Public Interest Alberta Staff
Joel French, Executive Director
Joel is the Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta, a position he has held since 2015. He previously served as the organization’s Communications Coordinator and has also served in staff positions with Friends of Medicare and former Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason. He has a degree in Middle Eastern and African Studies and Religious Studies from the University of Alberta and a diploma in Computer Systems Technology from Lakeland College.
He has worked on election campaigns at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels for progressive candidates. He also currently serves in positions that help guide the work of the Parkland Institute, the Next Up youth leadership program, and the Alberta Green Economy Network.
Monica Walker, Financial & Administrative Officer
Brett Lambert, Communications Officer
2018-19 Board of Directors
Public Interest Alberta is governed by a Board of Directors drawn from our member organizations and individuals from the community. The Board is elected by the membership at our Annual General Meeting.
Larry Booi, President
Larry has long worked to strengthen education and support the public good. He is the former President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association and was Vice President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Larry also served on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Council on Learning. He has been actively involved in curriculum development, has written textbooks used in Alberta schools, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Education. Larry has played a central role in the establishment and growth of Public Interest Alberta and is Chair of the Democracy Task Force.
Siobhán Vipond, Vice-President
Alberta Federation of Labour
Siobhan Vipond is in her third term as Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. The AFL represents more than 170,000 unionized workers in all sectors of the Alberta economy, and works to advance the rights of working people throughout the province. Siobhan is a passionate leader who believes in the power of collective action for the common good. Prior to joining the AFL, Siobhan worked as a stage and film technician and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Siobhan is an alumni of the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and the Cornell University Workers Institute’s National Labour Leaders Initiative.
Vasant Chotai, Vice-President
Vasant is currently a social policy consultant. He retired after 29 years with the Government of Alberta, most recently as Director of Social Policy with Employment, Immigration and Industry. Vasant was appointed policy expert to the Committee of Members of Legislative Assembly to review low income programs that developed the new model for supports to low income Albertans, crossing program and ministerial boundaries. Prior to that he taught high school in Kenya for two years. He is the former President of the Edmonton Social Planning Council. Vasant serves on the PIA Board of Directors, is on the Executive Committee and is Chair of the Human Services and Poverty Task Force. He is also Vice President (on the Board) of Canadians for a Civil Society and Chair of their Community Engagement Committee. He has previously served on the boards of Vibrant Communities Edmonton, the Quality of Life Commission and the Christmas Bureau. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Policy Planning (Queen’s).
Jonathan Teghtmeyer, Treasurer
Alberta Teachers’ Association
Jonathan Teghtmeyer is the Associate Coordinator, Communications for The Alberta Teachers’ Association, the husband of Heather and father of Beatrice and Felix. His primary responsibilities are in communications, political engagement and advocacy. He has a Bachelor of Education and a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology from the University of Alberta. Prior to coming to the Association, he taught high school Math and Drama at Breton High School with Wild Rose School Division. He also serves on the board of directors for the Friends of Medicare.
Terry Price, Secretary
As a retired teacher and activist, Terry has served in various elected and staff positions with territorial, provincial and national teachers’ organizations for the past 26 years. She was first elected President of the Yukon Teachers’ Association in 1993, Terry proceeded to serve in various capacities in the Canadian Teachers’ Federation from 1993 through 2005 including two years as President. She served as a staff officer of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society from 2006 until her retirement in November 2017. Her areas focused on various equity and social justice issues affecting public education and the broader public interest including poverty, Indigenous issues, refugee and immigrant inclusion, LGBTQ issues and the important role of public education and public services.
Mike Parker, Director
Health Sciences Association of Alberta
Mike Parker has been a first responder since 1992, volunteering in his local community of Coaldale, Alberta. He went on to work in the private ambulance industry in Andrew, Lamont, Morinville and Athabasca, before moving to Edmonton in 1996. He graduated as a paramedic in 1999. He has been involved in the labour movement for many years, serving as a steward and as vice-president of his local with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He became a member of HSAA in 2009 and served as a board member before being elected as HSAA vice-president in 2015. The following year, he became president. Mike has always been a strong proponent of the role of unions in protecting the rights of citizens and also of the public sector in providing vital services. Mike has also served as a volunteer with Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT), providing emergency assistance after disasters in the Philippines, Pakistan and Nepal.
Heather Smith, Director
United Nurses of Alberta
Heather is the President of the United Nurses of Alberta, a position she has held since 1988. Born and raised in Ontario, she came to Alberta to work as a nurse at the Edmonton General Hospital. She quickly became involved in her union and served as President of her Local for two years. She also sat on the provincial negotiating committee during the 19-day illegal strike in January 1988. Heather has been a key figure in defending public health care in Alberta, including campaigns to oppose Bill 37, Bill 11 and the Third Way.
Marle Roberts, Director
CUPE Alberta Division
Marle is currently President of CUPE Alberta Division. She became involved in the labour movement in 1986 when she started as a Lab Tech at the City of Medicine Hat’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. In 1997 Marle was elected as an officer of CUPE Local 46 and in 2000 became President. In this capacity she sat on various committees within her local as well as at the provincial and national level. CUPE Alberta represents employees of municipalities, hospitals, long term care facilities, schools, libraries, post-secondary institutions, and social service agencies among others and has worked with liked-minded groups in fighting attempts to privatize public health care and other public services.
Carol Wodak, Director
Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team (SALT)
Carol's reputation as a researcher and advocate in the field of eldercare has been increasing steadily over the past twenty years. She came to this activity for intensely personal reasons: her mother experienced almost the full range of continuing care options after suffering a series of strokes from 1995 to 2006, and Carol believes very strongly that the system failed her mother. In addition to individual work, Carol is a founding member of Citizen Watch, an active member and Vice-Chair of the Seniors’ Action and Liaison Team (SALT), and a member of several other community advocacy groups. Carol’s employment with the Alberta Human Rights Commission proved to be good preparation for her current activities.
Susan Slade, Vice President
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
After serving as Vice-President of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) for five years, Susan Slade was re-elected to the position in 2017 to continue her work as an activist and leader. A Licenced Practical Nurse, Slade cared for Albertans for 18 years before joining AUPE’s Executive Committee. During that time she filled many union roles, including Local Chair and Provincial Executive. Slade continues to chair both the Women’s and Young Activists’ Committees for her second term. A big proponent of direct action, Slade likes to get to the bottom of issues so they can be tackled head on.
Quinn Benders, Director
Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA)
Quinn is Vice-President of the Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of Alberta. He serves on various NASA committees focused on education and advocacy work. Quinn advocated for the creation of NASA’s first Political Action and Membership Education Committee, and now works on projects encouraging NASA members to become better informed and connected to the labour movement. Quinn, a father of two, has spent much of his adult life volunteering with social justice and community based initiatives and continues to positively engage with the broader community.
Scott Crichton, Director
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 424
Scott works in membership development, community liaison/advocacy, and political education. Scott has extended Local 424’s outreach to include the movers and shakers in the growing renewable energy sector along with energy efficiency advocates in business and government. Scott is always seeking to expand the green energy field and is working with an Edmonton area high school to design and install rooftop solar panels pairing union labour with student involvement. A Red Seal electrician, Scott has completed photovoltaic courses at 424’s Electrical Industry Training Centre.
Alberta Federation of Union Retirees
Collin is a Past President of the Calgary and District Labour Council and prior to retirement was the President of the Telecommunications Workers Union Locals 204 and 205. He is currently the President of the Calgary Area Council of the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC) and on the Executive of the Alberta Federation of Union Retirees (AFUR). Within the roles with CURC and AFUR, Collin advocates on behalf of retirees and seniors on issues such as health care, long term care, housing, and pensions. A prime focus in 2018 will be to continue the opposition to Bill C-27, an attack on pensions by the federal government.
Ricardo Acuña, Director
Ricardo is the Executive Director of the Parkland Institute, Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta – a position he has held 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 is a regular speaker to students, teachers, and community groups around Alberta. He has spoken extensively and written on issues of water, NAFTA, 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.
Sandra Azocar, Director
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.