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Eligibility forces another resignation from Kananaskis I.D. council

“No one has been more committed to, or passionate about, building KID.”

KANANASKIS COUNTRY – Another byelection is on the horizon as Kananaskis Improvement District council – which has seen a number of changes in recent months – is down one more councillor.

Former Coun. Claude Faerden, who was also vice chair of Kananaskis Improvement District (KID) council, was elected by acclamation in October 2020 to represent small business owners in KID, but is no longer eligible in the ward as his business has surpassed a valuation of $750,000, which is the amount determined by KID’s business licence order.

“My last council meeting was March 12 and the last time the value associated with small- to medium-sized business was determined, or looked at, was passed in three votes on March 5, 2002,” said Faerden, who co-founded his business Kananaskis Outfitters in 2010.

Faerden said it was upon applying for a business licence this year that he realized Kananaskis Outfitters’ revenue had surpassed the threshold, technically classifying it as a large business of $750,000 or higher. That ward is currently represented by Coun. Darren Robinson as the general manager of Kananaskis Country Golf Course and was also elected by acclamation to KID council in 2020.

Acknowledging that he no longer speaks as a KID councillor, Faerden noted the valuation amounts having not been revisited since 2002 has been “on the radar” of council, but no resolutions have been passed to amend the business licence order.

The change puts Kananaskis Outfitters in the same category as other, much larger businesses, like the Kananaskis Country Golf Course, Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge and TransAlta.

Faerden said there has been a lot of progress by current and past councils and administration to “update and increase the standard of the work” KID does, but he feels many legacy documents, such as the business licence order, still need revisiting.

In response to a question from the Outlook on whether revenue levels used by KID to determine whether a business falls within the major, regular or small business categories as outlined in its business licence order, KID council chair Melanie Gnyp said that is something KID plans to review “within the broader umbrella of other potential updates” to the legacy document.

“While I cannot commit to a specific timeframe, I am hoping it will be within the next couple months, subject to other workload demands,” she said.

When a byelection is announced, it will be another in a slate of recent changes to KID council.

A byelection for the ward representing non-commerical residents and ratepayers is set for March 28, with two candidates – Ken Hoover and Cody English – having put their names forward after former Coun. Anita Szuster was forced to resign from her post in November 2023 as she was no longer eligible under Kananaskis’ need-to-reside policy. Other changes to KID council as of late include the appointment of new provincially appointed councillors, Kateri Cowley and Dave Rodney, who were selected by the Alberta Parks minister after former Couns. Darren Enns and Erum Afsar completed their terms in October 2023.

Faerden pointed out that KID is unique to most municipalities in that a lot of council decisions also require approval by ministerial order.

“Kananaskis has a challenging threshold to make even small changes at times because they require ministerial approval,” he said. “Historically, a lot of KID decisions were made in conjunction with Alberta Parks and KID has started to distinguish itself as a voice for the local business community, the residents and stakeholders within it.

“A lot of great work has been done, but there are still many legacy things that haven’t been updated since 1996, 1998, 2002 and beyond, and sometimes it’s just about having the attention of the provincial government. We also struggle to keep that attention in focus.”

Changing ministries and ministers over the years have been a major factor in this, he said.

Since the 2021 municipal election, the ministries responsible for environment and parks, which used to be under one ministry, have had a combined four different minister appointments, with various staffing changes under the ministries’ top bureaucrats.

In 2022, the former Ministry of Environment and Parks was split into the current Ministry of Forestry, Parks and Tourism, led by Minister Todd Loewen, and the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas, led by Minister Sonya Savage.

“A lot has shifted and it’s just regularly – if we’re needing ministerial approval – it’s regularly reintroducing ourselves to ensure that we have a voice and that we are understood to be the voice for residents and businesses within KID,” said Faerden.

He further noted KID hasn’t always been a “big voice in provincial tourism” despite four million visitors to Kananaskis annually, rivalling visitation in Banff National Park.

While on council, Faerden advocated for having a KID representative on the Tourism Canmore Kananaskis board of directors and became its first in 2022.

He was also instrumental in getting telecommunications, public transit and other initiatives off the ground, which are now starting to get traction.

“It’s an emotional change for me,” he said. “I’m really struggling to even put it into words. The timing was a surprise to me and I wasn’t planning on leaving like this. I have a lot of goals I still want to accomplish for Kananaskis.”

Though he now resides in Exshaw, when Faerden lived in Kananaskis from 2010-13, he approached KID councillors then about quality of life issues for residents of the remote region.

“No dog park, long commutes, no amenities, no cell phone service – the cell service is terrible; getting internet in houses was terrible and even still is with Starlink not even really an option for many residents with trees, clouds and snowfall impeding on that service,” he said.

“All of those issues continue to persist, but I think KID has had a lot of traction on addressing those issues because they’ve been held highly as priorities, and I’m sad to not be able to finish my objectives that I’ve had in transit, telecoms and broadband … [KID council and administration] is gonna do a great job of seeing it through, as long as those things stay a priority.

“I would have taken a lot of pride in seeing those initiatives through to completion. I’d love to have been a part of seeing it all across the finish line.”

Gnyp commended Faerden for his work as a councillor.

“No one has been more committed to, or passionate about, building KID,” she said.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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