Columbia Institute

The Centre for Civic Governance is a program arm of the Columbia Institute. The Columbia Institute is a charitable organization established to activate and motivate working people to build strong, progressive communities throughout Canada.

Click here to visit the Columbia Institute website.




David Levi, Chair, Columbia Foundation

In January 1992 David started the Working Opportunity Fund, BC’s original labour-sponsored investment fund, which has grown to $400 million in assets and 50,000 shareholders. GrowthWorks was founded by David in January 1999 and has quickly grown to be a leading venture capital fund manager, having five offices and nine venture capital funds under management which have made investments in over 200 companies across the country David has grown assets under management to $800 million for GrowthWorks, the second largest manager of labour-sponsored investment funds in Canada.

In addition to his entrepreneurship and strategic leadership, David has over 10 years of investment management experience and an in-depth knowledge of the brokerage community, having previously been chair of VanCity Credit Union and Vice-President of Broker Services at C.M. Oliver.

David has provided strategic direction to many portfolio companies and currently serves on the boards of Avcorp Industries and Xantrex Technology. He also chairs Verite, an independent, non-profit social auditing and research organization and is involved in a number of community organizations.

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Ken Neumann, President, United Steelworkers

Born and raised in rural Saskatchewan, Ken Neumann has been a lifelong Steelworker. When he was still a teenager, he was a member of Local 5890 at Ipsco Ltd. in Regina, Saskatchewan, and later was a member of Local 6166 at Inco Ltd. in Thompson, Manitoba.

As a member of Local 4728 (Westank-Willock, Regina), Ken became active as a steward, and later took on other jobs in the local right up to getting elected president. He became an instructor, organizer, and president of the Regina Area Council before being hired as a Steelworker Staff Representative in 1977.

Ken worked for Steelworker members in Saskatchewan and Kimberley, BC, where he built a personal reputation for strong service to Steelworker members in the East Kootenay region. He ran and won the election in 1989 to replace retiring District 3 Director Len Stevens, and has been returned to office in every election since then, increasing his and the union’s involvement in the labour movement in Western Canada, as well as increasing organizing activity in the union’s largest geographical district.

Ken is active in numerous Canadian and international organizations, including serving as labour co-chair of the Canadian Steel Trades and Employment Congress, President of the Steelworker Trusteed Benefit Plan, President of the Humanity Fund, director of the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and ICEM. He is also secretary of the USWA Non-ferrous Industry Conference, chair of the United Dominion Industries Conference and a General Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

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Tom Dufresne, Retired President, International Longshore Workers Union

Tom Dufresne is former President of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU). In his fifth term as President, Tom has been a longshoreman on the Vancouver waterfront for over 34 years. In additional to his role as President of the ILWU Canada, Tom has also served on the executive of Vancouver ILWU Local 500 as President and Vice President, and as a business agent for two terms.

Active in the labour movement, Tom is an Executive Officer of the BC Federation of Labour, is a member of the Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress and for the past nine years has also sat on the Fair Practices Committee of the International Transport Workers Federation. Tom is also on the Board of Directors for Working Enterprises and the Columbia Foundation and is married with one child.

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David Black, President, COPE 378

David previously served as COPE 378’s Vice-President from May 2005. Prior to that, David sat on the COPE 378 Executive Board since he was appointed by the Executive Council in 2001. He served on the COPE-SEPB National Executive as Vice President for Region IV from 2005 until 2011. David is a member of the Executive Officers of the BC Federation of Labour and is on the Board of the Working Enterprises Group. He is a former member of the Board of Directors for the United Way of the Lower Mainland where he served on the Executive Committee and was Chair of the Labour Committee. He is a former delegate to the Vancouver and District Labour Council.

In the past, David sat on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Foundation, including Chair of the Distribution Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee. David spent many years on the Board of the REACH Health Clinic including a term as President. He has also been involved with the Margaret Mitchell Fund for Women and the Hastings North Community Policing Office. David lives in New Westminster with his wife Maya Russell and their three daughters Kate, Maggie, and Rebecca.

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Barry O’Neill, Retired President, CUPE BC

Barry O’Neill was president of CUPE BC from 1997-2003. He represented more than 70,000 workers, including those working in municipalities, school districts, universities, colleges, social services, ambulance paramedics and others. Previous to his position as President of CUPE BC, Barry was the full-time President of CUPE Local 606, representing 1,400 school support workers in School District #68 and School District #69, Nanaimo, Duncan and Lake Cowichan.

Born on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Barry now lives in Lantzville on Vancouver Island with his wife of 27 years, Charmaine. He has 4 children and a wonderful granddaughter, all of which he is very proud.

Barry currently holds positions as:

  • Executive Officer of the BC Federation of Labour
  • General vice-president, CUPE National, representing B.C. and Alberta.
  • Chairperson, BC Federation of Labour, Occupational Health & Safety Committee
  • Director, Working Enterprises
  • Director, Columbia Foundation
  • Director, Camp Jubilee
  • Pension Trustee, CUPE Employees’ Pension Plan
  • Alternate Trustee, Municipal Pension Board of Trustees

Barry enjoys tennis, fishing and has a passion for the game of golf.

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Irene Lanzinger, President, BC Federation of Labour

Irene Lanzinger was elected President of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) in November 2014. The BCFED represents more than 500,000 working people from affiliated unions across the province, in every sector of the economy.

Irene is the first woman to be elected as President of the BCFED. She has a long history as a strong leader in the labour movement and is deeply committed to advancing equality, protecting vulnerable workers, and strengthening workplace safety.

Prior to being elected President, she served as Secretary-Treasurer for the BCFED from 2010 – 2014.

Irene began her career as a secondary science and math teacher in Abbotsford, at which time she became a member of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). In 2000, Irene became chief negotiator for the BCTF, bargaining on behalf of 41,000 members province-wide.

She was elected Vice-President of the BCTF in 2002 and then President in 2007.

While Irene plays a strong role within the Canadian labour movement, she has also broadened her union work to the international scene. She joined solidarity delegations in Namibia and across Latin America, including Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras. She twice travelled to Colombia—the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist.

Irene’s dedication to working people and the labour movement has defined her career, and continues to motivate her as the President of BC’s labour movement.

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John Shields, President Emeritus, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union


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Sussanne Skidmore, Executive Vice-President, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union


Sussanne Skidmore is a well-known social justice activist, unrelenting labour leader, and a driving progressive campaigner – she is a candidate for Vice President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), which represents 65,000 working women and men.

She has served in nearly every elected position in her union local—from steward to executive. As a young but seasoned union leader, Skidmore represents a generation of proud labour believers who will not be beaten down by federal, provincial or local government officials who are continually eating away at the rights workers deserve.

“I believe in standing up for what is our heritage, our rights and our hope for a dignified life with a job that not only pays us fairly, but affords us a life of respect and opportunities we deserve,” Skidmore said. “I believe that we will take new tools of technology, new ways of communicating directly to our members – and the public, as well as approaches to growing our base with new young workers we have not attracted in the past.”

As the local BCGEU chairperson, Skidmore represents government administrative services workers in the Prince George area. She’s a Training Analyst in the court services Branch of the Ministry of Justice where she has worked for 11 years.

Skidmore served as the Second Vice chair of Administrative Services Component (component 12) the component representing over 12,000 administrative workers across the province and served as second delegate to the Provincial Executive and is the current chair of Local 1211. She has sat on both the Master Bargaining and component bargaining committees. She is a member of the Equity and Human Rights Committee and the BCGEU Women’s Committee where she has been a voice for women’s next steps within the labour movement and fighting for fairness and equality. She is active in her local Labour Council where she has served as the Vice President and is currently the BCGEU representative to the Board.

In addition, she has been an active member of the Prince George-Valemount NDP executive team since 2003, and took on fundraising and voter contact responsibilities in the 2005 and 2009 provincial elections. In 2014 Skidmore ran for the NDP Provincial MLA position in the Nechako Lakes region.
She is also active in her community, organizing pride and other social justice activities. She is married to Stacey Hewlett and has a son, Quinn, 19.

Sussanne was elected executive vice-president in 2014.