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Who powers our city?
The Power 50 list today looks a lot different than it did back in 2001, when this tradition began. While once it was a veritable lookbook of CEOs, today, we recognize that power can reveal itself in a range of ways. Of course, politics and business continue to shape our city, but it’s easier, now, to see power in modern dance, in policy-making, in community-building, too. So yes, you’ll find both the mayor and a meme account here on our ranking of the city’s biggest power-players—but that’s the way we like it.
Numbers 1 to 10
Numbers 11 to 20
Numbers 21 to 30
Numbers 31 to 40
Numbers 41 to 50
The Hall of Fame
Premier of B.C.
Previously #2, 2023
One of the advantages of becoming premier mid-mandate—without having to craft your own platform and face the verdict of voters—is that you can test drive a few policies first. David Eby took the reins from John Horgan in November 2022, halfway between elections, and he’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since.
While it often seems like housing is Eby’s single focus—with a tax on speculation, legislation to reduce short-term rentals, province-wide zoning changes, plus a new multibillion-dollar provincial housing construction program set to launch in early 2024—he’s also taken on the challenge of credentialing with gusto, introducing legislation last fall aimed at reducing barriers for internationally trained professionals. And under his leadership, the NDP started providing funds for free prescription contraception in April—a first for Canada.
Some of his moves feel like political gimmickry—such as the $100 BC Hydro credit or his PR campaign against the independent Bank of Canada, demanding lower interest rates—but there’s little doubt that Eby is a compelling communicator. He ranks as one of Canada’s most popular premiers and is far outpacing the opposition (though he and the NDP benefit from a splintered centre-right vote). Eby is also credited, by our panel, for making a concerted effort to elevate younger, more diverse voices within cabinet (see Niki Sharma, #7, and Bowinn Ma, #11)—a contrast to Horgan, who relied on many 1990s stalwarts for key posts. Still, two years is a lifetime in politics—and Eby has to hope that the sour mood of voters, which has felled long-serving incumbents from Manitoba to Argentina, dissipates by the time B.C. voters step into the polling booth this October.
First Nations governments; developer
Previously #3, 2023
Though the governments of Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation are powerful independently, together, they hold a particularly potent authority over the region. And while the MST Development Corporation—a privately owned, for-profit development arm—operates at a distance from these three governments, it couldn’t exist without the impressive framework the nations have created (or without the input of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh representatives who sit on its board). On paper, they may be distinct entities, but together, they’re building a legacy.
The list of projects MST Development Corp. is involved in at this point in history is staggering. Its real estate portfolio is worth an estimated $5 billion. There’s the ongoing development of St. Paul’s, the 10,000 homes slated for the Jericho Lands, the involvement with the Broadway subway line, the influence on the Vancouver Art Gallery design, the bid for the 2030 Olympic Games. But what keeps them on the tip of every conversation about power is that they aren’t just reshaping the city—they’re redefining what’s possible. Last year, MST’s big move was something never seen before in Vancouver: pitching a development that is bigger and higher than in their first proposal. The vision for Jericho Lands is for 13,000 new homes (up from the previous concept of 10,000) that sprawl over 13.6 million square feet and 49 storeys. Also in the new plan is a proposed rapid transit station, an elementary school and neighbourhood amenities that include grocery stores, retail shops and even a hotel. Basically, MST is thinking far bigger than housing—it’s creating a whole neighbourhood. In a city that’s chronically housing-deficient, these commitments will be a game changer.
And while the Jericho Lands project is one that won’t be completed for at least two decades, it’s already shaking up the city, with rezoning phases already in progress and powerful partnerships gelling into place.
Insiders say that meetings with MST leadership are among their most important and impactful. If this is the case now, just imagine what power the organization will hold when their portfolio reaches its estimated future value of $30 billion.
Ryan, previously #35, 2023; Cindy, new
Ryan Beedie’s name is all over the big new developments in Mount Pleasant and the AbCellera lab, as well as a controversial development permit for condos at 105 Keefer that will likely reshape Chinatown. But he and wife Cindy have been moving ground outside of the property game, too. The couple’s philanthropic work is among the most visible in the city, thanks to swishy high-profile events like their Rock ’N’ the Park, which brought Bryan Adams to Malkin Bowl and raised $2 million for the Food Bank. Elsewhere, the developer broke ground on the new YWCA Cindy Beedie Place, a sanctuary for women and children fleeing violence that will feature 56 long-term affordable units; made a $5-million donation to a long-term care facility in Delta; and gave away $6.9 million in student scholarships last year.
Premier’s Health Systems Specialist; Chair, Vancouver Coastal Health
Previously #28, 2023
It consumes 38 percent of the provincial budget, almost $31 billion annually, and yet B.C.’s health care system is under constant threat of collapse, with long waits for lifesaving treatments, a broken paramedical system and a dearth of family doctors, among other issues. Enter Dr. Fixit: in January 2023, Premier David Eby hired Dr. Penny Ballem—a physician and UBC professor of medicine, as well as former deputy health minister (2001-6) and Vancouver city manager (2008-15)—to be his “health systems specialist.” In this role, Ballem will “advise the premier, minister of health, deputy minister to the minister of health, and chief of staff on matters related to health care in British Columbia”—for $13,750 a month, according to her offer letter.
While her mandate is detailed in broad strokes, the premier makes clear that he expects Ballem to lean into her “expertise, community connections, innovative ideas and knowledge of how government works to ensure health care works for people.” Key priorities for Eby include primary care, developing a new cancer care strategy and strengthening ambulance services. Ballem (who’s also chair of the Vancouver Coastal Health board and was named to the Order of B.C. this past August) is widely lauded for her ability to get things done, though some critics wonder whether Eby’s habit of hiring “special advisers” (there’s also one for housing and Indigenous reconciliation) is a sign the premier is unwilling to give his cabinet ministers full control. Either way, Eby was clearly impressed with the last contract Ballem undertook, leading the rollout of B.C.’s COVID vaccination program. Now he has shown his gratitude by handing her a thankless, seemingly Sisyphean, task.
Co-founder and Chair, Vancouver Chinatown Foundation
Previously #19, 2023
There’s a whole community of folks rallying to revitalize Chinatown—but if the neighbourhood has one champion, it’s Vancouver Chinatown Foundation’s own Carol Lee.
In the past year, her foundation’s Chinatown Storytelling Centre not only hosted new exhibitions that dive deep into the lived history of the area, it has also produced accessible, engaging events (like an evening devoted to celebrating Bruce Lee). Last fall’s Light Up Chinatown festival—an extravaganza of live performance, art, food trucks and more—welcomed 16,000 attendees to the neighbourhood.
Of course, operating a charity in one of the country’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods has its challenges: an isolated act of violence at Light Up Chinatown had the event making the news for all the wrong reasons. Despite the devastating incident, Lee and her team continued to rally the community in support of Chinatown. Good news followed: the Chinatown Foundation’s 2023 Autumn Gala raised $1.9 million (thanks, in part, to auction donations from local icons like Martha Sturdy) for 58 West Hastings, a housing project that’s slated to open this spring. Once launched, the property will have 231 affordable units, including 120 welfare-rate units. Lee and the Chinatown Foundation acknowledge the complex issues of the area without being paralyzed by them, and their collective action is bringing hope back to the ’hood. And her impact reaches beyond city limits: she received an Order of Canada this past December.
Mayor of Vancouver
Previously #6, 2023
A year after his resounding victory as mayor, Ken Sim’s honeymoon appears to be over. While supporters are quick to note the mayor has made strides in hiring more police officers, bringing renewed focus to Chinatown and cleaning up civic disorder, critics accuse Sim and his team of sleight-of-hand. Yes, 100 officers were hired—but even more have retired since the election. Tents removed from Hastings Street have relocated elsewhere. And on ABC’s core commitment to bring down barriers to more housing, our panel found the mayor’s plan lacking: “weak on details,” with little discussion about “how it’s actually going to get done.” There are also questions—at least among the terminally online—about how Sim’s surprise decision to eliminate the park board will play out politically. What nobody doubts is Sim’s commitment to schmoozing: he’s a regular at cultural events, and he succeeded in convincing Hollywood execs to move production of The Last of Us to Vancouver.
B.C. Attorney General
Being a provincial attorney general has its limits, as Niki Sharma is discovering. On the one hand, there’s an opportunity to tackle everyday issues that affect ordinary citizens—such as the province’s push to remove non-consensual intimate images and videos from the internet, a growing concern in our very online world. But a lot of initiatives get tied up in endless court challenges (like B.C.’s 2018 law trying to recover opioid-related health care costs from pharmaceutical companies, currently before the Supreme Court of Canada) or require a cooperative federal partner (like B.C.’s push to reform federal bail laws).
On a personal level, many say the sky’s the limit for the Sparwood, B.C.-raised lawyer—a rising star and potential future leader for a post-Eby world.
Chief Communications and Brand Officer, Telus
Previously #8, 2023 (with Darren Entwistle and Juggy Sihota)
While her colleagues Darren Entwistle (CEO) and Juggy Sihota (chief growth officer) are also doing impressive things over at Telus, whispers behind-the-scenes say that it’s Jill Schnarr driving the telecom giant’s community impact. There’s her work on the brand’s corporate communications and media relations and government advocacy, of course, but it’s her leadership of country-wide social programs like the Telus Days of Giving (now in its 18th year) that mobilizes people to give where they live at a massive scale.
Owner, BC Lions
Amar Doman (who is also founder of the investment and asset management firm, Futura Corporation) bought the BC Lions in 2021 and has spent two years tackling the team’s cool factor: upping attendance, fan buzz and visibility in the community was his goal. From handing out tickets at youth football games to intercepting the plan to shut down SFU’s football team (by pledging financial support, of course), Doman has truly been boots on the ground when it comes to Lion Pride (speaking of which, the team was also present at the 2023 Vancouver Pride Parade). His commitment shows up not just in swagger—this season kicked off with an LL Cool J concert—but also in numbers: game attendance is the highest it’s been since 2014.
President, Vancouver Community College
A core plank in B.C.’s housing strategy (see Kahlon, Eby) is to boost affordable housing options around transit nodes. Enter Vancouver Community College (VCC), which in March proposed to redevelop its Broadway campus—adding some 3,300 homes near the under-construction Broadway subway line and moving its campus northward. In return, the B.C. government committed more than a quarter of a billion dollars to help fund VCC’s new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation. It’s a big deal for the understated community college—and, according to our panel, speaks to the strong relationship that VCC president Ajay Patel (a former CEO of Badminton BC and Gymnastics BC) has built within NDP circles.
B.C. Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
As wildfires raged across B.C.’s Interior last summer, one face and voice stood out among the grey suits at daily news conferences: Bowinn Ma, the North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA and B.C.’s minister of emergency management and climate readiness. A trained civil engineer, Ma cut her teeth as project manager at YVR prior to her surprise election in 2017—the first New Democrat to win on the North Shore in more than 25 years. Her new post is focused on coordinating different ministries and levels of government on emergency response—and while some of Ma’s moves in response to the 2023 fires were controversial (including imposing temporary travel restrictions during the busy summer tourism season), she’s credited with being an effective team player and communicator, and a voice of compassion within government.
Colin, #35, 2023; Dale, NEW
Obviously, as developers, the Bosas are keeping busy, carrying on the family tradition—Colin, as CEO of the OG Bosa Properties, and Dale helming subsidiary Bluesky, where he’s busy bringing density to downtown Surrey. But this new generation of real estate barons is trying to do things a bit differently—namely, giving back. The Bosas’ most high-profile project is the Army and Navy building on East Hastings, where they’ve partnered with Jacqui Cohen. Plans for “The Cohen Block” will be tough to get by council (the design intrudes on a view corridor), but the bigger picture is that the development will be far more than a department store: think offices, below-market rental and commercial units. Unusually, the Bosa bros are planning to put some family foundation money into it in order to help subsidize the rentals.
Vancouver City Councillor
Previously #26, 2023
Whenever one party sweeps to power, the opposition—such as it is—is limited in what it can do. And while Christine Boyle ostensibly had more power in the divided council of 2018-22, she’s made the most of her second term in an ABC-dominated chamber. Boyle has introduced a series of meaty motions, advocating for more speed and red light cameras, fast-tracked social housing and extended leases on temporary modular housing sites—though only the motion on cameras, in diluted form, passed a full vote. One area where the former community organizer and United Church minister has undeniably succeeded: getting under Ken Sim’s skin. The mayor has filed two complaints about Boyle under the city’s code of conduct, winning one and losing the other.
President, Chinatown BIA/Executive Director, Dr. Sun Yat- Sen Classical Chinese Garden
If you’re wondering what the ABC council will do for Chinatown, the answer is simple: “Whatever Jordan and Lorraine want,” says an anonymous source. Eng, realtor and president of the Chinatown BIA, and Lowe, executive director for the Sun Yat-Sen Garden, are vocal champions of their neighbourhood: ones who mobilized Chinese voters by highlighting crime issues in the area, and who now enjoy a direct line to City Hall. Their suggestions have moved ABC to open a new city office in the area and to launch an energetic anti-graffiti team.
Vancouver Police Chief
Previously #9, 2015
Chief Adam Palmer kicked off 2023 with news of his contract extension: he’ll be the police chief until 2025, the year that also marks a decade of service in the position. The police continue to have an inarguably powerful—and inarguably controversial—impact on the city (take last April’s DTES street sweeps, for example). When Palmer addressed the Board of Trade last fall, he acknowledged that more social services are needed to properly handle crime in the city (“It’s a whole-of-government response—you can’t police your way out of it; you can’t arrest your way out of it”). That said, the social services still lack funding while police resources (and mayoral support) appear to be flowing: last November’s union deal made Vancouver police the highest-paid officers in the country, and their budget is expected to near $500 million by 2028.
Mayor of Burnaby
Previously #43, 2019
As Metro Vancouver continues to battle a severe housing shortage, there’s one mayor who’s caught everyone’s attention. Elected to his second term in 2022, Burnaby’s Mike Hurley is making big changes in planning and policy. This year, he announced that the city wants to start its own housing corporation (with a focus on providing “deeply affordable” rentals) and is coming up with new strategies to speed up permitting. With supply being one of the biggest issues facing the region, you can be sure that other politicians are taking note. “We’re actually using Burnaby as a role model,” said Ken Sim when he announced Vancouver’s plan in October 2023. “They’re doing a lot of great things and have been able to successfully marry densification and homes around their SkyTrain stations.”
President, Pooni Group
Previously #41, 2023
On paper, Gary Pooni runs an urban planning and communications company, but his real power lies in his connections. He has contacts in the Eby camp and with Sim’s crew, wields influence on the many boards he sits on (Provincial Health Services Authority among them) and reps the city’s heavy-hitter developers (like Westbank) with a deft hand. He’s also tight with Victor Montagliani of FIFA and now has several soccer players in his roster of clients. He’s the sort of guy who knows just what number to dial when you need something done—the networking king.
CEO, Tentree and Veritree
Not everyone knows that the name of Vancouver-based apparel brand Tentree comes from a literal promise to plant 10 trees for every garment sold—but 100 million trees planted later, Derrick Emsley’s Earth-first approach to building a company has more than proven itself as a concept that works. But as he told Forbes back in 2022, “The journey to 100 million trees hasn’t been a straight line.” He launched the monitoring tool Veritree in 2019 out of a need to ensure better planting practices and management so that his company’s promised trees could thrive—and quickly saw a much larger need for a dedicated standalone platform. Over 5,000 companies have now signed on (including Telus, Capital One and BMO) to ensure the work they say they’re doing is actually working for the planet—one tree at a time.
CEO, Cooperative Housing Federation of BC and the Community Land Trust/CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association
Armstrong, previously #40, 2017; Atkey, NEW
To tackle the twin crises of housing affordability and supply requires concerted effort from all levels of government—along with actors in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. Thom Armstrong and Jill Atkey are two of the not-for-profit players now at the heart of the action, thanks to the province’s creation of a $500-million Rental Protection Fund to help purchase older rental buildings slated for redevelopment. Atkey’s advocacy work, as CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, was pivotal to this move; according to our panel, she’s a regular presence at public consultations and council meetings, making the case for nonprofit housing. Also critical was Armstrong, through his work with the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC; the Community Land Trust, CHF’s real estate development arm, is one of the nonprofit developers standing to benefit from the new fund.
B.C. Minister of Housing
Previously #11, 2023
Growing up in Victoria, Ravi Kahlon developed a special talent for field hockey, which saw him represent Team Canada at multiple Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Since 2017, his skill for stickhandling has been put to good use in B.C.’s political arena: he served in a variety of NDP ministries before taking over housing, from David Eby, in December 2022. His first year on the job has seen a flurry of activity, with new laws restricting short-term rentals, taking zoning out of the hands of municipalities and increasing density near public transit. Underscoring the file’s importance, Eby decided to make housing a standalone ministry for the first time since the 1970s—and is usually by Kahlon’s side whenever an announcement is being made.
Co-founders, Frontier Collective
While much of Vancouver’s tech scene keeps its head down, Dan Burgar, Kassandra Linklater and their merry band of tech innovators are doing whatever it takes to get the world’s attention. Frontier ran a duo of summits last year, championing Vancouver’s future role as the tech capital of Canada (including a trek to startup mecca SXSW), but the audacity of their dreams isn’t as impressive as their success at getting chunks of federal money to pull off their big shows.
Vice-Chair and Managing Partner, Bennett Jones
In addition to her role as vice-chair and Vancouver managing partner of the law firm Bennett Jones, Radha Curpen is the national leader for BJ’s ESG Strategy and co-head of its Environmental Law practice. In other words: she keeps busy. (Though perhaps slightly less so after stepping down from her position as chair of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade this November.) As a legal expert on environment, infrastructure and Indigenous relations, she’s a go-to advisor for boards, corporations and regulatory agencies alike. No wonder, then, that she won an Influential Women in Business award this year and found herself on the cover of BCBusiness.
CEO and Director, Vancouver Art Gallery
We may not have our long-awaited new Vancouver Art Gallery… but under Anthony Kiendl’s leadership, we finally have a plan: a plan for a stunning space that gives new meaning to the phrase “state of the art.” A ground-awakening ceremony took place this fall, with the hopes of a 2028 opening. The revamped VAG (designed by Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron and Vancouver’s own Perkins and Wills, with input from Indigenous artists) will not only champion climate-resilient design (think green spaces and solar shading), but will also celebrate diversity with spaces like the Institute of Asian Art and an Indigenous Community House. Kiendl’s triumph in securing over $340 million in fundraising (a whopping 85% of the target) marks his impact in broadening the horizons of art in Vancouver, making him a key figure in enriching the city’s artistic tapestry.
Deputy Minister to the Premier
Previously #31, 2023
When David Eby was attorney general, he brought in a young superstar as his deputy, effectively making her B.C.’s top lawyer. Shannon Salter had previously made waves by creating B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal, the country’s first online tribunal where people can solve small claims or disputes with the help of facilitators (taking them out of an overwhelmed court system). Last year, Salter followed Eby to the premier’s office, where she became part of an inner circle of young people—many women—running B.C.’s 36,000-member public service. This past April, in response to an increasingly tight labour market, Salter unveiled a new workplace strategy that enshrines flexible work within the government, opening up job postings to anyone in the province.
CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
Previously #37, 2023
Bridgitte Anderson stepped into the CEO role back in 2019, the first woman to head the GVBT in its 136-year history. But even before that appointment she was a strong voice for the city, someone who has pushed hard on anything that could bring downtown back to life. As a former reporter and PR whiz, she knows how to generate media, and so the board has been out front and centre on a few issues—like speaking out against punitive costs for businesses. But Anderson is more than just talk and buzz: she’s actively spearheading initiatives to build diversity and inclusion on the board too, like the full-day Equity, Diversity and Inclusion forum.
Stó:lō Tribal Council Chief
Among the climate activists sounding the alarm during B.C.’s recent spate of natural disasters is a powerful voice addressing an often-overlooked issue: how emergency services are failing First Nations communities. Stó:lō Tribal Council Chief Tyrone McNeil serves as chair of the Emergency Planning Secretariat (EPS) and has been holding the province’s feet to the fire to fulfill the EPS’s mandate of “advocating for emergency and infrastructure work that includes full consultation and engagement with First Nations communities impacted.” And, according to a reliable source, McNeil is “on speed dial with the premier’s office” in his fight to ensure that authorities work with adjacent First Nations in planning for and responding to natural disasters.
President, Nicola Wealth/Chair, Women’s LEAD
The Sungs are yet another power couple on this year’s list, using their influence and wealth to impact the twin worlds of finance and charity. While David runs the show at Nicola Wealth Management (over the past two decades, he’s been pivotal in growing the firm’s managed assets to $15 billion), advising the city’s big spenders on investments, wife Tassan chairs Nicola Wealth’s Women’s LEAD, a grassroots movement to amplify and celebrate the voices of women across the country through a speaker series, articles, videos and community collaboration.
Last year the Diamond family channelled their grief over the death of Steven Diamond by fentanyl overdose into transformative action. Their $20-million donation to St. Paul’s Hospital birthed the Road to Recovery program, a comprehensive 98-bed addiction treatment initiative. This program, addressing the opioid crisis head-on, offers a streamlined recovery path—a stark contrast to the fragmented and slow systems that tragically failed Steven. The family then extended their commitment with a $7.2-million donation to the BC Cancer Foundation targeting hereditary cancer (one of the largest donations the foundation has ever received) and $25 million to rejuvenate the Jewish Community Centre.
Regional President, British Columbia, RBC Royal Bank
While Martin Thibodeau certainly holds high rank as regional president of one of the largest banks in the world, it’s his community work in the off hours that had our advisory committee putting forth his name this year. Thibodeau moved from Montreal to Vancouver in 2018 and has spent the last five years making a positive impact on the city through his involvement with organizations like BC Children’s Hospital, Science World, Ocean Wise and the Urban Development Institute—and you’re likely to spot him at just about every fundraising gala in town. He is also the chair of RBC’s national Indigenous advisory council, co-chair of its diversity leadership council and a member of Ben-Gurion University Canada’s board of directors in B.C. and Alberta.
CEO, Destination Vancouver
Destination Vancouver is emerging from the COVID pandemic triumphantly, in no small part due to the work of CEO Royce Chwin. Thanks to him, Vancouver’s seeing stars: the nonprofit tourism organization just celebrated its second year of the minimum five-year Michelin partnership that was first secured in 2022. This had a profound effect on starred restaurants, Bib Gourmands and recommended restaurants alike (try getting a reso at Kissa Tanto this month, we dare you). Destination Vancouver continues to share Indigenous stories and promote Indigenous-led tourism, and their work promoting the city as an awesome place to visit has led to serious results—for example, the Port of Vancouver reported a record-breaking 1.25 million cruise ship passengers last summer.
Former Captain, Team Canada
Christine Sinclair became a part of Canada’s national women’s team at age 16 in 2000 and retired from her Team Canada captainship last year a Canadian legend, with more international goals than any other soccer player in history—male or female—and a few Olympic medals around her neck. And while she may not live in Vancouver these days, the Burnaby native still ignites some serious hometown pride, via the newly opened Christine Sinclair Community Centre in Burnaby and, of course, her final international match this past winter (she’ll continue on with the Portland Thorns for one more season). The game against Australia filled the stands at BC Place in December (renamed Christine Sinclair Place for the occasion) and ended in an emotional, Celine Dion-scored goodbye surrounded by more than 48,000 fans. Call it the power of love.
CEO, Nch’kay Development Corporation
Previously #36, 2023
The hot button issue of affordable housing in Vancouver has only intensified with the rising cost of living. Mindy Wight is taking some of the heat out of the crisis by literally elevating a community with her skyscraper developments (no surprise she was also on Maclean’s power list last year). Steering the mammoth Senákw project (in partnership with Westbank Projects Corp.), she’s doing more than sculpting a neighbourhood; she’s building a future. With more than 12,000 rental units across 11 towers, all sitting snug on a 12-acre canvas in Kitsilano, Wight’s vision transcends concrete and steel: she’s stitching a sustainable, transit-oriented thread into the fabric of this city. Her strategic acumen in transforming Squamish land has turned the tide in city planning and community living.
Anchor, Global News
Sophie Lui is having a moment. The already highly respected Global TV news anchor recently took home the prestigious Shelley Fralic Award at the 2023 Websters, which honours “a journalist who is concerned with making the community a better place.” Besides her screentime, Lui is making an impact IRL, using her prominence to support charities like Cause We Care, the BC Cancer Foundation and the Chinatown Foundation. One of our advisory council members also notes that Lui is the most sought-after media personality for hosting local events and galas, allowing her to support numerous other philanthropic causes in the city.
Intergovernmental Affairs Officer, Musqueam Indian Band
Previously #24, 2015
As the intergovernmental affairs officer to the Musqueam Indian Band, Grant has been a driving force in championing Indigenous health, securing a monumental $8.2 billion in funding for the B.C. First Nations Health Authority. This achievement, supporting over 200 First Nations, is a monumental stride toward better systems for Indigenous wellness—and ones, importantly, that are managed by an Indigenous authority. Additionally, in his role as chair of the New Relationship Trust, Grant headed the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Program, a $30-million initiative empowering local food systems and Indigenous agriculture. These contributions to Indigenous rights and sovereignty earn him a well-deserved place on this year’s Power 50 list, and mark him as a formidable agent of change.
Back in May, dozens of doctors at Surrey Memorial Hospital made a move so radical it would normally be reserved for primetime medical dramas: they wrote an open letter that diagnosed our health care system with overcrowding, understaffing and unsafe emergency room conditions. The physicians pointed to three important issues: the lack of care beds, the lack of doctors and a general failure on the part of Fraser Health officials to meaningfully address such problems. Thirty-five women’s health providers penned their support, then SMH’s Medical Staff Association added its voice, stating that new patients shouldn’t be accepted until more doctors are hired. The story made local and national news, bringing the issues our health care system is facing to the forefront and letting officials know that the crisis can’t be ignored.
Deputy Minister, Declaration Act Secretariat
As the engine behind the B.C. government’s Reconciliation Transformation and Strategies Division, Jessica Wood has been instrumental in aligning provincial laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, in a watershed moment, B.C. adopted in 2019. The Declaration Act Secretariat now stands as a testament to the province’s commitment to Indigenous rights, offering a new, equitable approach to policymaking. Wood’s leadership isn’t just creating change for Indigenous people in this province—it’s paving a path forward toward meaningful reconciliation across the country.
CEO, Creative BC
Previously #29, 2023
Standing at the helm of Creative BC since 2015, Prem Gill is the face of B.C.’s increasingly diverse cultural sector, representing not just the behemoth film industry but also books, magazines, music and digital media—which, combined, account for nearly $7 billion in GDP and almost 90,000 jobs in this province. Last year started with a bang for the agency, with the provincial government announcing a historic $42-million investment in B.C.’s creative sector. But then—cue ominous music—the Writers Guild of America went on strike (May), followed by the Screen Actors Guild (June); suddenly, almost half of that GDP, plus thousands of jobs, was on the line. Many stressful months later, both strikes are now settled—with Gill and co. hard at work trying to convince Hollywood execs to bring their talent (and U.S. dollars) back to British Columbia.
Performing Arts Administrators
A performing arts venue for youth should be all about joy and self-expression, right? Unfortunately, a drag theatre camp at Granville Island-based Carousel Theatre attracted negative political attention last spring from People’s Party of Canada leader and certified party pooper Maxime Bernier. That led to a firestorm of harassing emails, hateful flyers and all-kinds-of-phobic tweets, but Carousel decided the show must go on: supporters of the theatre (and the kids) drowned out protestors at the first day of summer camp, and over $18,000 of crowdfunding was raised to provide security and keep programs like drag camp going.
It takes more than wealth or influence to secure a spot on our Power 50 list—the true definition of power also includes the use of such tools to elevate your community. Hamid and Arya Eshghi, the dynamic forces behind the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation, have done just that by gifting $5 million to the Vancouver Art Gallery for the creation of a cutting-edge education and exhibition centre. Under Hamid’s leadership, the foundation’s philanthropic footprint, exceeding $65 million, is invigorating a multitude of sectors, including health, the arts and education. As such, the couple has become a fixture on the city’s philanthropic scene, expanding the foundation’s footprint to well past $65 million in investments in the arts, education and children’s health.
Fellow, Urban Indigenous Policy, Planning and Decolonization, SFU
As the first Indigenous fellow at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Ginger Gosnell-Myers has been pivotal in integrating Indigenous knowledge into higher education in this city. Her advocacy for climate justice and decolonization through the Black and Indigenous Design Collective, meanwhile, is creating inclusive, reflective urban spaces. Gosnell-Myers built a reputation as a leader by leveraging her academic research to help Vancouver become the world’s first official City of Reconciliation back in 2014. Today, she is putting her commitment to Indigenous stewardship and her ability to speak truth to power to work for the climate as chair of the Greenpeace Canada board of directors.
President/CEO and Executive Vice President of Dayhu Group of Companies
Health care heroes come in many forms. By day, Jonathan Barnett and his brother David of Dayhu Group of Companies busy themselves with real estate—but their superpower? Harnessing the healing power of music. Dayhu supports several worthy causes in the city, including BC Women’s Hospital, Coast Mental Health and a number of local Jewish organizations; however, David’s role as founder and board president of Music Heals makes this charity particularly dear to their hearts. Music Heals launched in 2012 and has raised more than $3 million to provide access to music therapy for patients at children’s hospitals, palliative care wards and more. With B.C.’s health care system in crisis, the Barnetts are improving quality of life for those in need—and if you’ve ever had the privilege of attending their annual Strike a Chord gala, you’ll also agree that these guys know how to party like rock stars.
Founder and Artistic Director, Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week
Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week first set foot on the runway in 2017, but like all live events, this celebration of Indigenous style and resilience suffered major setbacks during the pandemic. Post-COVID-restrictions, VIFW has blown up: the November 2023 event spanned five days and two venues, launched a marketplace with 50 Indigenous artisans and welcomed more than 3,600 guests. That said, the work that Joleen Mitton does at VIFW is about more than the spotlighted designers: behind the scenes, a mentorship program gives Indigenous youth—many who have grown up in foster care—hands-on opportunities to learn about the industry and gain valuable work experience.
In the scorching summer of 2023, as record-breaking wildfires raged through Kelowna and across British Columbia, the McLean family of Vancouver found themselves at a crossroads. Their decision to sell Vancouver Film Studios—a cherished asset in the family’s group of companies, which together have built an illustrious 25-year impact in the local film industry—to Hackman Capital Partners sent shockwaves through the city. But while that move may have been pure business strategy, the family continued to flex their remarkable ability to create a positive impact in this province. In the midst of the climate crisis, their company, Blackcomb Helicopters, emerged as a beacon of hope, dedicating invaluable resources to combat the fires. In 2023, the McLeans proved once again that their collective fusion of entrepreneurial foresight and civic responsibility can be a vital asset for a region grappling with the challenges of a changing world.
Host, Presenter and Auctioneer
If you attended any top-tier charitable gala in Vancouver over the last few years, you know Fred Lee. Because the people who steer the committees that need to bring in the big bucks through said events will do whatever it takes to secure him as their auctioneer: they know that his effervescent presence could potentially add a zero or two to the end of their fundraising totals. He charms the wallets out of some of the biggest philanthropists in the city—thanking each person by name, tearing around the room with mic in hand and exuberantly encouraging those high rollers to roll just a little higher. The Man About Town is such a notable presence at Vancouver’s major charity events that it’s easy to forget he holds down a full-time job with alumni engagement at Alumni UBC—and also finds the time to co-found and fundraise for CampOUT, a free leadership and learning summer camp for queer, trans, Two Spirit, questioning and allied youth that has run since 2009.
CEO, OpenRoad Canada
Christian Chia founded OpenRoad Auto Group back in 2000; in 2023, he’s the CEO of one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, with 32 dealerships in his portfolio. But as with many power players on this list, his influence doesn’t end in the boardroom. At the end of 2022, he stepped into the role of chair of the Vancouver Police Foundation—the culmination of a lifetime of charity and community work. Between his work with the Sauder School of Business advisory council, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the car baron is driving (get it?) some serious change in our fair city.
President and Founder, Lyra Growth Partners
Lyra Growth Partners is a financial planning and investment firm that’s supported plenty of the local companies you know and love. (Ever heard of Tentree, Vitruvi or Rise Kombucha? Yeah, we thought so.) That’s thanks to the work of Charles Chang, who is also the co-founder of Vega—you know, the Burnaby-based vegan protein powder brand that sold for $550 million (talk about gains). The work of Chang and his team at Lyra gives businesses a valuable boost, and SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship—created, of course, through a gift from its namesake—continues to offer educational programs for the next gen of entrepreneurs.
Founding Artistic Director, Kidd Pivot
If you managed to see the world premiere of Assembly Hall this past October, lucky you—the demand for tickets for the new work from Crystal Pite’s dance-and-theatre hybrid, Kidd Pivot, was so high it appeared to cause a meltdown on the sales website: the near-immediate sell-out was a rare feat in the arts world. Pite’s unique approach to modern dance—philosophical, dark and athletic with surprising elements of humour in the mix—inevitably digs into what it means to be human, and, as such, she’s created an obsessive following for her choreography that reaches around the world. (Pite has developed works for the Paris Opera Ballet, Nederlands Dance Theatre and many other international outfits.)
MLA, Surrey South
In the thick of Vancouver’s struggle with the twin opioid and mental health crises, Elenore Sturko emerged as a beacon of change. This former RCMP officer, now an influential member of BC United, has claimed her spot on this year’s Power 50 list not with political rhetoric, but with tangible action. As the champion behind the groundbreaking Mental Health Amendment Act, Sturko aims to overhaul the province’s mental health care system and bolster suicide prevention efforts. Her commitment to inclusivity extends to the LGBTQ+ community (she is queer-identifying herself), where she advocates for inclusive education and fights against discrimination.
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Ouano Foundation
The serial entrepreneur and former CBC producer sold her massively successful podcasting company, Pacific Content, to Rogers back in 2019—and you might expect that to be enough to take it easy for a while. Instead she’s continued to pivot to new ventures that put people first, like Rewrite Capital Advisors, which helps business owners sell to their employees. Ouano was also instrumental in the introduction of the Canadian government’s Employee Ownership Trusts as of January this year; the move that allows employees to become business owners while employers benefit from a massive tax exemption (they won’t pay a capital gains tax on the first $10 million of the sale). And in 2022, she launched the Ouano Foundation, a philanthropic organization steered by women, with its global fellowship program designed to empower leaders and activists at the forefront of digital human rights around the world.
Anyone who has called this city home understands the Vancouver paradox: visually stunning and ranked fifth on the 2023 Global Liveability Index, yet increasingly unlivable due to soaring costs and scarce housing. Enter @seabusmemes, the brainchild of an anonymous savvy millennial, which has swiftly amassed a following of over 100,000 and become the voice of Vancouver’s collective frustrations. Starting as a series of harmless jabs at local quirks, @seabusmemes slowly transformed into a mirror of the city’s struggles, using a perfect blend of humour and critique to give Vancouverites a boost through tough times—especially during the pandemic. In a city yearning for connection and authenticity, @seabusmemes rises above the noise, reminding us to laugh at our own misfortunes and question the status quo.
This year, we also introduced a new Power 50 Hall of Fame. See the first inductees here.
This story was originally published in the February 2024 print issue of Vancouver Magazine.