Election 2017:  Ask the candidates


It's time for municipal elections across Alberta.

In Canmore, the Commons is asking the candidates about their views on development and the environment. We're sending two questions to each candidate every Monday and giving them the week to respond. Starting today, their answers will appear here on Mondays and Thursdays during the month-long campaign, which wraps up on election day: Oct. 16.

Mark your calendar so you don't forget to vote!




When it comes to economic development, some have said "If we aren't growing, we're dying."

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

John Borrowman

(mayoral candidate)

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.

Ed Russell

(mayoral candidate)

I disagree with the statement “…if we aren’t growing we are dying.”

That type of thinking tries to force action, rather than arrive at a sensible course of action. We need economic development in Canmore but it must be able to support itself, employ staff in meaningful capacities with appropriate wages, and create opportunities for those who live here.

Mark Blackwood

No response to the email.

Wes Christensen

The mass exodus of families from Canmore to our neighbouring communities worries me — that's one reason I am running.

Esme Comfort

I agree…and disagree. Something that is not growing is stagnant, static and fixed. A community needs to
be alive and growing. But it cannot be growth at any price. Appropriate and manageable economic
development must be achieved. It needs to conform to the planning documents and vision of Canmore
as defined to date. Market forces are very powerful and hard to guide, let alone control. Having a clear
picture of what Canmore is and should grow to be will help a lot. Growth might be better defined as
evolution, a natural progression that is sustainable and makes sense. The pace of change in the world is
so rapid that an almost constant and continuous evaluation of existing regulations, policies and guiding documents is necessary.

Kim Csizmazia

This is a bit of a red-herring question. What is growth? If by growth we mean that businesses must continually adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs of their customers, then clearly, without growth – there is “death”. And the town’s job is to ensure that there is a good climate that allows such businesses to flourish. But if instead, we mean that Canmore must keep expanding its territory, agree to every development request and increase its population to avoid “death” – then I would disagree.

Chris Dmytriw

I disagree.

We have a great thing going here in Canmore. It is going to grow no matter what! Our job is to guide the growth and to have a long term plan in place for when the town is full. To grow for the sake of growing is irresponsible! There will come a time when growth is no longer an option. Let’s start thinking that way now and prepare for it.

Chad Friel

I believe the statement if we aren't growing, we're dying is completely untrue. Personally I have had the motto for my life as "grow all ways always grow" for a long time. Yet I have learned that this motto doesn't always mean that I need to be striving or working towards something new. Sometimes it means slowing things down and enjoying the things that I've accomplished in life and being present and content with where I am. I feel that philosophically this is where happiness lies.  But to answer your question in regards to economic growth. I do think that it is important for a town or city to grow. But to grow in a direction will all care about. Being from Saskatchewan I have heard of small towns dying due to changes in economy. Canmore's uniqueness will, in my opinion, never allow the town to die.  So the key is to determine a future for Canmore that is diversified and built to be stable and strong for the future. 

From what I can tell, we are turning into another tourist town. But Canmore is unique and we have the opportunity to be so much more than just a tourist town. I think bringing in other business such as colleges and research departments, just to name a few would be a great step into creating a diverse economy.  

Jeff Hilstad

If the statement, “we aren’t growing, we’re dying” relates to land development I disagree. If “we aren’t growing, we’re dying” relates to economic development, I would agree with that statement. In order to have a sustainable community, we need to diversify our economy. We will reach build out at some point and we need to be prepared as the development industry will no longer be one of our primary economic drivers. We need to build on our strengths such as tourism while encouraging the growth of existing businesses and attracting new businesses that align with our values as a community.

Jill Jamieson

We will keep growing and need to, in thoughtful ways — as individuals, families, and communities. We grow as a community. We will intentionally manage growth such that our community thrives and the health of our environment is maintained.  We develop answers to these challenging questions and proposals — together, through research, best practices and engaged conversation.

I am really impressed by the work of our Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce as they support small (to large) local entrepreneurs and develop relationships with AB Universities to encourage innovative research here in Canmore. They are working to help us diversify our economy.

Jeff Laidlaw

The development industry and its supporters use this ambiguous statement to support increases in population and residential housing development. However, the creation of a satellite community has little impact on the "life" of a town; and as often as not, is the death knell of a community.

If, however, one takes this growth in the vein of new business, new employment, and successful exploitation of the natural assets available within the town, then there is a limited validity to the statement.

James Louden

No response to the question.

Karen Marra

I believe we will be under pressure to grow as everyone discovers our beautiful town. Canmore will continue to grow, how we grow and at what pace we do, that is up to the community.

As a community we seem to be able to adjust and grow internally because of our diverse population. We need to be continually monitoring growth and seeing how it is effecting our community. I partially agree with statement, we need to find ways to grow to keep our young families in the valley and at the same time keep quality of life for all its residents. Looking at growing our economy in a diversified way.

Joanna McCallum

I would disagree though my disagreement is nuanced. If we do not grow in the correct way, then indeed we will eventually die as a community — socially, environmentally and economically. Growth on it’s own does not imply health. In the coming years, the town will need to entice business activity in Canmore that pays above living wage to ensure future sustainability.

Vi Sandford

I disagree with the statement "if we aren't growing, we're dying." Canmore has an Urban Growth Boundary, which is the outline of the area established for human settlement within the overall boundary of Canmore municipal land. It is likely that Canmore will grow to the extent of the Urban Growth Boundary, since there are private owners of land within this boundary, that already have approved Area Structure Plans (ASP’s). It is unlikely that Canmore will grow, and then start to die, since it is an attractive, desirable, safe place, on the Trans-Canada Highway that has been successfully re-invented since the Canmore Coal Mines closed in 1979.

It will continue to hold a special place in the Canadian consciousness, and as such, continue to evolve.

Rob Seeley

Canmore has evolved into a vibrant, healthy mountain town. Broadband is critical infrastructure. Destination marketing is important as is an in-house economic development officer to advance and create economic opportunities. Although growth is important, it can be managed.