Back by popular demand! Our second annual Zoomer List (2011) honours those who prove that age isn’t a barrier to leading and inspiring our country, our lives and our future.

Text:  Elisa Birnbaum 

Editor's Note: The list is alphabetical; however, the announcement of Jack Layton’s death came at press time – he was already
included – and we responded by placing him at the top of the list in tribute. The rest have one thing in common: through their achievements in the past year, they reflect the positive vision of aging that shows relevancy isn’t restricted to youth.

Jack Layton  July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011

Why: For his legacy – both political and personal – inspiring Canadians to fight for social justice and make sure “no one is left behind.”  A lifelong politician from Hudson, Que., Jack Layton parlayed his early and noisy career on Toronto city council all the way to Parliament Hill, becoming leader of the federal New Democratic Party. In the 2011 federal election, he achieved a near miracle: cleaning up in his home province from the Bloc (taking 59 of Quebec’s 75 seats), winning 102 seats nationally and, most notably, leading his party to Official Opposition status for the first time in its history. Known for his charm and beaming smile, Layton was a warrior on the political front lines, never backing down from a battle. Equal parts scrappy and witty, he was a man of strong convictions who believed fervently that Canada could be a country “of greater equality, justice and opportunity,” words borne out by his party’s strong support of poor seniors. Layton’s triumphant election showing became bittersweet, however, as he resigned just three months later to deal with a second bout of cancer. On Aug. 22, he lost this battle. Two days before his passing, he penned a final letter, filled with encouragement and inspiration to his party, his caucus, Quebecers, youth and all Canadians – parting words to a nation that he believed in and served until the very end. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Edward Burtynsky Age: 56

Why: For his current touring exhibition, Oil, and his role as conscience agitator. One of Canada’s most emblematic artists, photographer Edward Burtynsky has a reputation for taking seemingly benign industrial landscapes and transforming them into provocative forces of consciousness. A documentarian of humanity’s impact on the environment, it’s not uncommon for his work to invoke at once beauty and horror, attraction and revulsion. Oil explores the impact of liquid gold on our lives – from the way it moves us forward to its propensity for destruction. But if you’re looking for answers, judgment or in-your-face condemnation, you won’t find it. The exhibition – like the artist himself – simply raises questions, asking us to do the same. “Sometimes, you don’t know why you’re doing something; you’re intuitively following, to see where it leads.”

Geoff Cape Age: 46

Why: For bringing cities and nature one step closer together. Co-founder and executive director of Evergreen, Geoff Cape launched the organization in 1991 with this mission. Taking it one sustainable step further, the group opened the doors to Evergreen Brick Works, Canada’s first large-scale environmental community centre. Due to its unique location – in Toronto’s ravine network and adjacent to the lower Don River – and universal reach, it was named by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 10 geotourism destinations. Cape’s ingenuity led to a wellspring of accolades including winning the Schwab Foundation’s prestigious Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the first Canadian to do so. “Ultimately, we hope [to] ... turn the tide on the broader environmental challenges we face globally.”

Fiona Cibani  Age: 47

Why: For proving Canadian fashion has no borders. Not many take runway bows in two fashion meccas during the same season, but last year Vancouverite Fiona Cibani did just that: in Milan, where she launched Ports 1961 menswear with an acclaimed spring collection and then during New York Fashion Week as creative director of Ports 1961 womenswear, a post she has held since 2009. Cibani is on a roll: Michelle Obama was spotted in the label, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, shopped at the London store. With 250 Ports stores worldwide, from Hong Kong to Toronto (where it began), the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and Cibani is hard at work on the pièce de résistance, a Paris store to open this month. “Women have to balance the roles from mother and wife to executive and CEO, and that’s what we are here for.”

Adrienne Clarkson Age: 72

Why: For shining a new light on the immigration experience. After her stint as governor general ended in 2005, Clarkson founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship; now she transforms this passion into her latest book. Room For All of Us explores the immigrant experience through a collection of personal stories, looking at how Canada shaped these individuals and how they, in turn, transformed the nation. Her third book in four years – first she published her memoirs, then a biography on Norman Bethune – Clarkson’s post-commander-in-chief life seems infused with as much direction and purpose as when she was in office. “It is customary to talk about how hard immigrants work and how ambitious they are, but those of us who have lived that process know that it is mainly the dream that counts.”

Zita Cobb Age: 52

Why: For revitalizing the town of Fogo Island, Nfld. It’s not easy putting a small fishing town – population 2,700 – on the international map. Yet, that’s exactly what Zita Cobb is doing with Fogo Island, on the northern tip of Newfoundland. Hoping to breathe new life into her hometown, reeling from the far-reaching impact of a cod moratorium, Cobb established the Shorefast Foundation and turned to geotourism, the arts and “good ol’-fashioned” innovation. Initiatives include a world-class inn, art studios and programming. With a $16 million price tag – $6 million from Cobb who made her fortunes in the tech industry – she believes tourism, job creation and hope is nothing short of priceless. “The arts are a proven economic generator. But they also speak to our soul.”

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