Harrison 2012 Presenter Bios

JOEL BAKAN is a renowned thinker, educator, writer and filmmaker. His 2004 book and subsequent film, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, analyzes the evolution and modern-day behaviour of corporations. It won 25 international awards. His latest book, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children, was published in August 2011, to rave reviews. Joel is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law at UBC.

Joel’s work is as relevant as ever in the leadership challenges of our time: from the financial crisis, to trade agreements, to Occupy, the role of corporations in local community and education is increasingly at the forefront of public discourse. Drawing from his latest book, as well as previous projects, Joel will highlight the importance of education and strong public policy in nurturing the type of communities where children, and all of us, can thrive.

TRINA AYLING is a second-term Trustee for School District 5, Southeast Kootenay. She is co-owner of Whimsical Publishing Company and author of a children’s book, Miss Emily Goes to Bat. She has been a guest speaker for the Cranbrook Traction for Community Action and Chamber of Commerce and has consulted one-on-one with over fifty local community groups around the District’s Neighbourhood Learning Centre initiative. Trina chairs the SD5 Media/Communications committee providing media releases on emergent and ongoing issues and summaries of monthly Board meetings. She lives in Cranbrook BC with her husband and two boys aged 10 and 12.

LEONORA (NORA) ANGELES is a professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning and in UBC’s Women’s and Gender Studies program. Her research i ncludes extensive work on participatory planning, budgeting and governance, highlighting opportunities for civic engagement in deliberative local governance. She has been involved in capacity-building research projects in Brazil, Vietnam, and Southeast Asian countries and was part of a multi-stakeholder community project promoting participatory budgeting in Canada.


JOAN AXFORD s a widely-respected former president of the BC Association of School Business Officials, past Director of School Finance for BC’s Ministry of Education, and Secretary-Treasurer for SD 63. She is a professional accountant (C.M.A.) with over 38 years of experience, past Chair of the Teachers’ Pension Board and a member of the Board of Directors for the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation. She brings a clear, engaging and factual analysis on vital school board issues.



BETTY BAXTER has worked with school districts, colleges and universities providing training, planning and investigations for the past fourteen years. Betty has been in leadership roles as an Olympic athlete, international coach and volleyball coach for kids camps, student and adult teams. She has also been the equity officer for a large union, been a candidate for Member of Parliament and designed and taught a program on civic leadership at a BC University. Betty is an outspoken advocate for equality in all our communities on the issues of gender and sexual orientation. She was elected to the Board of Education for School District No 46 (Sunshine Coast) in November 2011.

BRUCE BEAIRSTO was an educator in Richmond for 37 years, retiring as Superintendent in 2010. He obtained his PhD in Educational Leadership through the University of Tampere in Finland and lived there for six successive summers in the course of doing so. He is now an Adjunct Professor and part-time Lecturer at Simon Fraser University and an Educational Consultant.



DAVID BEERS is founding editor of The Tyee. He was senior editor at Mother Jones magazine before moving to Vancouver in 1991. Since then, he has won national awards for his journalism in Canada and the United States, writing for The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, National Geographic and many other publications. He is a founding member of IMPACS, a Vancouver non-profit firm providing media help to non-profit groups, former vice chair of the Vancouver City Planning Commission, and a lecturer at the UBC School of Journalism.

MARILYN BELAK retired in 2011 after nine years on City Council, Dawson Creek. She was Interim Mayor in 2008 completing the term during the illness and passing of Mayor Calvin Kruk. During her acting-Mayor stint the nearby Encana pipe line bombings were active and the first BC Wind project was being erected on the ridge south-west of the city. Marilyn received the 2005 “Today’s Woman Award” for “Woman of the Year, Impact and Influence in Northern BC.” and has received several local Civic Leader citations, is recipient of three “misbehavin’ women” trophies and two Aurora’s in ’08 and ’09.

DR BILL BOURGEOIS has invested over 35 years in improving forest land management in British Columbia. Bill has been a soil surveyor for the BC government, a terrain analyst, land use planning and research supervisor for MacMillan Bloedel Ltd, a General Manager for a woodlands services division, a Vice President for Lignum Ltd and Riverside Forest Products and an Associate with the Commission on Resources and Environment overseeing regional land use planning to end the “war in the woods.” During this time, Bill has been involved in many innovative initiatives, built positive working relationships and advised on strategic planning initiatives. Bill now consults on natural resource sector and First Nations policy, programs and related sustainability issues through his own company New Direction Resource Management Ltd.

ROBERT DUFFY is a research analyst with the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance, where he recently completed a report on municipal financing for energy efficiency retrofits in Canada. His background includes research positions in the BC legislature and at the national office of the Canadian Federation of Students. Prior to joining the Columbia Institute, Robert did legislative and communications work in the Canadian Parliament. Robert has worked on federal, provincial and municipal election campaigns, and has organized for NGOs and social movements in Canada and the United Kingdom. He holds a Masters in Communications from Simon Fraser University.


RACHEL FORBES is a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law where her work focuses on environmental assessment law reform, and law and policy projects related to local government sustainability. Rachel has a bachelor of arts in urban geography and communications from Simon Fraser University and a law degree from the University of Victoria that focused on environmental and Aboriginal law. Prior to joining West Coast, Rachel spent two years working primarily for local governments doing environmental, land use, and First Nations relations work. Rachel has previously been a volunteer director of non-profit and for-profit organizations and she is currently a director at large of the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

CHEEYING HO  is the Executive Director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability. She has worked in the non-profit sector in policy, planning and education on transportation, land use and smart growth for over 10 years. Cheeying was the Executive Director of Smart Growth B.C. – a province-wide non-governmental organization promoting sustainable land use and development and Executive Director of BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation).

Cheeying is a former high school and college teacher of science and mathematics. She served as a member of the Prime Minister’s External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities, as well as a term on the Board of Vancity Credit Union and currently sits on a number of other advisory boards and committees including the Mayor of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team.

SETH KLEIN is the BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a public policy research institute committed to social, economic, and environmental justice. His research deals primarily with issues of welfare, poverty, and inequality. He is co-chair of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, an advisor to the Metro Vancouver Living Wage for Families campaign, and an advisor and instructor for Next Up, a leadership program for young people committed to social and environmental justice. A social activist for over 20 years and a former teacher, Seth is a well-known media commentator and speaker on public policy issues.


LEANNE PIPER has served as a city councillor in Guelph, Ontario since 2006, after having also served as a former school board trustee.   Her background as a grassroots community activist in the area of civic engagement, heritage conservation and the environment have given Leanne a keen awareness of the fragile tension between the public and the political process.  She currently chairs the city’s Planning, Building, Engineering and Environmental Services committee.  Leanne holds degrees in history and English from McMaster University, and currently works at the University of Guelph.  Guelph has an enviable reputation in the area of public engagement and collaborative community partnerships and was recently dubbed by the media as the “Granola Capital of Canada” .


EMANUEL MACHADO is the Manager of Sustainability Services and Special Projects with the District of Sechelt and is responsible for the development and implementation of the District’s sustainability plan. Emanuel has extensive experience working with communities on all aspects of sustainability, with a focus on renewable energy, water and food. He is involved with the Green Communities Committee, The Whistler Sustainability Centre, QUEST BC, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) Sub-Committee on Sustainable Communities. In 2007 he was the recipient of the Arbor Vitae Award from the Ministry of the Environment and in 2008 he received a Professional Award for Innovation from the Local Government Management Association of BC.

MICHAEL MCCARTHY-FLYNN – Michael hails from Ireland. He has a Masters in Community Development from the National University of Ireland. He has worked in the inner city of Dublin, Ireland, for nearly a decade on a variety of anti-poverty and social inclusion programs. He has also worked with people living with HIV/AIDS in Swaziland, helping them set up income-generating projects. He has been living in Vancouver since 2009 and is the organizer with the Living Wage for Families Campaign.



DAVE MESLIN is a Toronto-based artist and organiser. Dave has instigated a variety of urban projects including the Toronto Public Space Committee, Spacing Magazine, City Idol, Human River, Toronto Cyclists Union, Dandyhorse Magazine and Better Ballots. Multi-partisan and fiercely optimistic, Dave embraces ideas and projects that cut across traditional boundaries between grassroots politics, electoral politics and the arts community. In his work, he attempts to weave elements of these communities together. Dave blogs at Mez Dispenser, and is currently co-editing a book with Coach House Press about civic engagement in Toronto.

NOW COMMUNICATIONS is a full-service social marketing and advertising agency, focused on helping sell things that money can’t buy: ideas, causes, social change. Since setting up shop in Vancouver in 1991, NOW’s trainers have worked with elected people at all levels of government, from municipal candidates to Premiers to the late Jack Layton.

ELLEN PEKELES is the Vice President (VP) of Human Resources for Vancity Credit Union. Ellen joined Vancity in November 2006 as VP of Community Leadership, and then SVP Strategy until November 2009. Prior to Vancity, Ellen was a Chief Operating Officer in Vancouver Coastal Health from 2002-2006. In that role she was responsible for the full spectrum of health care in 11 municipalities and 14 First Nations communities leading 3500 staff. Ellen holds a BSc in Physical Therapy from University of Toronto and an MHA from University of Ottawa.


BRENDA REID-KUECKS is the President of Ecotrust Canada (EC), an enterprising charitable organization whose purpose is to build a conservation economy in coastal BC. Prior to becoming EC’s President, Brenda was Director of Programs for five years, working from the community office in Clayoquot Sound. Before joining the organization, Brenda was responsible for developing a coast-wide program for the Fishermen’s Union and the Province of BC to support economic diversification in communities affected by the loss of commercial salmon fishing. Brenda is committed to building strong local institutions that provide a place for shared decision-making and for creating resilient economies and communities.

MARYLYNNE RIMERis a former trustee from District #63 Saanich where she served as chair for 4 years. She was an active advocate for public education on her board, and as a member of VISTA and BCSTA. MaryLynne spent 10 yrs in the BC provincial government, with the last six as a Deputy Children’s Commissioner. She has also extensive experience with a variety of community organizations. Currently, MaryLynne owns and operates MLR Consulting where she works with public, not-for-profit, and First Nations’ organizations to enhance their productivity and innovation.

PATRICIA ROSS is currently serving her 7th term as Abbotsford city councillor. She is also vice chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District and served as their chair for the past 3 years. She is a Fellow of Leadership for Environment and Development International and occasionally helps train new cohorts. LEAD is an international research and training program which fosters worldwide sustainability. Patricia has received many awards for her work including “Abbotsford’s 2009 Woman of the Year,” Chamber of Commerce Newsmaker of the Year and Rotary club Paul Harris awards. Patricia was the only member of Abbotsford council to take a position of opposition to the P3 water proposal in 2011.

GAËTAN ROYER‘s love of everything urban brought him to hundreds of cities in 30 countries. An architect and urban planner originally from Québec City, he served as Base Engineer at Canada’s largest Air Base and peace-keeper in Bosnia. He received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal for his humanitarian work in Sarajevo. During his time as City Manager in Port Moody, BC, the City received numerous awards including the International Livable Communities Award. Gaëtan is now the Manager of Metropolitan Planning, Environment & Parks for Metro Vancouver. Through his book, Time for Cities, and speaking engagements across Canada, Gaëtan Royer is a passionate advocate for a better deal for cities.

SASQUATCH TOURS is a unique Sto:lo First Nations tour operator, owned by the Charlie family in Chehalis, British Columbia. Sasquatch Tours operates enriching and memorable Aboriginal cultural cruises, interpretative programs, traditional ceremonies and dances, cultural awareness workshops, sensitivity training programs within the beautiful Coast Mountains of southwestern British Columbia. 

ALISDAIR SMITH is the Chair of the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network, a non-profit network of institutions, organizations, working groups and individuals committed to furthering compassionate engagement and conduct in our communities. The GVCN is endorsed by a group of prominent Lower Mainland institutions and individuals that include the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, Free The Children, Fair Trade Vancouver, Kindness Foundation, Christ Church Cathedral, Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, Canadians for Compassion, InterSpiritual Centre of Vancouver Society, Vancity, and the Vancouver Foundation.

About Centre for Civic Governance

The Centre for Civic Governance works to support community leadership meeting today’s social and environmental challenges: climate change, Canada’s increasing equity gap, and shifting social trends. At the Centre for Civic Governance, our goal is to strengthen Canadian communities through sharing best practices, providing tools for locally elected leaders, and progressive policy analysis. We strive to provide knowledge and information to make real and positive social change.