Vancouver’s Most Powerful People of the Last Decade

Vancouver magazine has been doing the annual Power 50 list for 19 years now, so we’ve become particularly well versed on the people and issues that have shaped this city over that time.

And with the decade coming to a close shortly, we thought it would be a good time to dig into the archives and see who can rightly hold the title of Vancouver’s Most Powerful Person of the Decade.

You probably won’t be surprised by most of the names on this list—these are all people that have been movers and shakers for some time, obviously. But you may have forgotten about some of the people (especially those in the early decades). So let’s hope being reminded of a certain former mayor brings with it some warm, fuzzy nostalgia.

We broke up the (massive) list into some categories, for your reading pleasure:

Most times on the list

Tie: Jim Pattison and Bob Rennie (10 each)

Pattison was always going to figure heavily on this list, but we’re a bit surprised that he and the ubiquitous Rennie are the only figures who appear on the list every year for the last 10.

There are likely a couple of factors for that, namely major political shifts at both the provincial and municipal levels and our desire to try (as much as we can) to keep the list fresh and exciting.

Those just missing out with nine appearances are: Frank Giustra, Terry Hui, Michael Audain and Thomas Fung.

Most first-place finishes

Tie: Christy Clark and Gregor Robertson (two each)

Another tie! And this one shouldn’t be a shock. Both of these politicians ruled with majorities during their time in provincial and municipal government, respectively.

And both have been absent from the list (and, mostly, from the public eye) since leaving office.

Highest average (minimum five appearances)

1. Gregor Robertson – 2.25

2. Christy Clark – 3.83

3. Jim Pattison – 7.1

Just edging out Clark, Robertson was on our Power 50 list eight times and only finished out of the top three once (2017, when he came fourth). Just an unreal run of power we may not see again anytime soon.

Other high averages include the venerable Pattison, Rennie (8.1), the Aquilini Family (8.1 over six appearances) and Robertson’s former chief-of-staff Mike Magee (8.3 over six).

Lowest average (minimum five appearances)

1. Tamara Vrooman – 30.7

2. Ryan Holmes – 30.5

3. Carol Lee – 30.1

As the CEO of Vancity Credit Union, Vrooman has dotted the list constantly, only missing out three times this decade (2015, 2013, 2012). When she has made it, she’s hung around the 30s, with two outliers in 2018 (48th) and 2017 (22nd).

Hootsuite founder Holmes made his debut on the list in 2012 (number 34) and hung around for four more years before missing in 2017 and returning the next year (number 44). But after being left off the list in 2019 and announcing his intention to step down from his role as CEO of the company he built, it may be awhile before one of the city’s most ballyhooed sons finds his way back.

Meanwhile, Lee, the chair of the Vancouver China Foundation and owner of skin care company Linacare, took the 21st spot in 2015 and hasn’t looked back, placing every year since then (though she hasn’t ranked that high since). She’s a good bet to be a constant fixture on the list going forward.

Longest time between appearances

Tie: Peter Dhillon and Joseph Segal (seven years)

Dhillon, the president and CEO of the Richberry Group of Companies, made it back on the list in 2018 (30th) after placing 36th in 2010, when he was heavily involved in organizing the 2010 Winter Olympics. An appointment to the board at the Bank of Canada pushed the envelope for his 2018 inclusion.

This year marked Segal’s return to the list (technically it was the Segal Family that placed 45th) after he came in at number 19 in 2011. The long-time philanthropist has deep roots in the city and, even at 94, has as much clout as anyone around. 

Biggest year-to-year drop (while staying on the list)

Andrew Weaver – 40 spots

Weaver shared the number one spot with John Horgan in 2017 only to drop to 41 the next year. He didn’t even make the list in 2019, probably because though he still does technically have the power to bring down the government at a moment’s notice, few believe he will. He also announced his intention not to run in the next provincial election.  

Biggest year-to-year rise (without making debut)

Adrian Dix – 35 spots

If we counted debuts, it would be Weaver once again, as he made his debut at the top with Horgan in 2017.

But the biggest year-to-year rise without making a debut goes to Adrian Dix, the former leader of the provincial NDP and current health minister who went from 40th in 2011 all the way up to number five the next year.

Many expected Dix to be the premier back then, but the Vancouver-Kingsway MLA couldn’t unseat Christy Clark in the 2013 election and hasn’t returned to the list since.

Highest only appearance on the list

Tie: Kathy Tomlinson and Robert Joseph (number 3)

Funnily enough, these two both made their only appearances of the decade on the list at the exact same number a year apart from each other.

In 2015, then-76-year-old Joseph made the list for his contributions in the discussion about how to bridge the indigenous-non-indigenous divide in Canada.

A hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, Joseph also founded Reconciliation Canada. His torch has been picked up by, among many others, the MST Development Corporation, which ranked first on this year’s list.

A year after Joseph’s debut, Globe and Mail reporter Kathy Tomlinson came in at number 3 for asking some tough questions about Vancouver’s housing situation. Tomlinson was the first to report on the mysterious practice of shadow flipping and she uncovered many revelations about shady realtor tactics and the presence of foreign buyers in the market.

That’s the decade that was in powerful people. What will the next 10 years look like? Your guess is as good as ours.