The Alberta government dismissed the entire board of governors from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity after a series of formal harassment complaints over the process to find a new chief executive officer that began late last year.
Adam Waterous, who was chair from 2019 until his removal by the government this week, told The Globe and Mail that former Banff Centre CEO Janice Price filed the initial workplace harassment complaint about a year ago, regarding his position that she not play a role in choosing her successor, which he said contravened board process.
He shared a letter from then-advanced education minister Demetrios Nicolaides, whose office oversaw the Banff Centre, acknowledging that there was an investigation into her allegation and that Mr. Waterous filed a subsequent complaint about Ms. Price.
“It is my understanding that complaints have been made between the CEO and the Chair, and the Chair and the CEO; an investigation into the former was conducted and received by the Board; and, as I understand, the former CEO is not longer with the Banff Centre, it my be impractical for the Board to investigate the complaint by the Chair of the CEO,” the letter states.
The Banff Centre is a non-degree-granting institution whose board appointments are overseen by Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education. Boards generally determine an organization’s successor CEOs, even if outgoing CEOs wish to play a role in nurturing candidates.
Reached by phone late Friday, Ms. Price, whose planned resignation took place last March, acknowledged she had filed a complaint regarding Mr. Waterous with the chair of the board’s human-resources committee under its anti-harassment policy.
She declined to comment further beyond acknowledging that there was an investigation, the findings of which were shared with the Alberta government. She also said she was aware of a follow-up complaint by Mr. Waterous, but had never received anything in writing about it and was not aware of any similar follow-up investigation.
The Alberta government did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The ministry said that it would replace the board of governors with a temporary administrator for at least six months, and that Touchstone Exploration Inc. founder Paul Baay would take that job. He will be tasked to “review internal processes and policies at the Banff Centre.”
Chris Lorway, the Cape Breton-born former executive and artistic director of Stanford University’s performing-arts organization Stanford Live, became Ms. Price’s successor as the Banff Centre’s CEO in April, 2023. “This announcement is strictly linked to governance improvement, not financial, management or programmatic matters,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
The picturesque Banff Centre is Canada’s biggest hub for arts and literature residencies and training, but in recent years has been beset by turbulence. Employees began expressing their discontent with the centre’s direction even before the pandemic, when many were also laid off. In late 2021, former MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans was removed from the board after making comments regarding former Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s handling of caucus discord.
In a November, 2021, essay for Alberta Views magazine, Ms. Kennedy-Glans said there were significant problems with workplace culture at Banff Centre and that the internationally renowned arts incubator was failing to prioritize the perspective of artists in its path forward. She welcomed news of the board’s dismissal in a Globe interview Friday.
“I think the board had altered the mandate of the Banff Centre in a way that didn’t align with what the expectations of most Albertans were, or, very importantly, the expectations of many of the artists, the cultural community, that is supposed to be the very heart of the Banff Centre, so I think it’s a way to course correct,” she said. “Artists were not at the Banff Centre to be part of a tourist attraction.”
The Banff Centre brought in $47.5-million in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in March – a 30-per-cent jump over its previous year, but a far cry from the roughly $70-million it pulled in its two final pre-pandemic years.
Mr. Baay is chair of the Alberta Foundation of the Arts, and served 14 years on the board of the National Gallery of Canada. This past May, the Alberta Securities Commission said that Mr. Baay had paid it $40,000 as part of a settlement related to revealing non-public information about his company to someone prior to disclosing it to the public.
Last November, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government similarly replaced the board of Alberta Health Services with a single administrator, the retired health care administrator Dr. John Cowell, hoping to swiftly introduce reforms at the health authority.