Banff Centre begins board rebuild post-overhaul

BANFF – After recent fallout over the handling of its CEO succession, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is starting to rebuild its board of governors beginning with the appointment of a chair and five new public members.

Alberta’s government has selected oil and gas executive and chair of the Alberta Foundation of the Arts Paul Baay as the restructured board’s chair after tasking him to uphold board duties and review Banff Centre’s internal processes and policies following the province booting the entire board in October 2023.

“I think the new board gives the organization a fresh start to really go back to what its core mission is as an organization, being an advanced education institution that focuses on the arts, leadership and mountain culture,” said Chris Lorway, Banff Centre president and CEO.

“By focusing on those things and that mission, we get away from being pulled in a bunch of different directions, which I think is what was happening with the board, as has been very well documented. There was just a lot of different ideas as to where the centre should go.”

The facility became embroiled in controversy in 2023 surrounding its former board chair Adam Waterous and the planned departure of former president and CEO Janice Price, which ultimately led to a reset of the board of governors.

Price lodged a harassment complaint against Waterous, alleging that his advice regarding her involvement in the CEO succession process constituted harassment when she raised concern on behalf of some board members regarding the expansion of the leadership search to include candidates from within hospitality and tourism, instead of focusing on the arts sector.

An independent investigation conducted by conflict-resolution specialist Jay Spark, initiated by the chair of the board’s human resources committee, revealed disagreement among board members over the arts and culture facility’s future trajectory and desired qualifications of its leadership.

The report also described email communications exchanged between the former board chair and CEO in November, 2022, as well as a phone call where Waterous “yelled at [Price], accused her of lying and playing games, accused her of failing accede to his demands and was refuting his authority as chair.”

Waterous said he believed the complaint was made in “bad faith” and allegations ultimately divided the board and made it “dysfunctional.” Following communications with then Alberta education minister Demetrios Nicolaides regarding ongoing governance issues, he shared an email with the Outlook dated Oct. 22, 2023, sent to current education minister Rajan Sawhney and co-signed by three other provincially appointed members, requesting the province step in to improve governance on the board or replace it entirely.

Four days later, on Oct. 26, 2023, the entire board was announced dissolved in a provincial press release. At the time, there were five vacancies for nine of the board-appointed member positions.

Banff Centre’s board members, as of May 2023, consisted of Waterous, Gregorio Oberti, Mike Mendelman, Bob Dhillon, Jeff van Steenbergen, Leslie Belzberg, Ron Hallman, Cherith Mark, Raif Richardson, Bob Sartos and Lorway.

The board structure includes a government-appointed chair, the Banff Centre president, five government-appointed public members and nine members chosen by the board, with one nominee selected by the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada.

New public members appointed to the board include Brinna Brinkerhoff, Lori Paine, Naomi Schmold, Pinder Sandhu and Myron Tétreault. Lorway noted part of Baay’s role as temporary administrator was to make recommendations for appointments to the board.

Together, the public members’ experience spans the arts, energy, finance, law, business and non-profit sectors.

“I think that was one of the things that we really wanted given we were given this moment to really do a reset. It was something that was really important for us,” said Lorway. “We see how Canada and Alberta is changing and we want to make sure that we reflect that in our board.”

Brinkerhoff is active on various boards across the arts and finance sectors, including as finance committee member with the National Music Centre in Calgary and has prior experience as a corporate banker with ATB Financial and as a professional violinist.

Sandhu, a private venture capitalist certified in real estate finance, is a licensed real estate associate in Alberta.

Paine is the former executive director of the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society and has held diverse leadership roles in charities and community organizations. She currently serves as member on The Premier’s Council on Charities & Civil Society.

Schmold and Tétreault both have backgrounds in the oil and gas sector. Schmold is currently Chief Privacy Officer and associate general counsel for Enbridge Inc. and also chairs the Banff Centre Foundation’s nominating and governance committee, with experience serving on various other boards and committees.

Tétreault, lead director with PHX Energy Services Corp, chairs companies in various sectors, with a background in law, education and business administration. He previously chaired Pieridae Energy Ltd. and was co-founder, chairman, president and CEO of Octane Energy Services Ltd.

Lorway noted the board will have two new additions in the near future to include himself as well as Hallman, CEO of Parks Canada, both of whom were former members.

The remaining eight positions will be determined over the course of the next year, with a focus on prioritizing Indigenous representation and gender equality.

Lorway said in working with Baay over the last six months, the new board chair is aligned with Banff Centre’s mission to focus on advanced arts, leadership and mountain culture.

“It’s very clear that in his role and with his vision of the senior team, that it aligns with where we want the direction of the organization. So, all those things for me are music to my ears.”

Lorway chalked up recent issues at Banff Centre to “that of governance and not of management.”

He said Baay’s review of the centre’s internal processes and policies focused on looking at best practices of other post-secondary institutions and resulted in a few tweaks but did not require a major overhaul reflective of anything that occurred as part of the board’s dissolution.

He further noted the facility is still rebuilding and has not bounced back fully from changes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prominent arts and cultural centre faced backlash during the 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.

“We’re still not at the staffing levels we were pre-COVID, so we’re still continuing to sort of build and grow in that area,” said Lorway.

He said Banff Centre also expects next year will be its first with conference and business revenue back at full capacity, which also plummeted during the pandemic, impacting program delivery.

“This, again, allows us to better resource some of our other programs. All those things have been my focus over the last year, really – understanding and supporting the redevelopment and growth of those areas.”

Another focus is on renovating the centre’s two historic buildings – Vinci Hall and Farrally Hall – to create improved space for writing programs and an Indigenous cultural hub for ceremonies and offices for elders.

Banff Centre is also planning for the return of the Banff Summer Arts Festival.

“There are lots of really exciting things coming up and generally I think morale is really good and we’re excited to see what this next chapter looks like,” said Lorway.

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

Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative, Rocky Mountain Outlook