015 Human Use Management Review. We have since been implementing recommendations within that report, to create better adherence regarding the use of our trails and open spaces – and encourage better respect for the vision and need to avoid conflict situations.
I have recently taken the leadership to initiate round table discussions on the issues of co-existence, which will involve governmental and locally respected non-governmental organizations with expertise regarding wildlife corridors and co-existence – and provide some opportunity for meaningful public engagement.
Question #5. Do you support working with the province to close Canmore's recreational trails at certain times and spots to protect wildlife? Please explain your answer.
I am interested in working with the province in a collaborative way to manage the more complex aspects of coexistence, and manage conflict situations within the Town. The Town doesn’t have the resources that exist at the provincial level and it would be expensive to add those in to our municipal operations. My hope is that the Round Table process that I have initiated with the MLA will lead to a more comprehensive management approach to address these issues within the Town. I want to be clear that I don’t think trails should necessarily be closed whenever there is wildlife in the area – which there always is. Closures should be an approach that is applied on a situational basis, with understanding of the likelihood of a conflict situation happening.
Question #6. Switching gears for our final question, we're asking about one of the biggest issues facing Canmore: Affordable housing. How would you address the challenge of affordable housing in town?
We have been addressing the serious issue of housing availability and affordability as a top priority throughout this term of Council.
One project (48 units of rental) opened late last year and was fully occupied almost immediately. As well, a 49 unit equity based affordable housing project is now being built in the Larch area, after four years of discussions and planning. Together these two projects will provide homes to close to 100 families.
We have also been working with the private sector on two projects that will add 240 purpose built long term rentals to the inventory available to residents – both of which projects were given final development permits this past week.
Finally, we have been actively encouraging homeowners in certain neighbourhoods to develop secondary suites in their homes through an incentive program – and now have started a conversation with the community regarding permitting secondary suites within all neighbourhoods.