Presidents Group

The Presidents Group is an advisory committee to government comprised of prominent and influential business leaders in B.C. to champion advice, learnings, employment and consumer opportunities and improved outcomes for people with disabilities.

The creation of the Presidents Group arose from a recommendation from the Minister's Council on Employment and Accessibility and also aligns with outcomes resulting in the feedback received from the public consultation on disability held in B.C. from December 2013 to March 2014.

Fostering diverse workplaces that include employees with disabilities can improve the capacity of B.C. businesses to compete in the global economy and ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to contribute to the workforce and to the overall economic growth of the province. It also makes good business sense. People with disabilities make up approximately 20 per cent of the population and they represent an important consumer market for B.C. businesses.

Tamara Vrooman, President and CEO of Canada's largest credit union, Vancity, and Craig Richmond, President and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, are the co-chairs of the Presidents Group. Both Tamara and Craig have displayed exemplary leadership in recruiting, hiring and retaining people with disabilities within their own organizations.

The Presidents Group worked with the disability community and government to support a comprehensive, province-wide public consultation. The result is Accessibility 2024, a 10-year action plan for making B.C. the most progressive province for people with disabilities to live.

Accessibility 2024 is designed around 12 building blocks–ranging from employment to accessible service delivery–which reflect themes that emerged from the public consultation. Proposed outcomes, measurements and early actions are outlined under each building block.

Presidents Group Mandate and Scope

  • The Presidents Group is a leadership network of prominent and influential business leaders in British Columbia who will champion advice, learning and employment opportunities for people with disabilities
  • The Presidents Group will help to improve human-resource practices within businesses by identifying innovative workforce strategies that support all employees and enhance productivity
  • The Presidents Group will identify barriers and solutions for businesses when hiring persons with disabilities
  • The Presidents Group will liaise with the national Canadian Business SenseAbilities forum, consisting of distinguished Canadian business leaders also supporting the hiring of persons with disabilities
  • The Presidents Group presents an opportunity for the province, in partnership with British Columbia businesses, to improve supports for employers in order to support the hiring of people with disabilities

Presidents Group Members

Group Member Biographies

Tamara Vrooman, President & CEO, Vancity (Co-Chair)

As Chief Executive Officer 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 honors 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, President & CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority (Co-Chair)

Craig Richmond assumed the role of President & 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 Masters 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.

Mark Blucher, President and CEO, ICBC

Mark was appointed president and 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 HR, 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, Restaurateur and Social Innovator

Mark Brand is one of Vancouver’s most recognized social entrepreneurs. Successfully operating eight businesses in the downtown area, he has become a prominent example of a new generation of leadership. A fighter for Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, Mark is determined to breathe new life into the struggling and disjointed community. He’s doing this by finding a balance between sound business practices and social justice.

Mark came to Vancouver in 2004 and immediately fell in love with the rawness and history of the DTES. It was this area that nurtured his vision and inspired him to take the risk to open his first restaurant, Boneta, in 2007. After Boneta became nationally successful, Brand went on to open an independent clothing label and storefront called Sharks + Hammers, followed by The Diamond Cocktail Lounge, Seamonstr Sushi, Catalog Art Gallery, PortSide Pub, Persephone Brewing and lastly, his largest undertaking to date, Save on Meats.

Founded in 1957, Save on Meats has been a Vancouver landmark since it opened, serving the local community with a butcher shop and lunch counter. When it closed down in 2009 Brand was offered the opportunity to resurrect the Save on Meats enterprise. Inspired by past owner, Al Deslauriers, Brand carried with him a vision to restore the building back to its original state and to maintain the integrity of the initial concept. In 2011 the doors were opened again and Brand was committed to creating an inclusive space to fit the diverse needs of the community. It was through the success of Save on Meats social mandates and programs that Brand saw an even greater opportunity to build capacity surrounding issues of food security and employment. In May 2012 A Better Life Foundation was launched and it continues to provide support to residents in the DTES through training, employment and food.

Robin Ciceri, President, Research Universities’ Council of BC

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 BC 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 CEO 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.

Lindsay Gordon, Past President & CEO, HSBC

Lindsay Gordon is a Corporate Director and active community member. He is the incoming Chancellor of the University of British Columbia. He retired as President & CEO of HSBC Bank Canada in 2013. HSBC Bank Canada is the largest international bank in Canada and is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations, with operations in over 80 countries and territories around the world.

Mr. Gordon joined HSBC Bank Canada in 1987 in Toronto and served in a variety of senior positions in both Vancouver and Toronto. He was appointed Chief Operating Officer in December 1999 and served as President & CEO from October 2003 to January 2013. Previously, he worked 10 years for Export Development Corporation in Ottawa and Toronto. Mr. Gordon holds a BA (1973) and MBA (1976) from the University of British Columbia. Mr. Gordon serves as a director of HSBC France, Export Development Canada and the Centre for Excellence in Marine Transportation.

He is the incoming Chancellor of the University of British Columbia and Co-Chair of UBC's Capital Campaign and Governor and Co-Founder of the CH.I.L.D. Foundation.

He is a past Governor of the Business Council of B.C., a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Director of the C D Howe Institute and a founding Director of the UBC Sauder School of Business Centre for CEO Leadership. He is also a past Chair of the Campaign Cabinet, United Way of the Lower Mainland of BC and a past member of the Campaign Cabinet, United Way of Greater Toronto. Mr. Gordon was the 2010 recipient of the B’nai Brith Award of Merit for Outstanding Canadians and a recipient of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, CEO, Century Plaza Hotel & Absolute Spa Group

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 endeavors. 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 Center is to make a significant difference for those living with Autism and related challenges.

Fiona Macfarlane, Managing Partner, Ernst & Young

Fiona Macfarlane is currently EY’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 UBC 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 CA. 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.

Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council

Although Dallas was born in White Rock, the Island has always been home with both his parents coming from First Nations communities outside of Alert Bay and Port Hardy. He currently has homes in both Campbell River and Duncan with his wife Toni and 1 year old daughter Amelia May. As the son of a hereditary Chief he grew up knowing he would be a leader. He has worked for his people since 1995 after recovering from a life changing motorcycle accident in which he became an amputee. He most enjoys spending time with his family and practicing his culture, as they are drivers for both his professional work and his volunteer work for the disabled community.

Dallas is the Founder, President and CEO of Nanwakolas Council which is a cutting edge First Nations organization that protects and manages First Nation cultural values while building strategic opportunities and partnerships with both Government and Industry to increase sustainable opportunities and employment for the region. His pragmatic and straight forward approach has made him a welcome addition to several Boards and Committees ranging from the Island Coastal Economic Trust, Coast Sustainability Trust and the Coast Opportunity Fund (totaling $200 million) to Government advisory committees like the Premiers Council on the Environment and the Ministers Council on Employment for Peoples with Disabilities.

Dallas also serves as the Vice President of the BC Amputee Golf Association, and works with both the Wounded Warriors program and First Swing clinics with military veterans who have returned from war as amputees. He is a member of the World Disabled Golf Team and has competed and won golf tournaments all over the world.

Kirsten Sutton, Managing Director, SAP Labs Canada

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 honors from the University of California at Irvine, in Irvine, California. She is based in the SAP Vancouver office in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Marilyn Tyfting, Senior Vice-President and Chief Corporate Officer, TELUS International

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 BComm, 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, CEO, Destination British Columbia

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, QC, Founder, WATSON

Elizabeth Watson has over 30 years experience as a lawyer and over 10 years advising boards, committees and CEO’s 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.

Vancity Awarded for Inclusive Hiring

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