Public Interest Alberta's 12th annual advocacy conference

April 5-6, 2018
Chateau Louis Conference Centre, Edmonton (April 4 in Calgary)
Conference Hashtag: #PIAConf

Keynote Presentation

Alex Himelfarb

Alex Himelfarb
Rebalancing Power: Collective Action for the Common Good

Alex Himelfarb is Professor Emeritus of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. A federal public servant for twenty-eight years before his retirement in 2009, he served as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet for three prime ministers, as Canada’s Ambassador to Italy, as Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, and in senior positions in numerous ministries and agencies. You can also check out Alex's personal blog.

Keynote description

The directions of low taxes, deregulation, privatization, wealth inequality, and deunionization have been embraced by governments around the world for decades, united under the ideology of neoliberalism. Those ideas are now being increasingly questioned in public discourse, but a new, cohesive story to replace them has yet to be written. Alex Himelfarb’s keynote address will explore how we reassert the power of working people, provide economic security in a time of precarious work, and rebuild the collective action toolkit we will need to move these ideas forward.


Closing Keynote Presentation


Diana Gibson
Moving Forward in the 2019 Election and Beyond

Diana Gibson is a social scientist who has published extensively and provided social commentary on labour and social justice issues ranging from tax fairness and health care reform to the socioeconomic impacts of pipelines for First Nations. She is a Principal with PolicyLink Research Canada, a Distinguished Research Advisor with the Parkland Institute, a Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and a founder and communications advisor with Canadians for Tax Fairness. Diana is also a social entrepreneur who has started multiple successful cooperatives and mission-driven businesses including founding The Firelight Group of which she is a former CEO and Director.

Keynote description

Elections are key opportunities for citizens to engage with political parties and candidates to highlight issues that are important to them. In the leadup to elections, citizens, and civil society groups can have a big influence on which issues are of political importance, helping to shape the narrative to which all parties will need to respond. Diana Gibson will draw on hear wealth of experience with public policy in Alberta to help us chart the path forward over the next year as the provincial election approaches.

Conference Overview

In the final year before Alberta’s next provincial election, both citizens and political parties will need to decide which direction we want to take our province. Do we go backward by taking the regressive approach of massive cuts to public services, growing poverty, and greater income inequality? Or do we go forward in progressive directions by increasing government revenue through fair taxation, revitalizing public services, and strengthening our democracy?

Public Interest Alberta’s 12th annual advocacy conference will explore such important topics as climate change, reconciliation, democracy, and tax revenue. It will include workshops aimed at action to improve our public services, including child care, education, post-secondary education, seniors care, health care, and human services and poverty. Join activists and advocates from across the province as we come together with the aim of guiding Alberta on the road to greater fairness, justice, and equality.

Registration closed March 28, 2018 for the full conference. If you have any questions or concerns regarding registration, please contact our office at 780-420-0471 or [email protected]


Wednesday, April 4th (Calgary):

7:00 pm - Keynote address by Alex Himelfarb

Thursday, April 5th (Edmonton):

1:30 - 4:00 pm - Pre-Conference Workshop: Understanding Provincial Budgets and Tax Revenue featuring Diana Gibson and Alex Himelfarb

7:00 pm - Keynote address by Alex Himelfarb

8:30 pm - Reception with Alex Himelfarb

Friday, April 6th (Edmonton):

9:00 am - 5:00 pm - Full-day conference with closing keynote address by Diana Gibson

For a detailed version, please download our full schedule.


Conference Speakers

Discussion: "Implementing Reconciliation in the Alberta Context"



Lewis Cardinal, President and CEO, Cardinal Strategic Communications

Lewis Cardinal is a communicator and educator. He has dedicated his life’s work to creating and maintaining connections and relationships that cross cultural divides. His work has mirrored his personal vision of a socially just and responsive society. His long track record of public service includes founding board member of Alberta Aboriginal Arts, board member of Theatre Network, co-chair of the Aboriginal Commission for Human Rights and Justice, and trustee of the Council for a Parliament of World Religions, just to mention a few.


Jennifer Tupper, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta

Jennifer received her B.Ed. from the University of Alberta in 1994, her M.Ed. from the University of British Columbia in 1998 and her PhD from the U of A in 2004. She has been a high school teacher, curriculum consultant, teacher educator, associate dean, and dean. Her research areas include citizenship education, treaty education, and anti-colonial education. Her current interests include Faculties of Education responses to the TRC Calls to Action, and how schools can become sites for truth and reconciliation.


Charlene Bearhead, Education Coordinator, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Charlene Bearhead is a mother, grandmother, experienced educator and education innovator with thirty years of regional, national, and international experience. Charlene currently serves as the education coordinator for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, education advisor to the National Film Board, education consultant to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, among others. She most recently served as the first education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

Discussion: "Connecting a Cleaner Environment to a Stronger Democracy"



Kevin Taft

Kevin Taft holds a PhD in Business and is the author of five bestselling books and many research studies and articles on political and economic issues in Alberta. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta with the Alberta Liberal Party from 2001 to 2012, and Leader of the Opposition from 2004 to 2008. He has extensive public policy experience in the Alberta government, private sector, and the non-profit sector, particularly in health, energy, and economic policy. He lives in Edmonton.


Laurie Adkin, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta

Laurie Adkin is a professor of political science at the University of Alberta. She teaches and researches in the areas of comparative politics, Canadian environmental policy, and citizen involvement in policy-making. Her recent work has focused on the political economy of Alberta, including “First World Petro-Politics: The Political Ecology and Governance of Alberta,” and “Crossroads in Alberta: Climate Capitalism or Ecological Democracy?” She is currently working on a study of the implications of government innovation policy and funding to universities for societal transition to a post-carbon future. For more details, visit her homepage.


Nikki Way, Analyst, Pembina Institute

Nikki Way is an analyst for the Pembina Institute, based in Edmonton and focusing on fossil fuel development in Alberta. She joined the Institute in 2015 to aid in the completion of the Landowner’s Guide to Oil and Gas Development, the Pembina Institute’s largest publication to date outlining for residents near oil and gas development in Alberta how the industry is developed and regulated. She is interested in how the provincial discourse around the energy industry can shift to encourage discussion on managing the province’s decarbonization and encouraging real diversification for the 21st century.

Discussion: "Forward or Back? Exploring Alberta's Options"



Ricardo Acuña, Executive Director, Parkland Institute

Ricardo Acuña is the executive director of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta - a position he has held since 2002. He has a degree in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, and has over twenty years of experience as a volunteer, staffer, and consultant for various non-government and non-profit organizations around the province. He has spoken extensively and written on energy policy, democracy, privatization, and the Alberta economy.


Gillian Steward, Columnist, Toronto Star

Gillian Steward is a Calgary-based author and journalist. She currently writes a regular column for the Toronto Star and teaches journalism at Mount Royal University. She was the managing editor at the Calgary Herald from 1987 to 1990 and was the publisher/editor of Alberta Views magazine in 2006/07. In 2014, Ms. Steward completed a PhD in Communication and Media Studies at the University of Calgary.


Michael Janz, Edmonton Public School Board Trustee, Ward F

Michael Janz lives to promote education, literacy, and community. He was first elected as public school board trustee in 2010 and is currently serving his third 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 lifelong learning. In 2012, he was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service and was selected as one of Avenue magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40.” In 2016, Michael was voted Edmonton’s Best School Trustee by Vue Weekly.

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:
    $119 Queen single occupancy
    $129 King single occupancy
    $131 Queen double occupancy
    $141 King double occupancy
    $175 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. You can also register online and enter the group code 1804PUBLIC to receive the discount.

Conference Location and Time


April 04, 2018 at 7:00pm - April 06, 2018


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


Monica Walker · · (780) 420-0471