Broadbent Institute brings democracy advocate Ana Maria Archila to Vancouver

Charlie Smith /

The Broadbent Institute has been promoting progressive policies from its Ontario base since 2011, but tonight it will hold its inaugural event in Vancouver to launch its B.C. arm.

Ana María Archila, co-executive director of the U.S.-based Center for Popular Democracy, will speak at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden (578 Carrall Street) at 7:30 p.m.

"Essentially, it's a way of formally expanding our presence and letting people know that we exist outside of Ontario and particularly here," Mira Oreck, the Broadbent Institute's director of strategic partnerships, told the Straight by phone. "It's a good opportunity in my mind to talk about our work and get the message out about the institute."

Archila, who was born in Colombia, spearheaded efforts to mobilize immigrant voters in New York through education and community organizing.

Oreck said that Archila will discuss how she and others turned a group called Make the Road New York into the city's largest community-advocacy organization.

The model is now being applied nationally through the Center for Popular Democracy, Oreck added.

The Broadbent Institute was founded by former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

According to Oreck, its three major objectives are promoting democratic renewal, addressing income inequality, and advancing a green economy.

"Those get represented through research papers," Oreck said. "We've got a couple coming out in the next couple of weeks, but they also get represented on a daily basis through our rapid-response site, PressProgress." 

Oreck, who was hired by the institute this year, played a key role in Gregor Robertson's successful mayoral campaign in 2008 and later managed the production of an award-winning video in support of Barack Obama's reelection.

She said that the Broadbent Institute is a left-wing version of the Manning Centre, which was created by former Canadian Alliance leader Preston Manning to advance the conservative movement.

"We're not as concerned with election cycles as political parties are," Oreck noted. "We're much more concerned with the public dialogue and public narrative around issues. And we have the ability to be fairly political in our efforts to do that."

The institute's executive director is Rick Smith. He's former executive director of Environmental Defence Canada and coauthored the bestselling 2009 book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health.