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Province dissolves Banff Centre board of governors, appoints temporary administrator

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity has a new temporary administrator, replacing its chair and board of governors.

BANFF – The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity has a new temporary administrator, replacing its chair and board of governors.

Paul Baay, described in a provincial press release as an “experienced business leader, corporate director and founder of Touchstone Exploration Inc.,” will, over the next six to nine months, “review internal processes and policies at the Banff Centre and take on the responsibilities of the board of governors until a new chair and board can be appointed.”

Baay was appointed to the position by Alberta’s government Thursday (Oct. 26).

“We’re looking forward to working with Paul Baay,” said Chris Lorway, Banff Centre president and CEO, who was also part of the board of governors. “He has a wide range of board governance expertise in arts organizations. I expect that his review of internal processes and policies at Banff Centre will play a valuable role in reinforcing our firm foundation as we take Banff Centre forward with the implementation of our strategic plans.”

Communications staff with the Banff Centre deferred questions about the decision to dissolve the board of governors to the province. The Outlook reached out to the province and will update this story as more information becomes available.

Lorway and Minister of Advanced Education Rajan Sawhney said they value the efforts of all former board members.

“We deeply appreciate the service of all former board members, including the chair, government appointees and board of governor appointees alike, at the Banff Centre,” said Sawhney in a press release. “They have given their time and attention to furthering this important institution, and their collective contributions have positively positioned the Banff Centre for future success. This change offers an opportunity to focus on a refreshed future for the Banff Centre.

“Paul Baay has a wide range of relevant experience that will make him an effective administrator. I am confident in his ability to fulfill his role in place of the board of governors of the Banff Centre until a new chair and board are appointed.”

Under the Post-Secondary Learning Act, the provincial government appoints individuals to serve on the governing boards of public post-secondary institutions, including the Banff Centre.

According to the press release, when Baay was appointed, there were five vacancies on the board for board-appointed members.

The exact composition of the board of governors – including which positions were vacant – was unknown as of the time of the provincial decision. However, longtime chair and Banff resident Adam Waterous had served as chair since 2019.

As of May, other board of governor positions were comprised of Jeff van Steenbergen, Leslie Belzberg, Bob Dhillon, Ron Hallman, Lorway, Cherith Mark, Mike Mendelman, Gregorio Oberti, Raif W. Richardson and Bob Sartos.

The board of governors at the Banff Centre, established in 1933 by the University of Alberta, consists of a board chair, president, five government-appointed public members and nine board-appointed members, including one nominated to the board by the federal minister of environment and climate change.

The federal minister will put forward a nominee for appointment to the newly constituted board once it is appointed, according to the province.

The Banff Centre has not been without controversy in recent years.

In 2021, the province rescinded board of governor Donna Kennedy-Glans. The former MLA and associate minister was appointed to the board in 2019 and served as its vice chair for more than a year until she was dismissed.

The Banff Centre said Kennedy-Glans appointment was ended after senior leadership had asked the province to rescind her position on the board.

She publicly told media outlets she was surprised by the decision and critical of the move. She wrote in a column for Alberta Views that she believed an appearance on CBC Eyeopener in 2021, where she was interviewed about the ongoing disruption in the UPC party against former Premier Jason Kenney, began conflict between her and Waterous.

In 2014, former Banff Centre President Jeff Melanson abruptly resigned after serving in the post for two years.

In a 2016 anullment application, his former wife, Eleanor McCain, claimed allegations of sexual harassment of female employees during his time at the Banff Centre.

The prominent arts and cultural centre also faced backlash during the COVID-19 pandemic when it temporarily laid off about 400 employees – roughly 75 per cent of its workforce – and then a few months later permanently laid off 280 of them.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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