Questions from the Rocky Mountain Outlook

1. Available public parking for employees, residents and visitors, as well as traffic congestion are issues Canmore residents have been frustrated with, and there are differing opinions on what to do. What should Council be doing to address this issue, in your opinion?

My Answer:

We have been planning and implementing active transportation infrastructure – more welcoming cycling and walking pathways, and roadways that are designed for sharing - in order to encourage residents and visitors to get out of their cars and access the downtown core in more active ways. The goal is to relieve the pressure and congestion on the downtown streets and parking by reducing the number of cars competing for the limited space. This same goal has informed the start of local transit, which will expand as people become more familiar with the service, and ridership increases.

I am not supportive at this time of building a downtown parkade, as these are very expensive structures, and generally create an unattractive dead zone in the core. Intercept parking near to the downtown is a more attractive option that has been discussed, has merit, and which I will continue to advocate for.

2. The terms economic diversification and economic development are often used interchangeably when it comes to planning for Canmore's future. How should council strategically focus on diversification and/or development? How could elected official support a strong local economy?

My Answer-

When the mines closed in 1979 Tourism was identified by the community and Council as the preferred future for economic development. Almost 40 years later a strong tourism sector is our primary industry, generating approximately $350M annually. This is perhaps the primary reason that we have so many wonderful restaurants, cafés, shops & galleries – which benefit residents as well as our visitors. However, as with all industries, there is a downside to Tourism – which manifests primarily through lower wages and issues of affordability for many residents, and a growing congestion within town.

    We have known for many years that there are other sectors of employment here – for example within the health and wellness, knowledge based, and arts sectors. I have been actively working to support diversification within our economy by recognizing the potential within those other sectors - as economic diversification initiatives and to add to our future resiliency as a community.

3. The City of Calgary is considering a 2026 Olympic bid and Council in Canmore could be expected to decide over the next term to consider this community's investment/involvement. Would you support bringing the Olympics to Canmore - why or why not?

My answer:

I am certainly prepared to lead a community discussion regarding the possibility of Canmore being a co-host for the 2026 Winter Olympics. There are many considerations that will inform our decision on such a question – with housing, transportation issues, security, and the general impact to our community being the primary areas of concern.

   There might be very positive long term benefits for Canmore coming out of well-planned Olympic Games. As an example we can look to the significant amount of community housing in Whistler that was a legacy of the 2010 Games. On the other hand the expenses that we may incur are unknown at this time, and could be significant. I have had many conversations with residents of Canmore who are involved nationally and internationally with the winter sports, and I know that there is strong enthusiasm within some sectors to consider co-hosting the Games.

4. Housing availability and affordability are issues many in Canmore have pointed to as being the number one priority for elected officials to address. What, in your opinion, is the issue? And what are actions that should be taken by council to address it?

My answer:

The primary issue is the availability of decent housing that is both dependable for the long term, and affordable for working residents who help to make our community function (teachers, nurses, tradespeople, firefighters, etc.). Canmore has one of the highest residential housing values in the country, but the average household income (@$100,000) is often insufficient to qualify working families for a mortgage.

    This Council has been addressing the issue in many ways:

  • building affordable housing through the housing corporation (97 units)
  • working with the private sector to develop long term rental properties (240 units)
  • offering incentives to build secondary suites
  • beginning to enforce the rules regarding short term rentals (which can remove rentals from long-term availability)
  • beginning  community discussions to change the Land Use Bylaw to increase supply of secondary suites for long term rentals

I believe that Council should continue with these initiatives, while considering and implementing similar opportunities.

5. A common criticism of Council is that taxes are too high and there is too much debt. In preparing to run for public office, what observations have you been able to make regarding the Town of Canmore's fiscal health and what, if anything, do you think should be done to improve the situation?

My answer:

The financial health of a community requires  continual informed oversight. At this time our financial position is quite strong - as reported for several years by the independent auditing firm Avail LLP, who have stated that Canmore has one of the healthiest financial situations of all municipalities which the firm audits.

    With a mill rate of 2.4, Canmore has one of the lowest property tax rates in Southern Alberta (as per provincial reporting), strong cash-backed reserve balances (savings) of $31.4 M, and outstanding debt as at 12/31/2016 of $22.4M. (We have recently approved new debenture borrowing bylaws - approved by ALL members of council in August of this year - which IF drawn down would result in a total debt at 67.5% of the provincial debt limits.)

    The current Council has approved several new financial policies and a comprehensive Long Term Financial Strategy to inform future decisions affecting our financial situation. We’ve instituted a very transparent budgeting process, with all discussion, debate, and decisions happening at public meetings. This wasn’t the case when I was first elected in 2004 – and shows commitment to our public accountability.