#4: David Eby, NDP MLA, Vancouver–Point Grey
When David Eby convened a room of 600 irate Vancouver residents at the Hellenic Community Centre in Quilchena for a town hall forum on Vancouver’s “out-of-control” real estate market, he arguably set the tone for the 2017 provincial election. As the rookie MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey, ground zero for the region’s affordability woes, he’s single-handedly upended one of the government’s most sensitive files, putting the BC Liberals on the defensive and precipitating policies like the foreign buyers’ tax. And his portfolio doesn’t end there. As the critic on housing, transit and even gambling and liquor, he’s emerged as the premier’s foremost foe. Unsurprisingly, she won’t be running against him in Point Grey again.
#5: Bob Rennie, Founder and director, Rennie Marketing Systems
Vancouver’s scorching real estate market may have become a little too hot, even for Bob Rennie. In June, the outspoken condo marketer announced that 2016’s edition of the annual address to the Urban Development Institute, a platform that had made him the de facto spokesperson for the industry and his name a lightning rod among affordability activists, would be his last (the preparation had become too time-consuming, he said). His firm continues to handle marketing and sales for dozens of real estate developments across the Lower Mainland, but don’t be surprised if Rennie goes quiet until the market—and residents’ passions—cool down. Of course, his stature in the modern art world as one of the world’s pre-eminent and most respected collectors is undisputed (his museum in the Wing Sang building in Chinatown offers but a small glimpse into his outstanding collection)
6. Ian Gillespie, Founder & CEO, Westbank Projects
Peering at Vancouver’s skyline from almost any vantage point, you’d have to have particularly poor eyesight to miss Ian Gillespie’s mark: the 62-storey Shangri-La, the cantilevered Telus Garden, the neon blue-streaked Shaw Tower and the 46-floor Fairmont Pacific Rim. For the past two years, since acquiring Creative Energy, he’s tried to replicate that dominance underground with low-carbon neighbourhood energy systems—to muted success. In September, the BC Utilities Commission rejected aspects of Gillespie’s proposal for the third time in nine months. His response? A “minor blip” wasn’t going to get in his way.
#7: Francesco Aquilini, Managing Director, Aquilini Group
The Canucks’ troubles on the ice over the past couple of years are likely not a source of major concern for the scion of the Aquilini family. The managing director of Aquilini Group, a sprawling empire that—besides a hockey team—includes hotels, golf courses, real estate developments, blueberry and cranberry farms and a sablefish operation, Francesco has increased the family’s fortune to $3.3 billion, according to Canadian Business. And it’s growing. Next up: the $5.2-billion Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort, approved in January by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, which promises to dramatically change the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.
#9: Frank Giustra, Financier and Philanthropist
Mining magnate Frank Giustra is going back to Hollywood. The founder of Lionsgate Entertainment (he sold most of his stake in 2003) made his fortune as a financier of mineral projects and has spent the past five years building up Thunderbird Films, a Vancouver-based TV and movie company. To date, the firm has produced a mix of B movies and buzzy TV series like The Man in the High Castle and Continuum—but no blockbusters. That could change in 2017 when the studio’s highly anticipated sequel to cult favourite Blade Runner, directed by Denis Villeneuve, hits theatres. He’s also spent the last two years building his charity, the Radcliffe Foundation (founded in 1997), into a front-line service provider in Greece and other countries, building a shelter for 800 refugees in Thessaloniki and sponsoring projects like a new film prize at the Vancouver International Film Festival for documentaries that draw attention to the plight of refugees.
#13: Jessica McDonald, President & CEO, BC Hydro
The workers’ camp has been completed, the trees have come down and a 60-metre-high mound of earth is slowly going up. From the standpoint of BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald, the $8.3-billion Site C dam is a fait accompli. For McDonald, it’s no small feat, considering it’s a project that she’s shepherded, in various roles, since her time as a top staffer in Premier Gordon Campbell’s office from 2004 to 2009. A challenge by two First Nations—set to lose their traditional lands and sites of cultural significance—could change that, but the prospect of this project grinding to a halt is dim.