Group of hikers on a ridge

Governance and leadership

In our 40+ years, MEC has grown into a complex organization. But as a democratically owned business, each of us influences its direction.

On behalf of all members, the elected Board  safeguards MEC’s assets and makes decisions to ensure its long-term future. Ultimately, they are responsible for MEC’s strategic direction and overall performance, and by adhering to good governance practices, they ensure MEC can accomplish its future goals and abide by our collective values.

Board members

Nine elected members guide and govern MEC according to our Rules of Co-operation, the BC Co-operative Association Act and governance practices that create the conditions for decision-making that’s consistent, responsive, and accountable.

Judi Richardson

Judi Richardson – North Vancouver, BC

Serving second term: 2015-2021

Judi brings over 28 years of start-up, entrepreneurial and corporate experience to her business consulting practice and various Board roles. She has a York University MBA and certification as a Royal Roads University Executive Coach and corporate director through the Institute of Corporate Directors. As a former member of the Canadian National Ski Team, Judi remains an avid skier and also enjoys staying active in the gym and on trails, courts and golf courses. Judi is excited to support MEC’s strategic growth as a values-driven Canadian retail icon.

Matthew Handford

Matthew Handford – North Vancouver, BC

NC Chair, FAC and HRCC member
Serving first term: 2018–2021

Matthew is an avid outdoor athlete with a particular passion for cycling. He has held executive roles with companies including Hootsuite, Westjet and the Forzani Group, and is currently the Chief People Officer at Vantage Airport Group, a global airport management, development, and investment company based in Vancouver. He also spent more than 10 years as a founder/co-owner of the specialty bicycle retailer Different Bikes. Matthew holds several degrees from Queen’s University including a Master’s of Industrial Relations. He has contributed to strategy, governance and board planning in many types of organizations including non-profit, public and private. He currently serves on the Board of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Matthew is committed to inspiring MEC members to lead active lives.

Roddy Macdonald – Halifax, NS

GC Chair
Serving first term: 2019–2022

Roddy brings over 15 years of business experience at a senior executive level and holds an MBA along with the ICD designation. Roddy has a proven track record in successful multi-site retail operations, combined with expertise in leading human resources functions and delivering creative employee engagement strategies. He is passionate about exploring Atlantic Canada where he enjoys cycling, canoeing, and hiking by the ocean.

Ellen Pekeles

Ellen Pekeles – North Vancouver, BC

GC, HRCC, and NC member
Serving second term after an initial one-year term: 2013–2020

With twenty one years of executive leadership experience, with 10 years at Vancity, Ellen brings an in-depth knowledge of the co-operative business model to MEC. She also offers senior-level experience in human resources, operations, IT, facilities and environmental management and strategy. Previously a practicing physiotherapist, Ellen holds a Master of Health Administration from University of Ottawa and has held several senior health care roles in health authorities in Alberta and British Columbia. Ellen’s first passion is downhill skiing, but you will also find her hiking, biking, running, swimming and practicing yoga.

Alison Simpson – Toronto, ON

FAC and NC member
Serving first term: 2019–2022

Alison is an award-winning marketer with over 20 years executive experience leading top Canadian companies in marketing and communications. Alison has served on several boards and specializes in helping organizations thrive amidst marketplace change while keeping members’ needs at the centre of business operations. An accomplished athlete, Alison has completed 55 marathons and ultras, summited Mount Kilimanjaro and regularly enjoys running, hiking, camping and watersports.

Kathy Uher

Kathy Uher – Toronto, ON

GC and HRCC member, Board Vice Chair
Serving second term: 2016–2022

Kathy brings over 18 years experience leading complex, strategic initiatives and holds an MBA and PMP Designation. In her role as VP in the financial services sector she has accountability for governance, financial management, program delivery and benefits realization for enterprise wide initiatives. Kathy has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys hiking, kayaking, cycling and spending time with friends and family on the lake in cottage country. She is committed to preserving MEC’s core values while supporting growth and encouraging more Canadians to be active and enjoy the outdoors.

Bob Wallis

Bob Wallis – Vernon, BC

FAC Chair and GC member
Serving first term: 2017–2020

Bob has over 25 years of executive leadership and board experience in various industries, corporate structures and countries. His passion revolves around matching member needs and expectations with creative solutions. He has a degree in Business and Commerce from the University of Alberta and is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors. He enjoys the outdoors through a variety of activities including fly fishing, cycling, hiking, back country skiing and golfing.

Kathy Weston

Kathy Weston – Toronto, ON

HRCC Chair and FAC member
Serving first term: 2017–2020

Kathy brings 25 years of executive retail experience with a track record for delivering impactful growth and transformation strategies. She has led Strategy, Buying & Merchandising, Finance, Operations and Human Resources teams in start-up and high growth retailer companies. Kathy has been a long time MEC member and is passionate about supporting MEC in its focus on delivering exceptional member experiences and future growth. She shares her love of the outdoors with her husband and four children.  Kathy also serves as Vice Chair of University of Toronto Press Board and Chair of their Audit Committee. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto and has an ICD.D designation from the Rotman School of Management.

Executive team

United by their desire to make MEC successful, our senior leaders are tasked with embracing change, seeking out new ideas and finding talented people to keep the Co-op humming.

Phil Arrata, CEO of MEC

Phil Arrata

Chief Executive Officer

Phil brings over 20 years of experience in business operations and retail and believes passionately in MEC’s purpose to inspire and enable everyone to lead active outdoor lifestyles. 

Phil is a highly-respected leader within the retail world. He has a strong operations background and a 20-year track record of delivering results and people-oriented strategies. Phil has worked as Chief Financial and Administrative Officer at Best Buy Canada and Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company and served on MEC’s Board of Directors from 2015-18. Phil teaches finance and strategy at UBC’s Sauder MBA program and serves on the Board of the BC’s Women’s Hospital Foundation. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Northwestern University. 

In his spare time, Phil enjoys running, cycling, skiing and traveling with his wife and two children. 

Joanna Ban

Chief Financial Officer

Joanna oversees MEC’s Finance and Administration functions and brings broad experience in global and domestic markets to the Co-op. She joins us from Creation Technologies, an electronic manufacturing company, where she was VP of Finance and Chief Accounting Officer. Joanna also brings 13 years of retail sector experience, having held several executive roles in Aritzia’s accounting and finance department. She is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from UBC and earned CPA designation while articling at KPMG. In her free time, Joanna enjoys spending time in the outdoors biking, camping, and traveling with her family.

Nancy Blair

Nancy Blair

Chief Transformation Officer

Nancy is responsible for MEC’s organizational transformation, enterprise-wide IT strategy and operations, as well as the Co-op’s Service Centre. Demonstrating over 25 years of leadership experience across transformation, strategy and talent, Nancy was previously a consultant at McKinsey & Company and her own strategy consulting firm, and held a senior strategy role at The Antioch Company. Nancy also held the role of Calgary office leader in Egon Zehnder International, a world-leading global executive search firm, where she consulted with Boards and senior leadership teams on talent, succession and team effectiveness. Nancy is passionate about the outdoors and regularly enjoys biking, kayaking and hiking. Her favourite activity is spending time on the ski slopes with her son Ethan.

Charmaine Claasens

Chief Marketing Officer

Charmaine is responsible for MEC’s Marketing, Communications, Insights, Visual Presentation and focus on the MEC Member. With over 15 years of retail experience, Charmaine served as Executive Head of Marketing and Ecommerce in Cape Town, South Africa for The Foschini Retail Group Pty Ltd (TFG). She has worked in fashion, outdoor and sporting goods retail environments with strong store footprint and ecommerce solutions within Southern Africa. She started her career in advertising & visual communication and transitioned into Brand Management, Marketing Management and Executive Leadership of Marketing and Ecommerce. She has had the privilege to forge and lead strategic brand partnerships with some of the world’s major brands including Nike, adidas, New Balance, Converse and Reebok. Charmaine is a big advocate of coaching and mentoring and actively coaches individuals in different parts of the world looking to grow in their careers. She hails from South Africa having recently moved to Canada with her family where they enjoy exploring the outdoors through hiking or learning to ski.

Catherine Lau Headshot

Catherine Lau

General Counsel

Catherine is responsible for MEC’s legal matters and provides direction in governance practices. She brings over 12 years of distinguished legal experience to MEC, and prior to joining our Co-op, Catherine was Senior Counsel at TELUS and associate at Borden Ladner Gervais, LLP. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Finance from the University of British Columbia and a Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto. She was also Board Secretary of TELUS Victoria Community Board from 2014 to 2019. In her free time, Catherine enjoys personal training, biking, golfing and travelling with her family.

Deb Paulsen

Human Resources

Deb has over 25 years of experience in both public and private sector organisations, with demonstrated expertise across the areas of human resources, operations and guest experience. Over a 12-year career, Deb led HR and Operations at Rocky Mountaineer, with a focus on developing strategy, aligning structure and maintaining high levels of employee engagement. Most recently, Deb successfully elevated guest satisfaction ratings in her role as Vice President of Guest Relations. Deb enjoys regular cardio workouts and gets active outdoors by exploring the hiking and biking trails in BC’s Coast Mountains.

Nicole Watt

Retail Operations

Nicole is responsible for all the activities that keep our 23 stores functioning well each day. She has over 20 years of leadership and retail experience, and prior to joining MEC in 2016, Nicole worked with Apple, Home Depot, Mark’s, London Drugs and Opus Hotels. She is an inspirational leader with extensive experience in retail, sales talent assessment, store operations, business planning, and employee and customer satisfaction. Nicole enjoys a variety of outdoor activities and is equally at ease on the trails, paddling on the water and camping.

Board committees, Director and leadership positions

The Board Job Description sets out the scope of its overall responsibility. Individual directors and those in leadership positions, such as our Chair, have job descriptions too.

Board, Director, and leadership job description (PDF)

Finance and Audit Committee (FAC)

This committee oversees financial management, enterprise risk management, and due diligence in the execution of major financial decisions. They oversee financial reporting processes, internal controls and our annual external audit service engagement, process and results.

Members of the 2019-2020 FAC are: Bob Wallis (Chair), Matthew Handford, Alison Simpson and Kathy Weston.

FAC job description (PDF)

Human Resources and Compensation Committee (HRCC)

This committee supports the Board’s mandate in the areas of organizational performance, human resource and compensation policy and CEO recruitment and performance management.

Members of the 2019-2020 HRCC are: Kathy Weston (Chair), Matthew Handford, Ellen Pekeles and Kathy Uher.

HRCC job description (PDF)

Governance Committee (GC)

This committee is accountable for supporting the Board’s governance mandate and operations. This includes implementing and monitoring the governance framework at MEC, Board performance evaluation, Director development and training and Board compensation.

Members of the 2019-2020 GC are: Roddy Macdonald (Chair), Ellen Pekeles, Kathy Uher and Bob Wallis.

GC job description (PDF)

Nominations Committee (NC)

This committee is responsible for supporting the Board’s mandate in the areas of: Annual General Meeting and other democratic member participation activities, Board candidate nominations and elections, and Administering MEC Rules.

Members of the 2019-2020  NC are: Matthew Handford (Chair), Ellen Pekeles, Alison Simpson and two members at large, Graham Allen and Judy Martin.

NC job description (PDF)