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Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People

Meet the people behind the issues -- the declaration sums up this year's list of the province's 50 Most Influential People

Jul 1, 2007

by Tracy Hyatt, Noémi LoPinto, Michael McCullough, Dan Rubinstein and Jesse Semko

Much has been made of the gains and pains surrounding Albert’s economic growth over the last year. Nowhere are these concerns more evident than in our 11th annual Most Influential list. They’re all here: oilsands innovators, infrastructure updaters and energy-trust rabble-rousers. Through their actions and words, this year’s class has made it their goal to shape Alberta’s future. It’s with great respect and admiration that we peer into their lives. Here are their stories.

Bern Kotelko

Feedlot owners aren’t usually liked by their neighbours, but when you’re the owner and operator of one of the most innovative cattle operations in the country, it’s easy to make friends. Bern Kotelko, the president of Highland Feeders, the sixth largest feedlot in Canada, represents the future of farming: environmental security and conservation. His Vegreville operation is one of the first to use anaerobic digestion to produce biogas and biofertilizer. A leader in his industry, Kotelko was appointed chair of the not-for-profit AVAC Ltd. last September, where he will spearhead the development of research initiatives and early-stage commercial businesses that expand Alberta’s value-added industry. Kotelko is also a director at ATB Financial, Alberta Economic Development Authority and the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

John Dielwart, Gordon Kerr & Susan Riddell Rose
Income Trust Rabble-Rousers

When Canada’s minister of finance dropped the income trust bomb on Halloween, it only took Alberta’s oil and gas trust sector three days to form a group to fight back. The Coalition of Canadian Energy Trusts represents 31 of Canada’s royalty trusts and 11 infrastructure and pipeline trusts. John Dielwart, Gordon Kerr and Susan Riddell Rose stepped in as co-chairs to lead the coalition’s charge. Each the president and CEO of an oil and gas trust (Dielwart, ARC Energy Trust; Rose, Paramount Energy Trust; and Kerr, Enerplus Resource Fund), the three argued their sector’s case with passion and conviction. The feds wouldn’t budge and as of 2011 it looks like every trust will have to pony up the tax on their distributions, but behind this trio has coalesced a powerful force of opposition that will not fade away.

Julie Ball
Labour Force Matchmaker

Julie Ball launched Talent Pool as an offshoot of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce four years ago and has since become a key player in assisting employers find often overlooked groups of prospective employees such as youths, aboriginals, immigrants and the disabled. More importantly, through its seminars and workshops, the Talent Pool has helped alert employers to the hidden human resources in their midst.

Reginald Bibby
Social Seer

For three decades, Reginald Bibby has monitored social trends in Canada and gathered pioneering data in areas such as religion and youth. The author of 10 bestselling books, this sociology professor from the University of Lethbridge added one more title to his list last year,

The Boomer Factor, a sweeping work out-lining the major social shifts in Canadian thought since the 1960s. Like all his books, it makes rigorous research accessible and engaging.

Melissa Blake
Voice out of the Wilderness

When you hear Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake speak these days, you get the sense of someone who has grown into a job that itself is growing in scope. When she called for a delay of further oilsands project approvals at an Alberta Energy Utilities Board hearing last year, it was not as some anti-growth zealot but as a pragmatist with strong support in her community and a unique set of financial and physical problems to over-come. And unlike Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier, she convinced the Stelmach government that her city was a special case, deserving of $396 million in extraordinary infrastructure funding from the province.

Bert Brown
Senate Reformer

Stephen Harper’s appointment of the Kathyrn-area farmer to the Senate ensures that the Alberta-centred movement for a Triple-E (elected, effective, equal) upper chamber will continue, this time from within the halls of Parliament. Brown, 69, who was thrice elected a “senator in waiting” in provincially sponsored elections, assumed the seat formerly occupied by retired Liberal Senator Dan Hays in June.

Herman Bruin
Jack of All Trades

Herman Bruin, owner and president of Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating Ltd., is a small fish who makes it a habit of making big contributions to his industry, among them a $250,000 donation to Red Deer College in the spring of 2006. The money marks the first major investment from the local Red Deer business community that will go towards helping apprentices in the trades. The donation included $150,000 toward the college’s new Centre for Trades and Technology and $100,000 to establish the Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating Ltd. Apprenticeship Trades Endowment.

In 30 years of business, Bruin has taken a seat at many provincial boards and committees, including the Provincial Apprenticeship Committee, the Alberta Construction Association, the Red Deer Construction Association and the Worker’s Compensation Board, to address the

growing demand for skilled labour and the education and training of tradespeople. Bruin has also worked with the province for over a decade to rewrite safety codes in his industry. For a 60-year-old who started out as an apprentice himself, the donation to Red Deer College is not only a nod to his humble beginnings, it’s a good business decision.

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