VanMag’s 2019 Power 50 List

Politics to real estate to activism to tech: it's our 19th annual ranking of the city's most influential power players.

What was 2019 in Vancouver? It was a year when a local politician affected the conversation, and the course of the national election. When we spent another year without Uber and Lyft. When our seemingly bulletproof real estate market took a dive, but our Port of Vancouver traffic soared. When a local telco became a major player in our national health-care scene. And when we recognized the one-year anniversary of the tent city at Oppenheimer Park, a community that’s also become a catalyst for conversation around the rich-poor divide in Vancouver. The 2019 Power 50 list looks at the people in our community who are at the forefront of these issues— the changemakers, the business leaders, the activists and the politicians who moved the dial in this city in 2019 and, no doubt, in the year to come.

Written by Frances Bula, Nathan Caddell, Stacey McLachlan, Neal McLennan, Matt O’Grady and Anicka Quin

The 2019 Power 50 List

1. MST Development Corp.

Real Estate Developers
Previously #15, 2018

Developers don’t have the best reputation in this town. Big egos, cozy relationships with politicians—many lay the blame for Vancouver’s affordability crisis firmly at their feet. And yet, sometimes, controlling great swaths of territory can lead to social good.

Such, arguably, is the case with MST Development Corp. A partnership of the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation, MST is full or part owner of six prime properties throughout Metro Vancouver, including a five-acre site on Marine Drive in West Vancouver, a 21-acre site at 33rd and Heather and its marquee 90-acre Jericho Lands property. (Aquilini Investment Group has a stake in a 10-acre former Liquor Distribution Board branch site, another property in their holdings.)

In a sign of MST’s growing influence, three years ago it lured one of the city’s top real estate executives, David Negrin, to serve as CEO. Negrin is working with band leaders—especially Chief Wayne Sparrow for the Musqueam, councillors Khelsilem and Kristen Rivers for the Squamish and Chief Leah George for the Tsleil-Waututh—to reshape the city, with a mixture of market and social housing, as well as some much-needed community contributions.

Combined, the MST holdings—some 160 acres of developable land, valued at over $2 billion—are stunning, and this group’s future development plans will no doubt shape this city. Yet the real power lies in the future of MST. It’s not just about economic development for First Nations or meaningful community engagement. MST is building the capacity to do it all on their own—without help from developers like Aquilini or executives like Negrin—and to fully control their own destiny.


2. Carole James

B.C. Finance Minister and Deputy Premier
Previously #26, 2018

Despite a downturn in the all-important real estate market, B.C. continues to post a budgetary surplus—one of the few Canadian provinces to do so. Furthermore, we’re the only province to maintain a AAA credit rating—important, because the higher the rating, the more money B.C. has for program spending (an NDP priority). Still, it’s not all roses for B.C.’s powerful finance minister: Carole James’s real estate speculation and vacancy tax, introduced last fall, has come under fire from a variety of sources, including B.C.’s privacy commissioner and irate B.C. homeowners unexpectedly caught in its trap.


3. John Horgan

Premier of B.C.
Previously #2, 2018

The premier has managed the almost-impossible task of implementing left-wing, progressive actions—hundreds of millions into housing, daycare and health-care improvements—without being labelled a socialist dreamer who’s wrecking the economy, the usual meme attached to NDPers. John Horgan’s affable, open approach (conservative mayors of rural cities say he’s called them personally to get their opinions) and his ability to hold his caucus together while giving strong ministers free rein show someone confident about his role: no micro-manager, no figurehead, but the right balance in between.

4. Darren Entwistle and Juggy Sihota

CEO; VP, Consumer Health, Telus
Previously (Entwistle) #14, 2018; (Sihota) New

The future promises to keep on being friendly for the communications giant, which has been B.C.’s largest company by revenue every year for almost a decade. But it’s also going to be somewhat diverse, as philanthropic efforts and investments in health continue to shape the telecom’s direction. Juggy Sihota has been CEO Darren Entwistle’s right-hand woman in the latter, helping Telus emerge as one of the biggest health-care players in the country, to the tune of $2.5 billion in investments.

5. David Eby

B.C. Attorney General
Previously #1, 2018

Mr. Fixit. The Firefighter. The Trashman. However you describe David Eby and the role he plays in the NDP government, there’s little doubt he’s one of John Horgan’s most powerful ministers. The question is: how much has he accomplished? While Eby has brought some stability to ICBC and secured financial and political support from the feds for anti-money-laundering efforts, he’s also developing a reputation (in some circles) for being more interested in scoring political points than effecting change—be it with quixotic lawsuits against the Alberta government or stagey news conferences attacking the BC Liberals.



6. Dr. Patricia Daly, Dr. Mark Tyndall and Sarah Blyth

Chief Medical Officer,Vancouver Coastal HealthProfessor of Medicine, UBC; Executive Director, Overdose Prevention Society
Previously (Daly) #9, 2018; (Tyndall) #7, 2017; (Blyth) #16, 2017

As chief medical officer for the province’s largest health authority, Patricia Daly has been pivotal in tackling the opioid crisis in the Lower Mainland, but she’s not fighting the good fight alone: Mark Tyndall recently left the Centre for Disease Control to focus primarily on leading opioid research, and Sarah Blyth—who set up the first, unregulated first-response overdose tents back in 2016, which in turn inspired Vancouver Coastal Health—remains a key advocate on the front lines, and even ran for city council to further raise awareness of the issue. All are pushing for a regulated, legal supply of drugs… and trying to save some lives along the way.

7. Adriane Carr, Jean Swanson and Colleen Hardwick

Councillors, City of Vancouver

This trio of Vancouver councillors is forcing new conversations as they bring positions to city hall from the far left, far right and far green that haven’t been there for years. Jean Swanson’s drumbeat insistence on renter protection, Colleen Hardwick’s persistent fight on behalf of longtime homeowners against development and change and Adriane Carr’s mix of the two, with a green perspective, have been driving forces behind new initiatives like a city-wide plan and a more cautious approach to any re-development displacing tenants.

8. Jim Pattison and Glen Clark

CEO; President and COO, Jim Pattison Group
Previously #5, 2018

The man with his name on the company letterhead is 91 now, but Jimmy Pattison shows few signs of slowing down: in August, his conglomerate announced a blockbuster deal to take B.C. lumber giant Canfor private—a deal that values the company at $2 billion. Still, with each passing year, the presence of steady-handed president and COO Glen Clark becomes ever more important, especially as Clark is one of the rare B.C. business leaders with NDP ties. In 2020, the first tower of Pattison Group’s massive $500-million Burrard Place office/retail/residential complex—a co-development with Reliance Properties—will open in downtown Vancouver.


9. Jill Tipping and Sue Paish

President and CEO, BC Tech; CEO, Digital Technology Supercluster
(Tipping) NEW; (Paish) Previously #27, 2018

B.C.’s tech industry is one of the country’s fastest growing sectors, and a leading economic driver provincially—and Jill Tipping and Sue Paish are the women helping to take our city’s startup scene to new, globally competitive heights. As CEOs of BC Tech and Digital Technology Supercluster, respectively, they’re an important voice for one of our biggest job creators, both on the ground and through the red tape. Tipping fought off provincial cutbacks while securing $2.25 million in funding for “western diversification” from the federal government (a signal of how important the feds view tech to the future of B.C.’s economy); Paish, meanwhile, is fostering a new generation of talent with mentorship and a role on Canada’s 40 Under 40 committee.


10. Meng Wanzhou

CFO, Huawei

On December 1, 2018, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei was arrested at YVR at the request of U.S. officials—accused of violating international sanctions against Iran via a Huawei subsidiary. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou sparked global headlines—and diplomatic rage from the Chinese, who have since arrested two Canadians in China and banned Canadian imports of canola, soybeans and other agricultural products. While she awaits an extradition hearing in January, Meng lives under house arrest at her Shaughnessy home—a symbol of the battle that’s been brewing between China and the West for years, and one that unexpectedly puts Vancouver at Ground Zero.


11. Bob Rennie

Founder, Rennie Marketing
Previously #12, 2018

Yes, Vancouver’s uber marketer and power player has lost his base at city hall, and the real estate market—Bob Rennie’s bread-and-butter—has been in the doldrums for months. Still, clouds parted over the Vancouver Art Gallery for Rennie when nemesis Kathleen Bartels mysteriously stepped down in May—opening up the possibility of a different vision for the new gallery: his. Meanwhile, the 63-year-old continues to burnish his reputation as a social connector, using his 20,000-square-foot Chinatown museum as a location for fundraisers and meet-and-greets (including a by-invite-only book launch this spring for former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman).


12. Frank Giustra

CEO, Fiore Group
Previously #3, 2018

It’s been a pretty golden year for Frank Giustra. In addition to the dramatic rise in the price of bullion—a boon to his Fiore Gold business—Giustra was also installed in the Order of Canada in 2019. After founding and selling Lionsgate, Giustra is finding a second wind as a producer with Thunderbird Films (award-winning hits include CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle). And, in a test of his legal mettle, Giustra is currently suing none other than Twitter for defamatory tweets that surfaced during the 2016 U.S. election (tying him to the fake-news “Pizzagate” story that ensnared pal Hillary Clinton).

13. Aquilini Family

Aquilini Investment Group
Previously #4, 2018

The family-owned conglomerate suffered a couple of legal setbacks in 2019—one, an appeals court ruling that confirmed that they did, in fact, have to pay more taxes on their purchase of the Canucks back in 2007; and two, a Ministry of Labour ruling that they underpaid foreign workers at their Golden Eagle blueberry farm. In positive news, family patriarch Luigi was invested into the Order of Canada—and, while the Canucks are still “rebuilding,” the Aquilinis made a strategically important purchase of a Call of Duty franchise this September in the fast-growing e-sports sector.


14. Dianne Sparrow

Indigenous Relations Manager, Vancouver Port Authority

While there are many economic storms brewing offshore, the Port of Vancouver continued to experience smooth sailing in 2019—with cargo volumes rising in the first six months to a record 72.5 million tonnes. There’s even talk of another cruise-ship terminal being built on the Fraser River. While CEO Robin Silvester gets a lot of the credit for the Port’s good numbers, the big challenge ahead will be managing growth—and, to realize necessary expansion, building a better relationship with area First Nations. Enter Dianne Sparrow, who was hired in April from the Musqueam to become the Port’s first-ever Indigenous relations manager.


15. Susannah Pierce

Director, Corporate Affairs, LNG Canada

While TMX continues to work its way through the courts, the $40-billion LNG project in northern B.C. is full steam ahead, with construction already underway. Susannah Pierce has been the face of the project, which was given the go-ahead last fall, and has effectively navigated the choppy waters of environmental concern and First Nations consultation. By January of 2019, the company had already awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts to Canadian businesses and contractors.

16. Kevin Desmond

CEO, TransLink
Previously #6, 2018

Last year was the best and worst of times for TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. Transit ridership reached record heights, with 437 million boardings systemwide in 2018. But then Doug McCallum got elected mayor of Surrey and well-laid plans for an LRT network there had to be torn up and replaced with a SkyTrain extension to nowhere (specifically: Fleetwood). Whatever he may have thought of the political shenanigans, Desmond played along—and he’s being rewarded for his patience: he earns $406,000 for it.*

*Note this writeup initially noted that “Desmond’s salary will top out at $517,000 next year—almost 50 percent above what transit chiefs in Toronto and Montreal get paid.” This number refers to a potential salary range, though the board has indicated he would not be earning that in the coming year.

17. Chris Gardner

President, Independent Contractors and Business Association of B.C.
Previously #13, 2018

In the normal course of things it would be the official Opposition who would serve to pester the NDP government, but with the Liberals MIA, the job has fallen to Chris Gardner, who, as head of the ICBA, has taken up the mantle for not just the construction industry (he withdrew the ICBA from the provincial review of workers’ compensation, claiming that the fix was in with the NDP and ICBA’s counterpoint, the BC Federation of Labour—see #48), but also for the free market in general, by targeting any civic government across the province that the ICBA sees as anti-development.

18. Khelsilem

Spokesperson for the Squamish NationEnvironmental and Cultural Advocate
Previously #21, 2018

While he is one vote among many in the Squamish Nation, Khelsilem has become the group’s undisputed voice in Vancouver—weighing in eloquently on everything from the development of territorial land in the Lower Mainland to final approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline (which he and the Squamish Nation vehemently oppose). Khelsilem walks a fine line on matters of resource development, however: while opposed to TMX, late last year the Squamish Nation did say yes to the controversial Woodfibre LNG project (just south of the town of Squamish). This August, he became a powerful role model for two-spirited Indigenous youth, coming out as queer in advance of Vancouver Pride.

19. Jody Wilson-Raybould

Former Federal Justice Minister and MP, Vancouver Granville
Previously #18, 2018

An independent candidate running in a safe Liberal riding is about as powerless as it gets. But Jody Wilson-Raybould is no ordinary independent. The former justice minister shaped the course of Canadian politics in 2019—bringing to light the shenanigans involving the Prime Minister’s Office in the now-infamous SNC Lavalin affair. Her resistance to political pressure forced both herself and Jane Philpott out of cabinet and the Liberal caucus; the Trudeau government losing its majority status could well have been directly related to the scandal, and her winning her independent seat the result of her constituents support of her. Regardless, an impressive legislative record (cannabis, assisted suicide, family law reform) and reputation for integrity guarantees we have not heard the last of Wilson-Raybould.

20. Terry Hui

CEO, Concord Pacific
Previously #7, 2018

Concord Pacific bills itself as “Canada’s largest community developer,” and if you’ve toured downtown Vancouver or Toronto in the past decade, you’ll appreciate the massive footprint. But CEO Terry Hui isn’t one for standing still: currently, he’s building Seattle House, a pair of 45-storey residential towers that aims to transform the area around Amazon’s downtown Seattle offices (with tech-worthy amenities such as shared workspace, an outdoor theatre and a community gaming room). Closer to home, plans are also in the works for his remaining three sites on Northeast False Creek, as well as the recently vacated Molson Brewery in Kits.


21. Ian Gillespie

CEO, Westbank Corp.
Previosuly #5, 2018

Oh boy, do we expect a lot from our developers. This year, Ian Gillespie’s Westbank will open the stunning (and long sold out) Vancouver House, the Bjarke Ingels-designed showstopper that will define the city’s skyline for generations (and he’s moving forward with another Ingels project in Toronto). But he drops 16 spots due to some scaleback of the small city that is the Oakridge development (a downsizing of the northeast corner to renovate rather than rebuild an existing office building, and a more modest entrance into the transit hub), and that most developers have seen the effect of the market suffering thanks to a soft domestic market and a turbulent Chinese one. He can take solace in the fact that 2019 Westbank’s accomplishments only suffer when compared to 2018 Westbank’s.


22. Geoff Meggs

Chief of Staff, B.C. Premier’s Office
Previously #23, 2018

He’s ruthlessly efficient and a 24/7 workhorse—and he’s why the NDP government has been able to tackle a towering stack of complicated files in its first two years. Geoff Meggs, with many previous political lives at Vancouver city council, the B.C. Federation of Labour, a health union and the province, is the final pragmatic vetter for most initiatives and a key player on ticklish ones, from ride-hailing (the province is now taking applications after many years of delay but with more stringent requirements for drivers than in other jurisdictions) to fish farming (he called on the expertise of those in the industry to help get salmon up the Fraser River after a disastrous rockslide that all but blocked it).

  23. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

President, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Previously #26, 2018

After three decades, Stewart Phillip remains the dean of Aboriginal leaders, with his perch as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs giving him unparalleled ability to weigh in on issues of consultation and reconciliation. Still, it’s a fine balance he has to strike between economic development and environmental stewardship in the province. Some First Nations, for instance, have expressed interest in bidding on an ownership stake in the Trans Mountain project, an expansion which Phillip has long opposed. As he puts it, in typically blunt terms: it doesn’t matter who owns the pipeline, but rather “what goes through the pipeline.”


24. Doug McCallum

Mayor of Surrey

The Surrey mayor is driving more change than any city politician elected last year. He moved immediately to act on his campaign promises. One, ditch a long-planned light-rail system in favour of a SkyTrain line to Langley. Two, transition from having the biggest RCMP detachment in Canada to running a municipal force. Doug McCallum’s leadership style—full steam ahead, with little tolerance for lengthy consultations or for anyone challenging his ideas—has already caused three councillors on his slate to bolt, leaving him with a one-seat majority to date. Many federal and provincial politicians are also giving him a wide berth. But no one can deny his impact.


25. Kennedy Stewart

Mayor of Vancouver

Vancouver’s new independent mayor, head of a council with four parties and no majority, doesn’t have the kind of power his predecessor, Gregor Robertson, had. But Kennedy Stewart is using his bully pulpit to make a public case for a SkyTrain all the way to UBC (currently, it’s only funded to go halfway), for new rental-housing projects, for action on the opioid crisis and for a solution to the homelessness camp that has settled into Oppenheimer Park—though he is getting some fire for seeming to have set up an unproductive stand-off with the city’s park board.



26. Chip Wilson

Founder, Low Tide Properties

It seems absurd that this is the first time Chip Wilson has ever been on this list, but his steadily shrinking role at Lululemon (including a recent resignation from the board of the company he founded and still owns an almost 10-percent stake in) just hasn’t been enough to impress our past decision-makers. But now that he’s turned his attention to real estate, it’s hard to deny his impact—for better or worse. He’s using his remaining billions (after squandering a good portion on Kit and Ace) to underwrite Low Tide Properties, a private development firm that invests in “emerging neighbourhoods”—or what critics call gentrification. With $300 million worth of property purchased in the last five years, they’re a good chunk of the way toward their goal of $1.5 billion in real estate holdings, but, critics complain, evicting artists and musicians from low-cost spaces in the process. The power to overthrow the city’s art scene stretches further than his yoga pants, it seems.


27. Gil Kelley

Planning, Urban Design and SustainabilityCity of Vancouver
Previously #30, 2018

Vancouver hasn’t had a comprehensive city plan written since American Harland Bartholomew dropped by in 1928. The last partial attempt started in 1992 under then-mayor Gordon Campbell. Now the city’s chief planner, Gil Kelley, will be steering Vancouver through a three-year process to help everyone figure out what kind of city they want—how dense, how diverse, how green, how connected, how affordable. He successfully wrassled an exceptional $17.9 million from the new council for the future-planning exercise. Everyone is watching now.


28. Carol Lee

Chair, Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, and Owner, Linacare
Previously #22, 2018

She’s not one to claim credit, but even Carol Lee would admit this past year has been a success. In 2018, the city reversed its policy and banned “tall” and “wide” buildings in Chinatown—a move criticized by many Vancouver developers but lauded by activists, like Lee, who want to preserve the neighbourhood’s heritage. Lee—whose Linacare business is headquartered on East Pender, in a building her family has owned for a century—got more good news this August, when she received $500,000 in federal funding for her Chinatown Storytelling Centre (also on Pender); it’s set to open in early 2020.


29. Sadhu Johnston

City ManagerCity of Vancouver
Previously #17, 2017

With a newbie city council that surprises every week with a zig or zag or potentially illegal or impossible-to-do motion, it’s up to city manager Sadhu Johnston to keep things on track. That means standing up multiple times a month at meetings and public hearings to steer the conversation into productive streams. Behind the scenes, he works with individual councillors to help them understand how their well-intentioned motion might affect people in ways they hadn’t anticipated.


30. Tamara Vrooman

President and CEO, Vancity
Previously #48, 2018

Tamara Vrooman’s impact has not just been on Vancity’s bottom line over her 11 years at the helm of Canada’s largest credit union. (Though she has had that, to the tune of a 62-percent boost in assets since her hire.) She’s also become a profound voice on social issues. As co-chair of the federal government’s Advisory Council on Climate Action, she and her panel recommended strong action on both the transportation and building sectors, which account for over a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. And, in May, Vrooman received the province’s highest honour—an appointment to the Order of British Columbia—in part due to her commitment to removing systemic barriers faced by women in the workplace.


31. Craig Richmond

CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority
Previously #19, 2018

We won’t say “the sky is the limit,” but things continue to look up for YVR and its longtime CEO, with a record 26 million passengers passing through in 2018. The long-awaited expansion of YVR’s international terminal is also on schedule for 2020—though success comes at a price: on January 1, the beloved Airport Improvement Fee jumps from $20 to $25 per ticket for flights outside B.C. Beyond YVR, Craig Richmond continues to show leadership on issues of First Nations reconciliation and diversity/inclusion—particularly in his work with the Accessible Employers organization, which aims (and sets targets) to get more B.C. employers hiring workers with disabilities.


32. The Chan Family

Burrard GroupChan Family Foundation

The real estate moguls have long kept a low profile, but that has started to change in recent years. The emergence of 36-year-old son Christian Chan as the face of the family’s philanthropic efforts directly preceded the ballyhooed $40-million donation to the Vancouver Art Gallery in January—the largest single private donation to an arts organization in B.C.’s history. The Chans, along with several other wealthy families, were named as alleged conspirators in an offshore tax scheme in August, but they’re currently fighting those allegations.

33. Thomas Fung

CEO, Fairchild Group
Previously #23, 2017

The undisputed champion of Chinese-language media in Canada, Thomas Fung oversees two TV channels and two radio stations in Vancouver alone, along with a film production company. It hasn’t always been smooth—this year, a controversial Fairchild Radio host “resigned due to personal reasons” after appearing to support a violent attack on Hong Kong activists in July. Perhaps that’s why Fung is pivoting away from video, developing myriad Asian-style dollar stores. Already holding the North American rights to the mega popular Daiso chain, Fung has been buying up or launching other brands as well.

34. Joy MacPhail

Chair, ICBC
Previously #29, 2018

The indefatigable former deputy prime premier (co-owner of a cable TV channel dedicated to gay and lesbian content, board chair for Adler University) Joy MacPhail is now being looked to by many as the saviour of the province’s beleaguered public auto-insurance agency. ICBC is floundering in a sea of rising costs and debt. The hope is that, if anyone can rescue it, it’s the forceful, no-nonsense MacPhail, who was appointed board chair in 2017, the first time the agency has had a former government minister—former finance minister no less—in that position.

35. Catharine Read

Chair, Passenger Transportation Board

In the varied ocean of complaints that emit from the province’s citizenry, there is one constant, unifying refrain: When are we going to get Uber? As chair of the non-partisan Passenger Transportation Board, Catharine Read has been charged with getting it done in the best way possible. And for Read, that means standing up to the NDP by greenlighting unlimited fleet sizes for ride-sharing companies (something for which you can bet Premier Horgan got an earful from the taxi union) and telling Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum (#24) he can complain all he wants about this issue—he’s powerless to stop it. And all this promises to be done by Christmas—the present everyone was hoping for.

36. Janet Austin

Lieutenant Governor of B.C.
Previously #38, 2018

Lieutenant governors are often seen as mere figureheads but with B.C. in the unusual position of having a minority government, Janet Austin can make or break fortunes—asking another party to form government if, say, the NDP loses the confidence of the house. Austin hasn’t had to exercise that power yet, but things could change in 2020. In the meantime, she’s using her influence to promote civility in public discourse and decry the polarization of our politics. As a former CEO of the non-partisan YWCA Vancouver, she has the singular credibility to do so.

37. Janice Abbott and Shayne Ramsay

CEO, Atira Women’s Resource Society; CEO, BC Housing
Previously #33, 2018

While this power couple are careful to ensure their professional pursuits don’t overlap, taken together, they represent a one-two punch for the affordable housing issue. Atira, the not-for-profit Janice Abbott runs, works at the ground level to aid women and children in need (they were recently one of the agencies trying to find shelter for the Oppenheimer Park evictees), whereas Shayne Ramsay, the longtime CEO of BC Housing, is tasked with tackling the issue on a broader basis. He also recently took on the federal role of CEO of HPC Housing Investment Corp., which aims to secure financing for affordable-housing providers.

38. Michael Audain

Chair, Audain FoundationPolygon Homes
Previously #11, 2018

The éminence grise of Vancouver developers may no longer be actively running Polygon Homes, but Michael Audain’s transition into the province’s most powerful art patron has only increased his stature. Most visible is his Audain Art Museum in Whistler, which continues to get international attention for its design and hyper-focused collection (the upcoming Emily Carr show should be a crowd pleaser), but he has also increased the value of his Audain Prize for the Visual Arts to a whopping $100,000—serious money in a historically underfunded area. The departure of Kathleen Bartels from the VAG—who somehow historically bungled the expected bequeathment of Audain’s collection to her institution—only reinforces that in this town it’s Audain’s style of soft power that rules the arts community.


39. Prem Gill

CEO, Creative BC
Previously #36, 2018

It was another banner year for the film and TV sector, with the volume of production in B.C. reaching over $3.5 billion in the last fiscal year, a 20-percent uptick. There have also been meaningful investments in the publishing, digital arts and music industry. Prem Gill, who celebrated four years in her current post in September, regularly makes trips to Ottawa, lobbying federal bodies on the importance of investing in B.C. and—especially—supporting its arts scene.

40. Santa Ono

President, UBC
Previously #43, 2018

Since becoming president in 2016, Santa Ono has wasted little time in getting what he thinks UBC needs—including a promised extension of the Broadway subway to his Point Grey campus—and putting the university at the heart of important global conversations (hosting the 20-member University Climate Change Coalition conference this July, for example). He’s also started to change the culture at the 111-year-old institution—pushing for greater inclusion and diversity on campus, and talking publicly about his teenage bouts of depression. “A reporter asked me, ‘Why are you so involved with mental health advocacy?’ he wrote on Twitter in February. “I replied, ‘It’s simple. I’m lucky that there is not an obituary that reads—Santa J. Ono, 1962–1976.’ All I want is for more youth struggling with mental health issues to receive the support they need.”


41. Peter Dhillon

President and CEO, Richberry Group of Companies
Previously #30, 2018

For most Vancouverites the ALR represents a green antidote to urban sprawl, and while it is that, at its heart it symbolizes the huge and often hidden role large agriculture plays in our economy. And perhaps no individual is more closely allied with the sector than cranberry king Peter Dhillon, who, having made several fortunes on the little red berries, was recently asked by the province to spearhead the Food Security Task Force to investigate and help guide the future of agriculture in the region. And when not helping consumers flush their kidneys, he’s a major power broker, thanks to sitting on the boards of the Bank of Canada, SFU and the Vancouver Airport Authority.


42. Jas Johal

MLA, Richmond–Queensborough

The first-time Liberal MLA has become the most frequent public representative for the party, leading the charge against the NDP on energy issues, ICBC, ride-hailing and more. He’s gaining influence in the party because of his ability to give it a new face: young, urban, South Asian. A former TV reporter and a savvy public communicator, Jas Johal gets consulted regularly by party leader Andrew Wilkinson—someone who would normally be more in the limelight, but who is hobbled by his association with the party’s past and his own image as a member of the Vancouver west-side elite.

43. Mike Hurley

Mayor of Burnaby

The slow-speaking former firefighter ousted a goliath in Burnaby, longtime mayor Derek Corrigan. But many wondered what Mike Hurley could do, since most of Corrigan’s team was re-elected. Turns out, a lot. He set up a public process to revise Burnaby’s much criticized approach to re-development and apartment demolition, bringing in a bold new policy that goes beyond other cities in the region for requiring rental in new projects and protecting tenants. (A sign of his new administration: when a developer came in claiming to have provided for all previous tenants, staff called every one of those tenants to check.)


44. Anne Giardini

SFU Chancellor, Board Member
Previously #42, 2018

After a corporate career of achieving excellence, Anne Giardini is now in the business of recognizing it. The former forestry executive and author has served as chancellor of SFU for five years, during which time the university has seen the fastest growth in research income in Canada. Outside of SFU, Giardini spends a lot of time these days mentoring young business leaders, especially women, and chairs the B.C. Achievement Foundation, an independent foundation established with money from the province to “celebrate excellence and achievement in British Columbia.”

45. Segal Family

Philanthropists, Kingswood Capital Corp.
Previously #19, 2011

The Segal family has been so powerful for so long that one expects they would find the idea of where they might rank on this list is, at best, humorous. Patriarch Joe, 94 and still going strong, started Field’s department stores after serving in the Second World War, and after (wisely) exiting the retail sector he invested heavily in real estate, manufacturing and broadcasting. These days, sons Gary and Lorne help steer the ship but the entire clan is happiest when their name is out of the paper (though when you put your house on the market for $63,000,000, that can be tricky, as Joe and wife Rosalie found out last year). What’s power? Call any of the other people on this list and say Joe Segal is on the line and see how quickly they pick up.

46. Stephen Quinn

Radio Host, CBC

Filling the shoes of the beloved Rick Cluff as host of CBC’s Early Edition was always going to be tricky, so instead Stephen Quinn brought his own pair—and they’re decidedly less comfortable and cozy than his predecessor’s. Instead of using Cluff’s soft touch, Quinn has made a name for himself by being the sharp end of the stick on issues ranging from NIMBYism to the morass on the Downtown Eastside. Proof of his journalistic ascension came when Jody Wilson-Raybould (#19) chose Quinn as her first interview to discuss the biggest scandal in Canadian politics since Trudeau took power.


47. Stephanie Allen

Associate VP, BC Housing, and Director, Hogan’s Alley Society
Previously #46, 2018

As director of the Hogan’s Alley Society, Stephanie Allen wields a grassroots form of power to force our city to reconcile with its past while paving a way forward—a skill best exemplified this year by her role in getting the VSB to remove the Cecil Rhodes plaque from L’École Bilingue. The small monument caused a big debate, but it was Allen (and, some would add, progress) who came out on top. She’s recently moved from the not-for-profit real estate developer Catalyst to associate VP of BC Housing, where undoubtedly her doggedness will help in the effort to solve the affordable housing crisis.

 48. Laird Cronk

President, BC Federation of Labour

This year has seen the NDP deftly consolidate their power (see #2, #3 and #5) and that means a garden hoe could head up the BC Federation of Labour and still make this list—but, by all accounts, new president Laird Cronk is considerably smarter (though business critics would say just as inflexible). He pushed Victoria to boost minimum wages, bolster labour standards and steer the WCB review in a direction that will be as pleasing to his constituents as it is annoying to big business. But his reputation will be made on how he navigates the looming B.C. teachers strike, historically a wedge issue for governments and the electorate.


49. Karri Schuermans

Co-owner/CEO, Chambar Restaurant

A successful restaurateur must possess the same skills—vision, discipline, hard work—as everyone else on this list, but they employ them in an industry where the rewards are far fewer and the risks much greater. So in this tricky climate, marking a five-year anniversary is a major milestone, and 15—which Karri Schuermans just celebrated with her perennially packed Chambar—is the stuff of legends. But in between pleasing a generation of diners and fostering an army of former employs who opened their own places, she finds time to sit on the board of the Vancouver Economic Commission and help drive the green initiatives of the Greater Vancouver Innovation Council.


50. Wally Oppal

Chancellor, Thompson Rivers University and Senior Counsel, Boughton Law Corporation

Life after the bench is supposed to be a steady stream of golfing, boating and cocktail hours that creep ever-earlier with each passing season. So what to make of Wally Oppal, who has had a second act after his Court of Appeal tenure worthy of Olivier? Attorney general, commissioner of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, chancellor of Thompson Rivers University—and, while he’s always been a Liberal stalwart, the fact that the NDP asked him to help Surrey manage the tricky process of creating its own police force this year is a testament to the cross-partisan esteem he’s held in. But, don’t worry, the Libs still love him, too—Trudeau’s government just appointed him to the new advisory council that aims to steer the RCMP into brighter days.