The Vancouver Power 50 2013

Some uses of power are obvious. Christy Clark’s landslide win in May, for instance, spoke to the impressive influence the BC Liberals continue to enjoy in this province. Pollsters predicted her demise, but Clark never deviated from the plan. The next 49 on this list, however, have been trickier to nail. Business, education, trade, the arts, and, yes, marijuana are all represented. Underpinning every choice: a particular appreciation for those who are building this region. Sometimes that means actual towers, no matter how contentious. But at others, we have celebrated a clutch of people creating changes that may take years to become apparent



Christy Clark

PremierHer often wild and bumpy ride as premier was supposed to have ended in May, according to pundits and pollsters. But Clark never believed them. Instead, she led the B.C. Liberals to a historic, come-from-behind election win that has given her a grip on power she didn’t previously enjoy. No longer concerned about a fractious caucus that always seemed to be on the verge of rebellion, Clark rules the Liberal domain with an iron fist. After all, many of the MLAs in Victoria owe their jobs to her brilliant campaigning. The tireless Clark used the promise that liquefied natural gas development holds—to create jobs and eliminate debt—to persuade a skeptical public the Liberals deserved four more years in office. The only blotch on the victory was her defeat in her own riding of Vancouver–Point Grey. No problem: she coaxed Ben Stewart to step down as MLA in the safe Liberal riding of Westside-Kelowna and easily won a by-election. Where a year ago the Liberals were considering a name change to address a tattered and damaged brand, it’s now the New Democratic Party in search of an identity, not to mention a new leader. This has many now thinking that the unsinkable Christy Clark could be premier for some time.


Gregor Robertson

MayorLove him or hate him, Vancouver’s five-year mayor is remaking this city in a way that won’t soon be forgotten. In his dogged pursuit of Vancouver as a green city with a creative economy and housing for everyone, he has spearheaded an aggressive plan the last two years for bike lanes and future rapid transit and pushed through equally energetic efforts to make room for more apartments and townhouses. He has also redefined the city as a crucible for high-tech and small-business innovation—a far cry from its long-standing image as the service centre for a resource-based province. Plus, his increasingly fluent Mandarin is winning him fans in the city’s ever-more-influential Chinese community. A sign of how much Robertson matters: he’s got a lot of people in the city riled up, but just as many (polls say) admire his vision and determination.What was your highest point in 2013? A tie: landing the TED Talks and seeing street homelessness drop 66 percent from 2008.Lowest point? Learning new evidence on the random violent attacks related by people with severe, untreated mental illnesses, prompting VPD chief Jim Chu and I to declare a crisis.


Jim Pattison

Chair and CEO, Jim Pattison GroupB.C.’s richest man got his start selling cars and has since expanded into radio stations, outdoor advertising, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums among other disparate businesses. But the corner of the empire earning the most attention these days is groceries. In Western Canada, the Overwaitea group has more than 125 stores operating under banners such as Save-On-Foods, PriceSmart, and Urban Fare, and it’s estimated to have annual sales of about $3.5 billion—accounting for almost half of his $7.5 billion annual revenues. In the wake of Sobeys’s purchase of the Western Canadian Safeway stores, Overwaitea is now a likely target for large eastern grocers, such as Metro, who want to expand west. Or the elusive billionaire might be planning to expand the Overwaitea chain on his own rather than selling out. As with much of Pattison’s very private business dealings—including the perennial question of who will succeed him as CEO—his next move is anybody’s guess.


Rich Coleman

Minister of Natural Gas Development & Housing; Deputy PremierWhen many Libs were running for the panic room, Coleman stuck it out as Christy Clark’s chief ally in cabinet. At the time, observers thought his loyalty was quaint but misguided. Look who’s laughing now: not only is Coleman deputy premier; as of June, he is also in charge of Clark’s favoured file as Minister of Natural Gas Development, the resource that she keeps saying will change the face of this province. And he also hung on to the housing portfolio, which he’s used to rebuild social housing in Vancouver. (Half of the 14 major projects he steered through treasury board have now been built, housing more than 600.) He’s not done fixing this town yet.


Dianne Watts

Mayor, City of SurreyThe Surrey that Watts imagined eight years ago is finally beginning to rise. Amid what used to be big-box parking lots and fast-food joints, Surrey’s new City Hall opens any day now, joining the new library as a cornerstone of the new city centre. Towers are being built, and King George has become a boulevard instead of a highway. Watts doesn’t have quite the provincial clout she did last year at this time, when she was viewed by many (possibly even herself) as the likely leader of the B.C. Liberals once Christy Clark was wiped off the map. But she’s still a formidable force in the region, as she continues to fight to transform this one-time bedroom community into a city with a downtown, a light-rail network, and its own economy.


Peter Wall

Founder, Wall Financial Corp.Anyone who doubts what kind of pull developer Peter Wall wields in the city only has to look at his most prominent creation. Thirteen years ago, his desire for a tall black tower to complete his trio on Burrard Street led to a standoff with the city. He was ordered to put clear glass on the top part of the tower after a tussle partway through construction. This year, city hall allowed him to replace it with the black glass he’d originally wanted. (Sure, he was also a major backer of Premier Christy Clark when everyone else was ditching her.) He’s a cultural force in the city, putting up the money for everything from brain research to opera performances. And he manages to swing bold development projects with the Vision council (another recipient of his largesse) that no one else can. But the black tower kinda says it all.


Darren Entwistle

CEO, Telus Corp.The smallest of Canada’s big three telcos has perfected the art of being the big fish in a small pond: Telus dominates the Western Canadian telcom market while eschewing the sexier broadcast assets that cause chief rivals Rogers and Bell no shortage of headaches. As a bonus, this September, U.S. giant Verizon Inc. decided to pass on the Canadian wireless market, despite mad efforts by the feds to boost competition, meaning your monthly bill isn’t coming down anytime soon. More good news for Entwistle: in July, his company announced a 58-storey, $400-million tower in downtown Calgary to be dubbed Telus Sky and designed by Danish rock-star architect Bjarke Ingels, following close on the heels of Vancouver’s own architectural marvel and new Telus HQ, Telus Garden. That $750-million mixed-use complex is expected to be completed by 2015.Lowest point in 2013? The floods in southern Alberta this summer were Canada’s worst natural disaster to date, and impacted hundreds of thousands of Albertans—amongst them, 14,000 Telus employees and retirees.


Bob Rennie

Owner, Rennie Marketing Systems“Just be you,” he’s said to have whispered to Christy Clark as she stood to acknowledge her win. He’d been by her side throughout the campaign, a formidable scorekeeper and fundraiser even when her capital was low. (He did stop dining at power centre Yew at the Four Seasons in the spring—political arguments with other diners kept spoiling the food—but he’s back now with a vengeance.) Days later she returned the favour at his annual development talk, where his insights into our demographics and his support of a subsidized retail zone in the Downtown Eastside defined a year’s conversations. In fact, with Shannon Mews nearly sold out and the Olympic Village (neither site likely for density even 10 years ago) down to a $300 million debt, it’s been a banner year. Now, if the collector and gallerist can just bury the hatchet with the vagabond VAG.What’s your favourite way to unwind? Walking at 5:30 most mornings. Speaking to Europe and back East about the art collection.What six words should mark your tombstone? It’s all happening at the zoo!


Mike Magee

Chief of Staff, City of VancouverIn the triumvirate running Vancouver, it’s chief of staff Magee who finesses the political strategy, massages reporters, and keeps the council team together. A volatile negotiator who can be Hollyhock Zen one day and Veep-level incendiary the next, he is the mayor’s sounding board and relentless promoter. The two even travelled together with their families to Nicaragua this year for a two-week volunteer stint at a nonprofit (plus some surfing). But playtime is rare. Magee, a former hockey player, still sees political life as a series of goals to be scored. Getting TED Talks to relocate to Vancouver, check. Positioning the mayor as part of the international smart-cities set, check. Negotiating with the province to get a win in the transit-funding debacle…working on that.Highest point in 2013? A remarkable 70,000 people participating in the First Nations reconciliation walk despite the torrential rains. Made me very proud of Vancouver.Lowest point? The death of Waldo Brino, a great leader from Vancouver’s Latino community.What six words should mark your tombstone? I’ll be right back!


Jim Chu

Chief Constable, Vancouver Police Dept.In this age when every civilian does double duty as a smartphone-wielding whistleblower, being a police chief is no kind of fun. Luckily the Shanghai-born Chu (his family emigrated to the East Side when he was three) continues to be adept at getting ahead of stories—this year’s range from his support of the controversial Bill C-30 to a string of citizen-documented police incidents—by directly responding to the media whenever a fire flares up. His recent criticism of police having to deal with mental-health issues is striking a human chord, but it’s his commonsense approach to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana that will really bolster public support and raise his profile nationally as pot politics take the federal stage.Highest point in 2013? Going over 300 persons recommended for rioting charges after the Stanley Cup riots.Lowest point? Seeing sad cases involving the mentally ill.


Robin Silvester

President & CEO, Port Metro VancouverSince taking over the port four years ago, Silvester has probably heard the phrase “Gateway to Asia” a million times. With its 600 kilometres of shoreline, 16 municipalities have their imprint on the port. One First Nation has claimed it, and many others see it in their traditional territory. “The port has become somewhat more controversial and it’s something Robin has become very aware of. He’s been actively trying to reach out to a broader community,” says Sarah Morgan-Silvester, the past chair of the port. “He’s very comfortable inviting input from others.” Last year, Port Metro Vancouver handled 124 million tonnes of cargo, and it’s expecting to exceed that this year. That’s partly driven by shipping more coal than ever before at the same time crude petroleum exports have risen 35 percent. Tanker traffic is also increasing. The port has always maintained Vancouver can handle more. A lot more. Currently about 100 crude oil and chemical tankers call on the port each year. If the Kinder Morgan project of sending Alberta crude through B.C.’s coast receives approval, the projection is 400 tankers a year. That’s a fraction of other major ports like Rotterdam, which handles 8,206 tankers a year. And Rotterdam looks like Vancouver compared to Singapore. That port takes in 22,280 tankers annually. That’s a gateway that thrills some, worries others.


Penny Ballem

Manager, City of VancouverVancouver’s larger-than-life city manager is the most powerful person in the city, some insist. She’s not. But to many on the front lines, it seems like she must be. The former B.C. deputy health minister manages every file at the city “as though she’s saving the Olympic Village,” says one close observer. She is in the meeting and hands-on, whether it’s a question of coming up with a plan to tackle mental illness, deciding whether the Vancouver Art Gallery should get access to city land, or laying out a new deal for community centres. There’s some question about whether this polarizing commander might get out of the way before an election. But for now, Ballem rules city operations.What six words should mark your tombstone? She had a wicked sense of humour. Who should be #1? The new pope.


The Aquilini Family: Luigi, Francesco, Paolo & Roberto

Aquilini Investment GroupThe greatest Aquilini-related disappointment this year—well, except for Game 4 against the Sharks—was the sealed settlement in September of Francesco and Taliah Aquilini’s divorce; gossip mongers hoped through trial discovery to receive, for the first time, a clear and public accounting of a family empire reportedly worth over $5 billion. Instead, we must make do with a diligent accounting published in the Sun, listing, in addition to sports assets like the Canucks and Rogers Arena, land holdings (over 30,000 acres in Canada, the U.S., and Italy; 5,000 acres near Pitt Meadows, almost all within the ALR, form the largest holding in Greater Vancouver); a three-million-square-foot blueberry/cranberry processing plant (they’re North America’s largest producer); a 670-head dairy farm; real estate and 44 hotels across the continent; and development partnerships under way with the Tsawwassen, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh first nations—that last, a 2,000-home, $1.8-billion development in North Vancouver. Their philanthropy is said to be equally diverse and equally tight-lipped.


Dan Doyle

Chief of Staff, British ColumbiaOf the many appointments Christy Clark has made since becoming premier, none has been as important as Doyle’s. He arrived in Victoria in 2012 with Clark in the midst of another crisis: the sudden resignation of then–chief of staff Ken Boessenkool over an inappropriate encounter with a government employee in a Victoria bar. Doyle took over the position and instantly instilled a discipline and professionalism in Clark’s office that had been largely absent. The former BC Hydro board chair and VANOC executive leaves partisan gamesmanship to others, preferring to focus on the many tough policy challenges the government faces. Most consider him the second most powerful person in the capital.


Ian Gillespie

CEO, Westbank Projects Gillespie keeps changing Vancouver’s skyline. He did it with Woodward’s and then the Shangri-La. And in his latest twist, he’s behind one of the most talked-about buildings in recent years: the 52-storey swirling towers project by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. In late October, the city unanimously approved rezoning for the development, with its 500 units and pointy bottom broadening as it twirls toward the sky. The towers will have a prime but under-wowed downtown location by the on-ramp to the Granville Street Bridge. Gillespie, who first met Ingels in former city planning director Brent Toderian’s office, says he believes people are really trying to have a more creative and innovative city. “Architecture has the ability to solve many of the problems we face: the issues of sustainability, the issues of affordability.”


Ed Fast

Minister of International TradeThere isn’t a federal cabinet minister who spends less time in Ottawa than Fast. As Minister of International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway, Fast Eddie, as he’s been known since childhood, spends four months of the year in Asia trying to deepen Canada’s trade and investment ties. The three-term MP, lawyer, and Mennonite from Abbotsford played a key role in the recently announced trade agreement with Europe. Next up: the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership accord that will significantly liberalize trade with Asian nations. Among his many tasks, Fast is trying to entice Asian multinationals to set up North American home bases in Vancouver.


Frank Giustra

President & CEO, Fiore Financial Corp.; Founder, Clinton Giustra Enterprise PartnershipWe have our share of millionaires, but none quite like this one. The CEO of investment bank Yorkton Securities in the 1990s spent the 2000s valuating resource companies including Wheaton River Minerals and Northern Orion into the stratosphere. Fortified financially, he’s spent the 2010s following his many interlocking passions: film (having revived Lionsgate, he’s now pushing hard with producer/distributor Thunderbird Films; big pending project? Blade Runner 2); social justice; and, unexpectedly, olive oil. The justice comes supersized courtesy of a close friendship with Bill Clinton; the pair front the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, which brings market thinking to Third World philanthropy. Clinton’s many Vancouver visits (a Board of Trade talk by Hillary is coming in 2014) are courtesy of Giustra, as was International Crisis Group president Louise Arbour’s in 2012. (He’s on that board, too.) And the oil? A business that started on a holiday whim led, owing to his characteristic drive, to gold (of 700 entries) at May’s inaugural New York International Olive Oil Competition.What six words should mark your tombstone? Born 1957. Died 2093.


Evan Wood

Codirector, Urban Health Research InitiativeThis internist has more letters after his name (MD, PhD, ABIM, FRCPC) than a Scrabble board, but pedigree aside, he’s more comfortable strolling the Downtown Eastside (he was recently named research chair in inner city medicine at UBC) than the fairways of Shaughnessy Golf Course. He made his name with his work on HIV-treatment strategies, but these days he’s known for being the most lucid voice speaking out for marijuana legalization or going toe-to-toe with the feds over the survival of Insite and winning.What Vancouver intersection best represents for you the heart of the city? Hastings and Hamilton brings together the edge of the Downtown Eastside with the cruise ship and other tourist traffic as well as the edge of the central business district.


Shayne Ramsay

CEO, BC HousingEvery year, a list of the biggest new-home builders gets published and the usual suspects are named: Polygon, Concord Pacific, Onni. But one name is always left off the list: BC Housing, where Ramsay presides over what is in essence a massive development company that builds or renovates 1,000-plus units a year, year after year. (It also provides subsidized housing or rent supplements to 98,000 B.C. households and manages a budget above $600 million.) Ramsay has been remarkably resilient despite being head of the kind of government operation critics love to go after. Since taking over in 2000, he’s survived the Liberals’ initial freeze on all social housing, media stories about BC Housing expense reports, numerous reports about wife Janice Abbott’s management of Atira (which always mention their connection), and Vancouver’s constant demands to build faster and house more homeless people.


Michael Audain

Chair, Polygon Homes & Audain Foundation for the Visual ArtsThe developer calls 2013 “the most thrilling” year of his life. His Polygon Homes, which this year completed its 23,000th dwelling, has now built and sold more than $7.5 billion worth of suburban townhomes and condos—with 7,000 in the pipeline, soon to pop up in 10 municipalities around the region. Such success bolsters Audain’s connection to the art world: he was appointed to the Director’s Council at the Museum of Modern Art (“a good place for stock tips”); construction is under way in Whistler, where the $30-million-plus Patkau-designed Audain Art Museum will open in late 2015; and the Charles Edenshaw exhibition at the VAG—a long-time goal of Audain’s—was principally sponsored by his Audain Foundation.


James Moore

Minister of IndustryOur man in Ottawa only grew more powerful this spring when Harper announced (via Twitter; the media aren’t to be trusted) that his erstwhile heritage minister was moving up to industry. Moore will be missed on the museums beat, but his corporate matchmaking skills are already in strong demand. In charge of competition, he’s overseeing acquisitions by Telus and Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as sorting out the telcom sector as a new player enters the market. In concert with Tory policy, he’s signalled it’s consumers first on the wireless front, also making noise about legislation to control our credit card fees (the world’s highest) and to allow subscriptions to TV stations outside bundles. If that sounds like big government interference (he’s also meant to nudge Christy Clark on the energy file), don’t kid yourself: he’s Harper’s man—for now.


Stewart Phillip

President, Union of B.C. Indian ChiefsThe priority that Ottawa and the B.C. Liberal government have attached to resource development has given aboriginal groups in this province leverage—and power—they’ve never known before. That newfound clout is often verbalized by Phillip in his role as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. His has been the resistant voice the federal government has encountered in its efforts to get B.C.’s First Nations leaders onboard with building oil pipelines to the coast. Meanwhile, the former chief of the Penticton Indian Band has also been a strident critic of the RCMP, saying the relationship between First Nations communities and the Mounties is broken and needs to be addressed.What was your lowest point in 2013? May 16, 2013, and the outcome of the B.C. provincial election.What Vancouver intersection best represents for you the heart of the city? Main and Hastings—it’s a graphic reminder of the urgent need to reform this province’s, and this country’s, socioeconomic legislation and policies.


Ryan Holmes

CEO, HootSuiteIt hasn’t been a great year and a half for Vancouver’s tech scene, with Disney closing down its Pixar Studios in October, laying off 100, and Rockstar Games and Radical Entertainment both shuttering in the summer of 2012. But if your name is Ryan Holmes, all of that hardly matters. The man behind HootSuite (which now counts over seven million users of its social-media dashboard) went to the venture capital markets in August and raised US$165 million, the largest private placement for a Canadian tech company in years. Then, in October, HootSuite held a job fair to fill 100 new positions. Holmes—who last year secured city-owned land to help his company expand from Gastown to Mount Pleasant—has big ambitions for Vancouver but thinks much more needs to be done to nurture the local tech community. “I want to make my city, Vancouver, into a real Silicon Valley North,” he wrote in a September op-ed piece in the Province. “My colleagues and I want to grow HootSuite into a billion-dollar company, then fund a new generation of tech ventures in the city. But without homegrown talent, it’s never going to happen. High schools and colleges need to funnel students into engineering programs now and send the message that the jobs of tomorrow are in tech.”What was your lowest point in 2013? I try not to think of it that way. I don’t have time to sit around wishing I could change what has happened.


Andrew Petter

President & Vice-Chancellor, SFUSimon Fraser University, incorporated 48 years ago, has—like everyone since the ’60s—traded in its granny glasses and placards in favour of Clearly Contacts and iPads. Its current iteration, defined by president and vice-chancellor Petter, focuses on community engagement, a canny choice for an institution seeking to differentiate itself from the big (UBC, with its sponsorship and research heft) and small (the five colleges elevated to university status under Gordon Campbell). This engagement picked up steam in 2013, with new branding, a Public Square conference on the province’s economic future, and ongoing green innovations at UniverCity, the Burnaby Mountain development that will generate its own energy (and controversy, through its application to TransLink for a dedicated gondola). Before Petter taught constitutional law, he was part of Mike Harcourt’s NDP caucus, tasked with the tough portfolios: aboriginal affairs (during the treaty commission startup), forestry (during the renewal plan), health (more sweeping changes), and attorney-general’s office, where he advocated for same-sex marriage—a first for a provincial government. Beneath that smiling exterior, then, a warrior’s heart.


Ron Burnett

President & Vice-Chancellor, Emily CarrWhen the London-born academic joined the college back in 1996, he was bullish on three things: the importance of art in everyday life, the role of partner businesses in offering excellence to students, and the need to transform the school (then a college) into a 21st-century institution. Ten years on, he’s seeing his dreams come to life. Next summer Emily Carr University of Art + Design chooses its P3 partner, who will build, finance, and for 30 years maintain a $134 million Great Northern Way campus geared to modern (read: digitally connected) students, come 2016. Partnerships are up tenfold to 300, and new media and design are so enmeshed in this city, Gregor Robertson puts us in the No. 3 slot across the continent. Our $3 billion sector will see many of its employees coming out of this forward-looking institution or the district it anchors.What six words should mark your tombstone? He always tried his best.What Vancouver intersection best represents for you the heart of the city? Cambie and Broadway. An area that has grown and reveals the best combination of density, transportation, and diversity.


Liz Evans & Mark Townsend

Cofounders, Portland Hotel SocietyThe influential Portland Hotel Society, begun in 1993, oversees an impressive roster of diverse community, health, and housing agencies in the Downtown Eastside. Its head and heart: Liz Evans, a psychiatric nurse, and her partner/codirector, Mark Townsend. PHS’s newest social enterprise, East Van Roasters, provides employment for the female residents of the Rainier Hotel, creating organic “bean-to-bar” chocolate and serving coffee roasted and prepared on site. And its supervised-injection flagship, Insite, which it operates along with Vancouver Coastal Health, celebrated 10 years (with zero overdose deaths) in September. Said Evans: “Insite is just a tiny step forward but more it’s an icon of our collective humanity. It is a symbol of systemic change. It welcomes people who are broken. It allows us to heal together.”What was your lowest point in 2013? The federal government’s cuts to the Rainier Women’s Treatment Program resulted in the effective closure of the only dedicated women’s residential treatment facility in the Downtown Eastside. It was heartbreaking as hundreds walked to raise the profile of these events on the same day the Missing Women Commission of Enquiry report was released.What Vancouver intersection best represents for you the heart of the city? Main and Hastings. Shocked by the Downtown Eastside when we arrived, we had family from England cry when they came to visit. It seemed abhorrent that this degree of poverty and suffering should exist in this city, in such a beautiful country.


Suzanne Anton

Minister of Justice & Attorney-GeneralOnly 11 years ago, she was a rookie park-board commissioner, elected partly on the basis of her sterling record with Dunbar soccer parents. Now, this former Crown prosecutor, who had the smarts not to go after Clark personally during the run-up to the 2005 civic election when Clark was trying to win a mayoral nomination against Sam Sullivan, is the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. (Sullivan, who called Clark an interloper from the ’burbs, is not a cabinet minister of any description.) That’s a big, complicated portfolio that has her in charge of everything from liquor licencing (should we lighten up?) to delicate negotiations with the federal government about any number of issues (supervised-injection sites, anyone). So far, Anton has kept things light—“Celebrating Official Opening of Aboriginal Children’s Village.” But her job will get weightier very fast.What six words should mark your tombstone? Always keep moving forward.


Thomas Fung

CEO, Fairchild GroupThe retail/media mogul opens the 300,000-square-foot Aberdeen Square—the third phase of his Richmond commercial, residential, and shopping empire—next summer with a budget of $90 million, just one project in his eclectic holdings. For more on the activities of the Fairchild CEO and aspiring screenwriter, see page 48.Lowest point in 2013? It has yet to be profitable.What is your favourite way to unwind? Hanging out with unsophisticated pals.What six words should mark your tombstone? Work hard. Play hard. Die hard.


Art Sterritt

Executive Director, Coastal First NationsOf the many voices rising up against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, perhaps none carries more weight than Sterritt’s. The executive director of Coastal First Nations has been an articulate and strident opponent of the Enbridge project from the beginning. He has warned Ottawa that any attempt to push on with Gateway over the objections of north coastal aboriginal groups will be a messy mistake; no one thinks he’s bluffing. Gitxsan-bo