2016 Annual Report

Los Altos Institute Annual Report for 2016:

The Year We Hit Our Stride


From 2012 to 2015, we hosted a number of public forums, staged several salons and organized other events; we also attended some conferences and produced a major piece of scholarship on the 2014 Vancouver municipal election. While these interventions produced some positive results, sparking important public debates, and even received positive media coverage, they were less successful in advancing our core mandate: building capacity for sophisticated debates on the left, creating space, and investing in the intellectual development of people outside formal academic structures.

Thank you so much for the support you have given us in these early years. We feel that we finally have something to show for your faith in our efforts.

Our Reading Groups

This year, we hit our stride by putting our own spin on a longstanding discussion format: the reading group, or book club. Over the course of 2016, we built three successful book groups, two based in Vancouver and one in Surrey. These groups in turn became staging grounds for other projects: an all-LAI panel on urban studies at the BC Studies conference this May and a municipal political party in Surrey.

Our Vancouver urban studies book group launched in January and by March we were over capacity, necessitating the formation of a Surrey group. Over the course of 2016 these groups read and discussed four major scholarly interventions in the urban studies field, bringing high-level, theoretically-informed discussion to a diverse group of participants with highly disparate levels of formal education. These discussions also brought together political neophytes and those disengaged from the electoral process with career politicians and activists. Over the course of 2016, just shy of forty people participated in LAI reading groups and, in 2017, turnout is already up significantly. We expect this trend to continue.

Board of Directors Renewal

Michael Demers, Director

Tom Ewasiuk, Director

Jeremy Stewart, Director

Alannah New-Small, Vice-President

Stuart Parker, President

Robert Clift, Academic Chair

There were substantial changes in our board of directors in 2016. Michael Demers and Stuart Parker remained on the board as director and president, respectively. We also welcomed two additions to the board, Alannah New-Small and Vice President and Tom Ewasiuk as a director. And, early in 2017, we added Jeremy Stewart.

Alannah, a gallery manager in Vancouver, comes to Los Altos’ board with a generation of governance, activism and organizing experience in left politics, the environmental movement, alternative energy and the artistic and artisanal sectors; she has served on the boards of the Granville Island Business and Community Association, BC Glass Arts Association, Friends of Renewable Energy BC and the BC Green Party. In 1999, she co-managed the successful COPE-Green alliance that resulted in the first election of Green Party candidates in Canadian history.

Tom Ewasiuk is a road safety professional and commercial photographer. Tom studied Geography at Simon Fraser University in the 1980s, when he served as external relations officer of the SFU Student Society. In the 1990s, he served as a member of the citizens’ committee overseeing the Burnaby Youth Detention Centre and as a member of the BC NDP’s provincial council representing premier Harcourt’s constituency. In 2016, Tom returned to the NDP provincial council and was appointed to the board of Los Altos Institute.

Jeremy is a poet, musician, and arts management professional in Prince George, British Columbia. He is the author of two trade collections of poetry: flood basement (Caitlin 2009) and Hidden City (Invisible 2014), which won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. He has worked in management and fundraising roles with the Prince George Symphony Orchestra, Theatre North West, and Island Mountain Arts. Stewart completed his English M.A. at the University of Northern BC in 2010 with a creative writing/theory hybrid thesis project drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome. He is the Principal of Dreamland School of the Arts and the President and founder of the Casse-Tête Arts Society, which produces an annual festival of experimental music.

LAI is also in the process of renewing its academic board under the new leadership of Robert Clift, former executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations in BC, recently hired by the government of Nunavut to reorganize higher education in the territory. Robert will be heading up a larger, more locally-focused academic board, as the board’s role shifts from advising on peer review and other academic practices to creating partnerships with colleges, universities and other institutes.


Our institute has some big plans for 2017 and all of them cost money.

Three LAI panelists and our moderator, Wes Regan, will be presenting at the BC Studies annual conference in Nanaimo this May; we also hope to sponsor three additional LAI delegates to run a display table at the event to better introduce our institute to BC academics. We anticipate with registration, transportation and accommodation, it will cost $150 per delegate with a total cost of $1050.00.

We currently provide scanned and electronic copies of our books to those participating in our populism reading group. We have already purchased hard copies of all our populism readings, including an early release of the major anthology, and are in the process of scanning them and locating alternative electronic copies. We are also building a hard copy lending library for our speculative fiction group. Our estimated budget for this project is $450.00.

We plan to resume holding public forums and salons in the fall, featuring visiting scholars, local experts and movement activists, further delving into our three current intellectual foci: Urban Studies, Empire and Dys- and Utopian Fiction. The first of these events will be in June, featuring author and journalist Terry Glavin. With catering and guest travel and honorarium costs, we will be putting some resources into this too. Our estimated budget for this project is $1600.00.

We will be doing some work on creating institutional partnerships and building alliances with trade unions, social movement groups and other educational organizations and institutions. A key goal of Los Altos is to invigorate the intellectual culture of the BC left. This work will be integrated with an aggressive recruitment program to renew our academic board. Our estimated budget for this project is $1000.00.

LAI remains deeply concerned with partisan politics, within and outside of the electoral arena. One of the reasons we have not pursued charitable tax status has been to insure that we are free to intervene in elections. This year, we will be helping to register a new municipal political party in Surrey, pushing for Vancouver City Council to implement the recommendations of its recent report on democratizing its voting system and working to shift debate and support candidates to help defeat Christy Clark’s profoundly corrupt provincial regime. Doing this will incur filing and legal fees such as those associated with registering. LAI as a third party advertiser under the BC Elections Act. This will cost us about $3000.00.

We are considering launching a regular podcast commenting on current issues beginning in June as part of Steven Kerzner’s (Ed the Sock) new FUNetwork and would be interested in your feedback on whether this is something you would support and whether you would prefer to see us produce a long audio cast or shorter video segments. Until we make those decisions, we obviously will not be in a position to pass on a cost estimate.

Finally, because we still don’t have the resources to start funding research fellows, we will instead be organizing a fall retreat that will include workshops and fora on key ideas and challenges on the BC left, as well as skills development workshops. Our board members will spend an additional day mapping out a plan for 2018. We plan to cover 80% of the costs of the retreat through registration fees, resulting in an LAI cash outlay of approximately $1500.00.

Naturally, we will be working hard to keep the lights on and pay the basic legal and administrative fees necessary to keep us duly registered with the appropriate authorities and up to date with Paypal and our bank. Our annual administration costs run at about $300.00.

In all, we are hoping to raise just $8900.00 to do some great stuff this year.

We are not a big institute and we try to keep tight control of costs. Although we would like to get back into the business of producing a journal and funding research fellows, we need to do more capacity building, especially with respect to institutional partnerships, before we are in a position to get back to work on this. Any support you could send our way would be much appreciated. You won’t regret it.

Yours truly,

Michael Demers, Director Stuart Parker, President