Aaron Zboch-Alves and Greg McFarlane are following a tradition of new leadership in the IBEW’s First District. 

Greg Wright, then business representative of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Local 37, addresses the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference in 2015.

The two members were accepted to the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, a two-week training designed to develop young leaders who have the potential to hold senior leadership roles.

“This is a great opportunity for Brothers Zboch-Alves and McFarlane, and for the IBEW,” said First District Vice President Bill Daniels. “I appreciate their willingness to participate and invest their time. It’s no small undertaking.”

The conference, which will take place in June, brings together approximately 250 mid-career professionals from government, business, labour and non-governmental organizations for an intensive immersion into areas of the country they may not know and issues they might not typically consider, with the goal of challenging perceptions and developing more inclusive decision-making.  

“You learn to see not just someone else’s side differently, but yours as well,” said International Representative Matt Wayland, who attended the conference in 2015.

The conference’s origins extend back to the UK and the 1956 Commonwealth Conference which was created to bring labour and industry leaders together and usher in a more progressive era of labour-management relations. The Canadian model began in 1983 and has since trained more than 2,000 people.

“We don’t want to change what you think, but how you think,” said Ian Anderson, executive director of the conference. “And labour is absolutely essential to the program, for its commitment to social justice and issues like wage inequality. It always has been and always will be.”

McFarlane, a member of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2085 and executive director of the Manitoba Federation of Labor, said Wayland encouraged him to apply.  

“Matt knows how active I am in the labor movement,” said McFarlane, who also serves as a school board trustee and won the "IBEW Has Talent" competition at the 38th International Convention. “This is an opportunity to help us grow as leaders and union members, and we’ll bring the experience back to our local and our province.”

Participants are divided into groups of 16 that travel to different regions of Canada. The days are long, Wayland said, and physically and mentally demanding. His group traveled by bus for 60 hours, visiting 40 different sites, from homeless shelters to power plants. Each day ends with a de-briefing where group members discuss what they’ve seen.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that, they’ve all seen the same things but from 16 different lenses,” Anderson said.

By learning to see things from multiple perspectives, you gain a deeper understanding, McFarlane said, which can help with negotiations. And that goes for other attendees too. One participant had his mind completely changed about labor unions – and positively, Wayland said.

“Aaron and Greg will get to network with some brilliant people from diverse backgrounds,” Wayland said. “And they’ll share the IBEW perspective.”

Toronto Local 353 member Aaron Zboch-Alves sits on the local’s executive council and serves as recording secretary with his RENEW/NextGen chapter. RENEW/NextGen is a program to encourage young IBEW members’ involvement in the union. He also teaches at Humber College Electrical Techniques Program in Toronto.

While McFarlane and Zboch-Alves are attending as individuals, they join a long line of IBEW alumni.

“IBEW has a good name with the conference,” Wayland said. “Our alumni have been very successful.”

“We are so proud to have Brother McFarlane attend this conference,” said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. “I’m an alumni of the Governor General’s conference and I know how it changed my life. I am confident that it will change his too.” 

Photo credit: GGCLC/CCGGL via Flickr