Passive House Canada/Maison Passive Canada (PHC) recently announced the appointment of Chris Ballard as the organization’s new CEO. Ballard replaces Rob Bernhardt, who in early 2019 announced his intention to step down after four years at the helm.
Ballard comes to PHC with an extensive experience in government and consumer advocacy. He served as Ontario’s minister of environment and climate change under the Liberal government from 2017-2018. Previously, Ballard was the minister of housing and the minister responsible for Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and member of the Treasury Board. He is also a past executive director of the 60,000 member Consumers’ Association of Canada (Ontario) and a founding board member of the Consumers Council of Canada. He also has an extensive background in journalism and public relations.
The appointment of such a high profile Ontario-based individual is a significant move for a group based in Western Canada. The Daily Commercial News spoke to Chris Ballard about his future outlook for the organization, and the skills he brings to Passive House Canada’s mission.
What are your immediate priorities?
My immediate priorities are to get settled in, meet as many people as possible and learn about the great programs that are taking place at the municipal, provincial and federal government levels, including Quebec where there’s a lot of excitement. I also want to tap my own network in government to make those not already aware more familiar with the potential Passive House standards can bring.
Does your appointment suggest a shift in emphasis from Western Canada to Central Canada?
The head office will remain in Victoria, B.C. The wonderful work that has taken place in the West is a shining example for the rest of Canada in terms of what we can be doing. We will at some point be opening a regional office in Ontario to meet the needs of lower-tier governments, provincial governments and of course the federal government. We want boots on the ground in this province so we can meet with these people on a weekly basis.
Some suggest that familiarization with Passive House is required at three specific levels: building owners; the building industry; and government regulators and legislators. Would you agree?
I would absolutely agree. Those are our three big target areas.
Is there one that jumps out as a top priority?
Number one would be continuing to build awareness at government levels. There are a lot of great people in the civil service who know all about Passive House standards and who have been pushing these standards for many years. I want to continue to support them. I also want to build new relationships with others in the civil service. However, there is also a whole level of elected officials who are not aware of all the benefits that Passive House standards bring in terms of addressing climate change targets. These are the people we need to get in touch with to increase their awareness about Passive House standards. The second area, of course, is consumers and building owners. Many don’t realize that such high level of building exists, and aren’t demanding it from their architects and builders.
Can we therefore expect a push from government and a pull from building owners for better quality construction aimed at architects and builders?
Yes. We need our politicians to push appropriate standards to improve energy efficiency, not only in new buildings but in energy retrofits of older buildings. And we need consumers and building owners to demand higher standards from their builders.
What aspects of your professional background and experience will be helpful in achieving these goals?
My understanding of public affairs, along with my experience working with government and with consumers and industry will, I believe, make real inroads towards educating and advocating for higher standards. I’ve been involved in consumer advocacy, run my own business for 27 years, and have been an elected official. My experience in all those fields, combined with strong communication skills, is what counts most right now.