Presidents Group

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:

The Presidents Group, with financial support from Vancouver Airport Authority, launched a website to profile the work of the Presidents Group and its members. This site also provides employers with useful tools and resources that allow businesses of all sizes to increase accessibility and inclusion in their organizations. Visit accessibleemployers.ca to learn more.

Presidents Group Members  (last update April 2018)​

The Presidents Group includes these 23 influential business leaders from throughout B.C.:

Group Member Biographies

Tamara Vrooman, president & chief executive officer, Vancity (co-chair)

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, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Airport Authority (co-chair)

Craig Richmond assumed the role of president and 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 and CEO since management of YVR transferred from the federal government to a local, community-based authority in 1992.

Lisa Beecroft, owner, Gabi & Jules Handmade Pies & Baked Goods

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 and Baked Goodness. The bakery was named for their two daughters, Gabriela and 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 Blucher, president & chief executive officer, Central 1 Credit Union

Mark Blucher joined as Central 1’s president and chief executive officer (CEO) in January 2018.

Mark has had a successful career spanning more than 30 years in executive leadership roles including extensive experience in financial services across three countries. Prior to joining Central 1, Mark spent five years as the president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the second largest insurance company in Canada. Previously, he spent 12 years in a number of executive positions at the Suncorp Group, a diversified top 20 ASX-listed financial services conglomerate in Australia.

In addition to his professional roles, Mark holds volunteer positions with a number of community organizations, including vice-chair of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, chair of the United Way of the Lower Mainland and governor of the Business Council of B.C.

Mark is an associate of FINSIA and a graduate of the advanced management program at INSEAD.

Mark Brand, restaurateur & 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 (DTES), 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, Sea Monstr 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.

Dan Bregg, president, Buy-Low Foods LP (a Jim Pattison Group company)

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, 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 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.

Jan K. Grude, former president & chief executive officer, Pacific Blue Cross

Jan K. Grude is former president and chief executive officer of Pacific Blue Cross, British Columbia’s largest regulated insurer, and British Columbia Life and Casualty Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Blue Cross. He has 30 years of experience in financial services, insurance and advisory services to health care, utilities, manufacturing and telecommunications. A former partner of Ernst & Young, Mr. Grude has advised on large scale infrastructure, restructuring and privatization initiatives in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Mr. Grude is former president and chief executive officer of Mellon Financial Services Corporation (Canada), a subsidiary of Bank of New York Mellon, and former president and chief executive officer of The Buck Company based in New York City, one of the largest multi-national pension, investment and group insurance firms, now owned by Xerox Corporation. Mr. Grude holds the ICD.D designation and is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors.

Chris Hatton, chief operating officer, HSBC Bank Canada

Chris Hatton has over 20 years’ experience in the banking sector, spanning retail banking, commercial banking and operations. Currently the chief operating officer (COO) for HSBC Bank Canada, Chris started his career in with HSBC in 1996, first in retail banking in the United Kingdom, before moving into more senior roles in commercial banking with HSBC spanning Europe and North America.

Chris has a unique perspective on the global banking industry, how it is changing and opportunities for the future. In his current role, he has oversight for how banking operations are changing through the accelerated digitization of customer and support channels.

In addition to his role as COO, Chris is also the chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Council at HSBC Bank Canada. HSBC Bank Canada believes that having a diverse workforce allows us to benefit from a variety of perspectives and strengthens our local and global competitiveness. For its work, the bank was recognized in the Employment Equity Achievement Awards for Sector Distinction and Outstanding Commitment from the federal government.

Chris lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife, Claire, and son, Samuel.

Peter Hrdlitschka, president, construction, Ledcor Group

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.

Jim Lightbody, president & chief executive officer, British Columbia Lottery Corporation

On March 31, 2015, British Columbia Lottery Corporation's (BCLC) Board of Directors appointed Jim as president and chief executive officer of the corporation. He had held the role on an interim basis since January 30, 2014.

Over the past 14 years, Jim has also served as vice president of Lottery Gaming and vice president of Casino and Community Gaming. He has provided leadership and direction in strategy, marketing and product development as well as operational responsibility for the provision of products, services and support for players and business partners.

Prior to joining BCLC, Jim held a wide range of responsibilities in the retail and hospitality industries with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Nabob Foods, BC Hot House and Sun Rich Fresh Foods. This has instilled in him a keen sense of creating value for customers through innovation and partnering with key stakeholders in the delivery of the customer experience.

Jim holds a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of British Columbia with a major in marketing. He sits on the Thompson Rivers University School of Business and Economics Advisory Board, the Kamloops Blazers Ownership Advisory Group and also volunteers as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and the chair of the B.C. Horseracing Management Committee.

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, chief executive officer, Century Plaza Hotel & Absolute Spa Group

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia is the chief executive officer of the Century Plaza Hotel and 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, managing partner, Ernst & Young

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.

Chris O’Riley, president & chief operating officer, BC Hydro

Chris O'Riley was appointed president and chief operating officer of BC Hydro in July 2017. Chris leads B.C.'s largest Crown corporation, a clean energy utility serving 4 million customers with 98% renewable and clean electricity generation, and $5.5 billion in annual revenues. BC Hydro is currently investing in an unprecedented capital program of refurbishment and expansion of its electricity assets, spending approximately $2 billion per year over the next 10 years.

Chris served as the deputy chief executive officer beginning in 2015, and has been a member of the executive team since 2007. Since starting with BC Hydro in 1990, he has worked throughout the organization including positions in generation, customer care, capital projects, Powerex and corporate risk.

Chris is a professional engineer and holds a master's degree in business administration. Chris lives in Vancouver with his wife and three children, where he is active in his local community.

Rocky Ozaki, vice president, BC Tech Association

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, president & chief executive officer, British Columbia Automobile Association

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 and 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.

Robin Silvester, president & chief executive officer, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

Mr. Silvester was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in 2009, bringing to the position extensive international experience in both the port and property sectors. The port authority is responsible for the stewardship of the federal port lands in and around Vancouver to facilitate Canada’s trade objectives—ensuring goods are moved safely, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo, enabling trade between Canada and more than 170 world economies.

Under Mr. Silvester’s leadership, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has set a vision to be the world’s most sustainable port. Working closely with industry, government, Indigenous peoples and communities, the port authority developed a shared definition of sustainability for the Port of Vancouver: a sustainable port delivers economic prosperity through trade, maintains a healthy environment and enables thriving communities through meaningful dialogue, shared aspirations and collective accountability. In addition to considering community interests and taking a holistic approach to protecting the environment to better plan and manage operations and development projects, the port authority dedicates up to one per cent of net income to initiatives that matter to local communities. These investments support three key pillars: community enrichment, education and training and environmental leadership.

Prior to joining the port authority, Mr. Silvester served as chief executive for the property and facilities management business, United Group Services ANZ in Australia. Before that he spent a significant portion of his career serving in senior roles internationally with P&O Ports.

Mr. Silvester began his career in the chemicals industry in the United Kingdom. He also worked in business management and strategy roles in the steel industry and was involved in British Steel’s acquisition program.

Mr. Silvester is a chartered engineer, Institute of Corporate Directors, ICD.D, and a graduate of Cambridge University. He completed a corporate finance program at the London Business School. Mr. Silvester is a board member and former chair of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, an executive member and past chair of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, past chair of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and of its policy council, a director of the Western Transportation Advisory Council, a board member of the Canada West Foundation, a member of the executive committee of the British Columbia Business Council and a past board member of the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association.

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 honours 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 & 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 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, president & chief executive officer, 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, Queen's Counsel, founder, WATSON

Elizabeth Watson has over 30 years' experience as a lawyer and over ten 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.

Paul Welsh, managing partner, NATIONAL Public Relations

Paul Welsh has been a leader in the communications and public relations business in British Columbia and Canada for the past 25 years. He is currently managing partner with NATIONAL, Vancouver.

As co-owner of Karyo Communications from 1995 to 2007, Welsh built the firm from four people to 25 and the top ranked public relations and communications company in B.C. Key to Karyo’s success was the integrated, holistic approach the firm took to communications (long before integration began trending in the sector), combining strategic communications consulting, public and media relations, creative services, advertising, web development, event planning, research and more. In 2007, he and his business partner, Patti Schom-Moffatt, sold a controlling interest in the firm to Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company.

From 2007-2012, Welsh served as co-GM of Edelman’s Vancouver office. The company experienced explosive year-over-year growth, growing to 45 people and $7M in revenue. During this time, Welsh led Edelman Canada’s Olympic offering, attending the Torino, Beijing and Vancouver games and leading projects for the Canadian Olympic Committee, Petro-Canada, the Hudson’s Bay Company, GE, the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, the Municipality of Whistler, the Rick Hansen Foundation and more. He was also responsible for opening Edelman’s first Calgary office, a greenfield operation that has since grown to 15 people and boasts a diverse group of clients inside and outside the oil and gas sector.

In 2013, he was named chief commercial officer for Edelman Canada. Working with Canadian leadership, he was responsible for identifying emerging opportunities, mergers and acquisitions, and introducing new lines of business. He was instrumental in establishing an Insights and Analytics group, as well as reinvigorating the firm’s crisis and risk practice across the country. He led the acquisition of the Devon Group in Toronto, a public affairs firm, as well as the acquisition of a small, health marketing firm in Montreal. Finally, he was responsible for opening a greenfield Edelman office in Ottawa (the firm’s first office in the nation’s capital) with a focus on public affairs and communications.

In 2015, he co-founded Amicus Global Relief Solutions, a software start-up focused on rethinking how philanthropy works. He is a director of the company and guided it through the initial stages of brand development, strategy, capital fundraising and product development. The first release of the product is scheduled for September 2017. He joined NATIONAL in October 2017,

He is a member of Lions Club International and is an avid supporter of youth rugby, serving as director and head coach of the rugby program at West Vancouver Secondary School.

Sarah White, co-founder & chief operating officer, Fairware

Sarah is the chief operating officer (COO) and cofounder of Fairware where she is responsible for operational management, human resources and finance.

Fairware is a Certified B Corp that provides sustainable and ethically sourced merchandise across North America. The business is Certified as Women Owned, LGBT and Living Wage Employer. Fairware is an inclusive employer and has been developing a social hiring policy over the last three years. Fairware's community partner is Vancouver Street Soccer League, an organization that utilizes the power of sport to uplift and empower marginalized people on the DTES. Fairware has been hiring from the League for the past four years.

Fairware got its start in Sarah’s garage in 2005, and now has a bustling office in South Mount Pleasant where she and her business partner, Denise Taschereau, and team of ten, work on changing the world, one t-shirt at a time. Sarah’s day-to-day involves systems, human resources, project management and making sure Fairware’s culture of humour, creativity and high fives is alive and thriving.

Social justice and equity have been central to everything Sarah has been involved with. She believes creativity and collaboration, through the lens of social justice, makes positive change possible. A willingness to explore what it takes to hold others’ differing perspectives with respect, is a cornerstone of her leadership capacity.

Sarah is active in the B Corp community and has immersed herself in both learning and sharing with her team, the importance of viewing everything through the lens of diversity and inclusion.

Before Fairware, Sarah was doing what she still does today – working for something she believes in. Sarah’s path has always been one of creativity and building something new. Her passion for community, empowerment and collaboration to reach shared goals has been realized through her work facilitating large scale community public art and design projects, including Mosaic Creek Park in East Vancouver, and in the elementary school system.