The 2018 VanMag Power 50 List: Meet the Most Powerful People in the City Right Now
In 2018, power isn't found just in the hands of boardroom bosses and high rollers: it's also wielded by Vancouverites who are moving the dial in quieter—but equally meaningful—ways
November 5, 2018
Eighteen years into our annual power ranking, it’s clear that it’s not just the names on list that change and shift over time, but our definition of power itself. In 2018, power isn’t just found in the hands of board room bosses and high rollers (though you’ll find plenty still in this year’s class of influencers): it’s also wielded by Vancouverites who are moving the dial in quieter—but equally meaningful—ways. The grassroots activists swaying developers, the humble politicians rolling up their sleeves, and the behind-the-scenes players facing the opioid crisis with concrete solutions: it’s a list that’s heavy on the nice-guy factor, but don’t be fooled—this city’s power players, on all sides of the game, are in it to win it.
Counting Down the 2018 Power 50
Presented by BMO
50. Cicely-Belle Blain
Co-founder, Black Lives Matter Vancouver
First appearance on the Power 50 list
The co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Vancouver started her career in activism early, when as a teen she worked to get an $8-million grant from the British government to build a community centre for city youth, which earned her an International Leader of Tomorrow Award scholarship at UBC. In Vancouver, with BLM she’s shone a spotlight on some uncomfortable truths about police brutality in the Lower Mainland, and in addition to organizing educational events and protests, Blain is working as a safer-space creator and dialogue facilitator for a variety of organizations. As Blain aptly says, “the future is inclusive.”
49. Queenie Choo
Previously #42, 2016
Being a strong advocate for others is a thread that has continued throughout Queenie Choo’s career. She is the CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., now the largest non-profit social service organization in the province, which provides settlement services to new immigrants through 25 locations in B.C., with three offices overseas. Choo has become one of the leading voices on seniors’ issues, which have been more important than ever as immigrant seniors have been hit hard by the housing affordability crisis rocking Vancouver. In August she became the first Chinese-Canadian woman to receive the title of honorary captain of HMCS Vancouver, a Halifax-class frigate the Canadian navy has sailed since 1993. Her career in advocacy has seen her appointed to many advisory committees, including the premier’s Chinese-Canadian Community Advisory Committee and the provincial Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction.
48. Tamara Vrooman
Previously #22, 2017
The CEO of Canada’s largest credit union continues to boost Vancity’s reputation as a community leader, creating a variety of programs tailored to bolster local businesses doing good work in the city. Its partnership funding program has injected $306 million to its local business members and communities since 1994, for example, and its Envirofund grants support organizations undertaking lighter living initiatives and sustainable consumption through community projects and public education. More visibly, Vancity subsidized the Mobi bike-share program for low-income residents and recently provided a mortgage commitment to help save the nearly 80-year-old Rio Theatre when it was put up for sale in early 2018. All this community support while having a bang-up year: in 2017 Vancity had operating income of $530.6 million, a 17.8-percent increase from the previous year.
47. Miranda Lam
Lawyer, and chair, Vancouver Foundation
First appearance on the Power 50 list
As a junior partner at McCarthy Tétrault in Vancouver, Miranda Lam is one of the city’s top business litigators, and now the chair of the largest community foundation in Canada, the Vancouver Foundation (which has more than $1 billion in assets). When she took over earlier this year, not only was she the first visible minority to hold the position in Vancouver Foundation history but also the first woman. In an interview with Lexpert, Lam explained that the foundation hunts down unpopular projects and problems that seem intractable and unsolvable, problems that underpin society as a whole, and tries to uncover new ways of fixing them. “The work really moves me,” said Lam.
46. Stephanie Allen
Vice-president, Catalyst Community Developments Society
First appearance on the Power 50 list
Five years ago, if most Vancouverites were asked to talk about the black community’s history in the city, most would have been hard pressed to say anything. But Stephanie Allen, who did her master’s degree research on that community in the Simon Fraser University urban studies program, has brought that historic group back to life. Allen, who works for non-profit housing developer Catalyst, is a leader in the group that is advocating for a community centre, business space and housing to mark the one-time location of Hogan’s Alley, at the eastern end of the viaducts, which the city is planning to demolish. Her combination of idealism and pragmatic skills made her a formidable negotiator during the city-planning process.
45. Seth Rogen
When TransLink pulled a Morgan Freeman voice-over campaign this summer after the actor was accused of misconduct, a Province reporter half-jokingly tweeted that Vancouver-born Seth Rogen would make an excellent substitute—and, just a few months later, commuters were delighted to hear local-boy-made-good Rogen instructing them to not hold the train doors. It’s really no surprise he agreed to take on this role as unofficial SkyTrain ambassador: Rogen started working on Superbad when he was just a west-side high school student, and he hasn’t lost his hometown pride (he even named his production company Point Grey Pictures). And now, in addition to (kind of) helping the trains run on time, he’s been making the late-night rounds to talk about this role of a lifetime—shining a little Hollywood glamour on both our city and our humble transit system.
44. Ryan Holmes
Founder and CEO, Hootsuite
Previously #37, 2016
Vancouver is still seemingly in love with Ryan Holmes and Hootsuite. The city approved a recommendation last year to allow added density in Mount Pleasant, increasing the maximum height of buildings to more than 12 metres in some areas. A couple of years earlier, Hootsuite and Westbank partnered to purchase a full city block bordered by Main and Quebec Streets. The plan is to develop a tech hub in “Mount Pixel” that would serve as a new Hootsuite office, as well as other like-minded tech companies. But there are some uncomfortable developments as well. Platforms the company depends on, like Facebook and Twitter, have increased costs or cut access. And there’s been no sign of a long-rumoured initial public offering (though in October, the company recently hired Goldman Sachs to explore a sale at a valuation of $750 million).
43. Santa Ono
Previously #33, 2016
As Vancouver’s biggest employer and a big driver of its economic engine, University of British Columbia gets its fair share of the spotlight—especially when things go awry. President Santa Ono, two years into his term, has generally been able to right the ship—and has been proactively trying to advance UBC as an institution committed to diversity and inclusion. In April, Ono appointed Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, an Indigenous lawyer and former judge (and B.C.’s former representative for children and youth), as UBC’s inaugural director of the new Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. As part of the announcement, he also formally apologized to survivors of Indian residential schools for the role UBC played in supporting a system that ruined the lives of thousands of young children.
42. Anne Giardini
SFU Chancellor, Board Member
Previously #44, 2017
Anne Giardini continues to be a model of leadership at Simon Fraser University as its influential chancellor and well-celebrated British Columbian: after receiving the Order of Canada last year, in 2018 she added the Order of British Columbia to her accolades. The former president of Weyerhaeuser Canada (and acclaimed author) is also a sought-after board member, and she was most recently one of six people appointed to the new Hydro One board in Ontario after its previous 14-member board resigned en masse under Premier Doug Ford.
41. Andrew Weaver
Leader, BC Green Party
Previously #1, 2017
For environmentalists hoping that having the Greens as the junior partner in B.C.’s coalition government would help kibosh Site C and ensure LNG never gets off the dock, the past 17 months have been a profound disappointment. Andrew Weaver’s decision to prop up the NDP, despite its reversal on both megaprojects, has many questioning what, if anything, would cause the Greens to bring down the government. When LNG Canada announced a $40-billion investment in B.C. in early October, Weaver indicated the Greens would not support any enabling legislation—though the Liberals were expected to, keeping the plan alive. For now, the trained climate scientist and his two Green MLAs are pinning hopes on this fall’s electoral reform referendum—one part of the NDP-Green agreement that has been honoured.
40. Lori Mathison
Having left her long-time gig as a managing partner at Dentons in August 2017 to serve as the grandmaster of B.C.’s accountants, Lori Mathison added the GVBT to her resumé in June of this year. Both roles focus on the economic issues facing the province, from labour shortages to real estate, and one can expect her to put pressure on the politicians crowned in October’s municipal elections. She’s already been a harsh critic of both the B.C. government’s action on housing affordability and its elimination of the Medical Services Plan and subsequent new payroll tax.
39. Brandt Louie
Chair and CEO, Georgia Main Food Group; Chair, London Drugs
Previously #19, 2012
A fixture on annual lists of Canada’s richest, Brandt Louie recently rebranded the company that once bore his family name (H.Y. Louie Co.) to Georgia Main Food Group. The name is a nod to the organization’s start—a tiny grocer called Louie in 1903 at 255 East Georgia Street. But much of the business remains the same, as the family business operates subsidiaries London Drugs and the distribution arm for IGA, among others. In a year that saw the shuttering of 10 Safeway stores in the province, business as usual is probably a good thing.
38. Janet Austin
B.C. Lieutenant Governor
Previously #32, 2016
After serving as CEO of non-profit advocacy group YWCA Metro Vancouver for 15 years, as well as sitting on various boards and chairing the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Janet Austin got the call from the prime minister in March. She likely won’t be pressed into action the way her predecessor, Judith Guichon, was in the aftermath of 2017’s provincial election. But it’s obvious that the new viceroy will use her platform to continue to push for equality in the workplace and housing for single mothers, two pillars of her work with YWCA.
37. Malik Talib
President, Aga Khan Council for Canada
Previously #45, 2011
As president of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Malik Talib is one of the most influential voices within the Ismaili Muslim community in Canada, a group that wields incredible wealth and entrepreneurial power. But a huge part of the culture is also about giving back, and Talib embraces this philosophy, too: in addition to being a high-powered tax lawyer turned investor (with stakes in a wide variety of industries—from real estate to mining to food distribution), he’s been ubiquitous on a variety of philanthropic boards, including the Vancouver Foundation and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.
36. Prem Gill
CEO, Creative BC
Previously #35, 2017
The money is flowing into Creative BC—the organization got a $1-million boost from the province in February and a promise for $7.5 million to create a new music fund—making CEO Gill more of a power player than ever in the creative industries scene. And what a scene it is: B.C. has surpassed Ontario as Canada’s top locale for film and TV production, thanks to Gill and co.’s work wooing streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime into town. As one of the Globe and Mail’s 10 Women Who Matter in Film and TV and a recent winner of a Darpan Extraordinary Achievement Award for Corporate Engagement, her reach is recognized well beyond city limits.
35. Harjit Singh Sajjan
Federal Minister of National Defence
Previously #36, 2017
One of B.C.’s highest-profile federal cabinet ministers, Sajjan had a quieter year in 2017. Not that he’s complaining. After having to apologize for exaggerating his role in a 2006 military operation in Afghanistan, this year the Vancouver South representative has been seen to stand firm on the country’s defence spending via a Maclean’s editorial and deliver on a peacekeeping promise in Mali. He also seemed to take the high road when he urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (on the latter’s otherwise disastrous trip to India) to meet with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had earlier called Sajjan a Sikh separatist.
34. Andrew Wilkinson
Leader, BC Liberal Party
First appearance on the Power 50 list
The current leader of the BC Liberal Party has a bad hand to play. The public hates his party, and every time he tries to launch an attack on the NDP over casinos, ICBC or almost anything, critics sneer and say, “Who are you to talk? You created this mess.” But Wilkinson, a west-side former doctor, former lawyer and former Rhodes Scholar, is staying calm and holding it together. That’s no small accomplishment for a party that is famous for fracturing at times into its component parts of rural conservatives and more urban liberals. He has managed to bring the party up in the polls to near NDP levels, in spite of the challenges.
33. Janice Abbott & Shayne Ramsay
While undoubtedly one of the city’s leading power couples, Ramsay and Abbott have each achieved success in their own right. Abbott has been CEO of Atira for over a quarter century, and for the past 16 years she has employed an innovative model of managing rental properties to help fund her not-for-profit organization dedicated to women and children affected by violence. Being married to Ramsay—CEO of BC Housing since 2000—entails going through extra hoops to avoid any impression of a conflict of interest, which means Abbott often gets stuck with some of the more challenging properties, including the six-month contract earlier this year to run a former Sahota flophouse, the Regent. Ramsay has survived as CEO of BC Housing for more than 18 years and through four different premiers, which speaks to his assiduously non-partisan approach to providing social housing to 100,000-plus B.C. households.
32. Adam Palmer
Chief Constable, Vancouver Police Department
Previously #29, 2015
For the head of the VPD, the key to being on this list may be people not knowing your name. Palmer’s been chief since 2015, but the main reason he’s not a household name is that there have been no policing crises requiring him to be front and centre. Crime is down, and both community relations and officer satisfaction are up. All of which caused the police board (chaired by the outgoing mayor) to re-up the chief for a five-year contract extension this past May in the hopes he’ll produce another half decade of steady-as-she-goes results.
31. Sandra Singh
General Manager of Arts, Culture and Community Service, City of Vancouver
Previously #49, 2014
The new Vancouver city hall job Sandra Singh was awarded last December doesn’t sound that intimidating: general manager of arts, culture and community services. But that title disguises a raft of complex issues that she’ll have to deal with: everything from homelessness to reconciliation with Indigenous groups to child care to the ballet and public art. But the 40-something Singh impressed many at city hall with her potential to grapple with all that during her eight years as head of the Vancouver Public Library, with her team-building abilities and her capacity for listening quietly before weighing in. She did a lot with a tight budget, introducing things like the Inspiration Lab, which gives library patrons space and equipment for digital productions and storytelling.
30. Peter Dhillon
President and CEO, Richberry Group of Companies
Previously #36, 2010
Canada’s cranberry king (his Richberry Group is the largest in Canada) owns large swaths of land in the Lower Mainland (238 acres in East Richmond, 352 acres in Pitt Meadows) and is a key supplier to behemoth Ocean Spray. And while he’s just been inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, those little red berries are just the start of Dhillon’s influence: he was recently appointed to the board at the Bank of Canada (he’s the first Indo-Canadian to receive the honour), which adds to his board roles at the Vancouver Airport Authority and Simon Fraser University.
29. Joy MacPhail
First appearance on the Power 50 list
This former deputy premier and formidable influencer has been out of the spotlight, relatively speaking, since she left politics in 2005 and focused on other ventures (like OUTtv, the station her husband, James Shavick, led for 10 years). But now the NDP is back in power, and so is the sharp MacPhail. She’s chair of the board at ICBC, the province’s perpetually angst-ridden vehicle-insurance corporation, where changes are in the air. She was also put on the commission that studied mobility pricing for the region. And she’s chair at Adler University, an institution that focuses on mental health and social justice.
28. Gil Kelley
General Manager, Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, City of Vancouver
Previously #33, 2017
Kelley has a reputation as being a more consultative planner than some of his predecessors—a trait that became apparent in revised community plans for Chinatown, presented to council (after months of heated debate) in June. Still, the San Francisco native isn’t afraid to challenge city orthodoxy—such as intruding on Vancouver’s sacred “view corridors” with the massive Northeast False Creek redevelopment. Perhaps Kelley’s biggest test will come in implementing the city’s 10-year housing strategy, released last November, and its call to transform Vancouver’s low-density neighbourhoods.
27. Sue Paish
CEO, Digital Technology Supercluster
Previously #84, 2011
In May, the former CEO of LifeLabs was named the founding CEO of B.C.’s Digital Technology Supercluster, where she’s responsible for building and leading the consortium that will establish B.C. and Canada as global leaders in digital technology. The federally funded organization is focused on generating new jobs, growing the GDP and increasing Canada’s global competitiveness through data analytics, quantum computing and virtual mixed/augmented reality. More than 350 organizations are involved in the supercluster—Microsoft, GE and Telus among them—putting Paish in a prime position to represent and influence the country’s biggest tech players. It’s a sweet place to be as the industry itself grows into a powerhouse: B.C.’s tech sector currently contributes $15 million in GDP, which is seven percent of the province’s economy—that’s more than twice the contribution of forestry.
26. Stewart Phillip
President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Previously #34, 2017
For over 15 years, Stewart Phillip of the Penticton Indian Band has served as president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. As one of the elder statesmen of B.C.’s Indigenous community and Grand Chief of the Okanagan Nation, Phillip has been a vocal presence in the Trans Mountain and Site C debates, as well as in ongoing efforts at reconciliation. Recently, Phillip weighed in on this fall’s mail-in referendum on electoral reform (October 22 to November 30) to say that proportional representation would help correct underrepresentation of Indigenous voices.
25. Carolyn Bauer
Spokesperson, Vancouver Taxi Association; General Manager, Yellow Cab
Previously #38, 2016
Another year without Uber is another year of monopolistic profit for Vancouver’s taxi industry, which faces no competition in the ride-hailing industry. The B.C. government has delayed its plans to reform the industry yet again—this time until September 2019—though the goal is to increase the province’s cab fleet by 15 percent. That means about 300 new cabs roaming the streets of the taxi-starved Lower Mainland—in theory. The move is optional and based on industry imperatives, not consumer demand.
24. Sandra Stuart
CEO, HSBC Canada
Previously #24, 2014
Stuart is a textbook case of promoting from within. The Vancouver native started as a part-time teller with HSBC Canada more than 37 years ago, and in 2015 she became the first female CEO of a major Canadian bank—and the only CEO of a big bank based west of Toronto. As part of HSBC’s global leadership team, Stuart has advocated the multinational’s strategic support for a low-carbon economy. In April, HSBC announced it would no longer finance new oil sands projects or pipelines.
23. Geoff Meggs
Chief of Staff, B.C. Premier’s Office
Previously #2, 2017
As John Horgan’s chief of staff, Meggs is the most powerful voice in the premier’s ear. A key advantage he held in the NDP’s first year in office was direct access to old friends at Vancouver City Hall—but that’s set to change this month, with the party he co-founded, Vision Vancouver, expected to take a hit at the polls. On a personal level, he also released his fourth book in April: Strange New Country: The Fraser River Salmon Strikes of 1900–1901 and the Birth of Modern British Columbia.
22. Carol Lee
Carol Lee has worked to stay out of the limelight in the recent battles over Chinatown, but both her fans and detractors say she has been a key force in fighting out-of-character new development in the neighbourhood. Lee, the daughter of real-estate magnate and UBC pillar Bob Lee, has been pouring money and energy into trying to bring back some of the 1970s businesses and charm to the area. She opened a Chinese barbecue restaurant that has proven popular and is working on reopening a former icon, Foo’s Ho Ho Restaurant. She puts on two fundraisers a year for the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, which are becoming more prestigious events all the time, and that has generated enough money to contribute $30 million to a social-housing project on Hastings Street. If that weren’t enough, she’s also working with a team to open a Chinese storytelling centre.
21. Dustin (Khelsilem) Rivers
Councillor and Spokesperson, Squamish Nation
First appearance on the Power 50 list
Dustin Rivers—also known by his Squamish name, Khelsilem—was one of several fresh faces elected to lead the Squamish Nation last December. The Squamish are one of the Lower Mainland’s most influential Indigenous communities, and Rivers—who serves as their spokesperson—has quickly become one of the most notable voices on issues affecting First Nations, including the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project. In addition to his political work, Rivers helped SFU set up its Squamish Language Proficiency Certificate Program and advocates protecting and preserving Indigenous idioms.
20. Jesse Dougherty
Vancouver Site Lead, Amazon Inc.
First appearance on the Power 50 list
While we didn’t get shortlisted for Amazon “HQ2”—the second headquarters in North America for the tech behemoth—Amazon continues to expand and hire in the Lower Mainland at breakneck speed. Dougherty, who is Amazon’s B.C.-born Vancouver site leader, flanked Prime Minister Trudeau in April to announce 3,000 new Amazon jobs (high-paying ones in e-commerce technology, cloud computing and machine learning), with the company taking over Vancouver’s iconic central post office on Georgia Street and building a new 416,000-square-foot office tower incorporating its heritage design.
19. Craig Richmond
President & CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority
First appearance on the Power 50 list
If you think YVR is busier than ever, you’d be right: last year, the passenger count at the airport topped 24 million, up 8.4 percent compared with that of 2016, making YVR the fastest-growing airport in North America. With an expected 31 million annual passengers expected by 2022, CEO Craig Richmond launched a 20-year, $9.1-billion expansion project for YVR this June. The investment will cover 75 major plans, including terminal expansions, new parking, and “a forest of firs” added to the main terminal—what promises to be the largest indoor planter in the world. At the same time, Richmond has worked hard to strengthen relationships with Indigenous stakeholders, including a revenue-sharing agreement with the Musqueam.
18. Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice, Government of Canada
Previously #25, 2017
With marijuana legalization set for October 17, Canada’s justice minister spent most of 2018 making sure all the necessary supporting laws were in place, including a new roadside saliva test for cannabis. Beyond the busy pot file, Wilson-Raybould announced big changes to family law in May, with a focus on protecting the interests of children, and—more controversially—publicly weighed in on the Colten Boushie trial (tweeting, “As a country, we can and must do better,”—a no-no for a sitting minister, despite the important issues raised about how Indigenous people are treated by Canada’s legal system).
17. Sarah Goodman
Senior Policy Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office
First appearance on the Power 50 list
As senior policy advisor since August 2017, Goodman makes sure the prime minister is abreast of all policy implications for voters, in B.C. and elsewhere. Goodman has long straddled the industry/environment divide in her life’s work, including as a senior exec at Tides Canada, Teck and Weyerhaeuser; in her new role, she’s handling everything from climate change to fisheries and natural resources to transport. Goodman is expected to play a critical part in revising the Liberals’ carbon tax plans and rebooting the controversial Trans Mountain project.
16. Carole James
Finance Minister of B.C.
Previously #18, 2017
With her first budget in February, James pulled off the impressive feat of both delivering many NDP promises while still balancing the province’s books. Things get trickier next year, with tax revenues from B.C.’s booming real estate and construction industries expected to decline. While James remains one of Premier Horgan’s top performers, she has faced the brunt of the backlash to a proposed new tax on real estate speculation—one of many things that clouds the province’s economic future.
Urban Real Estate Developers
Previously #10, 2017
The pact that represents the foray of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations into real estate looms large, as the group has holdings in some of Metro Vancouver’s largest, most valuable swaths of land. But there are still questions around what exactly MST plans to do with its properties, which include more than 160 acres worth more than $1 billion. 2017 was also supposed to be the year in which former Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell gained the mayor’s chair with his Vision Vancouver bid. That didn’t go so smoothly; Campbell resigned when uncomfortable realities surfaced about his past. Once one of three faces of MST, it’s not known whether he’ll jump back in the saddle after he left his elected position with the First Nation to run for mayor.
14. Darren Entwistle
The Telus CEO has long kept a low profile—no Steve Jobs–style announcements for this fella—but that’s set to change this year as both he and the company he runs (B.C.’s biggest, BTW) get into the philanthropy game, big time. First up is Telus’s plan to donate $120 million from the sale of downtown’s Telus Gardens to a charitable fund (perhaps to make up for the traffic snarls the building’s construction unleashed on Seymour Street). And this past June, Entwistle and wife Fiona launched the Entwistle Family Foundation to help at-risk Canadian youth realize their full potential (with $1 million of their own funds as seed money). On the business side, wireless has been slowing, but the burgeoning health, internet and TV segments should help keep Telus atop the business pyramid.
13. Chris Gardner
President, Independent Contractors and Business Association of BC
Previously #37, 2014
Many people don’t know his name, but this former lawyer, who once worked for Samsung in South Korea, has significant influence in political circles. Gardner currently leads the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., which has become a leading force opposing the NDP government on a wide range of issues. His group ran an aggressive PR campaign to save the Site C project, something the NDP decided to proceed with in the end. Gardner, who ran the modular-building company Britco for nine years, worked with both former premier Christy Clark and former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts at points, but he seems to prefer life outside government bureaucracies.
12. Bob Rennie
Executive Director and Founder, Rennie Group
Previously #8, 2017
The past year has seen a diminished role for the perennial power player. Rennie was tight with the BC Liberals (serving as its chief fundraiser) and they’re now out of power, while his favoured municipal party, Vision Vancouver, is also fading fast. But it’s also choice: the real estate marketer, now 62, has been handing more control in recent years to his deputies (including son Kris). Rennie’s influence in the art world, meanwhile, remains strong, with fellow collectors Beyoncé and Jay-Z getting a private tour of his Kerry James Marshall collection—now showing at his museum—in October.
11. Michael Audain
Michael Audain continues to reign as a benevolent Renaissance prince of Vancouver: a gracious man who made his money through real estate development at Polygon, now on a mission to showcase his awe-inspiring art collection. Audain’s Whistler gallery, a unique building designed by the Patkau team of architects to display his Indigenous and modern art pieces, won an American Institute of Architecture award this year. His recently opened Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver will be a major draw there. He made headlines this year as the reputed saviour of a Chagall painting at threat of being lost from the National Gallery of Canada by paying the auction fees charged for cancelling the sale. And he’s said to be exploring a new art venture—a foundation, with the Desmarais family, that will celebrate the work of Québécois painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, someone whose work Audain has collected extensively.
10. Jim Pattison & Glen Clark
CEO; President and COO, Jim Pattison Group
Previously #14 & #27, 2017
There is no discussion of power in this province that doesn’t begin with Pattison. He’s been the wealthiest man in B.C. for as long as anyone can remember, and his rags-to-riches story has become part of the fabric of the province’s folklore. But behind the ever-present smile is a titan of industries—advertising, groceries, timber, entertainment—that span the globe. And few moves were more unexpected and, in retrospect, savvy than his promoting of former premier Clark as his No. 1, and in so doing positioning his empire as one beholden to no one political party (though the latter is well known to have great access to the ear of John Horgan).
9. Patricia Daly
Chief Medical Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health
Previously #9, 2017
Such is the level of Dr. Daly’s power: if she cloned herself, she might make the list in several different incarnations. The most obvious is her role as chief medical officer at Vancouver Coastal Health, where she deals with issues ranging from E. coli-induced beach closures to safety for trampoline parks, but she’s also the newly appointed executive director of the NDP government’s Overdose Emergency Response Centre, hoping to finally gain some headway in the ever-expanding opioid crisis—an issue she’s been screaming from the rooftops about for the past several years.
8. Irene Lanzinger
President, BC Federation of Labour
Previously #19, 2017
The BC Fed clearly has the government’s ear, given controversial changes announced in July that create union-first hiring rules for government infrastructure projects. While organized labour can also take credit for another signature move by the NDP—boosting the minimum wage, which is set to hit $15.20 by 2021, and phasing out the server wage—even bigger changes are afoot with a planned revamp of B.C.’s Labour Code, which hasn’t been touched in 15 years. Top of Lanzinger’s wish list: better pay and working conditions for those in the gig economy.
7. Terry Hui
President and CEO, Concord Pacific Group
Previously #13, 2017
The skateboarding, yacht-racing, ever-hyper CEO of Concord Pacific continues to roll on, building his empire out from its original base on the former Expo lands on False Creek. Aside from the huge new development his company is planning for northeast False Creek, as the final piece of that massive puzzle, Concord is also building in London (yes, England), Seattle, Toronto and Burnaby. The company builds nearly 3,000 apartments a year worldwide. On top of that, Hui, a new dad this year who is hugely interested in sustainable energy, has a dozen projects underway in that sector, including a proposed $2.3-billion Amisk hydroelectric project in Alberta, on top of half a dozen solar projects in Ontario.
6. Kevin Desmond
Previously #12, 2017
It’s been a big year for TransLink: ridership is set to hit an all-time high, breaking 2017’s record of 407 million boardings, while Desmond was able to get approval for phase two of the authority’s $7.3-billion investment plan in June. Two of the signature projects to be funded by that 10-year plan—a new light-rail transit line in Surrey and the Broadway extension in Vancouver—became hot political potatoes in municipal elections, with mayoral candidates in both cities promising to speed up the plan or ditch light rail for more expensive subways. Desmond was quick to assure would-be contenders there’d be no more money for either.
5. Ian Gillespie
CEO, Westbank Projects Corp.
Previously #3, 2017
As the world awaits Vancouver House by starchitect Bjarke Ingels, its developer is keeping busy with the rest of his $10-billion portfolio, including another Ingels-designed condo planned for Toronto. Perhaps Gillespie’s most ambitious project in 2018, however, was the launch of the Creative Housing Society (CHS), whose aim is to partner with government to build 50,000 units of affordable rental housing, primarily in Toronto and Vancouver…though those plans hit a speed bump in August when CHS’s high-profile CEO, Jennifer Keesmaat, quit to run for mayor of Toronto, and with the predicted massive change in Vancouver’s city council, his get-anything-through reputation may take a hit.
4. Frank Giustra
CEO, The Fiore Group
Previously #11, 2017
There’s arguably nobody on this list with a wider range of interests. Giustra made his name in gold mining, but he also founded moviemaking giant Lionsgate. He pals around with the likes of Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, yet devotes considerable resources to the plight of Syrian refugees. He’s also dipping his toes into the choppy bitcoin waters, backing cryptocurrency miner Hive Blockchain Technologies last fall, and in August he took public his latest entertainment venture, Thunderbird Films (owner of the Blade Runner franchise and producer for Netflix and Amazon, among others).
3. Aquilini Family
Aquilini Investment Group (AIG)
Previously #6, 2017
It’s been a mixed year for B.C.’s power family. On the one hand, this summer’s dismissal of hockey icon Trevor Linden as president of the Vancouver Canucks (a team they’ve owned wholly since 2006) has cast a pall over the most love-hated sports team in the city. On the other hand, the Aquilinis continue to make smart strategic hires for the rest of their conglomerate—including, this past July, luring top city bureaucrat Bill Aujla, general manager of Vancouver’s real estate and facilities department, to run AIG’s real estate arm. AIG, with a 25-percent stake in both the Jericho and Heather Street Lands (a combined 100-plus acres), has also become the favoured partner of First Nations developers MST—one of the few builders adding density in the heart of Vancouver.
2. John Horgan
Premier of B.C.
Previously #1, 2017
Many predicted that B.C.’s first minority government in 65 years wouldn’t last more than a few months. The fact that it’s well into year two now—with no end in sight—is a testament to the leadership skills of John Horgan, who has kept his coalition together while delivering much of the NDP platform. That said, the balancing act only gets trickier from here on in. As the former Liberal regime fades in memory, public anger over the housing crisis is something the NDP will now be forced to wear—as will any economic fallout from trying to appease its Green partners on Trans Mountain and other environmental issues.
1. David Eby
Attorney General of B.C.
Previously #5, 2017
From the very first days of his political career, David Eby’s willingness to take risks was clear. After just missing a seat for Vancouver city council in November 2008, Eby (then executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association) decided the natural next step was to run in a 2011 provincial by-election—in tony Vancouver–Point Grey, against the popular new B.C. premier and leader of the Liberals, Christy Clark. It should have been a blowout, but Clark won with little more than 600 votes. Next time, the premier wouldn’t be so lucky; he nabbed the seat in 2013.
When the NDP came to power in 2017, all eyes were on Eby—not just as the province’s next attorney general but also as the party’s heir apparent, should John Horgan stumble. While Horgan has deftly led his team into a second year in office, many see Eby as the NDP’s Gretzky—stickhandling all the hottest files, from money laundering to the opioid crisis to the financial mess at ICBC. “Horgan looks to him as a kind of Mr. Fixit—the guy he turns to when a tough political problem needs to be wrestled to the ground,” says Rob Shaw, who covers the B.C. legislature for Postmedia. “His reach at the cabinet table extends much further than the boundaries of attorney general… you can see his fingerprints and input on most of the NDP’s major policies.”
Vancouver–Point Grey has been represented in the legislature by two recent premiers, Christy Clark and Gordon Campbell. Whether it will be represented by a third depends on a lot of factors, including Horgan and the NDP losing power—and Eby hanging on as MLA, despite constituent anger over the new luxury property surtax. For now, anyway, the six-foot-seven MLA holds sway over something more valuable, according to one long-time adversary: “He controls the water-cooler conversation in the province.”