Candidate Statements 2017

Each year the Term of three Directors of the Board ends, and this year Randy Boddam, Charles Ennis, and Colin Haig see their three-year terms come to an end. All three Directors are eligible to stand for re-election, and both Charles Ennis and Colin Haig have elected to do so.

Nominations for the RASC Board of Directors closed April 30, and by that time, we had two additional candidates, Anthony Gucciardo, President of the Yukon Centre, and Dr. Rob Thacker of the Halifax Centre. We were also informed in April by James Edgar that he would be stepping down from his role on the Board for personal reasons as of GA 2017, ending his term early. As a result, it appeared that all positions would be filled by acclamation and no election would be required.

In May, we confirmed that Susan Yeo, on leave from the Board since November 2016, would also be ending her term early for personal reasons leaving an additional unfilled vacancy. This additional position is to be filled by Michael Watson, by acclamation.

Your new Board of Directors, effective 2017 July 2, will be Craig Levine, Charles Ennis, Colin Haig, Chris GainorAnthony Gucciardo, Heather Laird, Rob Thacker, Michael Watson, and Robyn Foret.

On behalf of the Nominating Committee, The Board, and The Society, I would like to thank James Edgar, Randy Boddam, and Susan Yeo for their service to the Society. Please be sure to thank them individually as circumstance permits; serving the Society in this capacity takes dedication, commitment, and sometimes a thick skin, and all have served us well.

Robyn Foret

2nd Vice-President

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada


Candidate statements for Directors follow

Candidate Statement — Charles Ennis

I am interested in re-election to the national board of directors of the RASC. I understand the eligibility requirements for being a board member at the national level of the RASC and I meet these requirements. I agree to abide by the RASC Directors and Officers Code of Conduct.

RASC Background:

I joined the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC in August of 2013. In December 2013, I was elected to the Board of the Sunshine Coast Centre as a director at large and took on the position of media director. I created a system for notifying media outlets of our Centre’s activities through press releases and wrote articles for the local newspapers. I created a new website for the Sunshine Coast Centre in July 2014. Interest in the new website has built up to 1,832 views in August 2015 and 2251 views from 833 people in September 2015, and we have now had over 11,000 views since this new website was created, with visitors from 66 countries and territories. I revitalized the Centre’s inactive Facebook page and created Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest sites for our Sunshine Coast Centre. We’ve 272 followers for our Twitter page now, including many RASC Centres.

I took over the Sunshine Coast Centre’s speaker program using the national Public Speaker Program, bringing in speakers every month (except July and August when we were busy with outreach activities). I brought in speakers from UBC, the University of Victoria, the NRC/Herzberg Institute, and Western Washington University. Our Centre became the most active Centre using the PSP. When the National Secretary asked for a volunteer to assist with the Public Speaker Program (PSP) at one of the online National Council meetings in the spring of 2015, I volunteered, was subsequently made a trustee for that program, and am now serving as the National PSP Administrator.

I’ve only ever missed attending three outreach events since joining the RASC, two due to attending the 2015 GA in Halifax and 2016 GA in London, the third because of a death in my family. I have attended all of the General Assemblies that occurred since I joined the RASC.

I helped put together an astronomy television program in partnership with Coast Cable TV called Night Lights, which ran its first season in 2014 and finished shooting the second season in the fall of 2015. This is a partnership where we write the scripts and narrate the segments and Coast Cable provides the studio at Elphinstone Secondary School with student videographers to do the filming at no cost to our Centre. I wrote scripts, narrated, and arranged video sessions in the field to make up the episodes. The Night Lights program disseminates basic astronomical information and promotes our RASC Centre. I also am the writer/host of a 15 minute BravoFACTUAL film for the Bravo Network, “Starry Nights,” with the help of experienced Canadian film/TV producer Dodie Graham-McKay and director/cameraman Jeff McKay, winner of the Peabody Award for his film “Fat Chance.”

Construction on the SCC Observatory had started when I joined our Centre in 2013 and I put in many shifts working on it. I became part of the SCC Observatory committee early in 2014. In December 2014, I was voted in as president of the Sunshine Coast Centre and immediately committed our members to finishing the observatory by mid-2015. Work on the observatory escalated and we had our grand opening and first light on 2015 27 June. Since the opening, we’ve had many public viewing sessions at the observatory, including a special opening for the lunar eclipse on September 27. We pursued and received a $3600 grant from the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation, which bought us a new CCD camera and screen for the telescope. I’m actively pursuing multiple funding grants and programs to expand the observatory by adding a “warm room”/classroom.

In June 2014, I volunteered to help Craig Levine and the IT Committee choose and test a new system for online meetings, a process that resulted in the WebEx system in use today.

At the 2014 GA, I also volunteered to take on writing a Small Observatories Handbook for the RASC. This involved interviewing 145 observatory owners in 11 countries and writing the book (61,780 words, 35 photos), which was published as “Building a Small Observatory” by the RASC in May 2016. At the 2015 GA in Halifax as well as the 2016 GA in London I presented the results of my research for this project.

In July 2015, I volunteered to assist Dennis Grey’s team for evaluating and testing the new RASC website.

Throughout early 2014 and into 2016 I have done presentations on light-pollution abatement for various community associations and organizations on the Sunshine Coast, culminating in getting the District of Sechelt to become an International Dark-Sky Community recognized by the IDA. I also assisted the Yukon Centre to get local utilities in Whitehorse to adopt proper full-cut-off lighting.

I volunteered to serve on the Fundraising Committee being formed at the National Council meeting in November 2015.

Previous Background:

I got my pilot’s license at age 16 years through a flying scholarship from 525 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Cadets. From 1972, I attended Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, B.C., majoring in Physics and Physical Oceanography. I held a reserve commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was a training officer for this air cadet squadron from 1981 to 1985.

In 1977, I left the Canadian Armed Forces to pursue a 28-year career as a member the Vancouver Police Department and was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal. In my police career I served on the Emergency Response Team (Tactical Unit) as a Hostage Negotiator and as a Child Abuse Investigator. I was one of the founding members of the Gang Crime Unit. I finished my police career working with the Mental Health Emergency Services unit, working with a psych nurse dealing with mentally disturbed people in the community. I was a safety trainer for the BC Ministry for Children and Family Development and Coast Health Authority. In 2005, I retired from the VPD and became a civilian police dispatcher at ECOMM for South-western BC for the Vancouver Police Department, finally retiring from law enforcement in July 2013.

I am a published author with 21 books in various genres to my name, including the aforementioned Small Observatories Handbook.

My goals and intentions:

I support the RASC initiative to create a fundraising committee to bring in additional revenue. We’ve relied on our investments to bail us out of deficits in the past and this year that didn’t go so well due to the state of the Canadian economy. Of course, most NGOs have such committees with members actively lobbying for donations and support, and the RASC can benefit from such a committee.

We need to defend and expand our remaining dark skies. 56% of the observatory owners I spoke to in creating the Small Observatories handbook said they’d found relatively dark skies in which to place their observatories, but 21% of them said that their sky conditions had worsened since they’d opened their observatories. Dark skies are our heritage and ensure our health and safety: We need to defend our dark skies by promoting abatement of artificial light at night.

I want to promote better use of the Public Speaker Program and build up a speakers list that Centres can use as a resource.

It seems to me from my experience at the 2015 GA in Halifax that all RASC Centres are reporting similar experiences to my Sunshine Coast Centre, with regard to having a relatively small core group of volunteers who do everything compared to their total membership. Several Centres are reporting that this situation has resulted in "burn out" issues. I’d like to help come up with perks for volunteers. We need to balance public outreach with "inreach": that is to say, doing things specifically for club members. I also support revising the award system to a system with pins for 5, 10, 15, and 20 years service and retaining the existing Service Award as a high-level national award.

I also heard reports from delegates from many other Centres concerning difficulties trying to recruit people to volunteer to serve on their governing board. Many Centres have executive members who repeatedly cycle through executive positions as no new members coming in are willing to commit to serving on the governing board. Looking at the lists of past members of the national executive as well as several Centres, you will find that this "recycling" of executives is a phenomenon that has been with the Society for some time. I’d like to look at measures that may help to solve this problem.

Multiple Centres reported aging membership and challenges engaging youth. We need to better utilize social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to engage youth.

I fully support the Strategic Planning the RASC Board is involved in and hope to see us use that Strategic Plan to serve our membership better.

Last year I was elected to the Board and volunteered to serve as National Secretary, completing the one-year term vacated by the outgoing secretary. It is my intention to run for re-election this year and to put my name forward as National Secretary once more.

In short, I intend to serve the RASC to the best of my ability.

Sincerely, Charles Ennis

National Secretary

President, Sunshine Coast Centre RASC


Candidate Statement — Colin Haig

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is about to celebrate an important anniversary.  Can I count on your vote and support to build the foundation for the next 150 years?

As a Life Member, I’ve served our Society for 23 years, at the local and national level, through exciting and challenging times, and would like to serve a final term in the role of President of the Society. I believe my leadership would help us achieve great things and set the path for the future. Over the years, I’ve helped create new sources of revenue, improve our investments for a better yield, and keep our expenses under control. Centres welcomed me as a speaker and to listen to your concerns and find solutions.  I hope to visit many more Centres within the next two to three years.  I’ve learned much along the way, and discovered opportunities to make us better.  Keeping member fees under control and finding ways to support our Centres and volunteers is near and dear to me.

I’ve helped hire our first two Executive Directors, reorganized the Society under the Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act legislation, and been involved in three strategic planning exercises. As one of the two RASC leaders that led to the acquisition of SkyNews, I hope to see this fine magazine continue to reach 20,000+ people. I’ve also found a little bit of time to build a backyard observatory and to serve on the Awards Committee of the International Occultation Timing Association, and am an AAVSO member. At the Centre level, I’ve served on the Board in various roles including thee years as President. Some of my greatest friendships have come about because of connections made there, and at National Council where I served as a National Rep for several years. As one of the only current Board members to have served as 2nd Vice President, 1st Vice President, and Treasurer, I have helped where I was able, and learned many things along the way.  When breaking news in space and astronomy happens, I’ve represented the RASC on national television, radio, and other media.  I was greatly humbled and honour to receive a Service Award in 2015. Some details are here:

Professionally, I’ve served as a senior executive in several Canadian and international software companies, bringing new products to a global market, and managing partnerships and alliances between some of the world’s leading companies. I am also a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and for fun, the Radio Amateurs of Canada, letting me dabble in radio astronomy as well. From our home in Milton, Ontario, my wife and daughter support my efforts to support you.

I feel my contribution to the Society is not done, and would like, with your support, an opportunity to focus on four key areas that I believe would greatly enhance our organization – PEOPLE – our volunteers; DIVERSITY – our membership; SUSTAINABILITY – ensure we will be around 150 years from now; and SCIENCE – creating opportunities for Canadians to do real science and inspire the next generation of young scientists.


People are the key to the growth and sustainability of our Society. People at the Centre level directly engage thousands of Canadians every year, and inspire them about astronomy and science. Our country has changed, and the RASC needs to adapt and better support our Centres and the volunteers like you that make great things happen. I want to introduce volunteer and Centre programs to create vibrant groups across Canada that do more, without straining their resources and talent.


Our country is more diverse, and our Society is starting to reflect that. We need to build a Society that is open and welcoming to all people. We need to tap into the great experience of our long-time members and enthusiasm and energy of our young people. As a supporter of our new anti-harassment policy, I believe we are moving in the right direction, and want to see us do more to engage people of all ages and backgrounds. New members bring fresh ideas and long-time volunteers will enjoy new support. We need to ensure we have a safe environment for all people, and to create a culture that is inclusive.


Financial sustainability is one of my core principles, and this means that fundraising is a priority, while we keep an eye on costs, and making sure everyone pays their fare share, without unnecessary fee hikes. Canada’s economy impacts each of us personally, and so we need ways to ensure that as many people can participate as possible, regardless of their financial situation. I believe we should consider new membership options to retain more members and welcome new ones. As a past member of the Finance Committee and current Treasurer, sustainability has had my full attention and has drawn on my best business experience to manage our resources prudently while we aspire to do new things.


Making science accessible, to people of all ages and backgrounds is important. Astronomy inspires our citizens, and we need to ensure we are sparking curiosity among young people, through education and outreach. The RASC is a conduit for real science to connect to the public, and we need to build bridges between the professionals, amateurs, and all Canadians, through events, activities, news, and social media. Local Centres do this well, and could use more support. It is also our responsibility to inspire young people to pursue careers in astronomy and allied vocations in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and arts.  With our assets, we can support research, outreach, and science education. I’d like to see us do more. There is an opportunity to create online communities, remote telescope facilities, and teacher workshop material that I believe would strengthen the RASC and our place in the global science community.  We need to build bridges with professionals, and forge alliances with similar organizations across Canada, North America, and around the world.

With your support, I can lead the RASC to build on these four themes and execute a strategic plan that sends us on the right path for the next 150 years.  Many of you expressed your desire to see us move wisely yet quickly to see real results in the coming months. Can I ask you to cast your vote for me to lead the Board this year?

Thank you

Colin Haig, M.Sc.


Candidate Statement, Anthony Gucciardo

"I, Anthony Gucciardo, on this 24th day of March 2017, declare that I am a member in good standing with the Society, meet the requirements for being a Board member as outlined by the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, agree to stand for election and abide by the Society’s Directors and Officer’s Code of Conduct, I am also willing to sign the Society’s Board of Director’s agreement prior to assuming any office."

Canada has exceptional strength in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology... that has increased over time in a self-reinforcing way – excellence begets further excellence.” ~ The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) 2006

Over 200,000 students enrol in introductory Astronomy elective classes every year in the US alone (International Journal of STEM Education, 2016 3:20). From the ranking of 22 Canadian science areas according to their relative citation impact factor (CIF) rating, referenced from the Thomson Reuters (ISI) data (, the highest ranking field is Space Science, which includes Astronomy, at an exceptional 64% above the world average. The second and third place subject areas are Clinical Medicine (43%) and Physics (40%). According to CASCA's report entitled Unveiling the Cosmos: A Vision for Canadian Astronomy 2010-2020: "The Canadian astronomical community comprises approximately 200 faculty members or equivalent, 100 post-doctoral fellows, and 300 graduate students. These numbers have been growing rapidly: faculty numbers have grown by 70% in the past decade, and the number of PhDs from Canadian universities has almost doubled in the same period. The bulk (more than 90%) of Astronomy research in Canada takes place at universities; of this research, approximately 2/3 is of an observational nature, and 1/3 is theory. The Canadian astronomical community has an excellent reputation. Space Science and Astronomy is the highest ranked of all Canadian sciences in terms of international impact over the 2005-2009 period. Furthermore, Canada has a higher impact in international Astronomy than any of the G7 nations; this is in spite of a lower Astronomy investment per GDP than almost any other industrialized country."

Ok, so then why are we having a problem with recruitment and retention in the RASC if all of what was mentioned above, represents the current portrait of Astronomy in Canada today?

By putting my candidacy forward, I hope to help solve that very enigma, by becoming a member of the Board of Directors. If elected, I will offer the team my 26 years of leadership and management skills/experience acquired throughout my military, consulting, and nursing careers. I will be able to provide excellent logistical support, as I am fluently bilingual and hold IT skills in both computer hardware and software. I am a science-fiction nerd, a space enthusiast, and I love to teach!! I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Geography, took as many Astronomy courses in university as possible, and had the opportunity to present a paper on Astronomical Theories of Climatic Change. Formerly I was a member of the Société d'astronomie du Planétarium de Montréal (SAPM affiliated with the FAAQ). Currently I am one of the three founders of the Yukon Astronomical Society, and now President of the Yukon Centre. I am also the RASC Council Rep for the Yukon Territory. My favourite quote is:  “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ~ Albert Einstein

And, this is where I feel I can make a real difference, because my excellent planning skills combined with my creative imagination has a funny way of seeing past obstacles, past pessimism, and past the status quo.

These are some of the areas I feel the Society could focus on:

  1. Cooperate more in the area of space astronomy with organizations such as:
    1. CSA;
    2. CITA;
    3. NRC & NRC-HIA;
    4. CASCA;
    5. Explore the Universe;
    6. CFHT;
    7. Gemini Observatory;
    8. JCMT;
    9. ALMA;
    10. NASA, HUBBLE & JWST;
    11. ESA;
    12. ISS; and
    13. the several Canadian universities.
  2. Support astronomy by providing funds, resources, and initiatives that will benefit Centres
  3. Create a more effective mechanism for our astronomy community to be heard at all levels of government
  4. Promote more of a symbiotic relationship between Centres and National (win = win)

Yours Aye,

Anthony Gucciardo, RN, CD
Yukon Astronomical Society

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Yukon Centre


Candidate Statement — Rob Thacker, Ph.D.

I am passionate about connecting citizens to science. As the Vice-President of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA, President 2018-2020) I’m standing for election to The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Board of Directors to build stronger connections between the two societies — can I count on your vote to help build a stronger foundation for Canadian astronomy that should help benefit everyone involved in astronomy in Canada? 

I’ve been a member of the Halifax Centre since the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). During the IYA2009 the Halifax Centre, Saint Mary’s University (SMU), the Halifax Public Libraries, the Minas Astronomy Group, Discovery Centre, and Dalhousie University worked together as part of the Astronomy Nova Scotia collaboration. It was an incredibly fruitful collaboration that led to thousands and thousands of Galileo Moments throughout Nova Scotia. Although activity is no longer at the peaks of IYA, SMU continues to have a close relationship with the Halifax Centre, including mutual coordination on the annual MacLennan Lecture on Astronomy. Many of us look back at IYA with fond memories, and I genuinely believe my own interest in communicating science and astronomy to the public was lit on fire by IYA!

As an individual I consider myself upfront and honest. So, I will earnestly state that within the Halifax Centre I could not be considered a particularly active member, as my professional duties tend to dominate. But, I would definitely consider myself a strong supporter of the Centre, in addition to having participated in events I have made donations. For me the key aspect of my RASC membership is reaching out to the public and sharing the joy of discovery - that’s something that I’m passionate about and do on a regular basis.

Some of you may remember my enthusiasm as the Northcott Lecturer at the 2015 General Assembly, which remains, to this day, one of the favourite public lectures I have ever given! As well as having hosted/cohosted 70 hours of science-based talk radio (including bringing in key RASC members) I have given over 150 astronomy and science related interviews on radio/TV and other media. I currently present weekly (radio) columns on CBC Halifax, “the Sound of Science” with Bob Murphy, on Ottawa Today with Mark Sutcliffe (1310 News) and “Science Ship” with Jon Muma of Calgary 660. In recognition of these efforts I was awarded the 2015 “Science Champion” award by the Discovery Centre of Nova Scotia (an award that former RASC President David Lane has also received).

In terms of my Board experience, to date I have primarily worked on educational sector Boards, although recently I was appointed to a term on the Make-A-Wish Atlantic Canada Board. In the education sector I have been a Board observer of Compute Canada (as Chair of the National Advisory Council on Research), Director of CASCA (2007-2010), and a Research Director of the Atlantic Computational Excellence Network (ACEnet, 2008-2011, 2015-2018).

In terms of administrative experience, I have held a number of executive positions. Firstly, as Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Physics at SMU (2011-14) I was responsible for approximately 15 full-time faculty and staff, as well as another (approximately) 10 part-time faculty. I have extensive experience with major job searches as well as hiring part-time staff. In addition to holding the Chairship, I have been the Acting Director of the Institute for Computational Astrophysics (2014, to date) and the Graduate program Coordinator (2016, to date). I’ve also worked on at least two important fundraising projects in my department and have experience of the challenges involved in this area. I also led the $236M national astronomy research plan review in 2015 (the “Mid Term Review” of Canadian research astronomy).

My personal history has strongly shaped my views on life. I come from a town with very high unemployment from a family descended from fisherfolk. I have fond memories of one of my grandmothers telling me what it was like to grow up in a fishing shanty with 6 other children. They were happy, but any storm would leave them wondering if their father was coming home. My parents lived in pre-fabricated post-war housing, but they both worked hard and ended up being successful. By the time I was born they had a good house, and I attended a large, if somewhat rough, comprehensive school. Despite its gritty nature and numerous problems (from drugs to delinquency) there were good teachers, and they helped me believe that with enough work I could do things people in my family had never done before. Blessed with enough personal ability, and supported by amazing people, I was able to achieve things I would never have dreamed of as a pre-teenager. It’s perhaps no surprise that I ended up marrying a woman who is a deaf academic, and a phenomenal trailblazer.

That personal background, combined with my upcoming Presidency of CASCA, hopefully gives you an insight into what I would like to focus on as a Director of RASC.

Firstly, the concept of cooperation and working together to create things bigger than those we can achieve alone is a powerful one. While some have suggested we could even consider melding aspects of the two societies, my own view is we need better connections between the two societies first. How do administrative models work in each society? What might the barriers to building bridges be? We can’t really begin to answer these questions until we start having individuals with knowledge of how both societies function. What I would learn as a Director of RASC would help cross-fertilizer the Boards of both societies for the next three years and beyond.

Secondly, my life and career has been made possible by the support of amazing people of all backgrounds. Consequently I view people, and with it different voices and perspectives, as the single most key factor in any successful society. I am concerned about how interest in astronomy does not seem to spread across boundaries of age, gender, and ethnicity, in an equal fashion. There are real concerns about accessibility, too, for example in a dark observatory the deaf need appropriate accommodation, but it can be done and successfully! Some may argue the interest in astronomy is generational, the space race is an obvious example, or Sagan’s “Cosmos,” but if we are to continue to build the RASC we need to bridge these concerns. Young people today face extraordinary pressures from global warming and other factors, not to mention the outrageous levels of light pollution. Connecting a new generation with the wonders in the sky above them is not a trivial thing. It needs to be done with sensitivity and humility. This is absolutely a key issue.

With your support, I’d like to help us move forward on these issues over the next three years.

Rob  Thacker Ph.D.


Candidate Statement — Michael Watson

Greetings to all RASC members.  I am putting my name forward for election to the Board of Directors of the Society.  I have read the statements of the other candidates, and they are without exception well written and very detailed.  I am going to keep my statement short and (I hope) sweet, so as not to burden you with too much to read.
I am an unattached life member of the Society, having joined in the spring of 1970 and having been a member continuously for the 47 years since then.  For many years I was involved in the governance of the Society, holding the positions of Councillor, followed by Second Vice-President and then national Treasurer.  For many years I was the Society's legal counsel and Chair of the Constitution Committee.  I have received the Society's Simon Newcomb Award and Service Award.
I am mainly an observational astronomer and astrophotographer, as many of you will know.  I have lead or co-lead several RASC solar eclipse expeditions, and I regularly speak at meetings of various centres on observational and photographic astronomy.
I believe that my profession has been useful in helping to assist the Society in the legal and financial aspects of its operations.  I am a civil litigation lawyer at one of Canada's largest law firms, and have been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School for several decades.  More recently I have been teaching law at Notre Dame University and the Université de Moncton, although still practising full time.
Now that my children are grown up and more or less on their own (although still living at home at least occasionally), I would like to get back into the governance side of the RASC, where I hope that my experience with the RASC and my background can be useful.
Michael Watson

Last modified: 
Monday, June 5, 2017 - 9:49am