Well, 2020 in Vancouver.
It was memorable, we’ll give it that. It was that rare year when even as people were living in the throes of its undulations, they imagined what it would be like recounting to future generations just how crazy things were. Masks, business closures, watching the daily infection-rate announcements like they were must-see TV. This list tries to capture some of the people who helped (and are still helping) Vancouver navigate the greatest public health threat in half a century. But it also recognizes that there was more than COVID: there was a scary ramp up in the opioid crisis, a social justice call to arms, an improbable spike in real estate prices and a hundred other issues that made Vancouver the always-compelling place to live that it is.
Written by Nathan Caddell, Alyssa Hirose, Stacey McLachlan, Neal McLennan and Matt O’Grady.
Govt. of BC1. Dr. Bonnie Henry
What can we say that hasn’t been said already?
Usually there’s considerable debate among our insiders as to who should take the number one spot on this list. Not this year. B.C.’s top doctor became a household name across the province (if not the country) with her calm, measured approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, our early success against the virus respective to other provinces meant a months-long love affair with Dr. Bonnie—murals, masks, mugs, posters, shoes and tote bags bearing her name or likeness can be seen all over the city. Heck, the New York Times ran a fawning profile of her.
Of course, something had to give, and there have been a few cracks in the foundation. Henry has seen negative reactions to her work that range from the unhinged (death threats) to the reasonable, with some criticizing her refusal to mandate masks and the government’s approach to opening up schools. There have also been complaints that the province isn’t giving out enough data when it comes to which communities have been most affected.
In the end, this year was headlined by the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctor we trusted to guide us through it and those six words she kept repeating: Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe. Even if some of us stopped listening.
The Canadian Press2. John Horgan
Premier of B.C.
Previously #3, 2019
Until this fall, we’d call Premier Horgan’s biggest move of 2020 simply letting health minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry take the reins—though he and finance minister Carole James have tried to steer the province through some ambitious relief measures for low-income individuals, renters and businesses. For that, he had some of the best ratings of any political leader in Canada during COVID (a 69 percent approval in late August). Good time for a snap election call, even one that breaks an agreement with the Green Party and has voters heading to crowded polling stations in the teeth of the second wave? Yeah, a really good time, as it turns out.
3. Adrian Dix
B.C. Health Minister
Previously #5, 2012
After years of being overshadowed by fellow cabinet ministers like David Eby, Carole James and Mike Farnworth, the former party leader was thrust into the spotlight (okay, he was slightly stage left of it) by COVID-19. His calm, serious and informed approach to the pandemic earned national applause and re-established Dix as one of the true faces of an NDP government that has moved like a well-oiled machine since he resigned as leader. Of course, as health minister he has come under fire for his treatment—or lack thereof—of the other pandemic: the opioid crisis. Critics argue he essentially handed it off to mental health and addictions minister Judy Darcy.
4. Darren Entwistle
Previously #4, 2019
Sometimes making this list is as simple as being universally regarded as a person who ably steers a massive financial powerhouse. In the case of Telus CEO Darren Entwistle, that’s underscored by the fact that Telus is the province’s largest public company, and that even the most jaded corporate raider agrees that his stewardship has been admirable. COVID slammed Telus in Q2 (though they still managed to beat industry expectations for new mobile and internet customers), but the company’s proactive and sympathetic reaction to the pandemic became more of a story than the dip in share price. And the CEO’s ongoing big bet on health care seems more prescient with every month.
We’re accustomed to the concept of power being personified, but what the past year has shown is that one person with a grievance and a laptop can be Bill Gates, Gandhi and the Rock combined, if their message rings true and strikes the right chord with the audience at large. Just ask Matchstick, Parallel49 and others who found themselves the focus of anonymous Instagram campaigns. Whether the trigger is a tyrant running a small business, a manager who attempts to explain away a racist incident or a work environment that is simply toxic, more shareholder value, personal investment and long-term goodwill has been wiped out this year as a result of a well-placed tweet or biting comment online than from any more sophisticated financial mechanism. And while many under this rubric are proudly not anonymous, as a collective movement they’ve brought power back to the masses in a way not seen since, well, ever. Who is anonymous? It’s any person the wrongdoer is thinking about when they wake up at 3 a.m.
Chair Kristen Rivers of the Squamish, Chief Leah George-Wilson for the Tsleil-Waututh and Chief Wayne Sparrow for the Musqueam (Adam Blasberg). 6. MST Development Corporation
Real Estate Developers
Previously #1, 2019
In a less eventful year, it’s possible MST would have held on to the top spot. After all, not too much has changed for the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations’ real estate conglomerate. The 90-acre Jericho Lands project is going ahead, but a comprehensive plan isn’t expected until 2021. The only blemish on the corporation’s record is that its desire (with the City and UBC) to get the Broadway Subway Line extended to the university has so far been ignored.
7. Tamara Vrooman
Vrooman is corporate B.C.’s go-to crisis manager: in 2007, she was hired by Vancity as North America sank into the Great Recession; this July, Vrooman took the reins at Canada’s second biggest airport following an unprecedented collapse in global travel. With YVR’s year-over-year traffic down over 60 percent by early September, she was quick to act: halting all capital expansion projects at the airport, including the termination of a mega-project in which $525 million in work had already been done. As if she didn’t have enough to keep her busy, Vrooman also became the 12th chancellor of SFU in June.
From left to right, top to bottom: Nova Stevens, Shamika Mitchell, Stephanie Allen and Cicely Blain (Tanya Goehring).8. Black Liberation Movement
It’s a tricky thing to recognize a group once again on this list, but the fight against anti-Black racism in Vancouver is the work of a diverse and diasporic community, not of any one specific individual. Still, we’ve got to name a few. Black Freedom Society founders Nova Stevens and Shamika Mitchell organized 6,000 people to march for Juneteenth. Activist Stephanie Allen (#47 on last year’s list) continuously advocates for our city’s Black community as a founding member of the Hogan’s Alley Society. Cicely Belle Blain (#50, 2018), co-founder of BLM Vancouver, remains a sought-after voice with their consulting firm, which specializes in diversity and inclusion training. They are just a few of the people reminding us what power really means.
9. Dr. Carl Hansen
AbCellera jumped onto the front pages of Canadian newspapers in May, when the federal government gave Dr. Carl Hansen and his team at the privately held Vancouver biotech company $175.6 million to research COVID antibodies and build technology and manufacturing infrastructure for a potential future vaccine or treatment. In other words: AbCellera, at this point in time, might be our best bet at beating this thing. With so many hopes pinned on the company, it’s reassuring to see a seasoned pro like Hansen at the helm. He’s an inventor of over 50 U.S. patents and 63 applications that are represented in seven commercial products. And, until August 2019, he was a professor at UBC, where he co-authored over 65 manuscripts in the fields of microfluidics, immunology, genomics and nanotechnology. And Trudeau and co. aren’t the only ones with confidence in AbCellera’s antibody therapy efforts: a potential U.S. IPO is
in the works for later this year.
10. Aquilini Family
Aquilini Investment Group
Previously #13, 2019
The Vancouver Canucks essentially played three playoff rounds this year, something they haven’t done since 2011. But, of course, the family that owns the city’s biggest sports franchise wasn’t able to collect revenue from the run. While crowds might be slow to come back to Rogers Arena, the future looks fairly bright for both the team and the family, as the Aquilinis are becoming a major force in the world of e-sports, and their real estate developments in Kelowna and Squamish are moving forward. A partnership on two projects with MST Development Corp. doesn’t hurt either.
11. Bob Rennie
Previously #11, 2019
To the extent that the international art world knows our fair town, it’s not because of the VAG (whose new building seems to be ebbing away and whose announcement of a new curator was met with a collective “Who?”). It’s because Rennie’s private museum in Chinatown’s Wing Sang building has quietly become one of the most influential in the world, a point underscored by the recent exhibition featuring his deep collection of iconic Black artists Barkley L. Hendricks and Lorna Simpson, which, given the current climate, might have been the most influential show in North America this past year. And while Rennie Marketing Systems had a tough year due to COVID, Rennie made sure that everyone was kept on with full pay (the increase in detached listings for his growing real estate brokerage was a plus). And then there’s his personal connections—in a Venn diagram of the names on this list, the overlap in the middle might very well be Rennie, who’s legendary for knowing and chatting with everyone in town.
Paul Joseph12. Frank Giustra
Previously #12, 2019
It speaks to Giustra’s influence that he could have made this list with just one of any of the hats he wears. As a mining magnate, his Leagold merged with Equinox Gold in a $670-million deal. As an entertainment titan, his Thunderbird Entertainment Group saw revenues jump 40 percent in Q3 with increased interest in its family programming. As a philanthropist, the year saw his Giustra Foundation continue to be a major force and benefactor in the areas of journalism programs, meals for vulnerable seniors and international refugee settlement. And as humanitarian, he was appointed co-chair of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, a globally respected organization dedicated to international conflict resolution. Any of these are impressive, but added together it makes him a multidimensional powerhouse. We don’t even need to mention the debunked rumours that Harry and Meghan were camped out at his house on Vancouver Island.
Left to right: Dr. Patricia Daly, Penny Ballem.13. Dr. Patricia Daly + Penny Ballem
Daly and Ballem are two of the most influential voices in the dual epidemics of our time: COVID-19 and the opioid crisis. While the health authority got credit for early success in taming COVID, infection rates roared back by fall—and VCH came under criticism for its selective approach to releasing case numbers, especially in schools. As for overdose-related fatalities, VCH struggled to limit the years-long carnage, with 259 deaths in the first eight months of 2020 compared to 247 in all of 2019. Daly herself admitted in April that COVID prevention measures were hurting efforts to contain the fentanyl outbreak.
14. Chris Gardner
President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
Previously #17, 2019
It speaks to how disorganized the BC Liberal Party is that the person many see as the chief government critic isn’t party leader Andrew Wilkinson or any other Liberal MLA, but Gardner, who, as president of the over 3,000-member-strong ICBA, is frequently vocal about government policies that are perceived to be anti-business. The past year has seen ups (construction continued during COVID, unlike in other jurisdictions) and downs (the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the NDP’s Community Benefits Agreement, which favours union workers for major public works), but Gardner continues to be a touchstone for the right of centre in the province.
15. Glen Clark + Jimmy Pattison
President/COO and chairman/CEO, Jim Pattison Group
Previously #8, 2019
Every year, there’s another profile written on Jimmy Pattison—and each time, there’s that question about succession. He was asked again this year—his 92nd on the planet—and confirmed to Bloomberg that, yes, he’s picked a successor, and, no, he won’t name names—though former Premier Glen Clark, his loyal No. 2, remains the odds-on favourite. Pattison’s privately held conglomerate had almost $12 billion in revenue last year, and while the pandemic took a big bite out of some businesses (like Ripley Entertainment), a strong cash position makes Pattison a likely buyer—not seller—in the coming months.
16. Terry Hui
CEO, Concord Pacific
Previously #20, 2019
In a year that was, by Vancouver standards, quiet on the real estate front, Hui and his Concord Pacific stood out, with a blockbuster $1-billion purchase of the massive St. Paul’s Hospital site. Concord Pacific is Canada’s largest community developer, and the St. Paul’s redevelopment promises to be pivotal for downtown—with residential, commercial and industrial uses all on the table. Concord has also been busy elsewhere in the past 12 months, from the Lower Mainland to Toronto, and from Seattle to London, England, where its Principal Tower—designed by Foster + Partners—was completed just before the new year.
Maggie MacPherson17. Angela Sterritt
Gitxsan journalist Angela Sterritt’s 18 years of industrious reporting (including award-winning work on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) has been leaps and bounds ahead of the mainstream media in her coverage of local police brutality. Her CBC story on an Indigenous man and his granddaughter being handcuffed after trying to open a bank account garnered international attention back in January, forcing both the police and the downtown Vancouver BMO branch to apologize. Today, Sterritt is one of the most respected voices in Canadian media, and we’re looking to her for in-depth coverage on the stuff that matters.
18. Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis
This has been something of a banner year for Lewis, the longtime Squamish Nation councillor who replaced Dustin Rivers (Khelsilem) as spokesperson in June, months after he was named chair of SFU’s board of directors. It’s Lewis’s second term as spokesperson (he served from 2013 to 2017) and he got off to a running start in August when the Nation announced it would be guaranteeing all staff and contractors a living wage going forward. The move meant a pay boost for more than a third of its 300-some workers and underscores Lewis’s desire to have the Squamish Nation take a leadership role on both social and economic issues in the years to come.
19. Ian Tostenson
One of the most vocal sectors to be slammed by COVID was the restaurant industry, and Tostenson, as head of the BCRFA, was one of the loudest, most front-and-centre voices, not only speaking about how the pandemic was impacting his constituents but also underscoring just how big a contributor the sector is to the provincial economy. Both the provincial and city governments seemed to listen—patios were approved, antiquated liquor laws were relaxed. Whether it will be enough to save large chunks of the industry remains to be seen, and Tostenson is frequently critiqued that he’s more interested in the big chains than the small operators. But there’s no doubt that his lobbying has moved the industry in a direction that will benefit everyone who’s running a kitchen.
David P. Ball20. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
It’s been a year like no other in terms of social justice coming to the mainstream forefront, and as the province and its citizens figure out how to grapple with a history of oppression of Indigenous peoples, there are few who can lead with the bona fides and authority of Grand Chief Phillip. Now in his 22nd year as president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, he has always struck a path that balances activism with pragmatism, and his voice is one that an entire generation of both political and business leaders feel they can rely on in moving forward. This year saw his support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs lend ballast to their fight against pipeline expansion, as well as support for Indigenous communities setting up their own independent controls to restrict COVID transmission in their territory.
James O'Mara21. Anthony von Mandl
Founder/CEO, Mark Anthony Group
Previously #47, 2014
That von Mandl has stayed off this list for so long is a testament to the quietness with which he employs his power. The worldwide phenom that is White Claw finally arrived in Canada this year, with most consumers having no idea that it was von Mandl’s brainchild from the start (one that he wisely chose to deploy in America first). Likewise unknown is that the rising star of Irish whiskey—Glendalough—is also another of his holdings. And while his Mission Hill maintains dominance of the national wine industry at both the medium and high ends, he’s also added Road 13, Liquidity and an ascendant CedarCreek to his Okanagan holdings—all of which are deep into the transition to organic farming.
22. Geoff Meggs
Chief of Staff, B.C. Premier’s Office
Previously #22, 2019
It’s been a relatively quiet year for Meggs—at least in terms of media coverage—but there’s no question that one of John Horgan’s most trusted aides had a strong say in the premier’s choice to call a provincial election in October. The former Vision Vancouver councillor and veteran political operator has built a career on savvy timing and must have been salivating at the prospect of a majority government staring directly at him. His chips were on the table—and he cashed in big.
Tanya Goehring23. David Eby
Previously #5, 2019
The AG is coming off two strong showings on this list (#1 in 2018, #5 last year) and while no one is saying he’s a non-entity, the days when he seemed a shoo-in to replace a bland John Horgan seem distant. Sure, his defence of ICBC is a thankless task, but where’s that vibrant non-politician everyone fell in love with? At least he’s stepped up for the restaurant industry, loosening antiquated liquor laws and calling for caps on delivery fee services. (So we’re pretty certain he’ll always get a reservation.)
24. Jeanette Jackson + Merran Smith
While these two work separately, jointly they represent the greatest chance for a green business revolution in the province. Jackson leads a team dedicated to making B.C. the go-to locale for green technology companies—an industry that’s expected to be worth $1 trillion in the near term. Smith is working the same angle to help Canada shed its dependence on fossil fuels, and she’s made a reputation as someone who can balance both business and activist goals, earning her the ear and trust of the PM, among others.
25. Ryan Reynolds + Seth Rogen
NEW; previously #45, 2018 (Rogen)
Our city’s Hollywood sweethearts haven’t forgotten their rainy roots, even amid the pandemic. In July, Reynolds helped reunite a local woman with her stolen teddy bear. In September, he announced a new local initiative for BIPOC film trainees that will be paid out of his own salary. And Rogen told us to stay home and smoke weed (via Twitter). Both heeded the call from our premier to help the knuckle draggers learn how to social distance and wear masks. Thanks, boys—you’re great ambassadors.
26. Brandt Louie
Our sister publication, BCBusiness, lists the CEO of the Top 100 companies in the province each year, and only one name appears twice: Brandt Louie, with H.Y. Louie Co. (#7) and London Drugs (#20). Let that sink in for a bit. COVID brought increased profits to both the London Drugs and IGA/Fresh Street Market stores the family runs and they saw little of the blowback other retailers experienced for clawing back increased wages. The past months have seen the reserved Louie speak out about racism and other social issues his family faced over their century-long ascendency in B.C.
27. Teri Mooring
President, BC Teachers’ Federation
The first wave of COVID had much of the province rallying around our frontline workers and applauding their sacrifice, but the second wave is seeing the 45,000-plus members of the BCTF head back to school under circumstances that are miles away from ideal. Even in “normal” years, president Mooring wields significant power to disrupt the day-to-day flow of the province through job action, and this fall and the coming months have a high chance to see some major tussling over teacher safety and responsibility as the pandemic continues to dominate life in B.C.
28. Jas Johal
Previously #42, 2019
Last year we pegged Johal, the former news personality who morphed into the MLA for Richmond-Queensborough, as the rising face of the BC Liberal Party. The NDP’s snap election was a trial-by-fire event for Johal, and it didn’t go as planned. At all. Still, this was Wilkinson’s fiasco, not his, so a run for head of the party (something he’s previously expressed interest in) isn’t out of the question. Stay tuned.
29. Janice Abbott
CEO, Atira Women’s Resource Society
Previously #37, 2019
Through Atira, Abbott has carved out a niche as a specialist in working with Vancouver’s hardest-to-house, which sadly continues to be a growth area in the city. The organization has been key in managing some of the hotels recently purchased by the province and converted into supportive housing for women, and Abbott in particular took a bold stand in strictly limiting access to the buildings during the height of the first wave of COVID, a step she likely didn’t have the authority to do, but one that supporters say saved lives.
30. Andrew Wilkinson
Leader, BC Liberal Party
Previously #34, 2018
Can we be honest? We’re not sure Wilkinson deserves to be here. While people universally admit to his book smarts (put up your hand if you know that he’s a doctor and a lawyer), he’s had an almost tragic inability to connect with even his natural constituents, let alone those who aren’t excited by a return to Liberal rule. And all these faults were laid bare by Horgan’s canny snap election and now his legacy is steering the Libs to their worst defeat in a generation. At press time, he was stepping down as Liberal party leader. Given his big brain, we trust he’ll appreciate the brutal honesty.
Carole Taylor and Joy MacPhail, photo courtesy of Fred Lee.31. Carole Taylor + Joy MacPhail
Chair, ICBC; Board Person Extraordinaire
Previously #34, 2019; #35, 2009
Joy MacPhail and Carole Taylor are members of an exclusive club of former finance ministers: MacPhail under NDP Premier Glen Clark, and Taylor under Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell. Each maintains strong ties to their party—the go-to fixer if you need an NDP or Liberal heavyweight—and each wields influence in boardrooms across North America. MacPhail in particular has kept busy as chair of the ICBC board and chair of the joint federal-provincial expert panel on the “Future of Housing Supply and Affordability.” Taylor, appointed to the Order of British Columbia this year, is also Canada chair of the Trilateral Commission, a global discussion forum founded by David Rockefeller.
32. Santa Ono
Previously #40, 2019
It’s been a turbulent time at UBC, with COVID leading to a $225-million deficit this year. But overall, President Santa Ono has impressed, and this August the university offered him another five-year term in the role. Ono is credited in particular with boosting UBC’s efforts at inclusion—with an inclusion action plan as a key part of UBC’s overall strategic plans. In its efforts to address Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, UBC also released an Indigenous strategic plan in September—making it the first university in North America to commit to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, Ono, long a powerful voice on mental health issues, has put the topic at the fore again during COVID, speaking out as UBC students return to school this fall in challenging times.
33. Ryan Beedie
President, The Beedie Development group
Previously #27, 2011
After Michael Bublé, Michael J. Fox and Joe Sakic, Beedie may be the most famous son of Burnaby. It’s been two decades since he took over the development company his father founded and turned it into one of the leading forces in Western Canada for both residential and industrial development. But it’s the founding of the Beedie Luminaries program in 2018 that’s putting a different sort of spotlight on him. Last year, 128 students from the Lower Mainland had full-ride scholarships to university, provided for by the program. It’s just the latest in a long line of philanthropic actions that saw Beedie awarded with the Order of BC this September.
34. Susan Yurkovich
In years past, a list like this would be dominated with names like MacMillan, Sauder and Ketcham—the giants who ruled when timber was king in B.C. But these days, the messaging from Yurkovich has become far more targeted and impactful on behalf of an industry that’s still dominant in the provincial economy. We hear more about the ravaging of the pine beetle and the struggles of small mills, and the industry has been happy to transfer the role of environmental bogeyman to the oil and gas sector. And, as a nice kicker, COVID brought in record profits thanks to the renovation boom, and the WTO beat back Trump’s duty on timber imports.
35. Carole James
B.C. Finance Minister and Deputy Premier
Previously #2, 2019
It came as a shock to hear that B.C.’s respected finance minister was living with Parkinson’s disease in March, when she announced that she would not be running for re-election. While James undoubtedly hoped to leave on a high note, the pandemic upended the province’s once-sterling balance sheet, with a record deficit of around $13 billion projected for the 2020-21 fiscal year. One of James’s final tasks in office: leading the caretaker government this fall as her NDP colleagues canvassed for votes.
36. Chrissy Brett
Chrissy Brett has become a controversial but powerful voice in the debates surrounding homeless camps in both Vancouver and Victoria. In regular conversations with the City, Park Board, police and residents, she’s the de facto leader of campers, asking the tough questions (like why sanitation services that are available in refugee camps in the developing world aren’t available in our tent cities) and demanding government accountability.
37. Kathy Kinloch
Previously #24, 2016
BCIT has become a favoured destination for provincial government dollars under Kinloch. Two more drops in the bucket occurred this year: $8 million to double nurse training spots in January, and over $108 million for the construction of a new mass timber student housing project in September. Kinloch has also shown an ability to adapt to the pandemic—she chaired a provincial task force on the emerging economy that released 25 recommendations in May, and in early April BCIT launched an open-learning course for frontline workers in response to the crisis.
Lindsay Siu38. Chip Wilson
Founder, Low Tide Properties
Previously #26, 2019
In a city that’s obsessed in equal measure with athleisurewear and real estate, it’s only natural that a man with stakes in both would find himself on this power list. He’s had a busy year with his development firm, Low Tide, which now has significant holdings throughout Gastown and along the False Creek Flats. His multi-building South Flatz project near Emily Carr hopes to capitalize on the soon-to-break-ground Broadway Line expansion at Great Northern Way. He’s still got some skin in the sportswear game too, with a sub-10-percent stake at Lulu and now $800 million invested in a joint venture that acquired Amer Sports, which owns brands Solomon and Arc’teryx, amongst others. He’s also been expanding his philanthropic activity, through the family’s Wilson 5 Foundation, including an $8.4-million donation in April to the aquatic research facility Pender Ocean Discovery Station (PODS). His frequent need to publicly express himself (like his recent MEC rant) continues to make him a polarizing figure in the city.
39. Shayne Ramsay
CEO, BC Housing
Previously #37, 2019
Affordable housing has been a hot-button issue for years, but the debate took on greater urgency in 2020 as homelessness numbers soared across B.C. Ramsay, who marks 20 years as CEO of BC Housing this year, is helping to execute the province’s 10-year plan (including the Community Housing Fund) to build 3,000 new affordable homes. With issues like Strathcona’s tent city and the potentially devastating effects of COVID on the housing vulnerable, we expect that Ramsay’s dance card will be full going forward.
40. Bridgitte Anderson
CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
When Anderson took the reins of the board last November, she had the wind in her sails. The former GM of Edelman Vancouver was the first female CEO in the organization’s 132-year history and was taking over at a time of tremendous economic growth. When COVID hit, Anderson moved swiftly to survey her over 5,800 members—many now struggling for survival—and, in September, leading a coalition of business groups, produced a $2.5-billion economic recovery plan—arguing for more child-care spaces and a small business grant program, among other things, to help weather the storm.
41. Karen Ward + Guy Felicella
Advocates for the Drug-Using Community
While the world sprung into action to combat the dangers of COVID, another pandemic continued to devastate, undeterred: the opioid crisis. With death tolls outnumbering that of the virus, addiction and contaminated drugs are still decimating the population of the Downtown Eastside. The province has been criticized for its lack of meaningful action, but harm-reduction advocates Karen Ward and Guy Felicella are pushing for change and support for the drug-using community and helped forward the debate on drug policy in the process.
Ward, as a longtime DTES drug user, has a contract with the city to advise it on drug policy, overdose response and drug-supply safety, as well as advising on poverty reduction and information dissemination about contaminated drugs. Felicella, meanwhile, has become a sought-after motivational speaker, and TED Talk alum, who has spoken about safe supply and overcoming his own addiction. He works with VCH, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and school districts on outreach and numerous awareness initiatives.
42. Sangeeta Lalli
Regional Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office
If the federal Liberals are to return to majority government status, the path to victory will undoubtedly pass through B.C. Last year, they lost six of their 17 seats—and one of their B.C. stars, former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, left the party and beat them as an independent MP. Longtime operative Sangeeta Lalli was appointed regional affairs advisor to Justin Trudeau in February, with the task of rebuilding the party in B.C. Her biggest challenge: threading the needle on energy and the environment, given the Liberals’ unpopular decision among left-leaning voters to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline.
43. Jill Earthy
CEO, Women’s Enterprise Centre
If you’re a woman in the finance sector in Vancouver, chances are you’ve either had coffee with Jill Earthy or you’re currently trying to. Since she became CEO of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs in 2007 (and left in 2012), Earthy has held positions at a variety of organizations centred on disrupting the investing space, including FrontFundr, Futurpreneur Canada and Female Funders. This year, she took her talents to the Women’s Enterprise Centre, where she helps the 161,000 or so women business owners in B.C. grow their companies. A natural fit, really.
44. Gerri Sinclair
B.C. Innovation Commissioner
Previously #31, 2017
After years championing and investing in B.C. tech through her role as managing director of Kensington Capital and the $100-million BC Tech Fund, Sinclair fittingly replaced Alan Winter as innovation commissioner in July. The former Microsoft and Vancity executive will have a large say in steering one of the province’s most important sectors through the pandemic.
Courtesy of BC Green Party45. Sonia Furstenau
The Green MLA for Cowichan Valley had only been the leader of her party for a week when she found herself lambasting Premier Horgan’s decision to call an election in media interviews. But life moves fast and Furstenau, who was a high school teacher before her foray into politics, was tasked with building off the B.C. Green Party’s most successful election in its history. The party may have managed to keep its seat count at three (depending on a recount), but will have much less power in the legislature going forward. It'll be up to Furstenau to keep the party relevant.
Courtesy of UBC46. Steven Lewis Point
After serving as B.C.’s 28th lieutenant governor, a provincial court judge and the chief commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, Steven Lewis Point can add “UBC Chancellor” to his resume. Point is a member of the Skowkale First Nation, and is the first Indigenous person to fill the role of chancellor. Point was just appointed this summer, but no doubt he’ll bring his years of advocacy work to the table as he presides over convocation and reps the university at other events.
47. Anne Giardini
SFU Chancellor, Board Member
Previously #44, 2019
Former forestry executive and author Anne Giardini continued her quiet impact on both business and education as she served her sixth and final year as chancellor of SFU. Under her watch, the university’s research income was the fastest growing in Canada and though she’s stepping down from this leadership role, Giardini’s impact will still be felt in her many other positions of influence in the community: she’s chair of the BC Achievement Foundation, director of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and recently was appointed to the K92 Mining and Pembina Institute boards of directors. In other words: she’ll be keeping herself busy.
48. Thomas Fung
CEO, Fairchild Group
Fung’s conglomerate has a lot of consumer-facing businesses—including the Chinese-language Fairchild TV and radio network, and Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre—which were hit hard by COVID. But perhaps the biggest long-term risk facing the Hong Kong-born mogul is the deteriorating political situation in his native city. Part of Fairchild’s success has been partnering with Asian brands, especially Hong Kong-based brands, looking for a North American presence—and that’s threatened by the recent U.S. move to revoke the territory’s special trading and economic status. Also threatened: the family’s Fairchild Capital Management incubator business, based in Hong Kong and run by Fung’s only son, Joseph.
49. Peter P. Dhillon
CEO, Richberry Group
Previously #41, 2019
For Canada’s cranberry king, the year got off to an explosive start: in February, in his capacity as chair of the Ocean Spray cooperative (for which Dhillon’s Richberry Group is a major supplier), Dhillon had to fire the company’s CEO after an alleged harassment case. Also that month, B.C.’s Food Security Task Force—which Dhillon chaired—released its recommendations on how the province could achieve greater agricultural independence (leaning heavily into technological innovation). As a director at the Bank of Canada, Dhillon has been providing oversight at a time when the bank, under a freshly minted governor, is taking unprecedented monetary action.
50. Kennedy Stewart + Gil Kelley
And you thought Wilkinson had a bad year? At least he was just invisible. Mayor Stewart, on the other hand, was able to alienate both sides of the Oppenheimer Park problem and push other hard decisions off to the Park Board (like booze on beaches). Councillors from both sides decry his lack of leadership, and when he does show up, it’s either to claim the city is broke or get caught on camera publicly breaking the province’s social distancing rules. GM of planning Kelley fared little better, but he squeaks in by evidently winning a power play in city hall with the departed Sadhu Johnston. So at least he has one win under his belt.