Our annual look at the movers and shakers reshaping Manitoba's landscape
By: Dan Lett
Posted: 01/4/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 01/4/2014 12:24 PM | Updates
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of the 20th Century’s most iconic leaders, once suggested that true power comes in unassuming forms.
"Power is like being a lady," Thatcher once said. "If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t."
If that is a true measure of power, then this year’s Power 30 — the Free Press list of Manitoba’s most influential citizens — is full of leaders who easily would have met Thatcher’s approval.
That being said, there are many different definitions, and our list certainly includes many different variations on power.
It has been eight years since the Free Press first published a Power 30, three years since our last one, and there is still a lot of debate about how we put together the list.
Does the Power 30 measure, in strict terms, power? Or is a high profile reason enough to be considered for membership? Perhaps we should rename the list the "Famous" 30, or the "Most Fascinating" 30?
There are most definitely a number of theories at work when we put together the list. In the end, we’re confident that the 30 spots represent everyone from the blatantly powerful to the endlessly interesting.
After a nearly three year layoff, how does this Power 30 stack up? There has been a lot of movement from our last list in 2010, in large part because there has been a significant changing of the guard. Manitoba now has a new senior federal cabinet minister (Shelly Glover), a new Winnipeg police chief (Devon Clunis), a new Manitoba finance minister (Jennifer Howard) and a new head of Manitoba Hydro (Scott Thompson).
Premier Greg Selinger and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz are still around, but both have seen their stock fall since the last list of power brokers.
There are now three women in the top 10 on the list, up from two in 2010; and for the first time, an aboriginal power broker — Derek Nepinak, Grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs — has cracked the top third.
But in what is indeed a reflection of the province itself, the top spots on our list contain mostly familiar names.
— with files by Martin Cash, Larry Kusch, Melissa Martin, Nick Martin, Murray McNeill and Bruce Owen
I was recently asked whether any of the Chipman brothers — Mark, Jeoff and Steve — would consider getting involved in politics, perhaps as a candidate for mayor of Winnipeg in the 2014 municipal elections?
I thought about that for a moment, and then answered this question with another question: why would any of these three hideously successful men want to be mayor of a city they appear to already own?
The Chipmans truly represent a changing of the guard in terms of Manitoba’s most powerful families. The Aspers, the Richardsons and the Craigs all continue to have an enormous say in what happens in Manitoba. However, it is the Chipman clan that has captured the imagination of the entire province.
The prominence of the three brothers is a powerful legacy for the late Robert Chipman, who built a single auto dealership into a business empire. Bob Chipman would also have met Thatcher’s definition of powerful; he was a quiet man who shunned the limelight but who left his mark on this community as an employer and philanthropist.
The family business he started has grown into a behemoth: real estate brokerage and development; construction; an extensive network of retail automotive outlets; management consulting; professional hockey.
Engineering the return of the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League after a 15-year absence was more than enough to earn a spot on this list. But what’s remarkable about the brothers Chipman is that they were easily among the most powerful families in Winnipeg before the Jets returned.
Mark, the brother with the highest profile thanks to his position as president and CEO of Truth North Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Winnipeg Jets and the MTS Centre, was awarded the top spot in the Power 30 in 2010, about 10 months before we all learned the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg.
The Jets have only helped galvanize this family’s power ranking. And even though Mark has the highest profile, the other brothers contribute significantly through other successful family business to the Chipman gravitas.
Jeoff Chipman, is president and CEO of the Stevenson Group, and manages the family’s extensive real estate and development operations. Steve Chipman, meanwhile, is the face of the Birchwood Group, which operates 17 auto franchises.
Adding to the Chipman aura is a keen interest volunteer and philanthropic activities. From the Manitoba Museum to the United Way and the Winnipeg Jets Foundation, the Chipmans are making their presence known as more than just employers and entrepreneurs.
There is more than a bit of irony in Hartley Richardson’s second-place ranking in the Power 30.
The irony does not come from the lofty ranking itself; Richardson has been a keenly influential personality in Manitoba for decades thanks to his family business interests, which include agri-foods, oil and gas development, financial services and real estate. In 2010, he ranked fifth overall in the Power 30.
The irony comes from the fact that it took a polar bear to push him further up the Power 30 rankings.
For the past two years, the president and CEO of James Richardson and Sons, has been a relentless champion of the $180-million renovation of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. This has required Richardson to step more directly into the limelight, something he does not typically like to do.
The Richardson family has certainly built a legacy through philanthropy, including prominent investments at both the universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg. However, it is well-known that much of the philanthropy authored by the Richardson’s is done anonymously.
That quiet generosity, and a fierce loyalty to keep both his family and his business empire headquartered in Winnipeg, keeps Richardson near the top of our list of power brokers.
In a province like this, it is impossible NOT to rank the premier high up the list of the province’s power brokers. That having been said, Premier Greg Selinger has not been able to reach the top of our list, a place that his predecessor Gary Doer achieved three times.
Why? There is no specific evidence to suggest Selinger is any less influential than his predecessor. However, Selinger has never enjoyed the personal popularity that Doer enjoyed.
Given the events of the past year — including a controversial decision to raise the Provincial Sales Tax to fund infrastructure — mean that the top spot on the Power 30 will remain out of reach for the foreseeable future.
Any tax hike is controversial, but in this case Selinger had explicitly promised he would not raise the sales tax to fund infrastructure. His reversal on this issue, along with a botched effort to explain how the money would be used to improve the province’s infrastructure, is certainly wearing thin with voters. Recent opinion polls have Selinger’s NDP trailing the Progressive Conservatives by a wide margin.
Can Selinger recover? There is still more than two years before the next election, plenty of time for the premier to find more stable ground.
As a result, come 2016, Selinger will either be at the top of our list of power brokers — the result of a remarkable political comeback — or he will be off the list altogether.
Paul Soubry is the CEO of one of the city’s largest and most famous exporters — New Flyer Industries.
But that alone does not mean ex officio membership in the Power 30.
The fact is, Soubry is becoming something of a manufacturing efficiency guru as well as one of the city’s most generous go-to ambassador/champions.
By force of will he’s also transforming a boring Winnipeg bus company into an international industry growth story.
Under his management, New Flyer— the largest bus company in North America and one of the city’s best brands — has gobbled up significant share of the North American market by taking out weak competition made weaker through the last recession.
At the same time he’s forged strategic partnerships with South American and British firms, part of a long-term strategy for on-going international expansion.
He is part of a coterie of next generation business leaders in the city — he, Mark Chipman and Great-West Life’s Paul Mahon all went to St. Paul’s high school together — who refuse to make excuses about Winnipeg and are determined to use the city’s advantages to make it something bigger and better.
His father ran the Versatile tractor plant for years and before taking over New Flyer, Soubry was the chief executive at Standard Aero turning it into an industry darling and a Winnipeg employment engine that continues to underpin the city’s aerospace sector.
We’re talking local manufacturing royalty here.
And Soubry is just as comfortable with corporate directors — his own board includes former Captain Canada Brian Tobin and a bevy of Wall Street and Bay Street types — as he is with the range of Manitoba community boards where he lends gracious and hefty support.
Since being elevated to cabinet in 2009 after two years as a backbench MLA, Howard has become the most powerful person in government next to the premier himself.
She’s the go-to cabinet minister when the NDP is in a tricky spot. Howard was thrust into the Family Services portfolio as the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry got going. And as the new finance minister and chairwoman of treasury board, she’s been handed the unenviable task of wrestling a large deficit to the ground. It’s going to be a big challenge to balance the books by 2016, as the government has vowed. Recently, Howard said her job would be tougher than she previously thought. The province alleges that Statistics Canada is underestimating Manitoba’s population by 18,000 people, costing Manitoba much needed federal transfer dollars.
Howard, who was born and raised in Brandon and once ran the Women’s Health Clinic, is a political animal who appears to relish the thrust and parry of the legislature. As acting premier, she speaks for the government when Selinger is away, and with no less authority. She’s an able communicator and unflappable. She was also one of the chief spokespeople for the NDP during the last general election campaign.
Born with a disability — one of her legs is shorter than the other — that affects her mobility, she has become a crusader for greater accessibility for disabled persons. This year, she introduced a bill to establish provincial accessibility standards to remove barriers to disabled persons in buildings, transportation and employment. The measure received unanimous support in the legislature.
As President and CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, she reigns over a $2.4 billion budget — representing close to half of all provincial government spending on health in Manitoba.
A former Health Sciences Centre nurse who was born and raised in Minnedosa, Wilgosh is the chief bureaucrat responsible for overseeing the city’s hospitals and personal care homes. The WRHA funds more than 200 health services and programs employing 28,000 people.
The issues that wind up on her desk range from hospital doctors who fail to wash their hands to clogged hospital emergency rooms, a shortage of hospital beds and line-ups by ambulances waiting to unload patients. She also has to grapple with long waits for certain types of surgeries.
There is always great public interest in health care, and the list of what needs fixing never seems to dwindle. The level of responsibility weighing on the shoulders of the WRHA CEO rivals that of the provincial health minister herself.
Wilgosh became the WRHA’s first female leader in March 2010. She earned $353,370 last year — well more than the premier but far less than some of the emergency room physicians under her watch.
Her management style is said to be consultative, yet firm. She worked her way up the nursing ranks and into various administrative roles. Before taking on the WRHA job she served as the province’s deputy minister of health.
The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs hit the ground running almost from the first day he elected in 2011. The 39-year-old law school graduate has now firmly established he’s beholden to no one other than his own people.
The forceful speaker at numerous Idle No More events in Manitoba, and most recently at New Brunswick’s Elsipogtog First Nation, advocates aboriginal self-government and economic rights based on treaty guarantees.
That position has seen Nepinak in the past year at odds with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, accusing Atleo of working behind the scenes with Ottawa.
In response, Nepinak has advocated for the creation of a new organization called the National Treaty Alliance. A new organization would further his goal of closing the book on the federal Indian Act and getting Ottawa and provincial governments to live up to unfulfilled treaty promises made more than a century ago. That’s been most recently seen in his opposition to mining in provincial parks and on traditional First Nations land.
Nepinak argues the province’s attempt to bring mining companies and the First Nations together only pays lip service to the duty to consult but doesn’t serve First Nations or environmental concerns. He’s warned that not one new mine will open in Manitoba without First Nations consent and hinted that Omnitrax’s plan to ship oil by rail to the port at Churchill won’t proceed without First Nations support.
"It’s up to us to maintain the water and the ecosystem. We have the final say," Nepinak has said.
While his at-times inflammatory position is at odds with the conciliatory statements of other Manitoba indigenous leaders, it has not diminished his popularity among grassroots aboriginal people.
The former Winnipeg police officer and St. Boniface Conservative MP saw her star ascend last summer when Prime Minister Stephen Harper promoted her to his cabinet in July as the minister of Canadian heritage and official languages.
First elected in 2008, Glover got a seat on Harper priorities and planning cabinet committee in which all key government decisions are made before they become public. With her promotion Glover replaced the now-retired Provencher MP Vic Toews and became Manitoba’s most senior MP — the go-to person if anyone wants Ottawa’s help.
In this position, Glover will be the point person in rolling out the Harper government’s new version of the Building Canada Fund, the $53-billion pot to be used to fix or replace infrastructure over the next decade.
As the minister of Canadian heritage and official languages, the 46-year-old bilingual Glover is responsible for the arts, culture and the CBC at a time when federal funding to each is being reduced.
As a police officer for about 19 years, the last few as the service’s media spokeswoman, Glover earned the reputation that she was not a shrinking violet. She’s kept that reputation and that of being a loyal Harper trooper. That was seen perhaps most dramatically when she led three other Conservative MPs to the Manitoba legislature in 2012 to condemn the Selinger government on its criticism of federal immigration changes.
She has also demonstrated she stands up for what she believes in, perhaps most notably in supporting a private member’s bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender Canadians.
She’s served the province as its health minister for seven years and, in the fall cabinet shuffle, was elevated to become the minister of a new portfolio to defend the Selinger government’s increase to the PST to a leery province.
As jobs and the economy minister, the confident and camera-friendly Oswald also further increases her profile as a more experienced senior cabinet minister going into the next provincial election in two years.
More immediately, moving Oswald into the new position helps the NDP in the legislative assembly where she’s become quite adroit at swatting down opposition questions.
More so, it’s a calculated move—some say—made not only to put a fresher face on the NDP government, but to introduce to Manitobans the next NDP leader when Selinger decides to step down.
Yes, the University of Winnipeg president will retire this summer. But no one really believes he’s done extending the U of W empire.
The campus was a rectangular city block, with a gym across the street, when Axworthy started. The university that was one-fifth the enrolment of the University of Manitoba is now one-third, and is constantly racking up more graduate programs.
Two blocks to the west lies the huge new science complex, along with a day care and student residence — and a gravel parking lot where Axworthy covets a physics building.
There’s also new housing behind the Buhler Centre, itself flowering on the old army surplus store site, and a $40-million indoor soccer and wellness centre for the inner city.
So does anyone think Axworthy will quietly fade into retirement?
Pallister, a self-made millionaire, has given the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives a shot of energy since being acclaimed party leader 17 months ago. With Pallister at the helm, the PCs are no longer political pushovers.
When the Selinger government surprised everyone last spring by announcing a one-point increase in the PST, the Tories virtually shut down the operations of the Manitoba legislature in protest. The Tories forced the government to sit all summer and into the fall, passing few of the bills it had introduced. It was an Opposition unlike anything the NDP had faced since coming to power in 1999. As part of a deal that ended the legislative logjam in September, the NDP agreed that the legislature would henceforth sit for more days each year than it had in the past.
Pallister’s abrupt style can rub folks — including some in his own party — the wrong way, but he’s got the Tories ahead of the NDP in the polls. At this point, he’s probably better than even odds at becoming Manitoba’s next premier.
The Manitoba Métis Federation president since 1996, making him the longest-serving president, Chartrand saw the Supreme Court of Canada rule the federal government did not deal with the Métis fairly in Manitoba more than 130 years ago.
At the heart of the dispute is how 566,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) of land was to be set aside for Métis children as promised by Canada in the Manitoba Act of 1870.
"Our time has come," Chartrand said at the time. "This day will forever be marked as a new beginning."
The landmark case, worth millions of dollars in compensation, supports the MMF in future compensation-related talks with Ottawa and most recently in its dealings with Manitoba Hydro in getting the Crown utility to consult on the Bipole III transmission line and the proposed Keeyask generating station. Chartrand has threatened to take Hydro to court potentially blocking work on both projects.
Winnipeg’s mayor since 2004, Sam Katz weathered another very difficult year in 2013, when city hall was once again beset by scandals.
Katz saw his friend and confidante Phil Sheegl resign his position as chief administrative officer, suffered through the fallout from the embarrassing fire-paramedic station audit, disclosed he bought out his former business partners in the Winnipeg Goldeyes and watched former allies such as St. James-Brooklands Coun.
Scott Fielding defect from executive policy committee. A weakened Katz still managed to retain enough power at city hall to stave off calls for a police-headquarters audit in the fall.
But it remains uncertain whether he will run for a fourth term in 2014 — and whether he could win.
Shindleman is one of Manitoba’s best-known and influential commercial real estate developers.
The firm he heads up and co-founded — Shindico Realty Inc. — is Manitoba’s biggest real estate developer, with nearly $1 billion in projects in the pipeline and a host of retail power centres in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba, including Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk and Steinbach.
Shindico was also in the headlines this year for its involvement in the controversial construction of four new fire-paramedic stations in Winnipeg — a subsequent audit blamed the city for the project’s failings — and for Shindleman’s past business ties to Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.
He and his brother, Robert, and Katz were co-owners of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club up until a few months ago, when the mayor bought out their shares in the team.
It’s been a decade since Gail Asper became the champion of her father’s idea, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Next year will see the landmark finally open, a testament to that commitment and Asper’s tenacity and political acumen.
She has served on more local and national boards than almost anyone in Winnipeg and is a generous and devoted theatre patron.
She doesn’t take herself so seriously that she won’t throw herself into the occasional role in the annual lawyers’ theatre production put on at RMTC.
Outspoken, quick-witted and stylish, her name is frequently floated as a possible candidate for federal office or the mayor’s chair.
It was no fluke that Diane Gray was tapped to marshall CentrePort into existence.
It’s arguably Winnipeg’s biggest greenfield development gamble in a generation and the kicker is that it might take a generation to get going. That means she’s on the front lines in dealing with the skeptics and in the boardrooms cutting strategic deals.
It’s Gray’s job to keep people focused, supportive and enthusiastic while the heavy lifting gets organized and delegated.
Gray will not suffer fools but she can work cranky politicians and bottom-line obsessed business types with equal parts street smarts and sheer intelligence.
There are not many people who could pry $212 million in public sector infrastructure funds for a highway who’s ultimate usefulness might still be years away.
Appointed Winnipeg’s 17th police chief a year ago, Clunis is a breath of fresh air in a country where the law-enforcement agenda has been driven by hiring more police officers and building more jails.
Clunis’ efforts in the past year as top cop has been on crime prevention, particularly with police and community groups working together to tackle the root causes of crime.
A Jamaican immigrant as a child, Clunis also plays a mean game of basketball and is treated like a rock star by young people, many who want to have a photo taken with him.
The challenge for him is dealing with escalating police costs without cutting corners in a city known for its violent crime.
Two things jumped out at University of Manitoba president David Barnard’s state of the university address: that U of M has more self-identified indigenous students than any other Canadian university, and that the neighbouring former Southwoods golf course represents an amazing opportunity for the university to transform itself.
That enormous green space, with its access to the Red River, really can be, in one of the favourite jargon terms of the day, transformative. And U of M can truly make itself the university of choice for aboriginal students, teachers, and researchers.
We know that a nine-figure capital campaign is under way — typically announced three years after the dollars start rolling in — can develop Southwoods and the add several spiffy new buildings to the medical campus downtown.
The new faculty of health sciences is the first big step in Barnard’s plan to reduce 20 faculties to 13 or so by 2017.
A leader in the aboriginal community and a rising star within the provincial NDP, Chief, who was already the minister responsible for children and youth opportunities, was recently given a much bigger role in government as the province’s minister responsible for the City of Winnipeg.
The Point Douglas MLA occupies one of the safest NDP seats in the province. He was named to cabinet only three months after being first elected in October 2011. At that time, the Children and Youth Opportunities portfolio, with a tiny budget, was created just for the former University of Winnipeg Innovative Learning Centre co-ordinator. The added responsibility he was given this fall represents a big promotion for the lifelong North End resident.
As the founding CEO of Exchange Income Corp., Pyle is on the verge of steering Manitoba’s next corporate entity past the billion dollar mark in annual sales. (It’s going to happen this year.) Along with founding chairman Duncan Jessiman, they have created Manitoba’s newest conglomerate. The company owns virtually all the regional airlines operating in the province — Calm Air, Perimeter, Keewatin and Bearskin — as well as a clutch of manufacturing companies in Western Canada and the U.S. Midwest, including a cell-tower construction company that has created EIC’s first big management challenge... because it is growing so damn fast. In addition to maintaining the local industrial infrastructure — Aveos shut down but EIC just built a maintenance hangar in Winnipeg for its own airlines — Pyle’s company has added much needed professional clout to the city’s thinned-out head office culture.
One of Canada’s most articulate young indigenous leaders, he uses humour and hipness to bridge the gap between aboriginal and non-aborginal people.
He began as a hip-hop artist and a CBC Manitoba reporter, where he hosted the documentary series 8th Fire.
Now, Kinew works both for Al Jazeera America and as the University of Winnipeg’s director of indigenous inclusion. He’s become an insightful national commentator on everything from Idle No More to aboriginal literature.
He did a lot of cool stuff this year, including getting into a fun Twitter fight with SunTV’s Ezra Levant. But perhaps the best was hijacking George Stroumboulopoulos’s audience for an impromptu round-dance.
It’s no wonder Dave Angus is perennially rumoured to be running for public office. Among his many attributes is that everyone loves him.
Angus represents the modern chamber of commerce — mixing the chummy shoulder rubbing of the old school business club with smart strategic marketing partnerships and edgy advocacy.
After almost 15 years as chamber CEO, Angus remains a tireless participant in community events. A coveted master of ceremonies (he can lighten up the toughest room), he can also be found as just another event attendee quietly adding to his impressive grasp of a myriad of business dynamics.
A key Winnipeg ambassador — Angus has served on the boards of national and international chamber associations — he was the co-promoter with Mariette Mulaire of the city’s recent World Trade Centre Association membership.
Anna Rothney is not a name well-known to many Manitobans. And that’s just the way Premier Greg Selinger’s top political staffer likes it.
Rothney is a long-time Selinger loyalist, and the woman who has her finger on the pulse of everything the provincial government does, from intergovernmental affairs to budgeting to purely political endeavors.
As chair of the Priorities and Planning committee of the provincial cabinet, Rothney is an important liaison between Selinger and key opinion-leading ministers. Simply put, Rothney is the most trusted advisor in the premier’s office.
The CEO of Manitoba Hydro arrived on the job two years ago to head up the province’s largest Crown corporation and main provider of electricity and natural gas.
In a short time he’s become the power utility’s main salesman in its $20-billion plan to build two new northern mega-dams (Keeyask and Conawapa) and the controversial Bipole III transmission line.
He’s also become the point man with Manitoba Hydro’s customers in neighbouring provinces, northern U.S. states and abroad, including such far-flung places like Tajikistan where Hydro does transmission consulting work.
Through it all, he’s largely kept himself out of the at-times distracting political battle over the direction of Hydro.
The Court of Queen’s Bench judge and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada commands respect in both legal and aboriginal circles. The TRC’s report, now expected in June 2015, is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government and residential school survivors. Sinclair’s report will chronicle the Indian residential schools era and its legacy. Earlier this year, it was announced that the University of Manitoba will be the repository for millions of residential school documents.
Sinclair, Manitoba’s first aboriginal judge, was also a co-commissioner of Manitoba’s Aboriginal Justice Inquiry — another landmark investigation. It shaped many future government policies, including the establishment of aboriginal-run child welfare agencies in the province.
Winnipeg’s original blue-jeaned business boss, Bob Silver continues to add gravitas and glamour to the city’s efforts to bootstrap its way into national relevance.
Even though his garment manufacturing company — Western Glove Works, the super successful manufacturer of Silver Jeans among other labels — has moved most of its production off-shore, Silver continues to be one of the city’s most trusted business voices.
He’s most recently added chancellor of the University of Winnipeg to a lengthy list of community responsibilities — including his recent co-sponsorship of the popular We Day — that he handles with grace, intelligence and style (And we’re not just saying that because he’s a minority owner of the Free Press).
He’s also not afraid to roll up his sleeves and lend his expertise to tough, low-profile projects like his busy board membership on First People’s Economic Growth Fund.
The CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, has helped build one of Canada’s oldest private foundations into a philanthropic powerhouse that has become the hub of community improvement in Winnipeg.
Consider the influence that Frost, among others, has had on the foundation. In 2000, just three years after Frost took over the reigns, the foundation celebrated both its 80th birthday and $100 million in total grants. It took just six years after that for the foundation to award it’s next $100 million in grants. If that wasn’t remarkable enough, it took only five years more to reach $300 million in total grants.
It is simply impossible to separate the foundation’s new sense of activism from Frost’s remarkable vision for Winnipeg. With the sober sensibilities of an actuary, and the passion of missionary, Frost has helped change the face of the city.
As CEO of the new World Trade Centre Winnipeg and the former head of Manitoba’s bilingual trade agency (ANIM), Mulaire is arguably the city’s leading trade ambassador, helping to market the city and local exporters to potential trade partners from around the world.
She also solidified her reputation as mover and shaker in local trade circles as the driving force behind two successful Centrallia events held in Winnipeg in 2010 and 2012.
The business-to-business forums were designed for local companies looking to boost their international trade.
He often jokes that he’s the only one in his family without a PhD, but the province’s treaty commissioner has a long academic resume of his own, significant experience as an educator, and an unusual stint as a special operations ranger in the United States Army.
Wilson is now the face of one of Manitoba’s trickiest problems — how to make good on the treaties signed decades ago with First Nations.
He’s preaching to the non-converted by speaking nearly everywhere he’s asked, writing accessible columns designed to dispel some common myths about aboriginal people and launching research and educational initiatives.
It doesn’t hurt the cause that he’s as comfortable in a downtown boardroom as he is at home at Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
The public schedule itself defies belief, and at times it seems as if a kid from Cook’s Creek once stumbled across some fantastical serum that cured him of the need for sleep. No such thing, Ace Burpee will insist, as he bounces from one endeavour to the next. He rises before the sun to crack wise with cohost Chrissy Troy on 103.1 Virgin Radio's morning show, but twilight is just as much his kingdom as the dawn: find a night when he isn’t hosting a gala or a guest DJ set at the club.
This is not a mere lark for him, not simply an unusually buoyant grown-up having some fun. Rather, Burpee has channelled his name and elastic face into provincial passions, installing himself as the gregarious ringleader of his gung-ho brand of philanthropic localism. Heck, in the past month alone Burpee has sounded the rallying horn for everything from the Christmas Cheer Board to shovelling snow from seniors’ sidewalks, and hosted four Typhoon Haiyan relief fundraisers. Boom.
On top of all this, Burpee is an entrepreneur too, recently opening — with former Blue Bomber Doug Brown — Corydon Avenue nosh joint Market Burger, which prides itself on serving a feast of Manitoban-grown food. Just another stop in a life perpetually in motion, spinning around Manitoban community centres and schools and glittered-up fundraising dinners. If his boundless optimism makes him inviting, it’s that indefatiguable energy that makes Ace Burpee so compelling.
Candice Bergen: The Portage-Lisgar Tory MP, first elected in 2008, has earned the reputation as a workhorse in the Harper government. Fresh off being the lead MP in killing off the long-gun registry, she was appointed in July to cabinet in the new portfolio of minister of state for social development. In her role she’s responsible for addressing such issues as homelessness.
Michael Champagne: His Friday-night community gatherings at the belltower on Selkirk Avenue have made him one of the North End’s most articulate young voices.
Arlen Dumas: The chief of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation is one of the new voices of aboriginal leadership in Canada. The Idle No More supporter is locked in an ongoing fight for his northern community to play a greater role in mining development on its ancestral traditional territory.
Alan Greyeyes: You’ve heard of Aboriginal Music Week, the Manito Ahbee Festival, the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award. You might not have heard of Alan Greyeyes, but he’s one of the driving forces behind those events, and the province’s blossoming indigenous music scene.
Michael Legary: the 34-year-old principal owner and chairman of Securis Inc. a global cyber security firm, is also co-founder and chairman of Assent Works — a game-changing makerspace that is turning heads in the North American start-up community.
Jim Ludlow: the quiet, smooth president behind True North Sports and Entertainment provides professional management chops to the big-league operation.
Paul Mahon: The newly named CEO of Great-West Lifeco Inc., is the latest home-grown head of the largest-by-far Winnipeg-based company.
Wade Miller: The former Winnipeg Blue Bomber fullback and CEO of Pinnacle Staffing Solutions found himself running his old football club after former CEO Garth Buchko was punted from the team. Miller is in for a rough ride, but if he can turn this club around, he will win the respect – and gratitude – of the entire community.
Alix Sobler: One of Winnipeg’s brightest, funniest actors and playwrights, she impressed on-stage this year in PTE’s Social Studies. Off-stage, her second professional production premieres next year at RMTC’s Warehouse.
Katherena Vermette: Her political and poignant book of poetry about Winnipeg’s most interesting neighbourhood is called North End Love Songs and it won the prestigious Governor General’s Award this year.
Updated on Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 11:05 AM CST: Corrects name of Ace Burpee's radio station
12:24 PM: corrects Bob Silver's Free Press ownership title
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