After six years on town council, Sean Krausert feels he has a lot to be proud of.
As a locally elected official for the community of Canmore, he helped shape how decisions were made at the council table since he was first voted into office during a 2012 byelection.
Now, the former local deacon, lawyer and social justice advocate has decided for personal reasons to step away from municipal politics, as he is focused on a new career path that takes him out of town often, but also allows him to provide for his family.
Speaking at the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce’s conversation café on Tuesday (Sept. 13), Krausert said he believes Canmore needs to have a community conversation on how it has community conversations.
“It isn’t everybody,” he said. “It is a small number, but a small number can have a great effect.”
As for the cause, he believes social media has a role to play in affecting how people discuss local issues. When people no longer exercise discretion before they bully or call one other out in an unreasonable manner, Krausert said that may be the biggest challenge facing the community.
“We are seeing an increase in alternative facts,” he said. “Basically, put another way, it is called deception for the sake of your own self interest and propagating things that are just not true. This is uncivil dialogue.
“I would encourage the silent majority to not be silent in the face of bullying and to stand up and speak their point of view.
“More importantly, get out there and vote, because I believe the silent majority is still very reasonable and we need as much reasonable as possible in the face of a fringe that is being quite unreasonable.”
He said it is not the fact that people oppose what council is doing at any particular time, or to address any particular issue, it is how they choose to present their opposition. When a small group of people are aggressively opposed to a project or change, Krausert said they deter other people who may not agree with them from participating in the process and “that moves us in the wrong direction.
“I think we need to have lots of opportunity to get engaged, and I do not think there is an opinion out there that cannot be expressed civily.”
Former town councillor Pam Hilstad said while there is a negativity associated with how some people engage, it is important to understand those people want to have a voice in the conversation and be heard.
“Sometimes with confrontational people, we tend to want to shut them down and what happens is they get more upset,” Hilstad said. “How can council provide that safe space for people who do get emotional and are upset, so that person is seen, heard and understood?”
Mayor John Borrowman said the issue is not isolated to Canmore, having attended a political meeting in Airdrie recently at which RCMP were present to escort people out.
“How do we move forward with meaningful, respectful, engagement? I don’t know, but we are going to keep trying,” he said.
As for accomplishments over the past term, Krausert said he is proud of the Municipal Development Plan passed by council during its last term, replacing a 20-year-old development plan.
“It is a vision for the community,” he said. “It increases our opportunity to provide less costly housing, it recognizes our tourist-based economy, but also speaks to diversification and has a strong environmental protection component.
“No doubt there were some bumps along the way to getting it approved, but I think what was approved was an excellent plan.”
He stood firmly behind the fact council not only identified housing availability and affordability as the number one issue facing the community, and sought progressive solutions to the problem.
“This is an issue not just for those seeking a home, but for businesses trying to keep employees,” he said. “When you have a job interview, the first question is ‘do you have a place to live?’ and that is the state we are in.
“I think this council has done more than any other council.”
From currently underway projects on Palliser Trail, and the old daycare lands, to units of affordable rental housing build on McArthur Place, to looking at what a living wage would be in Canmore, to the establishment of local transit through Roam, Krausert said this council has created affordability in the community.
He said council has dealt with flood mitigation, addressed the commercial/residential tax split, transitioned municipal utilities of water and sewer from being subsidized through taxes to being totally user fee supported, and completely revamped every municipal policy.
From a fiscal management perspective, he said, this council has established multiple policies related to having a long-term financial plan, healthy reserves, and appropriate debt levels.
“Generally, we just have to keep going on the same path,” he said. “I think we are on a good path, the path does have some challenges and opportunities. I think the opportunities are real opportunities.”