Public Interest Alberta's 11th annual advocacy conference

Keynote Presentation

Erika Shaker

Erika Shaker
Big Changes: Setting a Bold, Progressive Agenda

Erika Shaker is the Director of Education and Outreach at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s leading independent progressive think tank. Erika has researched and written extensively on education, corporatization and privatization, intergenerational solidarity, and social justice for nearly 25 years. She is the editor of Our Schools / Our Selves, a quarterly popular education journal, and has authored a number of reports for CCPA on a wide variety of education-related topics. Erika blogs at and is on twitter at @erikashaker.

Keynote Description

Within the past two years, Albertans have seen their governments change at both the provincial and federal levels.  But how do progressive movements deal with both the challenges and the opportunities that come with having non-conservative governments?  Several positive, tangible changes have come from the new governments, but there is still much work to be done. What lessons should these challenges teach us to guide our political advocacy?

At the same time, progressives are currently facing a rising tide of right-wing populists elected to or vying for leadership positions at the highest levels, what approaches should we be employing to counter this movement? Progressives need to be setting the agenda and shifting the conversation on important questions of democracy, equity, and the public interest. 

Conference Overview

This year's theme is BOLD advocacy for BIG changes. The conference begins on Thursday, March 30 with an advocacy training and evening keynote and will continue all day Friday, March 31.  This year's conference will be held at Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre in Edmonton.

The pre-conference advocacy training will prepare participants for meeting with their MLA and advocating on issues that matter.  Participants will receive training, get the chance to practice their skills, and receive resources to take home. 

Speakers and panelists will dive into topics like the current state of media, experiences in community organizing, the current state of health care in the province and the country, and how to advocate effectively.

Participants at this year's conference will be invited to workshop issues in each of our action areas:

  • Education
  • Democracy
  • Post-secondary education
  • Seniors
  • Human services and poverty
  • Child care and early learning
  • Environment

Registration closes March 22.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding registration, please contact our office at 780-420-0471 or [email protected]

Hotel Accommodation

The conference is being held at the Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre (11727 Kingsway Ave NW, Edmonton)

Accommodation at the Chateau Louis Hotel:
    $111 Queen single occupancy
    $126 King single occupancy
    $123 Queen double occupancy
    $138 King double occupancy
    $162 Queen 2 beds, up to four people

A full breakfast buffet is included with all rooms. Phone the hotel at 780-452-7770 or 1-800-661-9843 and mention that you are attending our conference to receive the preferred rates listed above.

Conference Speakers

David Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, Communications Advisor, United Nurses of Alberta
The end of news? Media in the age of fake news and alternative facts

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning blogger, journalist, author, post-secondary teacher and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. His blog, now in its 10th year of publication, has had about 1.6 million visitors in only the past two years. He woks as a Communications Advisor for the United Nurses of Alberta in Edmonton.

Mariam Ibrahim

Mariam Ibrahim, Writer, Public Commentator and AUPE Communications Officer
The end of news? Media in the age of fake news and alternative facts

Mariam Ibrahim is a writer, commentator and communications professional based in Edmonton. She spent more than six years as a newspaper reporter for the Edmonton Journal, writing general interest and crime stories until her passion for politics landed her at the Alberta legislature during one of the most fascinating periods in recent history, covering the downfall of the 44-year-old Tory dynasty and the NDP's rise to power. She has appeared on CBC Radio and Alberta Primetime and currently appears regularly on City's Dinner TV as a news and politics commentator.

Hilary Gough

Hilary Gough, Saskatoon City Councillor
Advocacy that makes a difference: perspectives from elected officials

Hilary Gough is the City Councillor for Ward 2 in Saskatoon. Born in Saskatoon, she studied at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Newly elected in October 2016, Hilary is honoured to represent the 8 diverse neighbourhoods that make up the Ward. She is passionate about health and equity and strives daily to understand better how we can all work together to support healthy community development. In addition to her core committee appointments, Hilary holds membership on numerous boards such as the Saskatoon Public Library Board, the board of a local housing partnership, a business improvement district, and advisory committees that address Accessibility and Heritage Conservation. In addition to her work on City Council, she is the Operations Manager at Upstream, a Saskatoon-based non-profit that promotes investment in the social factors that determine health. Hilary is a dedicated cycle commuter, and previously active cycling advocate who feels strongly that balanced transportation options make for a healthier, livelier, and more satisfied community overall. Finally, Hilary is a proud grad of the Next Up program – a youth leadership program that promotes environmental and social justice.

Ian Hussey

Ian Hussey, Research Manager, Parkland Institute
Health care: effective advocacy for big changes

Ian Hussey is a research manager at Parkland Institute, where his work focuses on political economy and labour studies. Ian is also a steering committee member and the Alberta regional research manager for the Corporate Mapping Project, a six-year SSHRC partnership grant between the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Parkland Institute that focuses on the oil, gas, and coal industries in western Canada.

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, Storyteller and People weaver
The end of news? Media in the age of fake news and alternative facts

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips is a storyteller and people weaver. He currently serves as Edmonton's Historian Laureate and the News Coordinator at CJSR 88.5 FM. Chris studied International Development Studies & Environment and Resource Studies at Trent University. He loves learning about science, nature, and history. And his favourite Star Trek series is Deep Space Nine.

Claire Edwards

Claire Edwards, fYrefly Program Coordinator, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services
Front lines and headlines: community organizing for change

Claire Edwards is a fourth generation settler on Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton. Currently, she works as the fYrefly Program Coordinator at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), where she leads a program called Camp fYrefly, a summer camp which exists to support LGBTQ+ youth in developing resiliency and leadership skills. She also coordinates fYrefly in Schools, which educates thousands of students in Alberta per year on homophobia and transphobia in their communities. Over the past five years, she has been involved in a number of youth-focused social justice initiatives in Edmonton. In 2015 she served as chair of the City of Edmonton Youth Council, representing Edmonton’s youth in the fight to make amendments to Bill 10, allowing all youth the right to create Gender and Sexual Orientation Alliances (GSAs) regardless of where they go to school. Additionally, Claire has worked in Washington D.C. as part of the reproductive rights movement, interning at NARAL Pro-Choice America and volunteering at a DC clinic. She has also earned a certificate in Labour Studies from the City University of New York’s Murphy Institute, and spent time working in the political education department of America’s largest union, 1199 SEIU. Claire is passionate about empowering young people with the skills to organize for justice in their communities. She is currently completing the final year of her BA in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta.

Name of speaker

Reakash Walters, Community Organizer
Front lines and headlines: community organizing for change

Reakash Walters is a community organizer, anti-racism workshop facilitator and communications strategist based in Edmonton. She is passionate about the power of uncomfortable conversations and the beauty of listening. As seen on CBC The National, Dinner TV and others, Reakash is an unapologetic advocate for community based solutions to social issues. Reakash is one of the founders of the Edmonton and area chapter of Black Lives Matter and the founder of Bread & Roses, a campaign school for progressive women in politics. She currently works in government relations with Alberta Counsel.

Name of speaker

Adrienne Silnicki - National Coordinator, Canadian Health Coalition
Health care: effective advocacy for big changes

Adrienne Silnicki is the National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC), a non-profit organization that works to protect, improve and expand public health care in Canada. Previous to her position with the CHC, Adrienne was the national health care campaigner for the Council of Canadians, a social justice advocacy organization. She’s also worked for the Peterborough Social Planning Council and on several poverty awareness campaigns both across Canada and internationally. Adrienne holds a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management degree from Carleton University and a Masters of Arts degree in international development studies.

Name of speaker

Michael Phair
Advocacy that makes a difference: perspectives from elected officials

In February of 2016 the Provincial Government appointed Michael Phair Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. Previously he was part time Executive Director with the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society, an Educational Coordinator with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta and from 1992-2007 an elected member of Edmonton City Council. In the Edmonton community Michael Phair has have been active for over 25 years with Edmonton’s Gay/Lesbian (Queer) community, founder of AIDS Edmonton, and a current board member of NeWest Press, Pro Coro Music Society, Paths for People and Edmonton Homeward Trust.

Name of speaker

Diane Connors, Prairies-NWT Organizer - Council of Canadians
Front lines and headlines: community organizing for change

Diane Connors was born and raised by the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton (Treaty 6 Territory). She completed her first degree in Art and Design at the University of Alberta, and identifies as an artist who enjoys exploring conceptual art and design that comments on social and environmental issues. She angled her life trajectory toward addressing climate change and environmental degradation by completing a Master of Environment and Resource Management from Dalhousie University in Halifax. Today she continues to probe how the personal is political, and is trying to gain perspective on community and movement building in the long term.

Name of speaker

Sandra Azocar, Friends of Medicare
Health care: effective advocacy for big changes

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.

Name of speaker

Michael Janz, Trustee - Edmonton Public School Board
Advocacy that makes a difference: perspectives from elected officials

Michael lives to promote education, literacy and community. He was first elected October 2010 and on October 21st, 2013 he was re-elected for the 2013-2017 term. He has previously served as EPSB Board Chair and Board Vice-Chair. Michael is passionate about the importance of public education and is an advocate for life-long learning. In November 2012, Michael was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service and was selected as one of Avenue Magazine “Top 40 Under 40.” In 2016 Michael was voted Edmonton’s Best School Trustee.



Thursday, March 30
3:30 pm Pre-conference advocacy training
6:00 pm Registration
7:00 pm Welcome & Introductory Remarks
7:00 pm Keynote Address – Erika Shaker, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
8:30 pm Reception
Friday, March 31
8:00 am Registration
9:00 am Welcome
Conference Overview
9:30 am Health care: effective advocacy for big changes
  • Ian Hussey (Parkland Institute)
  • Adrienne Silnicki (Canadian Health Coalition)
  • Moderated by Sandra Azocar (Friends of Medicare)
10:30 am Break
10:40 am Campaign Updates
10:45 am Advocacy that makes a difference: perspectives from elected officials
  • Michael Janz (Edmonton Public School Board)
  • Hilary Gough (Saskatoon City Council)
  • Moderated by Michael Phair
12:05 pm Lunch (provided)
1:00 pm Campaign Updates
1:20 pm The end of news?  Media in the age of fake news and alternative facts
  • David Climenhaga (Communications Advisor, United Nurses of Alberta)
  • Mariam Ibrahim (Writer, Public Commentator, AUPE Communications Officer)
  • Moderated by Chris Chang-Yen Phillips (Storyteller and People Weaver)
2:45 pm Priorities for Change Workshops (Breakout sessions)
3:50 pm Front lines and headlines: community organizing for change
  • Reakash Walters (Community Organizer)
  • Claire Edwards (fYrefly Program Coordinator, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services)
  • Moderated by Diane Connors (Council of Canadians)
4:50 pm Closing Remarks

Conference Location and Time


March 30, 2017 at 3:30pm - March 31, 2017


Chateau Louis Conference Centre
11727 Kingsway NW
Edmonton, AB T5G 3A1
Google map and directions