Public Interest Alberta's 10th Annual Conference: Advocacy in a Time of Opportunity

April 14-15, 2016

Chateau Louis Conference Centre, 11727 Kingsway Avenue, Edmonton

Since Public Interest Alberta was founded in 2004, we have advocated for the protection of public services, and the public interest more broadly, in a time of crisis. With changes to more progressive governments at both the provincial and federal levels, we are in a time of opportunity for public interest advocacy.

Join Larry Brown, President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Elaine Bernard, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and many other leading activists and thinkers as we discuss how we can have a lasting impact on our province and our country.



7:00 pm Welcome & Introductory Remarks

Larry Brown Keynote – "Advocacy in Alberta: Now More Than Ever"

8:30 pm Reception

Friday, April 15

8:00 am Registration

9:00 am Welcome and Conference Overview

9:10 am Panel Discussion - "Advocacy in the New Alberta Context"
with Ricardo Acuna, Colleen Huston and Brad Robertson, Sandra Azocar, Julie Hrdlicka

10:30 am Break

10:40 am Table Discussions - Strategies & Tactics for Advocacy

12:00 pm Organized Lunch

1:00 pm Introductory Remarks from Elaine Bernard

1:15 pm Public Interest Alberta Campaign Updates

1:30 pm Panel Discussion - "Making Waves: Ideas for Change"
with Nimra Amjad, Line Perron, Dennis Theobald, Noel Somerville

2:40 pm Break

2:50 pm Opportunities for Change Workshops

3:50 pm Wrap-Up Plenary – Elaine Bernard

5:00 pm Conference Adjournment


LARRY BROWN, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

With degrees in political science and law, Larry Brown has been Secretary-Treasurer of one of Canada's largest unions, for almost 30 years. Born in southern Saskatchewan, Brown served as President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Students, later becoming Executive Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Labour; Chief Staff Officer with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and then Chief Executive Officer of the province's largest union, Saskatchewan Government Employees Association (later Union) and served SGEU for seven eventful years.  Larry is the President of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and chairs the Public Sector Working Group of the 10 million strong Public Services International and the National Union's Pensions Committee. 

ELAINE BERNARD, Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and Harvard Trade Union Program

Born and raised in Canada, Elaine Bernard has a BA from the University of Alberta, a MA from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University.  Bernard is a popular public speaker. A life long union member and activist, Bernard brings a refreshing balance of humour and passion for worker rights to her talks and teaching. She has conducted courses on a wide variety of topics for unions, community groups, universities and government departments.  Her current research and teaching interests are in the areas of international comparative labour movements, union leadership and governance, and the role of unions in promoting civil society, democracy and economic growth.  She is the Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and Harvard Trade Union Program.

LINE PERRON, Early Childhood Development Support Services

Line Perron is the Director and found Early Childhood Development Support Services is a capacity building organization dedicated to the professional development and enhancement of practitioners who work in relationship-based practice with children and families.  She was recently awarded the “National Award of Excellence” from The Psychology Foundation for her efforts to support the well-being and health of children and families. She spent the last six years as the Community Development and Mobilization Manager for the Early Childhood Development Mapping Project in Alberta where she helped create 100 early childhood communities and coalitions across the province.  The research project explored the relationship between the Early Development Instrument (EDI) results and community context. 

RICARDO ACUÑA, Parkland Institute

Ricardo has held the position of Executive Director of the Parkland Institute, Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta since May 2002. Previous to that he worked for nine years as Projects Coordinator for Change for Children Association, an Alberta-based international development organization working in Latin America.  He has a degree in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, and has over 20 years experience as a volunteer, staffer and consultant for various non-government and non-profit organizations around the province. Ricardo has spoken extensively and written on issues of water, trade agreements, commodification of the commons, and energy policy in Alberta. He is a regular media commentator on public policy issues, and writes a regular column for VueWeekly in Edmonton.

NIMRA AMJAD, International Union for Conservation of Nature

Nimra is an environmental scientist and activist with a background in youth empowerment and policy research. Nimra has been involved with peace initiatives and progressive politics across three continents - including municipal and provincial political campaigns in Alberta. Recently, she represented Canada at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris (COP21), working closely with civil society and government to push forward key human rights issues in the historic Paris Accord. At COP21, Nimra witnessed the need for and efforts towards reorienting the Canadian environmental movement in light of recent political shifts. She will reflect on the way forward for our movements in this context.


Brad Robertson is a disability advocate from Calgary and a member of The Disability Action Hall, a Provincial Advisory Committee, other groups and organizations as well as a member of the Premiers Council for three years. Brad has been active for the last 25 years advocating for disability rights and helping disabled people in Alberta speak up for AISH money, better accommodation access to public transit, recreation and all activities enjoyed by non-disabled people at a low cost that they can afford.  Colleen Huston is a native Albertan and as the coordinator of the Disability Action Hall honoured to support people with disabilities to speak up for a better Alberta for all.

SANDRA AZOCAR, Friends of Medicare

Sandra has been a social activist for more than 30 years in Alberta. Her previous experience is working as a child protection worker, a community organizer, and a labour activist. Prior to coming to Friends of Medicare, she worked as a Vice President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). She was a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of Medicare for 6 years before becoming its Executive Director in 2012.

JULIE HRDLICKA, Calgary Board of Education Trustee, Wards 11 & 13

Julie has a degree in International Relations from the University of Calgary. She has made a career as a human rights, social justice and environmental advocate. Julie is passionate about building strong community and helping to empower citizens young and old, to find and use their 'voices'.

Over the past 10 years Julie has worked for both the Parkland institute and Public Interest Alberta. In April 2015 Julie was elected as the Calgary Board of Education Trustee for wards 11 & 13.

NOEL SOMERVILLE, Seniors Task Force

Noel retired as Executive Secretary of the Edmonton Public Teachers Local 37 in 1997. Since then, he has been active in social justice issues with the Seniors Action and Liaison Team (SALT) and has served on the City of Edmonton Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. Noel previously served on the PIA Board of Directors for six years and has been chairperson of the Seniors Task Force since 2004.

DENNIS THEOBALD, Alberta Teacher's Association

Dennis Theobald was appointed Associate Executive Secretary in 2011. He joined Association staff in 2001 as an executive staff officer in Government before being appointed coordinator of Communications in 2008. Before joining the Association, Theobald accumulated 13 years of teaching experience on the Saddle Lake First Nation and in Battle River School Division. In 1996, he was seconded to Alberta Education, where he spent five years in senior management roles. He holds bachelor of arts, bachelor of education and master of business administration degrees from the University of Alberta. As associate executive secretary, Theobald serves as secretary of the Committee on ATA 100th Anniversary Planning, the Resolutions Committee and the Table Officers Committee.