It was an exciting election, and a busy week followed.  I'm overdue to sit down and say some thank yous!

First and always, thank you to my family, near and far, for love and laughter as the campaign unfolded.  Thank you to the generous friends who proudly supported my newspaper ads with their donations and (most importantly) their printed names.  Thank you to all the folks at the doors who received me so kindly and politely, often in the middle of their dinners.  Thanks to the friends and neighbours who said encouraging things when they phoned or ran into me during the campaign, and to everyone who celebrated with us here at home on election night. 

And, of course, a huge thank you to the voters who entrusted me with their support -- I promise you that I will work hard to support the values and ideas we discussed during the election.

I will be sworn in on Monday, and I look forward to my first council meeting on Monday afternoon.

I spent my last campaigning day making reminder phone calls, sending emails, and going door to door close to home, on Buffalo, Grizzly, St Julien and Wolverine.

I kept my home turf for the last day on purpose -- not because I'm too tired to walk farther afield (although I am pretty tired!), but because I knew it would be a lovely time visiting with neighbours and friends, and that was my ideal way to finish off.  I had some discussions on debt, rec centre and environmental issues, but I have to admit that most of the conversations today were centred on the glorious weather, how people's families are doing, what an interesting slate of candidates we have, and many kind good wishes for tomorrow.  

By my count, I have knocked on 923 doors since nomination day.  I have enjoyed it so much, and I feel as if the door-to-door effort has led me to people and corners of town that I haven't seen for awhile.  The paperless campaign idea has been interesting -- I've had lots of positive comments about it, and many people have said they really preferred not to receive paper, yet traffic on the website has not been high.  It appears that most people are reading all the newspaper coverage very closely, and that seems to be the source of many decisions.  A lot of people are also getting together with friends and family and having discussions about the issues and how to vote.

So, in the end, technological advances notwithstanding, I believe that this election will be decided in the same way that most small town elections are decided -- by face-to-face discussions and interactions, and by the same caring connections among people that are such an integral part of the spirit of Banff.

Yesterday was an extremely busy day. 

We had a morning candidates forum at the high school -- kudos to candidate Erich Mende and new socials teacher Mr. Skinner for organizing this.  The students were extremely well-prepared with thought-provoking questions.   As always when I am at BCHS, I was impressed with the attentiveness and courtesy of the students.  I have spoken at other high schools, and I know that the atmosphere at BCHS is something special.

After a few hours of my normal work (with a pleasant break chatting with Stavros Karlos, as he was door-knocking on Grizzly), I went door-knocking on Muskrat Street.  Lots of people were home and I had some great discussions focussing on affordable housing, the rec centre, and even the interesting joys and perils of re-visiting an earlier career. 

One householder made the very good point that affordable housing is even more of an issue for single people who wish to remain in Banff throughout their careers and then retire here.    She pointed out that ownership of even a small apartment-style condo is challenging with one income, and felt that the Housing Corp has concentrated on families, to the exclusion of the large group of singles and childless couples who make Banff home.  This is a point related to a discussion at the Forum, so it's definitely coming from more than one source, and we have to incorporate this viewpoint into our thinking about the future. 

I also had a discussion with another householder about potential barriers in the development process to the creation of affordable housing by private developers, and also about the astonishing lack of maintenance and upkeep on some of the rental properties -- something that I have certainly observed firsthand and up close over the past few weeks.

A really original idea that I heard yesterday was the idea of "community bonds" -- borrowing by the municipality from its own citizens, to be paid back with interest.  Of course I'm familiar with federal government bonds, and I knew that big cities have issued bonds, but I had never thought of it in conjunction with Banff.  I love the idea of people being able to invest in their community.

I had 10 minutes to get changed after door-knocking and I was off to the HooDoo Lounge for the candidates' meet-and-greet.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the proposed parkade, the pedestrian bridge, my paperless campaign, LEEDS building standards, tourism marketing and the visitor experience with the folks who turned out.  Huge kudos to Jeff Hines and Mike Mendelman for their hospitality and their commitment to encouraging the younger voters.

Had a super time on Otter Street last evening, including impassioned conversations about the rec centre, noise issues, and minimizing borrowing.  I visited with two incumbents, and one previous candidate -- it's always nice to chat with people who have actually experienced a campaign first-hand.

A lively night at the BPL last night, with good speeches, good questions, and lots of audience participation.  Huge thanks to the Banff Lake Louise Hotel Motel Association, and especially Darren Reeder and Eric Harvie, for organizing and promoting this event, to the Banff Park Lodge and Frank Denouden for generously hosting yet another key community event, to Ted Hart for a super job of moderating, and to the audience for hanging in there.  The format of the evening was the best-planned of the forums I have watched and participated in.

There were generally positive reactions from all the candidates for support for the day care and the library, which was very heartening to see.  There was an interesting discussion of late night noise, which pointed out the good progress that has been made, and explored ideas that can help even more.  An impassioned plea was made for the needs of the 18-35 year old service workers.  Candidates were quizzed on affordable housing, and some offered concrete ideas.

I found the discussions on the rec centre and on the commercial growth cap to be particularly interesting.  Almost all the descriptions of what types of events would be hosted in the new rec centre focused on national and international events, tournaments, etc.,  leaving me wondering where there will be room for the community that this centre is supposedly for.  A few candidates proposed "revisiting", "reworking", "rethinking" the growth cap, while assuring us that that didn't necessarily mean attempting to raise it.

Here are a few words from my closing speech:

Council elections are about ideas and values.  More than higher levels of government, a municipal council stays close to the people it serves, a municipal council can really get things done, and the ideas and values of the councillors you vote for will have a noticeable, meaningful effect on our community in the next three years.  ...  In a small town, we are very fortunate.  We don’t just hear about our council candidates at election time.  We know them in their day to day lives, and we see how they interact with their families, their neighbours, their work, their community.  We learn their values as they live them.

After listening closely to the candidates last night, I would say that we have some very different sets of values represented among the ten people who are running.  It will be interesting to see which values the community wants to have reflected in their municipal government.

Candidates in other communities don't have such entertaining street names to work with.  Look at that list -- you could write a whole Beatrix Potter book with that cast of characters.

Another crisp fall day, great for walking.  I had interesting conversations about debt, about rules for municipal grants, and about sidewalk replacement.  Along Marten, I met lots of cheerful young Aussies -- they can't vote, but they all tell me they're having a great time working and visiting inCanada.

Yesterday, I visited the rest of Marmot, Pika Place, then Cougar and most of Squirrel.  It was a great day, with piles of crisp yellow leaves to shuffle through and lots of people doing yard work.

I was actually geared up and walking out the door this afternoon when I decided that it was not a good idea.  Although I thought that I was early enough to miss dinnertime, I could also imagine some people having an early Thanksgiving dinner, or being busy in the kitchen, and being interrupted by the campaign knock on the door.  I knew people would be polite about it, but I didn't think they'd be pleased!  This squeezes the schedule somewhat, but I'll hit the trail again tomorrow.

In spite of the heavy snowfall warning this morning, it was a sunny and pleasant late afternoon when I went door-knocking in the Marmot/Porcupine area.  I'm so impressed with how many people have been able to keep their flowers going -- everything from gorgeous hanging pots of petunias to a spectacular bed of snapdragons.

Lots of interesting conversations, including one about making it easier for citizens to have input into decision-making. 

 The person I was chatting with mentioned how much she had enjoyed the first open house of the Community Plan process, but found it difficult to have other, similarly meaningful opportunities for input.  We talked about how busy everyone is, and how hard it is for the average citizen to follow all the activities of the various levels of government and stay informed. 

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think the town of Banff is doing an amazing job on its website these days -- it has become a tremendous resource for interested citizens.  We can supplement that with a range of information and opportunities to get involved, so that people who like using paper, people who like to respond online, and people who enjoy face-to-face meetings all have a chance to get involved with the town in their preferred way.

A pleasant evening stroll along the second half of Cave gave me a chance to chat with a lot of people about the council campaign and the issues.  I'm really delighted at how many people are pleased to see a paperless campaign.

The second half of Cave is such a lovely example of what a Banff street can look like -- so many properties have been careful to keep their mature trees across the front of the lot, so that when you look along the street, you just see trees, and don't realize how many housing units there are tucked in behind.  Right now, with the mix of dark spruces and brightly coloured deciduous, it's absolutely gorgeous.

Someone asked me today:  What is the role of the Town of Banff municipal government in enhancing and maintaining a positive visitor experience? 

As I say on my website, and as we said long ago in the town’s mission statement, I believe that the primary focus of the municipal government of Banff should be service to residents.  That doesn’t mean that we should ignore the visitors’ needs – we are in existence because we are a visitor service centre for the Park.  It just means that there are so many agencies and businesses out there whose focus is serving the visitors, while the Town is the only agency which has, as its primary focus, the needs of the residents, and we need to remember that. 

To enhance and maintain a positive visitor experience, we should first provide the safe, clean, and convenient physical environment that is so basic to happy residents and happy tourists.  Plentiful and clean public washrooms, litter and dust-free streets, plentiful benches and green spaces, a town that is low in crime and has good emergency services, well-built and attractive buildings, clear view-lines to the surrounding mountains, good trail connections, safe and convenient transportation routes and public transit – these are very basic ingredients to a positive visitor experience.   

Visitors need and want to experience a beautiful natural environment.  By preserving our environment, replanting trees, managing our wastewater, recycling, respecting wildlife corridors and so on, we are enhancing and maintaining what the visitors are looking for. 

Visitors also need good information.  I helped to make the Tourism Bureau a reality, and I still think that it is a good thing to have a marketing and information body to help the visitors.  Therefore, I believe the Town should continue to support the Tourism Bureau, and should rely on the Tourism Bureau for direct services to visitors.   

What does the positive visitor experience look like?  

At its most basic level, it is safe, clean and convenient, as I mentioned above.  But to be really positive, to stand out from the crowd, I think you need two things:   

First, access to an environment and experiences that are special and different – we have that with our surrounding national park and the many experiences available in it, as well as with our cultural resources here in town.    Second, opportunities for positive contact with people – for example, knowledgeable and pleasant information staff, competent and courteous wait staff and retail staff, friendly and outgoing locals on the trails.  This is where providing excellent services to residents pays off, because it helps keep people in town long-term, so that they become knowledgeable, competent, experienced, and are ready to welcome the world. 

There are two things that happy tourists comment on over and over:  “the scenery and wildlife were so amazing” and “the people were so friendly”.  In my mind, these sum up the positive visitor experience.