The Presidents Group is a network of B.C. business leaders who are engaging with employers across the province to:
- Increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities
- Create a more accessible consumer marketplace
The co-chairs of the Presidents Group are:
- Tamara Vrooman, president & chief executive officer, Vancity
- Craig Richmond, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Airport Authority
The Presidents Group is part of the Accessibility 2024 leadership team. This team works with government and the disability community to implement Accessibility 2024, BC’s 10-year action plan to become the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities.
Last year, the Presidents Group began the Pathfinding Project, working with the business community to encourage employers to hire more people with disabilities.
To support the Pathfinding Project, the Presidents Group has hired two Accessibility and Inclusion Consultants. They work closely with the business and disability communities to research, pilot and develop resources to increase the:
- Hiring, and
of people with disabilities in B.C.
Using the resources developed through this Pathfinding Project, employers will be able to:
- Better identify and eliminate barriers in their recruitment and hiring processes
- Make positive changes to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities
- Create more inclusive workplaces
Presidents Group Members
The Presidents Group includes these 23 influential business leaders from throughout B.C.:
- Tamara Vrooman, president & chief executive officer, Vancity (co-chair)
- Craig Richmond, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Airport Authority (co-chair)
- Lisa Beecroft, owner, Gabi & Jules Handmade Pies & Baked Goods
- Mark Blucher, president and chief executive officer, Insurance Corporation of BC
- Mark Brand, restaurateur & social innovator
- Dan Bregg, president, Buy-Low Foods LP (a Jim Pattison Group company)
- Zdenka Buric, managing partner, NATIONAL Public Relations
- Robin Ciceri, president, Research Universities’ Council of BC
- Jan K. Grude, president & chief executive officer, Pacific Blue Cross
- Chris Hatton, chief operating officer, HSBC
- Peter Hrdlitschka, president, construction, Ledcor Group
- Jim Lightbody, president & chief executive officer, British Columbia Lottery Corporation
- Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, chief executive officer, Century Plaza Hotel & Absolute Spa Group
- Fiona Macfarlane, managing partner, Ernst & Young
- Jessica McDonald, president & chief executive officer, BC Hydro
- Rocky Ozaki, president & chief executive officer, BC Tech Association
- Shom Sen, president & chief executive officer, British Columbia Automobile Association
- Robin Silvester, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority
- Kirsten Sutton, managing director, SAP Labs Canada
- Marilyn Tyfting, senior vice-president & chief corporate officer, TELUS International
- Marsha Walden, chief executive officer, Destination British Columbia
- Elizabeth Watson, QC, founder, WATSON
Group Member Biographies
As chief executive officer (CEO) of Canada's largest community credit union, Tamara Vrooman harnesses the strength of Vancity to fulfill its vision of redefining wealth for members and communities. This vision challenges us to think differently about wealth, to return to a meaning that says you can only truly prosper as an individual if you are connected to a vibrant, healthy community that is sustainable for the long term.
Tamara considers her role a continuation of her career in public service, putting Vancity’s $17.1 billion balance sheet in service of members to create growth with community impact. Through Vancity's involvement with the Social Finance Task Force and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), she sees this can be done on a national and global scale, recognizing that we play a key role in improving the quality of life for current and future generations through values-based banking. Under Tamara's leadership, Vancity became the first carbon neutral credit union in North America, the first Canadian financial institution invited to join GABV, the largest organization in Canada with a living wage policy, and in 2011 achieved the best earnings performance in its 65-year history.
As deputy minister of finance for British Columbia from 2004 through mid-2007, Tamara also served as secretary to the treasury board and CEO of the Public Sector Employers' Council. Among her achievements in that time, Tamara led the strategy development and implementation to successfully renegotiate 100 per cent of expiring collective agreements in the public sector without strike or mediation and led the ministry to two AAA credit rating upgrades. Her role included overseeing the government's annual $100 billion borrowing and cash requirements and developing the government's $36 billion fiscal plan. Her prior portfolio was as deputy minister and executive financial officer for the Ministry of Health where she balanced the budget and developed the ministry's financial management plan. Tamara has held many board appointments, including: YVR, Business Council of BC, Vancouver Board of Trade and the University of Victoria – School of Public Administration Advisory Board.
Tamara pursued her post-secondary education at the University of Victoria, earning a master of arts in history in 1994 and a bachelor of arts, with honours in 1991. She also received an honourary doctorate in technology from British Columbia’s Institute of Technology in 2013. Tamara has been recognized with various awards, including the YWCA Women of Distinction 2011 award, Canada’s Top 40 under 40 (2005) award and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 2003.
Raised in Kamloops, Tamara lived in Victoria for more than 15 years before moving to Vancouver for her position with Vancity in 2007. A member like everyone else, Tamara, her husband and young son all belong to Vancity's Kitsilano Community Branch where the staff advise her on everything from financial planning to the West Side's best restaurants and most popular playgrounds.
Craig Richmond assumed the role of president & chief executive officer (CEO) of Vancouver Airport Authority on July 1, 2013. With a passion for aviation, proven leadership skills and a breadth of international airport experience, Richmond will continue to shape and enhance YVR’s reputation as North America’s top airport with a focus on innovation, sustainability and teamwork.
British Columbia-born, Richmond originally joined Vancouver Airport Authority in 1995 and spent more than 11 years in operational roles including manager, airside operations and vice president, operations. From 2006 to 2013, Richmond worked for Vancouver Airport Authority’s associate company Vantage Airport Group as CEO of six different airports, including Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport in The Bahamas, three airports in Northern England and, most recently, two airports in Cyprus. Richmond’s seven years of work at airports in different markets and stages of development yielded invaluable global experience that will serve well YVR’s future growth as a global hub.
Between 1980 and 1990, Richmond served in the Canadian Armed Forces, piloting fighter jets both locally and abroad. Educated at the University of Manitoba, Richmond holds both a bachelor’s degree and a master's in business administration. Richmond is Vancouver Airport Authority’s third president & CEO since management of YVR transferred from the federal government to a local, community-based authority in 1992.
Lisa Beecroft is the co-owner, with her husband Patrick, of Caffe Divano, which operates three cafes in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Burnaby. This past year they also opened a new bakery in Port Moody, Gabi & Jules Handmade Pies & Baked Goodness. The bakery was named for their two daughters, Gabriela & Juliana, and inspired by the fact that Juliana has autism, they have worked to ensure their bakery is an inclusive work environment. As such they employ and provide ongoing work experience opportunities for individuals on the spectrum. This year the company was recognized by the city of Port Moody with the Peter Hulbert Accessibility Award for their efforts in employing and creating opportunities for individuals with autism.
Lisa has a bachelor of arts degree in communications from Simon Fraser University and has served on the board of the Heights Merchant Association and Shop Local Port Moody and is a member of the Economic Development Committee in Port Moody.
Mark was appointed president and chief executive officer (CEO) in November 2013, after serving as interim president and CEO from October 2012. He is responsible for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to help ICBC provide superior customer service and the best insurance coverage at the lowest rates possible.
Mark joined ICBC in August 2010 as senior vice president of insurance. He has extensive experience in financial services and insurance industry, having held a number of senior positions at Suncorp Metway Limited, a diversified Australian-based financial services company. Mark’s roles at Suncorp included executive leadership of human resources, retail banking, personal insurance, and integration. He also held a number of senior positions with ANZ Bank in New Zealand.
He is an associate of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia and a graduate of the advanced management program at INSEAD, an international business school and research institution.
Mark sits on the board of directors of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation and United Way of the Lower Mainland, and the board of governors of the Business Council of British Columbia.
Mark Brand is one of North America's foremost social entrepreneurs. With eleven businesses under his belt, he is an example of a new form of leadership that encompasses good in every step. He is determined to breathe new life into our struggling and disjointed communities through his work in social impact business and as an educator, facilitator, and speaker.
Five years ago, Brand realized his dream of becoming the owner of Save On Meats, a Vancouver butcher shop and diner that has provided food security and access since 1957. In 2013, he created The Token Program, an alternate currency to feed those in need without a cash exchange. Almost 100,000 tokens have been redeemed, filling 100,000 empty stomachs, and creating interactions between those who have, and those in need.
In addition, more than 1 million meals have left Save On’s doors to feed those who struggle, in partnership with his charity A Better Life Foundation (ABLF). ABLF works with community agencies, marginalized individuals, and governments to create tangible waves of change.
Brand is a graduate of THNK School of Leadership, a fellow at Stanford University, a staunch supporter of B Corp, and an advisor to corporations and individuals working to make real change. It is through his philanthropic efforts, systems design, and love for his community that he has found a unique balance in business and purpose.
A seasoned business executive with a diversified background in the food service, retail, wholesale and financial sectors, Dan Bregg has been president of Buy-Low Foods and its Associated Grocers wholesale, Van-Whole Produce wholesale and retail operations since 2008.
Born and raised in Metro Vancouver and a lifelong resident of Surrey, B.C., Dan achieved his certified general accountant designation in 1984 while gaining business experience as both an entrepreneur and an employee in a variety of roles with increasing responsibility related to his chosen field of study.
Dan spent five years in public practice at McKave & Co., Chartered Accountants in Surrey, B.C. specializing in audits, tax services and financial analysis before being offered the role of controller for G&H Marketing in 1986.
Dan took on a series of progressively senior responsibilities at G&H before the company was acquired by the Jim Pattison Group and merged with Buy-Low Foods in 1995. With this merger Dan earned an executive appointment as vice president of finance, a role that included oversight of all legal, human resources, real estate, information technology and financial matters, and over time increasing responsibility to include all acquisition matters.
To date, Dan has managed the acquisition of more than 19 different businesses and the integration of those businesses into the Buy-Low Group of companies.
With the acquisition of Associated Grocers in 2000, Dan took on a direct operations role and in 2005 was recognized with a Jim Pattison Group Special Achievement award for his contributions to the operational results of the company.
Since 2008, Dan and Buy-Low Foods have been awarded with four Jim Pattison Group Outstanding Management awards, the Jim Pattison Group Award of Excellence and the Jim Pattison Group President of the Year for 2016.
Under Dan’s leadership, the company has also been recognized on numerous occasions for business excellence and community contributions, including being recognized as the 2015 Employer of the Year by the Developmental Disabilities Association.
Robin Ciceri is the president of The Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia. Robin joined the Council in November 2009 after a long career in the B.C. government where she held a number of leadership positions.
Robin was deputy minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Small Business and Revenue. Prior to joining the Council, she was the deputy minister of advanced education and labour market development and the chief executive officer of the Public Sector Employers' Council Secretariat. Robin’s experience also includes senior positions in health, economic development and intergovernmental relations.
Robin currently serves on the boards of the BC Innovation Council, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the BC Council for International Education, the Immigrant Employment Council of BC and LifeSciences BC. Robin holds a bachelor of arts degree, a professional certificate in secondary education, and a master of public administration.
As president of Ledcor’s construction group, Peter oversees building construction operations across North America, actively working collaboratively with Ledcor’s teams, clients, and construction partners.
Peter joined Ledcor in 1991 and has held progressively responsible positions in both the field and the office, including senior project manager, manager estimating and technical services, and vice president estimating, before becoming president of Ledcor’s construction division.
Peter is a past director of the Amalgamated Construction Association and Vancouver Regional Construction Association and has professional affiliations with the Quantity Surveyors Society of BC and the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors. Other professional relationships include the BC Building Envelope Council, the Urban Development Institute and the Building Safety Advisory Council of BC.
In October 2011, the British Columbia Institute of Technology awarded Peter with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Leadership.
During his career, Peter has presided over dozens of commercial, residential, institutional and industrial building construction projects across Canada. In British Columbia, some prominent projects that Peter has supervised are the Shangri La tower, the Teck Acute Care Centre (the new BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospital Expansion), the University of British Columbia Irving K. Barber Library and the Tsawwassen Mills mall. Peter also directed the construction of some of B.C.’s first LEED Platinum and ‘Living Building’ projects—including the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre and the Simon Fraser University Childcare Development Centre.
A resident of North Vancouver, Peter actively gives back to the community participating in various charitable organizations such as Kids Help Phone, BC Children's Hospital, United Way, The Zajac Foundation and The Looking Glass Foundation.
Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia is the chief executive officer of the Century Plaza Hotel & Spa and Absolute Spa Group, Canada’s largest independent spa chain. Active in her community, Mrs. Lisogar-Cocchia is a Business Council of British Columbia governor, Vancouver Police Foundation trustee, Royal Roads University fellow and Vancouver Board of Trade chair (2012). She holds a bachelor of arts from the University of British Columbia and recently received an honorary doctorate (Honoris Causa) from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. Mrs. Lisogar-Cocchia is also the recipient of the British Columbia Community Achievement Award, Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Wendy is known not only for her entrepreneurial drive but also for her philanthropic endeavours. Over the past twenty-five years she has raised considerable funds for British Columbia’s special children. Her current goal as co-founder of the Pacific Family Autism Centre is to make a significant difference for those living with autism and related challenges.
Fiona Macfarlane is currently Ernst & Young's managing partner of the British Columbia practice and the firm’s chief inclusiveness officer. Prior to her current role, Fiona was the Canadian managing partner, people and Ernst & Young’s Americas chief operating officer, tax. Before joining Ernst & Young’s South African firm in 1983, Fiona trained as a lawyer in Cape Town, where she was admitted to the bar.
Fiona was on the cabinet of Pathways to Education, an organization that provides access to education for youth in disadvantaged areas. Fiona was previously a director on the Canadian board of the International Women’s Forum. She currently co-chairs the IWF Canada Committee on Sponsorship of Women to Leadership roles. Fiona is a member of the board of governors of the Business Council of British Columbia and serves on the organization’s executive committee. Additionally, she has been appointed by the British Columbia Minister of Finance to the province’s Expert Panel on Business Taxation. Fiona was previously a member of the Aboriginal Business Investment Council and currently sits on the executive board of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia. Fiona has been recognized as one of Women of Influence's 2012 Canadian Diversity Champions, was an award winner as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in 2011 and 2012. Fiona also received the “IWF Woman Who Makes a Difference” award in October 2013. Additionally, she is governor of the board of the University of British Columbia as well as Shawnigan Lake School.
Fiona’s efforts in the immigrant community have been recognized with two awards: the TRIEC CBC Business Leader Award in 2008 and York University’s makeMORE Ontario Connections Award for Immigrants in 2010. In 2011, Fiona was awarded an honorary charted accountant designation. Fiona holds a bachelor of arts, commerce and law degree from the University of Cape Town. She also earned a master of law degree from Cambridge University.
Jessica McDonald is president and chief executive officer of BC Hydro, a clean energy utility. As B.C.’s largest Crown Corporation, the corporation generates $5.5 billion in annual revenues and is currently investing in an unprecedented capital program of refurbishment and expansion of its electricity assets, spending an average of $2 billion per year for the next 20 years, including the development of the $8.3 billion Site C hydropower project.
As part of a new focus on customer service and employee engagement, Jessica led a brand, vision and values refresh at BC Hydro resulting in the company being named in 2016 as the #1 most influential brand in B.C., as well as being named by Forbes as Canada's #1 employer.
Prior experience includes commercial mediation and negotiation on major infrastructure and industrial projects in B.C., deputy minister in the B.C. government for six years as well as many other posts in the government under numerous administrations beginning in 1991. From 2005 to 2009 she held the most senior public service position in the provincial government as deputy minister to the Premier, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the BC Public Service, responsible for oversight of all aspects of government operations.
Jessica is a member of the BC Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Canada, and serves as a board director on various boards. She has been recognized nationally for her leadership in innovation and employee engagement including the IPAC/Deloitte National Gold Award for Public Sector Leadership. She was named as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40™ in 2008, as well as one of the top 35 most influential women in B.C., Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women™ and Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame™.
Follow Jessica on Twitter at @bchydroceo.
Rocky Ozaki is the vice-president of community at the BC Tech Association, a non-profit organization with a vision to make B.C. a top 10 worldwide tech ecosystem. Rocky’s role at BC Tech is to broadcast the amazing success stories and opportunities in our province, while playing a strategic role in partnering with the tech community towards common goals.
Prior to joining BC Tech, Rocky spent many years in start-up and has personally launched two tech companies. He is also extremely passionate about the future of work and how technology, a sharing economy and the connected generation have dramatically changed the way companies attract and engage their people. His consulting firm, NoW Innovations, coaches and inspires companies to thrive in these exponentially changing times.
Rocky originally forged his career as a human resources professional because of his eagerness to inspire people be the best they can be; regardless of their gender, education or other unconscious biases prevalent in the workplace. He has brought his passion for diversity, inclusion and belongingness as a senior human resources leader in organizations such as the Capilano Group, Compass Group and British Columbia Automobile Association.
Most importantly, Rocky is a proud father, husband, and loyal “big brother” who has remained extremely close to his “little” for the last 13 years.
Shom Sen is the president and chief executive officer of the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA). The most trusted organization in British Columbia by its members, BCAA serves one in thee B.C. households with industry-leading products, including home, auto and travel insurance, roadside assistance, Evo Car Share and full auto service.
Prior to BCAA, Shom was Asia Society’s (New York) first Jack Wadsworth fellow. During his fellowship, he focused on global trade policy and food security issues. Before coming to Asia Society, Shom served as assistant deputy minister of international trade for B.C. Under his leadership, the division achieved key milestones such as B.C.’s contribution to the conclusion of the Canada-EU trade agreement and attracting a number of strategic investments to the province.
Before settling in B.C., Shom was vice president of strategy and business development for Kraft Foods, Asia Pacific, where he led the development of the strategic plan, led various merger and acquisition initiatives regionally, and worked as a key team member on a multi-billion dollar global acquisition. While in Asia, he also served as general manager, strategy & portfolio for the retail oil products business of Royal Dutch Shell (Asia and Middle East), and held senior roles in Sara Lee Corporation both in Asia and the United States. He started his career in marketing at Kraft Foods Canada.
Shom served on the board of the BCAA for six years and is currently serving on the campaign cabinet of the United Way (Lower Mainland). He received a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of British Columbia and a master of business administration from Harvard Business School.
Kirsten Sutton is the managing director of SAP Labs Canada. In this role, she is responsible for inspiring innovation within the Canadian development organization, managing the SAP Labs facilities across Canada, as well as being the external and internal liaison of SAP Labs Canada. As part of her broad scope, Kirsten also manages the state-of-the art Executive Briefing Centers around the world, by maximizing their exposure and driving the collaborative potential to help customers derive deep benefits from their partnership with SAP.
With more than 18 years of experience in the technology industry, Kirsten previously served as managing director for SAP Labs Vancouver, the global director of technology development operations for SAP, as well as chair of the Vancouver Leadership Team. She has also served as global director of translation, where she incorporated leading-edge technologies and progressive processes in the centralization of translation services across the organization.
Kirsten is the vice-chair of the Minerva Foundation for BC Women as well as the past chair of the British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA). Kirsten is also a playwright and a French chef, two skills that lend to her artistic and social flair. Kirsten holds a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics and creative writing from Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington, and a bachelor of arts degree in English with honours from the University of California at Irvine, in Irvine, California. She is based in the SAP Vancouver office in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Ms. Tyfting joined TELUS in 2007 and served as vice-president, human resources for TELUS International from 2009 to August 2015, when she was promoted to her current position. In this role, she leads a combined global team that includes marketing, communications, facilities, real estate, talent acquisition and development, team member engagement, and community investment. Marilyn’s expansive team brings together the key parts of the business that impact almost 26,000 team members every day to build the best overall employee experience.
Marilyn has provided human resources leadership to diverse national, customer-focused organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and periods of significant growth and cultural change. Prior to joining TELUS, she held progressively senior positions in human resources with the University of British Columbia, BC Transit, Rogers Cable, and Rogers Wireless. She holds a masters of business administration and a bachelor of commerce degree, human resources/labour relations with the University of British Columbia.
Marilyn’s passion for people, her consummate experience and her interminable professionalism are evident in every endeavour she takes on.
Marsha Walden is the president and chief executive officer for Destination British Columbia, the province’s crown corporation responsible for tourism marketing. She joined the organization in November 2013.
A life-long British Columbian, Marsha’s career spans corporate leadership roles in marketing, strategy, transformation, operations, communications and social responsibility. At the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), she led multi-disciplinary teams focussed on organizational growth and renewal through her passion for customer-centricity and business innovation. Working with private sector partners and local governments across the province, her vision for community gaming centres revitalized the entertainment experience for players and created a new future for the industry.
Prior to joining BCLC, Marsha created marketing and communications solutions for clients in a broad range of the nation’s flagship industries, both as an independent consultant and as a senior executive at BBDO, one of Canada’s largest advertising agencies. An active volunteer, she has extensive experience as a board member in a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations in health, arts, sports, education, and technology. Marsha holds a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia, loves to travel, and takes full advantage of family life in our extraordinary province.
Elizabeth Watson has over 30 years' experience as a lawyer and over 10 years advising boards, committees and chief executive officers from all sectors on governance and board recruitment issues. Liz works closely with the corporate governance community in Canada and is a sought after speaker and contributor on governance and recruitment issues.
Liz currently serves on the board of St. George's School and previously served as Chair of Choice School for Gifted Children and director of the Institute of Corporate Directors, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, the BC Cancer Foundation, Women in the Lead Inc. and as a member of the Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Advisory Board.
In 2012, Liz was named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by WXN. She was chosen as one of the inaugural Top 100 Influential Women of British Columbia in 2010 and an Influential Woman in Business (Vancouver) in 2007. Liz holds an LL.B from the University of British Columbia and completed executive education in the areas of governance and finance at Harvard University and Ivey Business School respectively.