About Us


The Vancouver Board of Trade

From Mutton Chop Whiskers to Pacific Rim Boosters
"Mutton chop whiskers nodded, beards wagged and moustaches
bristled. Thirty-one stately gentlemen, most of them in
frock coats and chin-chucking high collars, with stern and
concentrated mien, banded together to promote
the civic, industrial and general welfare of their home."

"Pipe-dreamers with a Purpose"
Vancouver Sun, 1951

The year was 1887. Just 12 short months before, a fire, which had been started to burn slash near the wooden shacks that made up the city, flared out of control and quickly destroyed all but one building. The devastating Great Fire came barely a few months after the city received its charter. But the residents rallied and began the long task of rebuilding over still-warm cinders.

The reconstruction work was haphazard and disorganized. In response, a group of area businessmen met – casually at first – to discuss the need for some kind of formal organization to speed the process. On September 22, 1887, the 31 men – merchants, lumbermen, bankers and manufacturers – agreed to form a Board of Trade.

From the start, the founders knew exactly what they wanted: Their purpose was to create an "organization to protect the interests of merchants, traders and manufacturers, to advance the trade of the area and to promote the advancement and general prosperity of Vancouver." David Oppenheimer, a Bavarian who was elected the city's mayor in 1888, became president, and The Board of Trade set to work.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Vancouver played a weak second fiddle to both Victoria and New Westminster. The city's 5,000 residents had neither a post office nor a resident judge. The new Board set out with characteristic enthusiasm to bring needed services and facilities to Vancouver. Oppenheimer soon led The Board to the forefront of civic and provincial politics. Within a month, members had drawn up a list of goals and objectives and sent them to the Provincial Secretary, The Honourable John Robson. Besides calling for a land registry office, court house, more schools, playgrounds and mail delivery, The Board wanted direct taxation abolished by both civic and provincial governments.

From its inception, The Board recognized the vital importance of the city's links with nations on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, and widened its scope of activities to press Ottawa for an undersea cable so Western Canada could communicate with Australia. Lobbying continued until 1902, when a cable was finally laid from Vancouver to Hawaii and on to Sydney.

Transportation and the development of the port as Western Canada's premiere terminus were important issues of the day. The Board played a major role in lobbying for a five-day steamer service from Seattle to Alaska via Vancouver. Also concerned with opening up trade and business opportunities in the province's northern regions, The Board lobbied the federal government for a railway into the Kootenays in the early 1900s.

Both Victoria and New Westminster continued to wage a losing battle for provincial pre-eminence, but geography and the unflagging persistence of Board members tipped the balance in favour of Vancouver.

With the onset of World War I, membership rose to nearly 1,000. The Board persuaded the federal government to dredge First Narrows for shipping, lobbied for a new city hall and post office, helped create Daylight Saving Time and established a Faculty of Commerce at the University of British Columbia in 1926.

As the organization grew in prestige, it became a privilege to belong to The Board. Various Board bureaus fought for fairer freight rates and expanded markets for B.C. products. The transportation bureau pushed for more and better highways, throwing its weight behind the development of the Trans-Canada Highway and the establishment of a large airport for the city.

By 1952, The Board's activities extended far beyond the initial expectations of its 31 founding members. Ten bureaus and 10 standing committees worked on campaigns, exhibitions, luncheons, educational products, endorsements and representations to all levels of government on behalf of the business community.

The Board often saw what was needed for Vancouver years ahead of government. In the early 1960s, Board members foresaw conventions and tourism becoming major industries in North America.

Another of The Board's continuing platforms through the 1960s was the need for a more efficient regional transportation system, urging the province to establish a metro transit authority and to examine the whole transportation issue.

In 1983, The Board became a member of the World Trade Centers Association. Through this affiliation, it is able to provide communications links to more than 300 trade centres dotted around the globe, an electronic mail service and information search and retrieval from more than 300 databases.

Symbolic of its growing focus on the Pacific, The Board moved into the ocean-front World Trade Centre office complex in 1986, hosting the General Assembly of the World Trade Centers Association the same year.

The Board's speaker programs continue to be successful. Speakers have included such distinguished visitors in recent years as South Korea president Kim Young Sam, Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong, Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo and Prince Philip.

Encouraging member participation, interaction and satisfaction at all levels is an underlying objective of the organization. Ultimately, members should be enriched – professionally and personally – through their association with The Board.

Past Chairs

1887-1888 — D. Oppenheimer (second mayor of Vancouver, often called "The Father of Vancouver" for his innovative policies)
1889 — E. V. Bodwell
1889-1890 — R. H. Alexander
1891 — John Hendry
1892 — G. E. Berteaux and W. F. Salsbury
1893 — J. C. Keith
1894 — G. R. Major
1895-1896 — H. Bell-Irving
1897-1898 — William Godfrey
1899 — C. E. Tisdall, MLA (Mayor — 1922)
1900 — F. Buscombe (Mayor — 1905)
1901 — F. F. Burns
1902 — W. H. Malkin (Mayor — 1929-1930)
1903 — H. T. Lockyer
1904 — H. McDowell
1905 & 1912 — A. B. Erskine
1906 — R. P. McLennan
1907 — W. J. McMillan
1908 — E. H. Heaps
1909 — H. A. Stone
1910 — Ewing Buchan
1911 — A. G. McCandless
1913 — Hon. F. Carter-Cotton
1914-1915 — Jonathan Rogers
1916 — Nicol Thompson
1917 — B. W. Greer
1918 — P. G. Shallcross
1919 — Chris Spencer
1920 — W. J. Blake Wilson
1921 — P. D. Malkin
1922 — R. Kerr Houlgate
1923 — J. B. Thomson
1924 — J. K. Macrea, Q.C.
1925 — Melville Dollar
1926 — F. E. Burke
1927 — Robert McKee
1928 & 1935 — T. S. Dixon
1929 — Hon. W. C. Woodward
1930 — R. D. Williams
1931 — Mayne D. Hamilton
1932 — Harold Brown
1933 — H. R. MacMillan
1934 — George Kidd
1936 — J. Y. McCarter
1937 — Walter M. Carson
1938 — John Whittle
1939 — G. Lyall Fraser
1940 — H. R. Cottingham
1941 — C. E. Anstie
1942 — B. O. Moxon
1943 — Hon. S. S. McKeen
1944 — T. C. Clarke
1945 — Charles A. Cotterell
1946 — W. J. Borrie
1947 — Thos. Braidwood
1948 — H. T. Mitchell
1949 — T. G. Norris, Q.C.
1950 — Col. W. G. Swan
1951 — Ralph D. Baker
1952 — Hon. H. H. Stevens
1953 — Ralph C. Pybus
1954 — G. W. G. McConachie
1955 — Howard N. Walters
1956 — W. H. Raikes
1957 — Brenton S. Brown
1958 — David Kinnear
1959 — A. H. Cater
1960 — R. G. Miller
1961 — E. L. Harrison
1962 — D. T. Braidwood
1963 — W. M. Anderson, C.A.
1964 — Edward Benson
1965 — Ralph T. Cunningham
1966 — Sydney W. Welsh
1967 — William G. Leithead
1968 — J. N. Hyland
1969 — G. R. Dawson
1970 — Edward Disher
1971 — Hon. W. M. Hamilton
1972 — J. L. Dampier
1973 — Alan F. Campney
1974 — Hon. H. P. Bell-Irving, D.S.O., O.C., OBE
1975 — D. G. McGill
1976 — C. L. Goddard
1977 — D. R. Fraser
1978 — D. C. Selman
1979-1980 — A. H. Hart, Q.C.
1980-1981 — W. R. Wyman
1982-1983 — M. E. Nesmith
1984-1985 — A. M. Fowlis
1985-1986 — A. S. Hara, O.C.
1986-1987 — G. P. Clarke
1987-1988 — R. E. Kadlec
1988-1989 — P. H. Hebb
1989-1990 — L. I. Bell, O.B.C
1990-1991 — W. B. McDonald, C.M., O.B.C.
1991-1992 — R. T. Stewart
1992-1993 — David G. McLean, O.B.C.
1993-1994 — Iain J. Harris
1994 — George F. Gaffney
1994-1995 — Jill Bodkin
1995-1996 — Wayne A. Nygren
1996-1997 — Brandt C. Louie, O.B.C.
1997-1998 — Robert A. Fairweather
1998-1999 — A. Allan Skidmore
1999-2000 — T. Richard Turner
2000-2001 — Harri Jansson
2001-2002 — Carole Taylor, O.C., O.B.C.
2002-2003 — Peter Legge, O.B.C.
2003-2004 — Jeff Dowle
2004-2005 — Graeme A.G. Stamp
2005-2006 — Dan Muzyka
2006-2007 — Frank Borowicz, QC
2007-2008 — Henry Lee
2008-2009 — Dr. Don Rix, CM, OBC

See Board Milestones