In a city dominated by real estate, who really runs Vancouver?

Each year we debate the meaning of power in this city. How do activists measure up against real estate magnates? How does a restaurant designer (who’s putting Vancouver’s culinary set on the map) compare to B.C.’s commander- in-chief (whose real estate tax has the power to change a lot of our futures)? It’s David versus Goliath, money versus ideas, and real estate above all. Let the debating begin.

#1: Christy Clark, Premier, British Columbia
Her nominal workplace is Victoria and her riding is in the Okanagan, but there’s no questioning the impact Premier Christy Clark has had on Vancouver this year. She’s turned the Lower Mainland real estate market upside down (exact results far from clear) with her surprise decision in July to impose a hefty foreign-investors tax on residential property sales. Her decision a few weeks later to put $500 million into low-cost rental housing, half of which will likely go into the Lower Mainland, will have a significant impact. Her government’s many snap decisions on education funding have had local school districts on a roller coaster for months. She’s steaming ahead with a plan to build the enormous new Massey Bridge across the Fraser River, something that will alter the region’s travel patterns forever. She also managed to work out a deal with the new Trudeau government and regional mayors on a first phase of infrastructure funding that will get rapid-transit-line projects started in Surrey and Vancouver. In spite of the rise of anti-governing-party populism in other places, no one is willing to bet that Clark, a master campaigner, will be defeated next May. (Photo: Carlo Ricci.)
#2: Gregor Robertson, Mayor Of Vancouver
The affordability crisis had Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in response mode much of the year. Between pleas to senior government for action, he moved to tax vacant homes and restrict Airbnb rentals, and he brought in a new city planner from San Francisco. Meanwhile, his budding bromance with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was easily chided, but it turned out to be worth more than a photo op. A federal contribution of $157 million was a breakthrough for Robertson’s efforts to bring a rapid-transit line to the Broadway corridor. Still, ongoing community opposition on issues like development, density and bike lanes meant the mayor kept his status as a decidedly divisive figure.
#3: Kathy Tomlinson, Investigative Reporter, Globe And Mail
Cause and effect is often hard to prove in journalism, but in 2016—which started with big indifference from all levels of government but quickly pivoted toward big action on the question of housing affordability—one thing seems certain: Kathy Tomlinson has shifted the debate in B.C. The long-time CBC investigative journalist joined the B.C. bureau of the Globe and Mail in August 2015 and was put on the dedicated beat of unearthing secrets and irregularities in B.C.’s overheated real estate market. Her headline-grabbing scoops started with exposing the mysterious practice of shadow flipping (where properties flip multiple times before a deal closes) and continued with tales of shady realtor practices and foreign buyers engaging in legerdemain to avoid property transfer taxes. After years of saying “nothing to see here, folks,” the province made a surprise move in late July to impose a provincial tax on foreign buyers and allow the City of Vancouver to institute a tax on empty condos (details of which were to be decided by city council in November). Then the federal government—largely absent from the debate—announced in October that it would close a loophole allowing foreigners to claim a capital-gains exemption on the sale of a principal home. The long-time cry from the Globe’s Toronto headquarters for any investigative work—the highest praise for any journalist—is “the Globe got action!” In 2016, it’s pretty clear that, thanks to Kathy Tomlinson, it did. (Photo: Carlo Ricci.)
#4: David Eby, NDP MLA, Vancouver–Point Grey
When David Eby convened a room of 600 irate Vancouver residents at the Hellenic Community Centre in Quilchena for a town hall forum on Vancouver’s “out-of-control” real estate market, he arguably set the tone for the 2017 provincial election. As the rookie MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey, ground zero for the region’s affordability woes, he’s single-handedly upended one of the government’s most sensitive files, putting the BC Liberals on the defensive and precipitating policies like the foreign buyers’ tax. And his portfolio doesn’t end there. As the critic on housing, transit and even gambling and liquor, he’s emerged as the premier’s foremost foe. Unsurprisingly, she won’t be running against him in Point Grey again.
#5: Bob Rennie, Founder And Director, Rennie Marketing Systems
Vancouver’s scorching real estate market may have become a little too hot, even for Bob Rennie. In June, the outspoken condo marketer announced that 2016’s edition of the annual address to the Urban Development Institute, a platform that had made him the de facto spokesperson for the industry and his name a lightning rod among affordability activists, would be his last (the preparation had become too time-consuming, he said). His firm continues to handle marketing and sales for dozens of real estate developments across the Lower Mainland, but don’t be surprised if Rennie goes quiet until the market—and residents’ passions—cool down. Of course, his stature in the modern art world as one of the world’s pre-eminent and most respected collectors is undisputed (his museum in the Wing Sang building in Chinatown offers but a small glimpse into his outstanding collection). (Photo: Jeff Vinnick Images.)
6. Ian Gillespie, Founder & CEO, Westbank Projects
Peering at Vancouver’s skyline from almost any vantage point, you’d have to have particularly poor eyesight to miss Ian Gillespie’s mark: the 62-storey Shangri-La, the cantilevered Telus Garden, the neon blue-streaked Shaw Tower and the 46-floor Fairmont Pacific Rim. For the past two years, since acquiring Creative Energy, he’s tried to replicate that dominance underground with low-carbon neighbourhood energy systems—to muted success. In September, the BC Utilities Commission rejected aspects of Gillespie’s proposal for the third time in nine months. His response? A “minor blip” wasn’t going to get in his way. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick.)
#7: Francesco Aquilini, Managing Director, Aquilini Group
The Canucks’ troubles on the ice over the past couple of years are likely not a source of major concern for the scion of the Aquilini family. The managing director of Aquilini Group, a sprawling empire that—besides a hockey team—includes hotels, golf courses, real estate developments, blueberry and cranberry farms and a sablefish operation, Francesco has increased the family’s fortune to $3.3 billion, according to Canadian Business. And it’s growing. Next up: the $5.2-billion Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort, approved in January by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, which promises to dramatically change the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.
#8: Jody Wilson-Raybould, Federal Minister Of Justice
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s appointment as federal justice minister last fall wasn’t just a personal achievement for the former provincial Crown prosecutor and regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations. The appointment was a historic moment for Canada, making Wilson-Raybould the first Aboriginal person, and only the third woman, to hold the post. There were more historic moments to follow. Just weeks after her appointment, Wilson-Raybould announced the long-awaited national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and early next year she’ll start the process of legalizing marijuana.
#9: Frank Giustra, Financier And Philanthropist
Mining magnate Frank Giustra is going back to Hollywood. The founder of Lionsgate Entertainment (he sold most of his stake in 2003) made his fortune as a financier of mineral projects and has spent the past five years building up Thunderbird Films, a Vancouver-based TV and movie company. To date, the firm has produced a mix of B movies and buzzy TV series like The Man in the High Castle and Continuum—but no blockbusters. That could change in 2017 when the studio’s highly anticipated sequel to cult favourite Blade Runner, directed by Denis Villeneuve, hits theatres. He’s also spent the last two years building his charity, the Radcliffe Foundation (founded in 1997), into a front-line service provider in Greece and other countries, building a shelter for 800 refugees in Thessaloniki and sponsoring projects like a new film prize at the Vancouver International Film Festival for documentaries that draw attention to the plight of refugees.
#10: Wayne Sparrow, Chief, Musqueam Indian Band
The chief of Vancouver’s Musqueam Indian Band is one of a powerful trio of local First Nations leaders. Wayne Sparrow leads a band that sits on a pile of valuable assets: the University of B.C. golf course and its neighbouring real estate, a marina and a share of the Jericho and RCMP Lands in western and central Vancouver. Sparrow, the son-in-law of venerated former chief Ernie Campbell, has been an effective spokesman as the band’s development corporation has negotiated what is expected to be the first big First Nations development in Vancouver, Block F on former UBC land. And he’s had to fight some battles inside his own band, defending the decision to pay the federal government for land that was once the band’s. It’s a tough argument, but one he keeps positioning as the only way forward.
#11: Jimmy Pattison, Chair And CEO, Jim Pattison Group
Head to the news section on the Jim Pattison Group’s website and you’ll quickly realize that the 88-year-old has his fingers in more pies now than most people will in a lifetime: “Pattison Onestop wins 13 prominent Great-West Life properties,” “Pattison-owned seafood firm commits to sustainability overhaul.” B.C.’s best-known entrepreneur (and richest person by about a billion dollars) isn’t just billboards and cars, and even in a quieter year like 2016, Pattison remains a fixture on this list.
#12: Brian Day, Founder And Medical Director, Cambie Surgery Centre
Born in England, the home of the pioneering National Health Service, Vancouver’s Dr. Brian Day is shaking the foundation in Canada this year with a lawsuit that aims to fundamentally change the way this country’s medical system works. Since 1995, Day has operated the Cambie Surgery Centre, where he offers medical services for fees, outside the public system. His legal action, initiated in 2009, finally got to the courts this year, prompting advocates and critics to pile on with assessments of whether Day, an orthopedic surgeon, is a villain or hero. The BC Health Coalition says he will bring in a U.S.-style two-tier health system that could “erase Canadian medicare as we know it.” He is joined in his suit by a handful of patients who have said their health was harmed by having to wait for treatment in the Canadian system. Day sees himself as fighting for the civil liberties of Canadians so they can choose to get service from the public system or pay extra to get treatment from a private practitioner—a hybrid system that exists in countries like Australia. Photo: Carlo Ricci.
#13: Jessica McDonald, President & CEO, BC Hydro
The workers’ camp has been completed, the trees have come down and a 60-metre-high mound of earth is slowly going up. From the standpoint of BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald, the $8.3-billion Site C dam is a fait accompli. For McDonald, it’s no small feat, considering it’s a project that she’s shepherded, in various roles, since her time as a top staffer in Premier Gordon Campbell’s office from 2004 to 2009. A challenge by two First Nations—set to lose their traditional lands and sites of cultural significance—could change that, but the prospect of this project grinding to a halt is dim.
#14: Terry Hui, President And CEO, Concord Pacific Group
Developer Terry Hui’s Concord Pacific Group has been a name recognized by Vancouverites for more than 20 years. After turning the Expo Lands into Concord Pacific Place, Hui continues to transform the city with the development of Northeast False Creek, following city council’s decision to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. Concord Pacific also made headlines this year for the $185-million purchase of the Molson Coors brewery property at the foot of the Burrard Bridge, with reported plans to build a mixed-use residential area, even though the city still has the site zoned for industrial use. What the development will become remains a mystery.
#15: Darren Entwistle, CEO, Telus
What’s old is new again—and at Telus, that’s a good thing. After a tumultuous 2015—in which Joe Natale, the short-lived Toronto-based CEO (and incoming Rogers CEO), decided to step down rather than move to Vancouver—Darren Entwistle is back in the big chair. Entwistle is widely credited with building Telus into Canada’s No. 3 telco—and the only one that didn’t make a costly bet on media (see Shaw, Rogers). Entwistle’s return as chief executive has also seen him lead the charge in transforming a moribund stretch of Vancouver’s downtown core with the company’s design-forward, über-green new corporate headquarters, Telus Garden.
#16: John Horgan, Leader, BC NDP
John Horgan is still refining his pitch for May 2017. The leader of the BC NDP has told reporters that he models himself on “Moderate Mike” Harcourt, the former Vancouver mayor who led the BC NDP to victory in 1991. And it isn’t just Harcourt’s mild manners he seeks to emulate. If Horgan is to become premier, his likeliest path to victory will come through picking up seats in the Lower Mainland—where he’s overshadowed by NDP front bencher David Eby—and blue-collar, resource-town constituencies where Horgan is in his element.
#17: Sadhu Johnston, City Manager, Vancouver
A culture change has washed through Vancouver city hall in the last year and Sadhu Johnston is a big part of it. The former deputy city manager (a “green cities” innovator recruited early by Vision Vancouver from Chicago) was officially named city manager in March after Penny Ballem had been terminated the previous September. He’s brought a gentler, more consultative touch to the hall, along with a raft of new top managers who fit the new approach. The 42-year-old strategically convened a meeting of former planners to ask advice about how to improve the city’s planning processes, helped restart the stalled Arbutus corridor negotiations with CP and oversaw the surprisingly un-angst-ridden launch of the Mobi bike-share system this past summer.
#18: Kevin Desmond, CEO, Translink
You’ll have to excuse Kevin Desmond, the recently imported CEO of TransLink, for keeping a low profile. The Texas-born former general manager of King County Metro Transit in Seattle is the beleaguered transit authority’s fourth CEO in a little over a year. Yet in the past eight months he’s executed major projects, such as the anticipated early opening of the Evergreen Line and the largely successful rollout of Compass. He also hasn’t shied away from taking the provincial government and Metro Vancouver mayors to task for their squabbles over TransLink governance.
#19: Gerri Sinclair, Managing Partner, Kensington Capital
When Gerri Sinclair, then an English professor at Simon Fraser University, tasked herself with programming a kid-friendly game for her grade-school son on a Commodore Vic 20 back in the early 1980s, she set herself on the path to becoming the doyenne of Vancouver’s digital media scene. Three decades later, Sinclair is an omnipresent force in the city’s tech industry, a consultant for Vancity and the federal government, and a board member for the Vancouver Airport Authority and the Toronto Stock Exchange—and she’ll also be steering the new $100-million BC Technology Fund. It’s a long way from her days as a Shakespeare specialist at SFU in the 1980s, where a nascent interest in computers made her one of the more tech-savvy faculty members on campus. “Gerri’s lab was the place to be if you had any interest in technology,” says Centre for Digital Media director Richard Smith, who first met Sinclair when he was a graduate student at SFU. That lab, which was responsible for creating Canada’s first website, eventually became the basis for her company, NCompass, a predecessor of many of today’s content management systems. Sinclair eventually sold NCompass Labs to Microsoft for $36 million in 2001, kick-starting a third career as a high-powered consultant at the nexus of the technology industry and government. Besides her work on establishing the parameters for open data, Sinclair was also appointed president of the Premier’s Technology Council in 2001. It was in that role that she laid the blueprint for the Centre for Digital Media, a hub for training digital media talent that has helped draw companies like Sony Pictures Imageworks to the city—and establish Vancouver as a global gaming and VFX centre. It’s all credit to her ability to recognize and gauge the power of technology before it goes mainstream, Smith says. “She saw potential in the content side of digital media long before others did.” (Photo: Carlo Ricci.)
#20: Ian Campbell, Chief, Squamish Nation
The Squamish Nation is a big, sprawling and active one, with projects encompassing everything from the Park Royal Shopping Centre to a huge gravel mine to the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, with key development sites among the billion dollars’ worth of land it controls. There is no central chief, but hereditary chief Ian Campbell is the face of the nation these days as it tackles its wide variety of projects. The 43-year-old Campbell, who recently earned an MBA from Simon Fraser University, is an adroit public spokesperson and the lead negotiator on the band’s many files.
#21: Linda Hepner, Mayor Of Surrey
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner had her hands full this year with drug conflicts and a spike in homelessness that kept B.C.’s fastest-growing city in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. But Hepner also scored some major wins. An injection of federal transit funding will help her deliver a promised light-rail network to the city, while businesses like Hollywood’s Skydance Media set up shop south of the Fraser and shored up Hepner’s business-friendly brand.
#22: Mike De Jong, BC Minister Of Finance
First off, Mike de Jong is the finance minister, which means he controls the money. Secondly, he’s been an elected politician with the BC Liberals for a very long time, which makes him the guy with historical perspective. This year, he wielded power as the voice in cabinet urging everyone not to rush into new measures to dampen Vancouver’s out-of-control housing market. He frequently made the point that the crazy housing bubble wasn’t an issue east of Langley. That held others back until it suddenly didn’t anymore in July, when a new foreign-ownership tax was announced.
#23: Andrea Reimer, City Councillor, Vancouver
Frequently whispered about as a potential mayoral candidate if Gregor Robertson decides to split, city councillor Andrea Reimer has been building up a solid base separate from Vision Vancouver. Reimer, who sources say has been distancing herself from party fundraising activities, has instead spent the year cementing her connections to the enviro movement and strengthening relationships with First Nations, the tech sector, poverty advocates and other key groups. She’s also been the point person for the city’s move to 100-percent renewable energy sources (and away from natural gas), something sure to win her both friends and enemies.
#24: Kathy Kinloch, President, BCIT
British Columbia Institute of Technology president Kathy Kinloch has refined the art of the deal. With demand for technology skills growing but funding for post-secondary education in decline, Kinloch’s efforts in her third year in the role have been to position the school as a key partner to industry. Deals inked this year saw Siemens Canada join forces with BCIT to fund multi-year research on cybersecurity and BC Housing partly finance a lab for green building practices. Meanwhile, Kinloch’s efforts to future-proof the school earned her a YWCA Women of Distinction award.
#25: Mary Ackenhusen, President And CEO, Vancouver Coastal Health
As president and CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health, Mary Ackenhusen led the health authority through a year that saw a major public health emergency in the ongoing fentanyl crisis. A record number of overdoses prompted VCH to expand the availability of take-home naloxone kits, ramp up its harm-reduction strategies, and move to open supervised injection services at some clinics. Meanwhile, Ackenhusen is also one of three CEOs stickhandling the health authority’s role in one of the biggest IT projects in the province, one that will modernize health records with a central electronic system.
#26: Founder And CEO, Fairchild Group
He’s the leading force in Chinese-language media in Canada, sitting at the helm of Fairchild Media’s two national TV networks and five radio stations. Thomas Fung also holds prime Lower Mainland real estate, including Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre. But in 2016, perhaps the most intriguing move for Fung’s Fairchild Group (worth an estimated $400 million) was its move abroad—into Hong Kong’s lucrative and highly competitive education market. In a move spearheaded by son Joseph, Fairchild launched its first private preschool in January, with plans for three more—along with two or three kindergartens, a couple of elementary schools and a high school.
#27: Irene Lanzinger, President, BC Federation Of Labour
After a decade as a Teachers’ Federation negotiator fighting for her members’ interests, Irene Lanzinger now finds herself advocating for a new crowd: B.C.’s half a million non-unionized working poor. As the head of the BC Federation of Labour, the former Abbotsford math teacher has become the province’s strongest advocate for a $15 minimum wage, a policy that would affect few of her own organization’s 500,000 members, but one that she’s pursued with zeal nonetheless. And if exposure is her metric, this popular policy has reinvigorated the labour movement’s appeal far beyond the union halls of its members.
#28: Tamara Vrooman, President And CEO, Vancity
With the housing affordability crisis in Metro Vancouver thrusting millennials’ financial woes into the spotlight, Vancity president and CEO Tamara Vrooman went to bat for the beleaguered generation, speaking publicly about their unique financial stresses and pivoting her organization to accommodate those likely to be locked out of the real estate market. Meanwhile, Vancity was named Canada’s top corporate citizen by Toronto-based Corporate Knights for the second time in four years.
#29: Lance Tracey, Financier
If you haven’t heard of Lance Tracey, it’s not your fault. The serial entrepreneur has largely stayed out of the media’s spotlight, building two corporate Vancouver stalwarts, Sutton Realty Services and Peer 1 Hosting, largely in the dark. Since Peer 1 was acquired by Cogeco in 2013 for $526 million, Tracey has established himself as a powerful advisor among angel investors and cash-hungry start-ups in the city, investing in financial tech start-ups such as Payfirma, Grouplend and WealthBar. Vancouver’s next billion-dollar tech company will likely have his fingerprints on it.
#30: Robin Silvester, President And CEO, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
For anybody in the transportation-of-natural-resources business, it’s been a tough few years as everything from new pipelines to port expansion has faced massive public opposition. Robin Silvester has seen his fair share of blowback as he’s tried to expand capacity at North America’s third-largest port, especially in the controversial export of thermal coal and the quixotic quest for more industrial land. Meanwhile, thanks to an anemic global economy, the port saw container traffic drop 6.5 percent in the first six months of 2016; coal shipments are down a whopping 14.5 percent.
#31: Michael Audain, Chair, Polygon Homes
This one-time social activist turned enormously successful property developer is reshaping the local art world. Besides providing generous donations to the Museum of Anthropology and the Vancouver Art Gallery—plus endowing a long list of art prizes, fellowships and support programs—Michael Audain opened a non-profit museum this March in Whistler that will show his collection and other works. In North Vancouver, construction is well under way on a new art gallery, with contributions from Audain’s development company, Polygon Homes.
#32: Janet Austin, CEO, YWCA Metro Vancouver; Chair, Vancouver Board Of Trade
It was a good year for Janet Austin. She was named Business in Vancouver’s CEO of the Year in the non-profit category, inducted into the Order of British Columbia and asked to join the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s council of governors. Austin’s business acumen aside, her genuine concern for human rights—and in particular women’s rights—is evident from the seats she holds on, for example, the honorary advisory board of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland and the scientific advisory board of the Women’s Health Research Institute. “Janet thinks community,” says BCIT president Kathy Kinloch. “It’s part of her DNA.”
#33: Santa Ono, President, UBC
For B.C.’s largest university, 2015 was, to borrow Queen Elizabeth’s summation of 1992, an annus horribilis. From the perceived slow response to on-campus sexual assaults to how the administration handled issues of harassment, UBC was regularly in the crosshairs. Then, the much-heralded president, Arvind Gupta, resigned in July 2015 after just one year in office. Enter Santa Ono, the sensitive, bowtie-wearing, social media-savvy import from the University of Cincinnati, who, in just a few short months, has reinvigorated the Point Grey campus, soothed raw nerves and got people talking about UBC again—in a good way.
#34: Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister Of National Defence
It’s not often you hear the word “badass” in reference to a politician. But that’s the word that caught on when Canadians learned of their new federal defence minister’s decorated military career. With tours in both Bosnia and Afghanistan, the MP for Vancouver South brings some serious clout to the job. He has so far used the post to steer Canada back toward a peacekeeping role on the world stage and brought considerable profile to Vancouver’s South Asian community.
#35: Prem Gill, CEO, Creative BC
As a 20-year veteran in broadcasting and the former director of original programming for Telus, Prem Gill was deemed a “natural fit” to take over as CEO of Creative BC in late 2015. Her first full year helming the agency responsible for promoting the TV, digital media, music and publishing sectors saw her focus on aggressively marketing B.C. as an international talent hub in order to insulate the sector’s 85,000 jobs against fluctuating currencies and government funding.
#36: Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women Support Services
Angela Marie MacDougall has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights and equality for more than 20 years, most recently as the executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services. While the demanding post has her overseeing critical programs for women and girls facing gender-based violence, MacDougall is also a strong voice in the public sphere as an advocate for women’s issues. This year she was frequently in the media, contextualizing and raising awareness of thorny issues like the spate of campus sexual assaults at UBC, what the Jian Ghomeshi trial says about shortcomings in our justice system, and the significance of the upcoming federal inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women.
#37: Ryan Holmes, CEO, Hootsuite
Ryan Holmes’s Hootsuite is growing up—and with age comes growing pains. Vancouver’s tech unicorn has hit a series of bumps over the last year: it did some intensive restructuring of its workforce, faced a wrongful dismissal suit from a long-time executive and in January faced a markdown of its valuation (albeit as part of a larger portfolio) by one of its funders, Fidelity Investments. But with revenue growing at a healthy 30 percent and a rumoured blockbuster initial public offering on the horizon, does any of that really matter?
#38: Carolyn Bauer, Spokesperson, Vancouver Taxi Association
Uber, forever at the gates of Vancouver, has met nary a foe like Carolyn Bauer. As the spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association, Bauer is no stranger to turf wars, lawsuits and licensing troubles—helpful training in her defensive war against one of Silicon Valley’s most aggressive companies. Known around town for affectionately addressing ally and adversary alike as “honey” as much as for her Sun Tzu-like strategic planning, she’s long been a force in a notoriously male-dominated world. In Uber, however, she may have met her match.
#39: Craig Stanghetta, Designer, Ste. Marie Design
Six years ago Craig Stanghetta was an actor/waiter/whatever bravely hired to design Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, an instant hit. Since then, he has turned out more than a dozen of the city’s most intriguing rooms, including Meat and Bread, Homer St. Cafe, Pidgin, Kissa Tanto and his own Savio Volpe, all pleasing eyes while piquing imaginations in the process. Indeed, his Ste. Marie Design studio has shifted the very vocabulary of restaurant design toward a more creative and holistic approach that replaces concepts and design briefs with “binding narratives” (inspired by Chekhov and Tennessee Williams) in which every aspect of the dining experience receives almost writerly attention. Still, there’s a playful, indie spirit evident in much of Stanghetta’s work, and wouldn’t you know it, bigger operators, both here and elsewhere, have decided that’s what they want. Earls hired him to transform a landmark location in Calgary and Meat and Bread for two locations in Seattle, while 2017 will see a big new restaurant opening in Austin, Texas, to go with several more here. Global domination, one studiously mismatched design element at a time. Photo: Carlo Ricci.
#40: Maureen Thomas, Chief, Tsliel-Waututh Nation
Chief Maureen Thomas is the latest in a line of low-key but thoughtful and determined leaders at the small Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the North Shore. She has been a strong voice in opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline, even taking her arguments to New York City and Kinder Morgan shareholders in June. Thomas is also steering her people in the delicate partnership with the Squamish Nation and Musqueam Indian Band to redevelop key pieces of land in Vancouver—Jericho Lands on the west side, Heather Street Lands and the old RCMP site in the centre—with the federal government.
#41: Michael Green, Principal, Michael Green Architecture
You may recognize award-winning architect Michael Green from his TED Talk, which has more than a million views. Green designs buildings that use made-in-B.C. wood products strong enough to support structures as tall as high-rise apartment buildings. His wood designs are far greener than buildings made with concrete or steel, and the technology—if it continues to catch on—could bring new business to B.C.’s long-flagging forestry sector. Green designed the six-storey Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George and some of his upcoming local projects include the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, the pending Centre for Food Excellence with the Vancouver Food Bank and Michael Bublé’s home. He also has projects in the U.S. and is competing in a design competition in Paris, which, according to Green, “will push the world’s tallest heights.”
#42: Queenie Choo, CEO, SUCCESS
Queenie Choo oversees an organization with a $40-million annual budget that has expanded far beyond its original mission. Choo is a driving force in that expansion. SUCCESS, the United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society, now helps Syrian refugees get settled, collects money for Fort McMurray fire victims and tackles issues like elder abuse. Choo, who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong via the U.K. 36 years ago, arrived in Vancouver four years ago after years of work in Edmonton. She brings an approach geared to making SUCCESS an organization that serves a broad range of immigrants, not just those from China. Although Choo is not a big public voice in the city, she’s backed by an energetic board and board chair, which makes it possible for SUCCESS to be a powerful force in the city.
#43: Richard Jaffray, Founder And President, Cactus Club Cafe
It’s hard to imagine one of Canada’s most successful restaurateurs living out of his car at Jericho Beach, but that’s where a 19-year-old Richard Jaffray’s dreams of the hospitality business began. Now, with Cactus Club Cafe’s 28 restaurants across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, plus a recent opening in downtown Toronto and plans to open a second room in Ontario at Sherway Gardens, Jaffray has proven a dominant force in Canada’s restaurant scene. He has also made a significant dent in Vancouver’s coveted waterfront real estate, with the chain’s Coal Harbour location rumoured to have cost about $18 million. “If you’re not expanding, you’re shrinking,” Jaffray says. “I don’t think we’ll ever be done.” (Photo: Carlo Ricci.)
#44: Carol Lee, Chair, Vancouver Chinatown Foundation And Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee
She’s won the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, she sits on numerous committees—from the federal Advisory Council on Economic Growth to the leadership council of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics—and she is CEO and co-founder of Linacare, a therapeutic cosmetics company. But on top of all that, Carol Lee is helping to reshape Vancouver with her work as chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation. In partnership with the city, Lee and the VCF have committed to raising $30 million to create affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside. The foundation also has plans to transform the former Bank of Montreal building on East Pender Street into a Chinese-Canadian heritage centre. “Maybe one day we will have a proper museum suitable to match the grandeur of our heritage,” Lee says.
#45: Jeff Donnelly, Founder And President, Donnelly Group
The Donnelly Group president’s dominance in Vancouver’s bar scene began when he bought the Bimini Public House in 1999, and his creative investments—such as his partnership with local chef David Gunawan on the acclaimed Royal Dinette—have grown exponentially over the past two decades. His crowning achievement in 2016? Belfast Love, Donnelly’s new 390-seat restaurant in Toronto’s King West Village—a warning shot to the competition in Canada’s biggest city.
#46: Manny Bahia, Farhan Mohamed & Karm Sumal, Partners, Daily Hive
Farhan Mohamed, Karm Sumal and Manny Bahia are having a busy year. What began eight years ago as a little-known blog called Vancity Buzz has transformed into an online media juggernaut (by Canadian standards, anyway) that provides hyper-local news geared toward millennials. The site’s reporting on the latest city events and hottest restaurants has amassed a loyal following, earning about 7.5 million website views a month. And even though their coverage is low on weightier topics like city politics, their lighter fare has earned them a wide enough readership to justify ramping that up. This year, they rebranded themselves as the Daily Hive and, going against the norm of shrinking newsrooms, expanded to Calgary, Montreal and Toronto.
#47: Jordan Kallman & Tyson Villeneuve, Co-owners, The Social Concierge
Five years ago, 1,200 people, each dressed all in white, descended on Jack Poole Plaza for Vancouver’s first Dîner en Blanc. The iconic Paris-based soiree is a pop-up-style picnic held at a location that stays top secret until the last minute. It’s a global phenomenon, but thanks to Jordan Kallman and Tyson Villeneuve, last summer’s event in Vancouver was the largest Dîner en Blanc in Canada and the third largest in the world. It speaks to Villeneuve and Kallman’s ability that these large-scale events succeeded at a time when the city was still shaking off its “no-fun city” reputation. Their company, the Social Concierge, creates experiences for the masses—think Dinner by Design, the Deighton Cup and the Oktoberfest celebration Harvest Haus. They aren’t cheap to produce, but they’re transporting events that create mini-experiences within the greater whole, and, most importantly, they seem to have captured the attention of the millennial set and demonstrated that yes, Vancouverites are willing to gather by the thousands to drink a glass of wine in a public square. To make it work, however, the pair needed to prove that B.C.’s draconian liquor laws could be adapted for large-scale outdoor events. (Pre-Dîner en Blanc, most liquor-related events forced celebrants to be housed within caged beer gardens. Hardly an elegant experience.) “I think, if anything, what we were able to do was trigger a little bit of a mental shift that these types of events can work,” says Villeneuve. “If we can be a catalyst for positive change for people to experience things in their own city in a unique and different and engaging way, then that’s a hat we are happy to wear.” Photo: Carlo Ricci.
#48: Patti Bacchus, Ex-Trustee, Vancouver School Board
Though Patti Bacchus (and her fellow board members) lost their gigs as elected trustees to the Vancouver School Board back in October, we expect the veteran Vision Vancouver trustee will rise to fight again. Bacchus led the VSB’s very public fight with the provincial government, rallying the board to reject $24 million in cuts to programs this spring and suspend plans for school closures, making it clear she’d rather lose her job than back down.
#49: Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, CEO, Century Plaza Hotel And Spa
Forty-five years after her father opened the Century Plaza Hotel, Lisogar-Cocchia is CEO of the hotel, as well as the Absolute Spa Group—with 10 locations—and a national skin-care distribution company. And her business prowess is on par with her charitable endeavours. The parent-led Pacific Autism Family Centre she established, which uses a “hub and spoke” network to revolutionize education and support accessibility for families living with autism, opened in November.
#50: Shom Sen, President And CEO, BCAA
A former top civil servant in B.C.’s Ministry of International Trade, Shom Sen oversees BCAA’s automotive insurance business and roadside support services for its 800,000-plus members. In an era where car ownership among young people is on the decline, some fancy footwork was required to keep the organization’s offerings relevant. The group now runs the car-share service Evo, which uses a fleet of 500 Toyota Prius hybrids and has put the association up against behemoth Car2go.