Ottawa Business Journal Fall 2021

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Tips for ensuring the success of your next software development project

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When it comes to developing a complex custom software, there are many aspects that can impact a company’s success. Time, budget or not focusing on the right problem can quickly lead teams down the wrong path – creating a bandage solution for a bigger technical issue. Canadian software engineering company Spiria takes an endto-end approach with custom software, helping companies with strategy, design and development. The team works closely with clients, creating custom digital products, ranging from mobile app development, and analytics tools to e-commerce platforms. Spiria helps its clients “get smart about digital,” relying on its team’s technical expertise to navigate the complex world of software development. “We’ve worked with companies of all sizes, from small-medium enterprises to Fortune 500 businesses,” says François de Bellefeuille, general manager of Spiria’s Ottawa office. “We rely on that expertise to help develop the best products for our clients.” Here are four common steps Spiria recommends to ensure a successful software project:



1. Plan your work – and work your plan Having a strategic plan is a critical starting point when trying to develop software, and can help companies mitigate risk and avoid costly mistakes down the road.

The team at Spiria creates custom digital products, ranging from mobile app development, and analytics tools to e-commerce platforms.

Businesses looking to implement new software need to ensure their team agrees on the success criteria and objectives of the project, outlining what problem they are trying to solve, and how the new technology will help. Having this clear understanding will serve as a guide during the project development process, and can help the team keep the end goal in sight. It is also important to get buy-in from all of the company stakeholders to ensure nothing is overlooked and the company is working together to ensure the success of the project. 2. Trust your end user Once a company has identified the problem and how they intend to solve it, focus needs to shift to the end-user. The best way to understand how software will be implemented is by fully grasping the use case for the application.

“You want to discover what drives you to your objective,” says de Bellefeuille “It’s not about offering millions of options, but simply providing what’s needed to improve user experience.” If a company is working with an outside partner, like Spiria, giving them access to the enduser will also help create a better product. Digital products can be tailored to specific needs, depending on whether the software is operational (intended for employees) or for customers on an external platform. 3. Simplicity is not simple – it’s a big challenge A common mistake companies can make during the software development stage is trying to incorporate too many elements and features into their product. For Spiria, software should be easy to use and should simplify your life, says de Bellefeuille. “The focus has to be on simplicity and how quickly you

can get a product into the hands of an employee or collaborator to improve their experience,” he says. When companies are considering integrating a new digital tool, they should avoid adding another layer of work to an existing process – software should be there to add automation and remove steps, not make it more complicated. 4. Ask the experts For companies that are still unsure about the software development process, or simply need additional expertise, turning to a trusted advisor can help ease that stress and ensure a successful project roll out. At Spiria, the team uses its wealth of knowledge in the industry to assist clients every step of the way, developing transformational software. “We use the experience of past projects to make us better and more efficient,” says de Bellefeuille. “We bring over 18 years of experience with different sectors to the table and have worked on more than 2,000 projects.” Spiria offers “the right team for the right solution,” regardless of industry – working with companies such as ESPI, Searidge Technologies and Nortac Defence. At the end of the day, it’s not just about leading people to get a job done, says de Bellefeuille, it’s about partnership. “We jump in and make sure we deliver the objective set in place,” he says. “We’re in the boat with you.” To find out more about Spiria, its suite of services or how its team can help your business develop a custom digital project, visit



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10 06 Mark Sutcliffe repurposes Yogi Berra’s wisdom for 2021 08 Caroline Murray on what it takes to run a Bandzoogle 10 A $65-million home for Carleton’s business 12 Rob Corbett longs for the gas wars of days gone by 15 Trouble is brewing at Ottawa’s craft breweries CEO OF THE YEAR 18 Kathryn Tremblay puts humanity at the centre

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49 EOBJ takes you on a ride around the region 59 OBJ.Social 62 People On The Move

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Ford plans massive car parts hub in Casselman Ford Canada will be the anchor tenant in a new 1.1-million-square-foot industrial hub in Casselman.A pair of Quebecbased firms, Rosefellow and Bertone Development, are partnering on the multiphased development. The project is slated to eventually include three buildings, with work already under way on a $95-million, 531,000-square-foot auto parts distribution

centre for Ford that’s expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023. Casselman is about 55 kilometres southeast of Ottawa. Rosefellow cofounder Mike Jager said the automaker was attracted to the site because of its close proximity to major population centres in eastern Ontario and Quebec, its amenities such as restaurants and hotels and its

“work, live, play” lifestyle. “You have all that in Casselman,” he said. The Ford distribution centre is located on a 1.5-million-square-foot parcel of land just off Hwy. 417. Jager said the builders are finalizing a deal to buy an additional 1.5 million square feet of nearby property that’s eventually expected to be home

Campground with a beer garden HAMMOND — Brad Cartier and his business partner, Aaron Markel, have opened Hammond Hill campground, a welcome addition to camping options in eastern Ontario. Their 62-acre property, about 20 minutes from Orleans, opened in August. As much as possible, the partners used materials from the site for construction. They bought a small sawmill to transform the limited number of trees they cut down into fence rails, yurt foundations (the campground has a few rentable yurts) and wood chips for trails. Continued on page 57



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Percentage drop in business absorbed by the craft brewing industry in the pandemic.

KINGSTON — With vaccine uptake allowing more and more businesses to think seriously about reopening their offices, cleanliness is increasingly top-ofmind for employers and employees alike. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston tech company Mero Technologies turned itself into a “full cleanliness platform.” Operating in commercial buildings, hospitals, airports and other facilities, Mero provides peel-and-stick sensors that collect data for commercial cleaners, showing how much stock is left for essential items such as paper towels, toilet paper and soap — reducing the need for workers to physically check the areas. Mero was officially launched in 2019 by Nathan Mah and Cole MacDonald, who joined forces to automate the data-collection process, building a proof of concept with support from Queen’s University.

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Mero Technologies’ pandemic play

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to two more buildings of 130,000 and 400,000 square feet. The proposed facilities don’t have tenants yet, but Jager said he’s not worried given eastern Ontario’s growing prominence as an e-commerce distribution hotbed. “We’re firm believers in spec builds,” said. “If you build it, they will come. We believe that the market will be able to absorb (the space) quickly.”



Saluting the 2021 CEO of the Year Earlier in the pandemic, in the heat of the crisis, I was commiserating with a local business executive about the correct leadership strategy to navigate these uncharted waters. My acquaintance summed up her thoughts in a neat and tidy phrase: “You need to act like a wartime leader.” What an intriguing idea. In times of distress, wartime leaders synthesize vast amounts of data, make sense of unknown environments and make hard decisions for the good of their troops. As I chaired this year’s CEO of the Year deliberations, I was reminded of that leadership strategy in reviewing the pandemic experience of Kathryn Tremblay, the co-founder of excelHR and its affiliated companies – Altis Recruitment, Altis Technology and excelITR. When the pandemic hit, the group of staffing companies had 2,000 people on assignment working in administration, finance, IT and specialized professional jobs. In a matter of four weeks, 800 of those jobs disappeared. In the language of war, that’s a direct hit.

By several accounts, Kathryn and team dusted themselves off and took some critical decisions. For clients, they quickly moved to fill an environment of uncertainty with their expertise. Kathryn and team produced webinars and videos that attracted 1,500 viewers. When clients had difficult questions, they provided their best answers. For staffing candidates, they created an online community with virtual fitness classes, cooking demonstrations and tips on virtual networking through LinkedIn. When work placements were disrupted, they created connections. For employees, the 115 people that operate the staffing companies, Kathryn and her management team made health and mental wellbeing their top priority. This meant more frequent communication, flexible work hours and digital detox days. When there was anxiety about the future, they created trust. What was the result of this three-pronged approach? Clients were retained, new business

was booked, those 800 displaced workers (and more) were recalled and $150-million in revenue was posted, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Is there some hyperbole in calling this wartime leadership? Maybe a bit, but consider the pressure of being responsible for thousands of jobs and the solvency of a 32-year-old company in an economic crisis like no other. Through personal and professional turmoil, Kathryn acted like a general and, for our part, we salute her.

@objpublisher Michael Curran


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A better home for a business bureau BY CAROLINE MURRAY


ne of Hintonburg’s most beloved community landmarks, the former Parkdale Fire Station No. 11, is on the verge of being reinvented as a flexible office, meeting and event space for the Better Business Bureau’s largest regional office in Canada. The private nonprofit organization had been searching for a building that was centrally located and filled with historic charm when it learned that the old firehall at 424 Parkdale Ave. was up for grabs. Its anchor tenant, The Urban Element culinary event studio, bid good bye to its home of 15 years last winter. “I feel really fortunate that this space became available for us right at the time when we were looking,” said Jordan King, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau (BBB) Canada’s Northern Capital Regions and Quebec. “It’s just such a perfect fit.” BBB is taking over the entire 4,800-square-foot, two-storey building.

It has been around since 1924, back when fire engines were pulled by horses (Ottawa’s last fire horse retired from the station by 1929. His name was Bob). The heritage designated property boasts high ceilings, exposed brick walls, polished concrete flooring, and original fire hall features such as a hose drying tower and a firefighter’s pole. The windows and doublebay doors are painted a cheerful bright red. “This building has more character than we could ever inject into it,” said King. “It’s very iconic in the city, which is amazing. If you tell someone you’re at the firehall on Parkdale, they’re immediately, like, ‘I know that place!’ ” The pièce de résistance is the high-end commercial kitchen on the main floor. “We will be able to host our own events,” said King while emphasizing how much he wants to foster neighbourhood inclusivity, whether that means bringing in local chefs or loaning the space out for special occasions in exchange, perhaps, for a donation to a local charity.

The Better Business Bureau had been searching for a building that was centrally located and filled with historic charm when it learned the old firehall at 424 Parkdale Ave. was available.

BBB plans to use the second floor, previously occupied by Plum Realty, as office and meeting rooms for employees and BBB members. They can come and go as they please, in keeping with current flexible workplace trends. BBB is working with Ottawa-based design consultants Candice Wei and Mark Sanchez of Wei Sanchez Design

announced it achieved carbon neutrality. CEO Talk will take place at the popular KIN Vineyards and feature networking and an interactive question-and-answer session with Sicard. More info at

OCT. 13

NOV. 25

For OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade, the fall business season culminates in the Best Ottawa Business Awards, better known as the BOBs. The event recognizes the CEO of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and the CFO of the Year. Plus, there are a couple dozen more awards ranging from Best Businesses, Best New Businesses, Best Performance in various categories, Deals of the Year, Newsmaker and much more. With COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 event is expected to be a VIP cocktail celebration for a limited number of recipients and then a professional online and television broadcast co-produced with Rogers TV. Keep reading OBJ for more information.


For local sports fans, the Mayor’s Breakfast for October will be doubly interesting, as it will feature hockey and business. The guest speaker will be the somewhat new president of business operations for the Ottawa Senators, Anthony Leblanc. Leblanc will be challenged to rebuild the team’s business operations and revenues as pandemic lingers and a fourth wave takes hold. He started his career in the local tech sector with Corel and then worked as VP global sales for Blackberry in the early 2000s. Around 2010, his career took a sharp turn towards

professional sports, eventually becoming the CEO of the Arizona Coyotes. Leblanc is scheduled to speak at the Mayor’s Breakfast on Oct. 22, likely a virtual event given COVID-19. More info at

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As OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade prepare to honour a new CEO of the Year in November, we will hear from the past recipient in mid-October. Kinaxis CEO John Sicard will be the guest speaker at the biannual CEO Talk series. Sicard says the supply chain management firm is more important than ever during the pandemic. Beyond the bottom line, he argues that supply chain management has a major role to play in combating climate change. “We see it as our responsibility to be leaders in the supply chain ecosystem to help create a better future,” he said in September, when the company

OCT. 22

Studio to give the interior a relaxed retro vibe that matches the nearly century-old architecture, with its red bricks with stone trim. The fire hall, which closed in 1986, is one of the last pre-1930 stations remaining in Ottawa. The most significant change will involve bringing the hidden second bay into the ground floor space.


It ain’t normal till its normal, and nobody knows what comes next BY MARK SUTCLIFFE FALL 2021




hree years ago, six tornadoes struck Ottawa and Gatineau. After the immediate danger passed, there was a feeling of relief. But for many families, the hard work was just beginning. With local vaccination rates at a high level and children back in the classroom, it’s increasingly possible to imagine the end

of a treacherous pandemic that has lasted much longer than most of us imagined it would. (Remember how some of us scoffed at the experts who, in the spring of 2020, said it would last two years?) There is still the gathering fourth wave and the prospect of further lockdowns and restrictions. Still, one day, perhaps sooner rather than later, large numbers of people will once again drive to business parks and take the O-Train to downtown offices (while city officials cross their fingers and toes). It will feel like we are starting to put

this extraordinary ordeal behind us. Who isn’t looking forward to seeing live music at Bluesfest? Or having a Forty Under 40 event in person instead of online? Or simply bringing the team together at the office instead of on Zoom? But like a family emerging from the basement after a natural disaster, local businesses resurfacing and regrouping after the pandemic won’t have much time to celebrate. They’ll be surveying the damage and assessing a dramatically altered landscape, with major decisions to

make and lasting implications to consider. Already, Ottawa businesses that are reopening are dealing with a changed marketplace for both customers and employees. Some restaurants and retail companies are finding it hard to hire workers, leading them to reduce capacity and operating hours. The pandemic may have permanently transformed the relationship between service businesses and their employees. And with more consideration of measures like a guaranteed annual income, there may be

more pressure on the hiring market for workers earning minimum wage or close to it. Other companies will be facing a different kind of human resources challenge. While some of them will now be able to hire virtual employees from anywhere in the world, they will also be up against other companies who can poach their workers in Ottawa. And every employer will be confronted with the lasting effect of the pandemic: a physical and mental toll that will last for months, if not years. Managers and executives can’t afford to assume the challenges will end with the decline of COVID cases. They must continue to demonstrate sensitivity and compassion to all their team members. Employees will still need time off for their mental health. The lower rate of diagnosis of major illnesses like cancer means workers and their loved ones may have undetected health challenges that will surface in the months ahead. We’ve all gotten to know more about the personal lives of others and the complicated challenges of balancing work and home during the past 18 months. It’s essential

to maintain those bonds and continue to assess how everyone is doing even after it may seem like the worst of the pandemic has passed. Another evaluation every business leader must make is how much the market for their products and services will return to what it was in 2019 or if it is permanently changed. The pandemic accelerated several existing trends, such as online shopping. No one should assume that we are going back to the way things were before. Finally, these next few months are a good time for entrepreneurs and executives to consider the pandemic’s lessons. We all made decisions in a crisis. What did we learn from the experience? And what choices should we make in the future, thoughtfully and proactively, about how and what we do, without the pressure of a disaster? Yogi Berra famously said it ain’t over til it’s over. But even when it feels like it’s over, it still might not be. For many local businesses, the effects and challenges of the pandemic will continue for a long time. For entrepreneurs, there is no normal, not even after a pandemic subsides.

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Bandzoogle boss: Read the room, embrace soft skills BY CAROLINE MURRAY


andzoogle CEO Stacey Bedford had already perfected the art of running a business remotely when Zoom was still considered a sound effect for a passing car and not the household name for video meetings. Since 2003, the Canadian tech company has been helping musicians grow their audiences and earn money from their music through its all-in-one website platform. You could say Bandzoogle is like The Beatles – ahead of its time. For starters, it moved away from the traditional workplace setting. Bedford

still remembers the days when interview applicants couldn’t wrap their heads around the work-from-home concept. “They were, like, ‘I can work from where I am comfortable, and you’re going to pay me every two weeks? Is this a real company?’” she said. “Bandzoogle sounds like it could be a circus, so convincing people that it was a legitimate business was pretty funny as we started to grow.” Working remotely has not only been a good fit for the mother of three, it’s also removed the kind of barriers that a woman can face in the boardroom, she believes. “There aren’t many women in tech companies, first of all, and there are even fewer women who


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Bedford was named ​​an International Power Player by Billboard in 2021 and named to Billboard’s annual Digital Power Players in 2019.

One of her goals as CEO is to have an equal number of women working at Bandzoogle. “We’re just about to hit a 50 percent ratio.”

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She’s an avid reader, runner and urban beekeeper who keeps her hives on the property of Tomlinson Group of Companies’ headquarters in Barrhaven. She got their permission, of course.




She has a soft spot for rock music from the 1970s but also loves newer local artists, such as Lynn Hansen and Twin Flames, who are Bandzoogle members.


Family is very important to her. She has three sons: Miles, 12, Calvin, 10, and Perry, eight. “I’m really lucky to be able to have this career that I’m very proud of and still be a huge part of my kids’ lives.”

lead tech companies,” says Bedford, 38, who distinguishes herself further by being one of the only, if not the only, CEO in Ottawa with purple hair. “Working at a remote company really levelled the playing field because now the focus was on the work that I was producing and on my contributions, instead of how I look or how I sound in a meeting room,” she said. Bandzoogle was founded in Montreal by Bedford’s brother-in-law, Chris Vinson, former bassist with alt-rock band Rubberman. He needed someone with Bedford’s skillset to handle customer service for his fledgling startup, which had about 6,000 members at the time. The new mom and licensed real estate agent agreed to take on the part-time job from her home in Ottawa, where she had settled after moving here to major in economics at Carleton University. “I always had a love of music, and Bandzoogle felt like it was the beginning of something really exciting that would really help artists,” says Bedford, who grew up playing guitar and going to live concerts in her hometown of Montreal and, later, Ottawa. As the company continued to grow, Bedford left the real estate industry to join Bandzoogle

full time. “It also allowed me to be home with my kids while they were babies,” says Bedford. Her public servant husband, Dan Bedford, was able to take parental leave to help. Vinson recognized that Bedford brought valuable leadership skills to the company that kept others motivated and increased productivity. “When you’re working at a small tech startup, you have a lot of opportunities to add value. I was the type of person who, if something needed to be done, I would just learn how to do it.” By 2018, Vinson was ready to step back and officially hand over the reins to Bedford, who’d risen to the role of director of operations by that time. Vinson remains the majority owner while Bedford is a partner. Today, Bandzoogle is a multi-million dollar business with 30 employees. As of September 2021, more than 60,000 musicians have earned almost $82-million in commission-free sales of digital music, merchandise, livestream tickets, fan subscriptions, digital multimedia and tip donations through their websites powered by Bandzoogle. “For me, it’s been magical,” says Bedford. “I have all this space to make any decision that I need to, and Chris has put full trust in me.” She learned early on to delegate tasks, and not try to do everything herself. “It’s really important to trust the people that you hired to be experts at the things that you hired them for,” she said. Bedford also believes that ego is the enemy of good leadership. “I think there’s something to be said for ‘soft skills’ and just reading the room and listening to people, especially when you’re trying to make decisions with a group,” she said. Bedford speaks fondly of her team and of their ability “to do regular things well.” She’s reminded of the recently deceased Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones. “He was known for being basically a metronome,” she said. “Exceptional always stands out, but I don’t think there is enough credit given to average tasks executed extraordinarily. “Like bee hives, those workers are all just doing what they do impeccably well, together, to make something incredible together. I feel the same way about Bandzoogle.”


Rewind scores big D

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ata protection software firm Rewind has boosted its total 2021 funding haul to US$80-million after raising a US$65million series-B round to finance its push into new markets. Insight Partners led the new round, which also included previous investors Besserer Venture Partners, FundFire, Inovia Capital, Ridge Ventures and ScaleUP Ventures as well as new investors Atlassian Ventures and Union Ventures. Rewind’s latest big raise is the secondlargest VC deal of the year in the capital after biotech firm Turnstone Biologics’ US$80-million series-D round in July. It comes fast on the heels of the company’s US$15-million series-A round that was announced in January. Co-founder and CEO Mike Potter said the firm plans to use the money to boost its team of developers and hire more marketing experts as it expands into new markets. “We just continue to see massive opportunities in this space,” he told OBJ on Tuesday. “I think what we’re doing is kind of removing the question mark of ‘Do you need backups for SaaS?’ The answer is clearly you do.” Insight operating partner John True said demand for cloud backup and recovery tools is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years, adding Rewind has positioned itself to be an industry leader. “We see Rewind as a pillar of the cloud backup and recovery space,” he said in a statement. Founded in 2015, Rewind specializes in software that backs up and recovers customer data for Shopify merchants and users of other cloud-based software platforms. It now stores data from more than 40,000 customer accounts on encrypted servers, ensuring sensitive information is protected from events such as power outages or cyber-attacks. Many of its 22,000 active users are merchants who operate online stores on Shopify’s platform.


A new home for Sprott School of Business BY DAVID SALI

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he way Dana Brown sees it, the Nicol Building in the heart of Carleton University’s campus is a $65-million statement to the world: the school is open for business. That makes sense, considering that Brown is the dean of Carleton’s Sprott School of Business and the Nicol Building is Sprott’s new home. But Brown views the new structure, which officially opened to students and staff this week, as an invitation for the wider business world to finally take notice of an institution that she says has flown under the radar. “We’re almost like a diamond in the rough,” says Brown, who joined Carleton’s faculty two years ago after a 20-year career in business education.

“We need to be discovered a little bit more. This is a darned good business school. I want to see it really thrive and the world to know about us. To me, this building is kind of like, ‘We’re coming out into the world.’” Lead architect and Carleton grad Doron Meinhard’s team from Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects toured several business schools in Canada and the U.S. before crafting a curving design with staircases that wind through open spaces aimed at encouraging students and their professors to gather freely and exchange ideas. It’s a far cry from Sprott’s previous home in nearby Dunton Tower, where students and staff were scattered throughout the building in an atmosphere that did little to generate unity, Brown says. The new building “gives that sense of, ‘I’m part of something, I’m part of a community,’” she explains.

“We’ve created spaces where students can gather. We want the students to no longer be bound by the classroom in the way that they learn. We want them to be learning in the world, solving problems. I think that’s really great.” The six-storey, 100,000-square-foot building’s centrepiece is its innovation hub. Located near the main entrance, the area includes a startup incubator and meeting space for events such as hackathons and pitchfests. The hub will be open to students from all disciplines with entrepreneurial dreams, says director Harry Sharma. As an example, he cites the school’s plan to launch a three-month program that will link journalism students and Sprott professors with the aim of incubating “the next” “When we talk about inclusivity, it’s

not just the diversity of ventures that we’re creating,” he says. “It’s also the diversity of students that we’re serving – it’s students from all fields, from all backgrounds who are coming to this space.”

GLASS-WALLED CLASSROOMS Aside from the main 250-seat lecture hall, most of the glass-walled classrooms are smaller rooms where students can congregate at round tables in groups of five or six. Flat screens are ready to beam in remote learners and cameras are set up to follow professors around. Brown says the school has been trying to forge stronger partnerships with the Ottawa business community, and she hopes the Nicol Building will help accelerate those efforts. She envisions it being a place where founders, CEOs, city planners and other business leaders can mingle.


What Intouch Insight’s bounceback means BY DAVID SALI


ntouch Insight has been on a rollercoaster ride during the pandemic. The Ottawa software firm’s revenues fell 34 per cent in fiscal 2020 as many of its customers, which include restaurant chains such as A&W and Joey, were forced to scale back their operations or shut their doors entirely for extended periods of time. But now the company, which makes a platform that helps retailers track customer satisfaction and crunch data on issues such as employee health and safety, appears to be recovering along with the economy. Intouch’s revenues for the quarter ending June 30 were up 135 per cent year-

over-year to $3.4 million, a result that had CEO Cameron Watt ready to reflect on how the business community is bouncing back from a pandemic-induced slowdown. COVID-19 clearly wreaked havoc with your business. How did you adapt? Our client base is made up of grocery stores, retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels – basically everybody who’s been most harshly impacted by the global pandemic. We were trying to find out whether people had sanitizer available, whether they were adhering to social distancing rules and (other) things that we’d never measured before. We did all those

changes very, very quickly, and we did them all free of charge. We worked with our clients to meet their needs. At the same time, we tapped into every government program we could to keep our people employed. What’s been happening recently? We’ve seen customers coming back; we’ve actually started to get new business. Are we fully recovered? No. But we’re on the path there. We’ve had to ride the ebbs and flows of our customers. We’re still recovering with them as they recover. We had $19-million (in revenues) in 2019, and we were on a trajectory in 2020 to far exceed that. We expect to be back on those trajectories as we head into 2022. I kind of look at the pandemic as a two-year pause. What is driving that resurgence? I think there are two things. One is just overall economic recovery. If you’re not sure your business is going to be open for the next three months, why would you spend any money? We’ve had a few industries that have been slow to come back – obviously, restaurants and hospitality, personal

fitness have been a little slower to come back, but even they’re coming back in the U.S. now, whereas Canada has been a lot slower. Because businesses are now feeling like, ‘OK, I think we’re going to actually stay open,’ that’s giving them the confidence to start doing that customer satisfaction stuff that they know they need. I think the second thing that’s helping us is … wow, do you ever need to know about your customers and your customer experience right now – maybe more than ever. Pre-pandemic, maybe you had a pretty good idea of what (customers) expected, what they wanted, what they thought of you. Everything’s changed. In a matter of days, their needs went from selfactualization to physiological safety. A year and a half later, people’s needs are moving again towards selfactualization, but we’re clinging to some things like safety. (Retailers) need to know, have our customers’ expectations of us changed? And if they have, what are those new expectations and are we meeting them? Companies need people like us right now to help them navigate the waters.

“Confidence is your biggest asset. Without confidence it doesn’t matter what skills or training you have.” - EP.36: ADAM MIRON, CO-FOUNDER OF HEXO CORPORATION



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George Jeha says he was so angry with his wholesalers that he would spark gas wars by dropping prices at his Stinson station on Cyrville Road . PHOTO BY JULIE OLIVER



Why gas wars have become a thing of the past Owners used to compete for customers, but those days are over as prices climb



emember gas wars? We used to have them from time to time in Ottawa. Not that often. But they did occur, a few times each year it seemed. They were easy to notice. Price competition at the gas pumps is rare enough to make Halley’s Comet look like a commuter bus. They never became city-wide wars, more like regional skirmishes, brief periods of competition that flared up along Cyrville Road, St. Joseph Boulevard, Richmond Road.

These were Ottawa’s pockets of gas rebellion, the land where gas-price insurgents lived and worked. Seaway, Saab, Econo, Stinson, Mr. Gas – these were your insurgents. The independent rebels who would drop their prices, occasionally, and force the majors to follow suit. I covered a few gas wars. They were fun business stories. Ottawa motorists tend to treat gas wars like moveable-feast days. They show up in droves, the streets around the gas station get closed, the police get called out, the television vans show up to do live remotes. Good, jolly fun. A good gas war is like a good weekend night at Bluesfest. What happened to them? I asked myself that question recently, while thinking about things that have disappeared during the pandemic. Downtown government office workers. Early-morning newspaper delivery. I looked it up, and I’m not dreaming - it’s been a while. The last gas war in Ottawa, a price war significant enough to call out the cops and the tv crews, took place in May 2014. That was the last time motorists in Ottawa saw competition at the gas pump (we’re talking price competition, not athlete endorsements, or discounted smoothies). Seven years of complete hegemony, with every gas station in Ottawa matching the price of the station down the street. I read the stories from 2014, and a few things jumped out at me. One, there are some surprising similarities to the summer of 2014 and the summer of 2021. The other thing was the name of the gas station owner who started Ottawa’s last gas war. I laughed when I saw it. That makes sense.


But it’s the pandemic, and people have their minds on other things. No one is paying attention. We just pay what we’re told to pay.” The numbers. Let’s get to those. And the similarities between the summer of 2014 and the summer of 2021. The most obvious is what we’re paying at the pumps. The summer of 2014 saw the highest gas prices ever in Ottawa. June set the record, with a monthly average of $1.38 per litre (many stations that month had gas prices above $1.40 a litre.) This past summer has also seen high gas prices. The monthly average in Ottawa for August was $1.35 per litre. Gas prices in 2021 have averaged between $1.30 to

I’ve always enjoyed running a gas station. It’s a social thing when you have regular customers. You see some people every week, a bunch of times every week, they become friends. You know them, you know what’s happening to them. – George Jeha

$1.35 a litre since May. So, we have two periods of historically high gas prices that are so similar if you were to rank them, you’d be looking at number one and two. What are the differences? Well, the price at the pump started dropping in 2014, right after the record was set. Indeed, by January 2015 the price for regular unleaded in Ottawa was at its lowest in more than a decade. Don’t expect to be that lucky this year. Petroleum industry analysts are predicting prices will rise as winter approaches even though the price usually decreases as refineries switch to a less-expensive winter blend. (Like many things in life these days, and with little explanation, we are told the pandemic is to blame.) There is another difference. In 2014 -- when gas prices were at an all-time

‘WHY BOTHER’ “See what I mean?” George Jeha looks up from the newspaper we have been reading, his finger still on the line that has that day’s price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate. He doesn’t seem as tired as he did thirty minutes ago. I’ve asked enough questions about the oil industry to remind him of how riled up he was seven years ago. “How can we be charging $1.30 a litre? Is everyone, is everyone . . .crazy? it shouldn’t be above a dollar. One dollar would be, would be . . too much.” I wait for him to start sputtering, but it never happens. He settles for shaking his head and putting away the newspaper. I ask Jeha if he has considered starting another gas war. Maybe it’s time? “Why bother,” he says. “Nothing changes. Just gets worse. If everyone is happy with this, with how things are, why should I care? I wish it could be different, I really do, but I can’t be the only one who wants to fight.” He’s right. Is there anyone else out there? Who knows? Every time I write about gas prices, I want to finish by paraphrasing the last lines of Chinatown – “it’s just the oil industry, Jake.”


Sign of a competitive market, you say. Not exactly. Jeha’s competitor and wholesaler were the same company. “The company was selling gas to motorists for less than what they were wholesaling it to me,” says Jeha. “That’s predatory pricing, right? How can that not be predatory pricing?” He shakes his head. The memory of Ottawa’s last gas war is not a pleasant one for him. I covered that price war. I remember the cars snaking down Cyrville Road, the cop directing traffic who telephoned his wife and told her to bring the mini-van down and fill it up. It seemed festive. It seemed like something was happening, or about to happen. Today, Jeha wonders why he bothered. “The majors can do whatever they want,” he says. “Look at the numbers, they’re right there, anyone can see them.

high in Ottawa - so too was the price of crude oil. In June of that year – the same month Ottawa set its record – the monthly average for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was $105 (US). Again, it’s a little different in 2021. The monthly average for a barrel of WTI in August – the most current month at time of writing -- was $63.98 (US). Grab a calculator and do that math. That’s a $41.02 difference in the wholesale price of oil. Yet Ottawa motorists are paying almost the same price in 2021 as we did in 2014. (It’s probably the pandemic.) Even accounting for increased taxation since 2014 -- the carbon tax, for example, adds roughly 8.8 cents a litre in Ontario -- Ottawa motorists are still paying historically high prices, at the same time that the wholesale price is low. One last comparison that goes into the things-that-are-different side of the ledger. The last time crude oil averaged $60-$65 (US) was the winter of 2015. In January of that year, Ottawa motorists were paying 80-cents-a -litre for regular unleaded.

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George Jeha owns the Stinson gas station at 1627 Cyrville Road. He grew up around gas stations, his father owning several of them, including another nearby Stinson station, on Innes Road. He’s old school. Until the pandemic struck Jeha’s station was full-service. Most of his customers are regulars from the area. He’s been known to extend credit. “I’ve always enjoyed running a gas station,” he says. “It’s a social thing when you have regular customers. You see some people every week, a bunch of times every week, they become friends. You know them, you know what’s happening to them.”

He says that’s one of the reasons he started the 2014 gas war. To give his regular customers a break at the pump. One of the reasons. Another – he won’t say which was the greater motivator – was being fed up at buying gas from his competitor. “I was angry with the majors, angry with the oil industry,” remembers Jeha. “It should be a scandal, the way this industry works, but people don’t care. I don’t know why they don’t care, but they don’t.” The specific incident that angered Jeha – the Sarajevo-bridge-shot, if you will, that started Ottawa’s last gas war – was a competing gas station dropping its price one morning to below the wholesale price Jeha was paying.


Investment opportunities in Ottawa’s commercial real estate market

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While Ottawa has maintained its status as a safe city for commercial investment, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way investors think about commercial properties in the capital. Throughout the last 18 months, the commercial real estate market has seen unprecedented stress on landlords and tenants alike, as companies canceled their leases, malls sat empty and mainstreet retailers shut their doors for good. Because of this uncertainty, members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board’s Commercial Network say a slowdown in commercial real estate investment was inevitable as buyers were hesitant to purchase properties without a guarantee of financial return. However, as Ottawa inches further down the road to recovery, investors are eager to capitalize on new real estate opportunities in the capital region, says Michael Pyman, vicepresident of national investment services at Colliers. “Coming off a banner year like 2019 where we saw record trading volumes, you could say the last two years have been sleepy,” says Pyman. “But, real estate remains an investment strategy and we are already seeing signs of the market coming alive with some big transactions on the books.”



Finding safety in retail While mainstreet retailers and local shops bore the brunt of pandemic closures, one retail market segment remains a hot commodity for investors.

WHAT IS A COMMERCIAL REALTOR? Not all real estate agents are Realtors. REALTOR® is a trademark of the Canadian Real Estate Association and stands for service, competence, and high ethical practice. OREB’s Commercial Services Network Members must meet high standards of education and experience. To find a Commercial Realtor go to find-a-realtor/commercial-result/


Retail properties with an essential business tenant – such as a grocery store – are seen as a top commodity for commercial investors. Photo by Jessica Alberga.

Properties with essential service retailers – a grocery store, drug store or Walmart – are in high demand, as they are considered more pandemic-proof and less likely to experience tenant turnover. “From an investor’s perspective, they’re looking at these buildings with these tenants and they’re seeing the most stable asset they can buy in the retail sector right now,” says Graeme Webster, partner and co-founder of Koble Commercial Real Estate & Brokerage. “We’ve been through a very tough time, and they’ve proven that they can withstand the economic uncertainty so that it is a big draw for investors.” Commercial agents are also seeing increased demand for these properties outside of the city. As residents continue to stay closer to home, investors are taking a similar approach – purchasing properties outside of

large urban areas, says Webster. Retail properties in Peterborough, Pembroke and Carleton Place are all of interest to investors, especially since they carry a lower price tag. “These secondary and tertiary markets are just as strong because of these investment opportunities,” adds Webster. “A Tim Hortons or Giant Tiger in Arnprior is arguably just as valuable as in Ottawa. Essential retail is essential everywhere you look.” Race for industrial space continues Ottawa is also a very tightly contested market when it comes to industrial space – a market both investors and tenants are vying to get their hands on, says Pyman. Interest in the capital has continued to climb as vacancy rates in industrial properties remain low and lease rates rise. However, given Ottawa’s lack

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of new product or large scale land developments available, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet client demand. “Investors come from all over the place looking for products in Ottawa, but there are very few 500,000 square foot properties available for larger pension fund or REIT investors,” says Pyman. “And when they do hit the market, there is a lot of competition, bid depth and we continue to see prices climb.” As Ottawa’s commercial real estate market continues to evolve and adjust to pandemic trends, it is more important than ever to work with a commercial member of OREB to navigate the market, adds Pyman. With so much economic uncertainty, a trusted commercial Realtor can ensure you’re making a good investment for years to come.

BREWING When COVID hit, it really knocked the industry onto its heels. It was great the government deferred those taxes, and now that they’re coming due, there’s still a lot of debt to pay back. This will be an issue coming out of the pandemic — the ability to pay the tax burden is going to be a huge barrier for most brewers. ​– Scott Simmons, president, Ontario Craft Brewers.

Tax crisis for crafters BY DANI-ELLE DUBÉ



the industry onto its heels,” said Scott Simmons, president of Ontario Craft Brewers. “It was great the government deferred those taxes, and now that they’re coming due, there’s still a lot of debt to pay back. This will be an issue coming out of the pandemic — the ability to pay the tax burden is going to be a huge barrier for most brewers.” Simmons said there were 322 craft breweries in Ontario before the pandemic. Industry sales dropped as much as 77 per cent through the early days of the pandemic, with costs still mounting as reluctant drinkers opt to stay home rather

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t’s enough to drive a brewer to drink. Craft brewers around the region spent years cultivating their business models, only to see the keg run dry when the pandemic took hold. The economy may be coming back, but it’ll take years for the industry to recover. Beau’s Brewing Co. told OBJ it lost half of its $30-million annual revenue when bars and events were shut down. Overflow Brewing Company said its profit has decreased by 85 per cent.

“We were really hitting our stride up until March 2019 when everything kind of happened,” Overflow co-owner Brad Fennell said. “The concerts in our taproom were booked out almost every day over the next year. We started building up our licensees with bars and restaurants across Ottawa. Things were going great.” While things are opening up again, brewers now face a second challenge - this one government-induced. The province temporarily froze taxes for breweries but ended the program and called for brewers to pay their deferred taxes. “When COVID hit, it really knocked

than go out. Breweries are working on new business models to boost their revenue as the pandemic’s fourth wave further reduces capacity limits at bars and restaurants. Overflow set up an e-commerce website to sell its beer just before the pandemic. It didn’t gain much momentum at first, but it did pick up speed during the pandemic and ended up accounting for 95 per cent of sales. Online revenue is substantial, Fennell said, but profits are low. The brewery is enhancing its customer base by stocking its products in 180 LCBOs and major Ontario grocery stores. Beau’s, meanwhile, is looking to the skies for its salvation. It struck a deal with Porter Airlines to be its official beer - a new market that will get its brand in front of more consumers. “We know that this is going to get our beer into lots of people’s hands,” Beau’s co-founder and CEO Steve Beauchesne said. “That volume alone is going to be big, but then on top, what we’re hoping is that a lot of people who’ve never heard of Beau’s before also get to try it. There’s still a lot of people in Toronto, in Halifax and (places) like that that still need to get introduced to our beer. This is a great way for us to do it.” In 2019, Porter served 250,000 cans of beer from the previous supplier, Toronto’s Ace Hill brewery. While Beauchesne said it might take a while for volumes to hit that level as the airline industry recovers from the effects of COVID-19, he’s hoping the deal will help put his business on the map with beer lovers beyond its traditional customer base of eastern Ontario. “We’ve never really done anything quite like this before,” Beauchesne said. “We’ve worked with lots of great partners over the years, but getting beers in planes is kind of a next-level thing for us.”


What to know about workplace vaccine policies


espite the opposition by a vocal minority, it’s become increasingly expected across all facets of Canadian society that everyone who can get vaccinated against COVID-19 do so. Passport programs are being implemented across the country by federal and provincial governments – making proof of vaccination the new price of admission. The legal validity of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace has yet to be determined by courts and tribunals (as of the date of this publication), but it continues to be a hot button issue. “When imposing any kind of mandatory policy – even a vaccination policy – employers must make sure that their employees’ individual rights are protected,” said Malini Vijaykumar, a labour and employment lawyer at Nelligan Law. These rights include, but are certainly not limited to, the right to fair and equitable treatment and the right to privacy. Regardless of its content, having a workplace vaccination policy is highly recommended, said Jim Anstey, a labour and employment lawyer at Nelligan Law. “Employers would be best served by having clear and detailed workplace vaccination policies, whether they are mandating vaccines or not,” he says. “Employees should be provided with notice of any such policy before it comes into effect.” Employers who wish to implement a mandatory vaccination policy or even one that strongly encourages vaccination should include the following elements:


Include a preamble that focuses on the need for the policy. General comments on health and safety obligations, the length of the pandemic, the appearance of new variants and the new wave that is upon us would be helpful. Be sure to reference any risks or vulnerabilities that are specific to your workplace, e.g. healthcare sector, long-term care, childcare, employees who are particularly vulnerable, etc.

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State your policy clearly so there is no confusion about what is expected, of whom and when.




Describe the procedure for proving vaccination status.


Recognize that vaccination status is personal health information and advise employees how the information will be collected, used and disclosed.


Provide an overview of the consequences for those who do not respect the policy.


Ensure you allow for accommodation requests for those who cannot get

the vaccine. It is a good idea to reference applicable human rights legislation. You may also put employees on notice that if accommodation measures are implemented, that may result in them being treated differently than vaccinated employees.


Provide employees with references to public health information about the pandemic and the available vaccines.


Identify a contact person who will field questions about the policy and receive requests for accommodation.

For a more detailed explanation of the risks and competing interests associated with workplace vaccine policies, please see:

Disclaimer: This is a complex issue with multiple overlapping spheres of rights and obligations. As a result, these graphics are intended as a guide only, to outline employees’ and employers’ various avenues and options for recourse. They should not be considered a substitute for qualified legal advice.



Right to a healthy andsafe workplace (and corresponding obligations to help keep the workplace healthy and safe)

HUMAN RIGHTS Right to accommodation if the employee has medical, religious, or other human-rightsbased grounds for refusing the vaccine (up to the point of undue hardship) – accommodations can include: working with regular testing and PPE, remote work, and/or a leave of absence



Right to fair representation by one’s union as per union policy and applicable law (including, potentially, the right to file a grievance against any negative measures or discipline received under the mandatory vaccination policy)

Right to appropriate notice of a mandatory vaccination policy and, if terminated under that policy, the right to appropriate notice and/or severance on that termination (if required by the circumstances)


Right to safeguards on collection, use and disclosure of personal information

EMPLOYER: What are my obligations? HEALTH AND SAFETY

Obligation to take reasonable precautions to ensure health and safety of workers


Obligation to consult with union regarding terms of a mandatory vaccination policy (as required by the collective agreement)



Obligation to provide appropriate notice of a mandatory vaccination policy and, if terminating an employee under that policy, to provide appropriate notice and/or severance on that termination (if required by the circumstances)

Obligation to limit collection, use and disclosure of employees’ personal information in accordance with applicable law FALL 2021

Obligation to accommodate employees with medical, religious, or other human-rightsbased grounds for refusing the vaccine (up to the point of undue hardship) – accommodations can include: working with regular testing and PPE, remote work, and/or a leave of absence




‘I want to challenge the boundaries’

Kathryn Tremblay has put humanity at the centre of her businesses


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s pandemic-fuelled chaos swirled all around her business 18 months ago, Kathryn Tremblay calmly stood in the eye of the storm. She plotted an organizational shift that was less about boosting revenues than it was about lifting spirits. Not that things were going swimmingly at Tremblay’s Ottawa-based staffing and recruitment agencies, excelHR and Altis Recruitment. With the global economy in a tailspin, the firms and their affiliated companies, Altis Technology and excelITR, were bleeding cash as the temporary workers they were paid to recruit were being jettisoned from their job sites by the hundreds. In a matter of weeks, 40 per cent of the companies’ 2,000 placements were out of work. While that left a gaping hole in the excelHR network’s balance sheet, finances weren’t Tremblay’s main worry. “You didn’t have time to think,” says the 54-year-old native of Orléans. “For us, we went straight into the mode of, let’s try to help as many Canadians work as possible. Let’s not worry about the numbers; let’s not worry about our losses. Our team members came together, almost like a rally cry, to show up for Canadians.” What happened next was something that won’t be found in most CEOs’ business recovery playbooks but is as much a part of Tremblay’s DNA as her thousand-watt smile.

The veteran executive led a transformation that not only helped her clients overcome unprecedented economic and human resource challenges but also turned her own companies’ fortunes around, earning Tremblay the 2021 CEO of the Year Award from OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. She joins a list of distinguished recipients that includes Kinaxis boss John Sicard, the 2020 honouree, and Telesat chief executive Dan Goldberg, who captured the trophy in 2019. Under Tremblay’s guidance, her companies launched a series of webinars zeroing in on topics that were suddenly top of mind to employees and managers across the country who were navigating an unprecedented crisis: mental wellness in the workplace, how to plan for an eventual return to the office, fostering a more inclusive work environment and more. Over the past year, the organization has hosted more than a dozen virtual seminars, which have been viewed by thousands of participants – including many of excelHR’s competitors. Providing advice to your business rivals might seem counterproductive. But Tremblay, who has mentored hundreds of students and entrepreneurs in her threedecade career, has always believed that collaborating with her peers is the surest path to long-term success – for both her companies and the industry as a whole. “When I have an issue, I’m never afraid to pick up the phone,” she says. “I’ll

(contact) anyone in my community and I’ll say, ‘What do you think about this issue and why did you handle it that way?’ I’m not afraid to ask for advice. I love listening to other people’s ideas, and I’m willing to champion those ideas if I think they’re good ones.” Tremblay says she’s benefited as much from the wise counsel of other business leaders as they have from her company’s efforts. “It’s created this kind of circle of support in the community,” she explains. “What I give actually comes back to me.” Friends and colleagues say Tremblay’s all-for-one, one-for-all approach is part and parcel with a personality that exudes positivity and inspires those around her. “She’s not afraid to share where she’s at, what she’s doing,” says exelHR chief financial officer Cindy Spence, who’s worked with Tremblay for more than 20 years. “She knows business leaders are navigating the same (challenges), and what

you give out into the world, it will come back … probably tenfold. The more we share, the more we learn, and the better we’ll all be.” Christine Pietschmann Hollister, the vice-president of human resources at Ottawa firm tech Ranovus, says her longtime friend’s leadership was invaluable during the depths of the pandemic. “I saw how again and again she was willing to put her neck out there and tackle issues where there was no clarity,” Pietschmann Hollister says, citing the firm’s seminars on issues such as the legal implications of work-from-home policies. “That takes a special kind of leader. I think a lot of leaders don’t want to take that approach because they don’t want to put something out there and then find out three weeks later that they were wrong about it.” Under Tremblay’s guidance, excelHR, Altis and their associated companies have nimbly adapted to the pandemic world,

Tremblay says that even as a child, she harboured entrepreneurial ambitions and would walk around the house with a little briefcase in tow. “I saw around me … a lot of people (who) complained about their jobs,” she says. “I used to think, ‘I want to love what I do.’” At 16, she landed a summer job at a small staffing agency, sparking a love affair with the profession that endures to this day. “It was an amazing experience,” Tremblay says. The job gave her a foundation in the HR business. But more importantly, it’s where Tremblay met her future husband Toni Guimarães, a native of Portugal whose family emigrated to Ottawa when


still a sleepy rural village of just a few thousand people, Tremblay and her two brothers were showered with “a lot of love and support” from her father Terry, a civil servant, and her mom Lorraine, who worked for Kelly Funeral Homes. “My parents honestly were my biggest mentors and they still are,” she says. “My mother in particular really celebrated positivity. She was the type where if I got up and I wasn’t in a good mood, she’d say, ‘Go right back into bed. I’m closing your door. I’m going to come back in, and when I come in I want to see a whole new you.’ “We weren’t over-programmed at all. We just had a lot of space to just be. I think they taught us a lot about gratefulness and hard work.”

he was three. Guimarães and Tremblay soon became fast friends – a relationship that blossomed into a lifetime bond. In the late 1980s, while Tremblay was studying commerce at the University of Ottawa, the pair decided to act on their entrepreneurial dreams. They considered an eclectic range of potential ventures, from funeral homes to real estate agencies, before deciding the answer was right in front of them. “We both had experience in the staffing business, so (we thought), ‘We’ll do this, and this will be our beginning,’” Tremblay recalls. “’We’ll establish our foundation and raise our own capital, then we’ll see what other kinds of businesses we want to launch.’ But in the end, we really loved staffing. Honestly, I think it’s the only industry that could inspire me like this.” In 1989, she and Guimarães launched excelHR with a $7,500 loan from the Royal Bank to help them get the venture off the ground. The business was so starved for cash that Tremblay and Guimarães couldn’t afford a fax machine, so they dropped off resumes in a borrowed car and interviewed prospective job candidates in their homes. Staffing agencies typically pay placement workers’ salaries up front and get reimbursed from clients later. Excel’s precarious financial situation forced the founders to take a different approach. Continued on next page

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ushering in changes that go far beyond the standard work-from-home arrangements. For example, the company now offers a flexible work program that gives employees an extra day off every two weeks at full pay. Excel’s “digital detox days” – three times a year when workers are urged to put down their smartphones, log off their computers and disconnect from technology – have become a hit with the companies’ 180 employees. Along the way, Tremblay, who co-founded excelHR in 1989, has demonstrated the business savvy that’s helped grow her network of companies into one of the country’s largest independently owned staffing and recruitment organizations. The excelHR-Altis group, which is headquartered in Ottawa and has six offices across Canada, has traditionally focused on placing workers in fields such as administrative support, information technology and professional services, particularly with headhunting senior professionals in executive contract roles. But when its revenues cratered early in the pandemic, Tremblay began seeking out ways to diversify the business. The organizations pushed further into the construction and health-care industries. They landed new contracts for public-sector workers in the City of Durham and the Region of Halton and federal government staffers in departments such as Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency. As a result, the Altis-excelHR group has replenished the 800 placements it lost early in the pandemic and then some. The organization is on pace for record revenues of $150- million in fiscal 2021, surpassing the previous best of $140- million two years ago. Tremblay says her businesses, while battered and bruised early in the COVID-19 crisis, have emerged more robust than ever. “I felt like the pandemic was an opportunity to … be the company that we wanted to be and test what the outcome could be for the future of work – and do it right away,” she says. “It really sparked some amazing things. I think we’re creating a stronger community.” Still, Tremblay’s ultimate status as one of Ottawa’s leading CEOs was anything but certain when she helped hatch excelHR 32 years ago. Growing up in Orléans when it was

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Contintued from previous page “In those days, we’d ask our clients to pay us back on the spot after we’d place (an employee) because we couldn’t afford to payroll them,” Tremblay says with a chuckle. “As we would make any money, we would just put it all back in the business.” The fledgling firm quickly made inroads in the Ottawa market, first in the private sector and later with the federal government. By 1995, excelHR was the capital’s largest supplier of contract workers to the feds, and the following year the company opened its first branch office in Toronto. As excelHR’s revenues and client base grew, Tremblay and Guimarães created affiliated companies to meet the increasing demand for talent in specific industries. The couple’s home life was equally blissful, with Tremblay giving birth to four daughters. But in June 2014, their world was turned upside down when Guimarães was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The disease was too advanced to cure, and the father of four was given no chance of survival. “It was definitely a shock,” Tremblay says. “Here our business is growing and we have a wonderful team. Our path was so clear.” The family pursued every last-ditch treatment option it could. Meanwhile, Tremblay took charge of the HR

organization, even holding meetings in the hospital while her husband was fighting for his life. “Those days are really a blur, because I truly was along with Toni trying to find survival for him while trying to continue maintaining and growing the business,” she says. “And we had four children. It was really a time that is hard for me to describe.” Just over two years later, on Sept. 28, 2016, Guimarães died. Tremblay was now a single mother of four running a $100-million business. As always, she refused to brood, drawing on her mother’s sage advice from childhood. Tremblay quickly built up a new network of business confidantes, tapping into their knowledge of industry processes to complement her own wellhoned people skills. “I’d always had Toni to be my ally, and then suddenly I had to find kind of a different kind of an ally, other mentors and people to work with,” she explains. “I wanted to make Toni proud … and be the businessperson that I have always wanted to be. It’s like (I was) almost using the grief to propel me.” Always a tireless worker, Tremblay threw herself into her new, expanded role with gusto. She continued to build the organization’s brand and expand its market reach while nurturing initiatives such as excelHR’s Newcomers Program, which she

launched to honour her late husband. More than 70 people have since taken part in the four-week paid internship for new immigrants, which teaches accounting, marketing, and recruiting skills and helps participants find jobs. Tremblay’s friends say her compassion for others is reflected in every aspect of her life. “I always call her a rock star,” says Phil von Finckenstein, the co-founder of Ottawa-based government relations firm Maple Leaf Strategies, who has known Tremblay for two decades. Citing numerous examples of his friend’s generosity – for example, distributing socks to homeless people “because it’s something tangible that can really help them” – Von Finckenstein marvels at Tremblay’s seemingly endless well of energy and goodwill. “People naturally take to her,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who’s said a bad word about Kathryn in all the time I’ve known her. Ottawa is lucky to have her.” Still, they say that Tremblay’s most

cherished role is being mother to her four daughters – Morgan, 25, Brooklyn, 23, Torey, 19, and Camryn, 14. Pietschmann Hollister praises her friend for her courage, compassion and steely will in helping the family cope with Guimarães’s death. “Somehow she managed to hold it together, and then come out the other side of that with a family that’s thriving,” she says. “It’s remarkable, the resilience of spirit that she’s shown. I probably have three people in my life ... who as a mom I look to and think, ‘Those are my role models. What would they do in this situation?’ She is definitely on that list.” Ever the optimist, Tremblay believes the adversities she’s dealt with in recent years have made her a better leader – and human being. “I want to challenge the boundaries of how we can create a future of work that is better for people – where humanity means business,” she says. “Combining those things is what’s really important to me.”

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Why #ShopLocal should be applied to small businesses on – and off – mainstreets



It’s a commonly held belief that small businesses are the engine of the economy. Politicians often refer to the importance of small business to the community and will give “shout outs” to local restaurants and retail stores. They will use the #ShopLocal hashtag to promote a neighborhood business and celebrate the achievements of a local leader. But when we look beyond hashtag support, we see some of the challenges that undermine the government’s approach to Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) objectives. Challenges that can have far reaching implications for sustainability in both climate action and the viability of small businesses to thrive. Consider how Requests for Proposal (RFP) are written. Governments often design RFPs to demand unreasonably high thresholds for insurance coverage, years of experience or firm size that have little or no bearing on a firm’s ability to deliver the work. There is often no requirement for corporate sustainability, and no means to advocate for how or why a firm invests in its community. RFPs are also designed without thinking through what governments can do to support their social goals. On the one hand, public sector hiring talks about promoting marginalized voices and supporting small to medium sized enterprises, but then sets out criteria that all but ensures none of them qualify.

The federal government hosted a design competition for the redevelopment of Block 2, across from the Parliament buildings. Design competitions can bring out new ideas, talent and creativity and give a voice to smaller businesses and marginalized voices regardless of the scale of the project.

A recent RFP eliminated 97 per cent of architecture practices in Ontario by setting a minimum firm size without regard for the quality of work a firm can do. Another RFP asked for scale and experience that all but eliminated every architecture practice in Canada. Thankfully, some of these requirements were withdrawn as a result of major industry pushback and advocacy. These are signs that the people writing the RFPs are disconnected from the people responding. It also means people interested in the jobs have to invest countless hours of time pushing back to create a level playing field. Committing to the community Eliminating local competition from design and construction firms means that the work is

concentrated in a few large businesses – these might be only two per cent of the businesses in Canada. That undermines political messaging that small businesses are important. It also undermines the idea that social procurement is important. It often means businesses owned by women, Indigneous peoples, or ones committed to social enterprise cannot compete, even though this is a stated government goal. RFPs need to rethink the idea that bigger is better and start to think about how we can #ShopLocal in all things. Small businesses with local talent, skill, knowledge and experience can be part of a solution to the problem statement in an RFP. When we engage with local businesses, we hire people who are part of the community.

We have a quality and talentbased approach to where we shop or dine out. We patronize stores where the staff are friendly and we get good value. When we champion these businesses and celebrate their success, we show that they matter to our community. We need to take the same approach to hiring consultants, contractors and other services through RFPs. We need to see the value in hiring based on quality, talent, skill and commitment to the community. Toon Dreessen is president of Ottawabased Architects DCA and past-president of the Ontario Association of Architects. For a sample of Architects DCA’s projects, check out the firm’s portfolio at Follow @ArchitectsDCA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.


while continuing to act for Escape Manor in an advisory capacity. “Having worked with a large international law firm, and a large international hotel company prior to that, I knew that I was looking for something more local, more community-focused,” he says. “Escape Manor has always been keyed in on integrating with the people and places that make up its surroundings, and I recognized that same commitment at Mann right away; the reputation that Ted (Mann) has created for the firm and that is now carried forward by the larger partnership spoke to me.” “I suppose another reason for the draw is that I have been in the small business trenches over the past few years, and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. I immediately recognized that Mann was serving the sector that I felt most connected with and wanted to help.” Andre Martin, co-managing partner and head of the firm’s Business Law Group shares Schwartz’s excitement. “We are delighted that Neil the role of trusted advisor and so has joined the Mann Lawyers it was just a matter of time and team,” he says. “His stellar opportunity.” entrepreneurial and legal That opportunity arrived with background will serve our clients Mann Lawyers. well.” InvitedKeep into things the practice as a Schwartz livesthe in Ottawa with even-steven in your family with senior lawyer within the firm’s his wife Dr. Caitlin Schwartz, Estate Litigation team. physician and BusinessMann Law Lawyers group, Schwartz’s an active arrival will help strengthen what entrepreneur, and their three is already one of the region’s boysLaw (andFirm dog Sunny). Mann Lawyers | Full Service fastest growing full-service law firms. Neil’s email address: 613-722-1500 In his new role, Schwartz will businesses navigate transactional matters (M&A), as well as legal issues of the day affecting the hospitality, entertainment, franchise and professional services sectors,

YOUR SISTER INHERITED THE FAMILY Escape Manor’s Neil Schwartz joins BUT JEWELS, Mann Lawyers’ business lawYOU teamJUST GOT THE BOWLING SHOES? Neil Schwartz joins the business law team at Mann Lawyers LLP.

Having first set out in private practice, then gaining in-house counsel experience at a federal Crown corporation, Schwartz decided to step into the business world and assume first-hand the risks and rewards that lawyers provide advice on every day. “I remember a funny moment when our creative team was designing an escape room based on a lawyer’s office and I thought to myself: ‘This is such a natural fit, I’ve been trying to escape the billable hour for years!’,” he says. “But in reality, I have a passion for the law and a return to private practice was inevitable for me as a calling. I have always relished

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After helping launch one of Ottawa’s most successful new wave entertainment companies, Escape Manor, lawyer Neil Schwartz is taking his unique blend of entrepreneurial, business and legal expertise to Ottawa-based Mann Lawyers LLP. “The Escape Manor project has been an unbelievable success,” says Schwartz. “We had the right team at the right moment to take a relatively new concept and scale it into an international brand – what a wild ride! But with the maturing of the business, I realized the time was right for a change.”


KANATA NORTH Lytica gets $3.8M to help manufacturers compare prices BY DAVID SALI

The firm’s revenues are on track to double this year compared with 2020 as the ricing intelligence firm Lytica’s bid pandemic has wreaked havoc with global to “think bigger” as it pushes into supply chains and fuelled rising demand international markets is getting a boost for its AI-driven comparison-pricing thanks to millions of dollars in new venture software. capital and government funding. “There is not a company in the world The Kanata-based company announced that’s not looking for more insights and last month that it’s closed a $1.9-million intelligence into procurement,” says Joe investment round led by York IE, an Raczka, co-founder and managing partner early stage VC firm headquartered in of York IE. “It’s amazing to think how big Manchester, N.H. the market is.” The fresh injection of capital follows Launched 16 years ago, Lytica helps recent funding from the Federal Economic some of the world’s largest manufacturers Development Agency for Southern Ontario of electronic devices such as computers and the National Research Council’s and smartphones get better deals when Industrial Research Assistance Program, they buy the thousands of components that pushing the company’s total to more than go into those products. $3.8 Nearly companies now subscribe Ad - million. BOJ Kanata North.qxp_Layout 1 2021-09-20 9:09 AM 100 Page 2


to its software, which uses algorithms to compare prices and alert clients when they’re paying more than the going market rate for items such as resistors and capacitors. “There’s tons of little bits and pieces that (manufacturers) need to build whatever it is they’re building, and every year literally billions of dollars are lost because the supply chain is so completely intransparent,” says CEO Martin Sendyk, who served as chief product officer at Ottawa’s Assent Compliance before joining Lytica. Although Lytica says it won’t identify its customers for competitive reasons, the company says it sells its SupplyLens platform to more than 20 per cent of the electronics manufacturers on the Fortune 500 list. Raczka says the vast majority of the firm’s market potential remains untapped. “It’s really an ‘arms race’ on having this data, and Lytica’s got it,” he says. “They need to think bigger. This isn’t just a Canadian or U.S. issue. This is global. It’s time for them to think on a global scale.” York’s founders were already wellacquainted with Sendyk before investing in Lytica. Co-founder and CEO Kyle York, who is joining the Kanata firm’s board


A Strong Voice for Kanata North FALL 2021

There are ongoing discussions between MPP Fullerton and Kanata North Business Association, Ottawa Board of Trade, local BIAs, and Invest Ottawa (photo of recent meeting with Sonya Shorey). Fullerton raises the awareness of the venture capital market for local enterprises – as there are many exciting opportunities in Kanata North.



Advancing the interests of the local high tech sector and greater business community More information @

of directors, previously served on Assent Compliance’s board during Sendyk’s tenure there and had kept a close eye on him in his new role. “Clearly, we knew he was on to something,” Raczka says. Lytica’s has 30 employees, up from 20 a year ago. Sendyk expects to add an additional 20 or so people over the next year. The tech exec says he’ll be leaning on York’s scaleup expertise as Lytica stakes out new market turf. “He’s got a lot of great knowledge on the go-to-market and the engineering side,” the CEO says, adding York’s investment has set the stage for what he hopes to be a “much larger” financing round in 2022. “It’s certainly not just money that they bring.” Lytica is also investing heavily in software development. The company is honing its AI to steer customers toward a more targeted group of suppliers, a move it hopes will save clients time and money by making the procurement process more efficient. “Lytica’s biggest issue right now is that most people don’t know that we exist,” Sendyk says. “We’ve got tremendous value – we just need more people to know that it’s available.”

Investing in Local Businesses

To support the local economy with the challenges of the pandemic, 459 businesses in Kanata and West Carleton were provided grants totaling $12,116,775 through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant program.

Merrilee Fullerton Your Kanata-Carleton MPP

Your voice in the provincial government



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A brand new ecosystem for Industry, Academic and Finance partners to co-exist and collaborate in the heart of Kanata North.




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Tenille Houston says demand for AutoGuardian’s technology should increase as test projects get underway. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON.

Making sense of data so driverless cars can drive AutoGuardian’s autonomous test project will guide shuttles through suburban Whitby



f the strong market vibes the folks at AutoGuardian are sensing are any indication, the Stittsville-based startup could soon be embarking on an unobstructed path to growth. AutoGuardian has been steadily gaining speed since being spun off from Ottawa

smart-sensor manufacturer SmartCone in 2018. The firm’s autonomous vehicle expertise is now on full display in Whitby, where AutoGuardian is operating a driverless shuttle service for GO Transit passengers in the community east of Toronto as part of a new pilot project. AutoGuardian’s flagship product is a platform designed to make sense of

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the data compiled by sensors that guide autonomous vehicles. The company’s software gathers information such as the amount of power consumed by electric shuttles and the number of passengers who board the vehicles. It then crunches the numbers and displays them on a dashboard, providing transit services and government agencies with real time, easy-to-road updates on all aspects of the driverless vehicles’ operation. CEO Tenille Houston, who started her career in AV tech as SmartCone’s marketing chief before taking the helm of AutoGuardian in 2019, says demand for the firm’s services is steadily growing as more driverless shuttle pilot projects like the one

in Whitby are launched. “Autonomous shuttles are past the phase of the one-week demo at a show,” she says. “We’re moving this technology forward into ‘What does this look like in an integrated transit service?’ Cities want data, but data can be overwhelming. We try to (whittle) it down to what is needed.” AutoGuardian was formed after its parent company won a bid three years ago to provide sensors and other data for the AV project in Whitby. After landing that contract, the firm then secured a deal in the industry mecca of Detroit, where its platform was used in a driverless vehicle at the North American International Auto Show. “We kind of realized, ‘OK, we’re definitely getting traction,’” Houston says. But just as the Whitby project was gearing up, the pandemic intervened, pausing the project and changing AutoGuardian’s course. The delay gave the company time to work out a plan to become the shuttle’s end-to-end operator. Houston and her team ended up plotting the vehicle’s sixkilometre route, securing the necessary federal and provincial permits and hiring and helping train the on-board technician. The startup has been contracting out most of its work so far, and Houston was a one-person show before hiring a full-time operations manager a few months ago. But she’s planning to add at least four new employees in the next few weeks as things start ramping up for AutoGuardian. The firm recently signed on to a project backed by Transport Canada that will see it develop a smartphone app that will alert drivers to potential safety hazards, such as pedestrians stepping out from behind a vehicle or a car quickly approaching from the rear. AutoGuardian hopes to start testing the product at Ottawa’s Area X.O. autonomous vehicle track this year. Houston says the company has already brought in more than $1-million in revenues in 2021, with more expected. While AutoGuardian is still bootstrapped, she points to the recent fundraising success of ventures such as Californiabased autonomous delivery company Gatik – which snagged US$85-million in a series-B round in August – as proof that the AV space is poised for a breakthrough with venture capitalists. “Really, it’s all about trying to get investment to be able to scale and meet the demand that I’ve been seeing,” Houston says. “It’s a wonderful problem to have.”


Creating ‘water cooler moments’ to drive connected car innovation in Kanata North Industry partners sound off on uOttawaKanata’s new innovation centre

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The new uOttawa Kanata North Smart Connected Vehicles Innovation Centre is an open access space for students, researchers, the CAV community and uOttawa’s partners to convene and collaborate. The Centre is led by uOttawa associate professor and leading researcher, Dr. Burak Kantarci and staffed by a team of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and researchers, all focused on application-based R&D.The Centre is a great addition to the local ecosystem for CAV innovation. But don’t just take uOttawa’s word for it. Here is what several Innovation Centre partners have to say about the space:



LYTICA Lytica provides its customers with the data, insight and analysis they need to build better, stronger and more resilient supply chains. Automotive is a major market segment for Lytica. “As these customers develop their connected and autonomous vehicles, we have kept pace by updating our component reference data using artificial intelligence data acquisition methods developed in conjunction with uOttawa,” said Ken Bradley, Lytica’s CTO & chairman. “The Centre will increase focus on industry-wide problems and provide a testbed for ideas, for knowledge transfer between academia and

industry. This is a vital step in the process of getting great products to market.” THINKRF thinkRF is the leader in softwaredefined spectrum analysis platforms that monitor, detect and analyze complex waveforms in today’s rapidly evolving wireless landscape. Ensuring safe, secure and clear wireless signals is an increasing concern for connected vehicles and smart infrastructure. “Developing strong relationships with research organizations such as universities will be key as we develop new and innovative solutions at the intersection of AI, wireless and security,” said Cliff Ellement, head of AI Solutions at thinkRF. “Working with Dr. Kantarci and his research team will help us to move the innovation yardsticks forward in order to develop and commercialize real-world applications” GNOWIT Gnowit employs AI and machine learning to deliver real-time updates to its customers on issues that matter to them, such as news articles and web sources. The company has worked with Prof. Kantarci on projects such as delivering mobile COVID tests via autonomous vehicles. “One benefit we see from the new Centre is how it can help as a

pipeline of trained and vetted talent,” said Dr. Shahzad Khan. “The Centre is also an ‘energy centre’ that can provide ‘watercooler’ moments for industry, academics, policy folks and other stakeholders to meet up and work with each other.” RAVEN CONNECTED Raven Connected uses real-time video telematics to provide live and historic views into a vehicle. It goes beyond a typical dash camera to keep you connected, protected and informed with a unit that makes AIenabled fleet telematics easy to use and available to everyone. “We are strong believers in collaboration between industry and universities to keep research commercially topical,” said Raven CEO Dan Carruthers. “Every student wants to know their work is relevant and wants to retain full rights to publication. We want access to leading research and talent who are difficult to find in a tight labour market. So, the Centre offers a great mutual advantage.” QUANSER For over 30 years, Quanser has been empowering universities around the world with innovative technology and teaching methods rooted in realtime control systems and robotics. It has collaborated with various teams at uOttawa for over a decade. “The team lead by Dr. Kantarci with their innovative ideas and energy will boost research in the

smart vehicles field, as well as help train talent and accelerate commercialization of IP,” said Arman Molki, application marketing engineer at Quanser. “We look forward to seeing how the opportunities generated by the Centre will flourish and benefit the local industry to keep Ontario - and Canada - at the front of innovation in smart vehicles.” Area X.O. Area X.O. is the futureplex of innovation and collaboration in Ottawa that enables and accelerates the safe and secure development, testing, and application of nextgeneration technologies in smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity. It features a public test track on city streets in Kanata North, and an 1,866-acre private and gated test facility in the Greenbelt. “We are excited to help uOttawa researchers put our capabilities to work in new and impactful ways,” added Kelly Daize, director of business development at Area X.O. “This includes evolving our collaboration on future LSAS shuttle projects, RF data collection and testing, providing access to our CAVs, and sharing Vehicle-toEverything (V2X) data collected at our public test track.” Get involved For more information on uOttawa’s new Innovation Centre, please contact Dr. Burak Kantarci at burak.


Tim McCunn, senior counsel, Business Law Group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall.

Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall makes it easy to ‘borrow a lawyer’ Through it all, he has learned one critical lesson: “Success as a business lawyer is all about relationships,” he said. “A client will stick with a lawyer who will work to understand how their organization ticks, appreciates the relevance of a legal issue to the business, and whom they can trust to always protect their interests.” One size doesn’t fit all But the practice of law is also about billable hours. On most days, the conventional law firm retainer model may suit the needs

Lawyers with parachutes Alternative Legal Services is about providing embedded in-house counsel – legal support delivered on-site on a temporary basis for a defined period and billed at a perday rate. “We are making it easy for you to ‘borrow a lawyer’ for as long as you need,” McCunn said. “I personally love the idea of being part of a client’s team in this way. The chance to work with an exciting team that’s doing something impactful is what gets me out of bed.” And if you are an executive looking to hire an in-house counsel, or staff up an internal legal department, who better to lead that recruitment process than a senior business lawyer accustomed to mentoring and

guiding other lawyers? This is another area where Alternative Legal Services can help. “Anyone who has ever built or managed a team appreciates how expensive and disruptive a bad hire can be,” McCunn said. “We can help you avoid that kind of disaster in your legal department.” Learn more Need corporate or business law help, but don’t want to engage a law firm with a retainer? PerleyRobertson, Hill & McDougall’s new Alternative Legal Services team may be just what you need. Learn more at

THE FULL SCOPE OF CORPORATE LAW Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall’s new Alternative Legal Services practice draws on the firm’s expertise in: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Mergers and Acquisitions Corporate and Securities Commercial Agreements Regulatory and Compliance Privacy Procurement Financing Fintrac Compliance Cross-Border Transactions Construction Law Insolvency and Restructuring Not-for-Profit, Charities and Institutions Private Equity Public Companies and Corporate Governance Technology Taxation

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Tim McCunn has seen enough in his long career to appreciate when the typical law firm retainer model is not the right fit for a business in certain situations. Today, McCunn is senior counsel with the Business Law Group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. Over his 35year career with two other national law firms and also as an in-house counsel, he has worked with clients of all sizes – entrepreneurs to mid-market companies and public companies, crown corporations to not-for-profits.

of a client just fine. Then there are the situations where it doesn’t. The reason why is about more than just the cost. “It’s about working smarter,” McCunn said. “One size does not fit all.” That’s why he has spearheaded the launch of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall’s new Alternative Legal Services practice. Instead of the traditional retainer model, the Alternative Legal Services team is available to parachute in as needed. A sliding scale of fees for services draws on the full range of corporate law expertise found at the law firm. “There are many situations where Alternative Legal Services may be more appropriate for a client organization,” McCunn said. “For example, covering a temporary leave of absence by an in-house counsel, helping with the transition from a private company to a public company when building an inhouse legal team, or providing the expert guidance for a merger or acquisition.”


How Ottawa may recover from its VC ‘nuclear winter’ BY DAVID SALI


fter a first quarter that saw venture capital investments in local firms drop dramatically from a year earlier, Ottawa failed to crack a list of Canada’s top 10 cities for VC funding in the first six months of 2021, a new report shows. While Canadian firms set a new quarterly record for total venture capital funding, landing 166 deals worth a collective $4.59 billion, the region was nowhere to be found in the latest study of the country’s VC scene from CPE Analytics. According to CPE’s first-half Canadian Venture Capital Report, Toronto once again led the nation with a total funding haul of $2.66 billion across 88 deals from January through June. Vancouver was a close second at $2.21

billion from 77 financing rounds, with Montreal ($883 million from 40 deals), Kitchener ($473 million, nine deals) and Quebec City ($236 million, nine deals) rounding out the top five. Calgary, Saskatoon, Fredericton, Burnaby, B.C., and Halifax occupied spots six through 10 on this year’s list. According to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, firms based in the nation’s capital received a total of just $9 million in the first three months of 2021 – down more than 50 per cent from the total of $19 million in the first quarter of 2020 reported by CPE Analytics. The Ottawa Business Journal spoke with industry veteran Leo Lax about how he is interpreting the data in a Behind the Headlines podcast. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.

We were way behind big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. But we’re also behind Calgary, Quebec City, Saskatoon, Fredericton, Burnaby, and Halifax. You’ve been involved in the tech sector for so long, and you’ve been involved in financing. Does that concern you? When you look at statistics you will find that areas that have the larger companies, will of course, attract larger amounts of money. In Ottawa, we have a lot of emerging companies and established public companies. We are emerging from something I would call the ‘nuclear winter’ where the tech industry has been under stress. Particularly the industry that Ottawa has been known for, which is the telecom industry. The good news is we are emerging from that. You’re saying the nature of Ottawa’s technology industry is different and that’s why we’re not seeing as many VC deals? An early-stage company will absorb $10-

million in their initial few years of growth. A later-stage company that is maybe $50-to$100-million. That’s when you aggregate it and you put it all together, that’s when you get more mature companies, attract larger amounts of money. In Ottawa, we’re just starting to get those companies to a mature state. Give us the elevator pitch for [your new venture] L-Spark. Are you hopeful for the companies coming out of it? What sort of deals are you looking for? It is an amazing time - it really is. Our entire world is moving on from a lightly connected environment where we were connected with telephones and voice. Now we are connected through mobile phones, digital equipment, a variety of devices that you wear on your wrist and connect [to] with your headset. I am hopeful that we are going to be able to participate in that enormous investment that is now put in place by the major communications environment and the large carriers around the world.


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Delivers interviews with Ottawa’s hottest startups and coolest tech execs. Visit for the latest episodes.

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Opinions divided on governments’ COVID-19 response performance O ttawa’s local political and business leaders have done a more effective job at controlling the spread of COVID-19 and positioning the economy for a quick recovery than either the provincial or federal governments, respondents to the Welch LLP Ottawa Business Growth Survey say. “There’s been frustrations with the federal government around vaccine expectations, and with the provincial government over its mixed messages surrounding public health restrictions,” observes Abacus Data CEO David Coletto. “That same level of frustration hasn’t been there with the local government.” On the economic front, Coletto notes the federal government implemented several financial support programs in the early days of the pandemic faster than many observers would have thought possible. A year later, however, he suggests that some in the business community are likely to be uncomfortable with the large deficits that the federal Liberals are projected to run in the coming years, even after the economy recovers. Opinions on the government’s economic strategy, and the scope of stimulus programs since the start of COVID-19 have been mixed, says Jim McConnery, managing partner at Welch LLP. “The spring budget included renewed stimulus spending providing ongoing support for the economy, however, the budget did not articulate

How would you rate the job done by the following groups in controlling the spread of COVID-19? n VERY GOOD




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a plan to eliminate deficits,” he says. “It is also the case that we have some uncertainty with projected economic growth in the light of a fourth wave – this further delays the resumption of normal business activity and day to day life. It is clear that consumers are keen and eager to spend, however, COVID-19 is still a cause for concern.”

A renewed focus on employee well-being As businesses strive to build back better, leaders will need to look beyond economic recovery. Employee support programs and mental health initiatives should also be top of mind for employers, according to a leading local business advocate. The pandemic introduced a host of new stresses that many employees and business owners alike were forced to confront on their own, says Lise Sarazin, director general of Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la Capitale nationale (RGA), an Ottawa-based business advocacy organization. While it’s difficult for policymakers to design financial or other support packages that meet all the diverse needs of companies in different sectors, virtually all businesses have one thing in common: employees. This is where leaders should be focusing their efforts, argues Sarazin. “Businesses will be relying on their HR departments more than ever to find solutions to deal with stress, anxiety and depression,” she INDIVIDUAL RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES THE CITY OF OTTAWA AND OTTAWA PUBLIC HEALTH




to download your copy. says. “They will need outside support to ensure they can manage that workload.” Elsewhere, businesses will also be relying on government leaders to advocate for better external market access, says Sueling Ching, president and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade. In Canada, business owners are calling for less interprovincial trade barriers to make it easier for them to create partnerships and access a broader customer base. Local retailers are also looking beyond the country’s borders to access the international market. “Businesses will be looking at how they can amplify, diversify and scale up their sales opportunities,” she says. “Accessing external markets will help drive these companies forward.” 37%

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The results are in and Ottawa’s Best Places to work have something to offer any business looking to improve its culture. Here are the Top 10 tips gleaned from interviews with this year’s winners.

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CELEBRATE OFTEN. Don’t wait for the big moments, because the small and incremental matter too. • LOOK BEYOND THE OFFICE. A strong work culture can be a force for good - take it to the community. • PROVIDE REAL SUPPORT. Don’t just talk about providing assistance to employees, spend some money. • BIG REWARDS, BIG RESULTS. People love incentives. The bigger the prize, the bigger the commitment. • PUT THEM FIRST. Recognize that a well-rounded employee has an entire life outside of the office. • TAKE A BREAK. If you push people too far they’ll break. Enforced downtime is quality downtime. • THINK BIGGER. You don’t need to simply match benefits with competitors - set a new standard. • SUBVERT NORMS. Industry conditions aren’t set in stone. If you don’t like something, change it. • OWNERSHIP MOTIVATES. Employees go the extra mile when they have a stake in the business beyond a paycheque. • LONGEVITY MATTERS. Retention is a better strategy than recruiting - treat your people right.





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in common? It might not be evident on the surface, but they — along with seven others — have all been selected as Ottawa Business Journal’s Top 10 places to work in the city following an extensive survey measuring dozens of metrics to determine what employees most value. What makes them the best place to work for doesn’t necessarily all come down to money, rather philosophies and practices that keep their workforce happy and engaged. And after more than a year-and-a-half of lockdown, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that employee wellness is at the top of everyone’s minds. To find out their secrets to success when it comes to keeping their employees satisfied, Ottawa Business Journal talked with the 10 winners of this year’s list to dig deeper into the workplace cultures and figure out the Top Ten Secrets to Success. — By Dani-Elle Dubé

DECISIVE GROUP WHAT THEY DO: Customer enterprise IT infrastructure solutions that improve business processes. LESSON: Celebrate often

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Decisive Technologies believes the little wins should be just as important as the big wins. Decisive Technologies wants to show how much it appreciates its employees by building a close community, from organizing virtual reality gaming nights, virtual social drinks, to meals sent home for families to enjoy together. “We are an organization with a lot of shared interests but also diverse backgrounds and stages of life,” CEO Mitchell Carkner says. “We try to meet people where they are by providing a wide range of activities. Everything from fitness challenges to drone flying nights, scavenger hunts to pasta making, [Ottawa Senators] games, and charitable activities. They all make up the fabric of who we are as an organization.” Employees have more choice than ever on where they work, Carkner says, adding that COVID increased the pace of change to a more distributed workforce. “We view our corporate culture as one



hat do a video game and interactive media development studio, chartered professional accountants and a provider of business security camera systems all have



of the main ways we distinguish ourselves from other employers,” he says “One of our organizational principles is allowing our talent to shine and thrive in an environment that promotes curiosity, passion, fun, growth, learning and well-being.” Carkner believes customers also benefit when they feel the care the employees put into everything they do. “Just as employees have more choices than ever, our customers do too,” he says. “They will continue to choose organizations that exceed their expectations, that deliver consistently, that go above and beyond.”

DNS NETWORKS CORPORATION WHAT THEY DO: IT management services company specializing in cloud, IT hardware infrastructure and more. LESSON: Provide real career (and life) support. Shawn Ebbs says he believes offering professional coaching from an outside advisor helps build stronger bonds between the team, a sense of pride and belonging, and knowing their leadership has employees’ backs when things are difficult. “COVID has shined a light on corporations and how they are mismanaged, and it’s just a matter of time that most will fail and struggle to grow,” he says. “For those businesses that aren’t focusing on mindfulness, transparency and personal development for their teams — and more so on the leadership — they will all wake up one day and realize how time flew by and their lifelong goals were not met, and at that point it’s too late.” Employees spend so much time at work and/or thinking about work that if that culture doesn’t fit with an employee’s values, then they’ll move on. “I hope through our business development practices that we bring balance to their lives and help them find a purpose in our organization,” he says. “Once they know their ‘why,’ it provides them [with] a sense of belonging, the motivation to get them up in the morning and the drive to help make a difference.” Ebbs believes life coaching is a crucial ingredient to the company’s success. “Businesses need to shift their focus on their employees,” he says. “Revenues will follow without even having to focus on it. We have proven it, and [are] always open


to sharing this business practice with other firms if they need.”

HENDRY WARREN LLP WHAT THEY DO: Chartered accountants. TIP: Look beyond the office. Community service has always been important to Hendry Warren — giving back to the community was essential to the founding partners and is a philosophy they passed on to new partners over the years. “Getting staff involved in events has always been important as it helps inspire the spirit within them so that they continue to

support their community no matter where they end up living,” Marie Fraser, partner at Hendry Warren, says. “We have often seen staff take on individual volunteer opportunities after they see how rewarding it is to give back and help other people.” For years, Fraser says the company has supported the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa with its annual holiday hamper packing initiative where volunteers will pack over 500 boxes of food over three nights in December to be delivered to families in need. Other favourite staff-inspired events are the Angel Tree for the Boys and Girls Club, which gives gifts to children who might not otherwise get one, the CIBC Run for the Cure every fall and an annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Ottawa Food Bank. “These events are great for team building within the office,” Fraser says. “Having conversations while participating in these events allows us to see each other from a different perspective and appreciate each other as more than just accounting, tax and administrative professionals.” It’s a chance for employees to know their colleagues as people and to discover interests and hobbies they have in common — and that, Fraser says, makes the team feel closer and more connected when they return to the office.

WHAT THEY DO: Email design. LESSON: Big rewards work best. Companies have many ways they reward their employees for their hard work: bonuses, extra days off, a work anniversary gift — but Knack takes it to the next level. They’ll book a company vacation for the entire team. As CCO Chris Davies explains, the company sets annual goals. If the company meets those goals, then everyone is put on a plane to a relaxing beach vacation as a way to say thank you for all their hard work — at least, that’s the destination for this year. And setting big goals, means big rewards, Davies says. “We had a massive collective goal to hit a certain number of annual bookings,” Davies explains. “We are pretty aggressive in what we try to accomplish every year, and we reward ourselves as a team when we hit those goals.” While COVID restrictions are in place, Davies says the company is figuring out this year’s trip — destination currently unknown— but he’s pretty sure it will be somewhere in the Caribbean. “We’re also really big on opportunities for advancement and opportunities for learning within the organization,” he says. “Having that balance and letting people perform at

NOIBU WHAT THEY DO: Error monitoring platform for eCommerce. LESSON: Take a break.


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ROGERS COMMUNICATIONS INC. WHAT THEY DO: Canadian communications and media company. LESSON: Think bigger. “We believe in challenging work, rewarding opportunities and building an inclusive future so all of our team members feel proud to bring their whole selves to work,” Rogers Communications spokesperson AJ Gratton says.

We believe it’s all about the fit.


WHAT THEY DO: Data protection apps. LESSON: Put people first.

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Noibu believes in putting people first in every decision it makes — and that means focusing on employee wellness. Among the perks they offer are sending monthly snack boxes to employees and extending every long weekend in the summer, calling them Noibu bonus days. “It encourages employees to take care of themselves,” says Sarah Crandlemire, director of people and culture. “It’s important to take time off. We don’t subscribe to burnout culture and we lead by example.” Crandlemire says management wants to provide the best place to work for its team, and hopes they feel fulfilled and cared for. “When it comes to being people first, we tell employees to put themselves first, too,” she says. “And whenever one of our founders takes vacation, they’ll talk about it with the team as well to just demonstrate the importance of taking time off … it really is important for our team to take time off.” It’s a practice that employees have appreciated, Crandlemire says. Not only is feedback from employee surveys “overwhelmingly positive,” but it helps keep employee turnover low. It’s been the company’s approach since it opened in February 2020. Noibu now has 45 employees and plans to add another five this autumn. It’ll also organize outings with the team, such as socially distance socials. For example, employees went wakeboarding in August.

Building software is a lot of mental work, so for employees to be effective in their roles and enjoy the challenges, founder Ryan Gibson says people need to be well-rested so they can think clearly. That’s why he believes employees who log longer days and weeks are less effective in their roles, so they’ll encourage their employees to take time off to rest and come back to work ready to solve hard problems. That’s in sharp contrast to some of the largest software companies in the world, which are notorious for pushing employees to their limits as they rush products to the market. “These values have been a pillar of Rewind since day one,” he says. “It was very important to the founding team that we wouldn’t jeopardize our families and relationships.” This, he adds, ensures the company respects people’s personal time by not expecting employees to work more than eight hours a day, and encourages people to maintain a work-life balance. Too many companies avoid addressing the fact that a career is just part of someone’s life and likely not the most important part, Gibson adds. “We want our team to have a great worklife balance and build great relationships with their families, friends and in their communities,” he says. And it’s an approach and philosophy employees value and appreciate. Gibson says he’s heard from employees that they find the philosophy “refreshing,” and it’s had a positive impact on the company’s reputation. “We believe that these values, along with the other values that Rewind has, have helped us keep our workforce, reduced our turnover rate and helped us be one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies.”


their best with a work-life balance also allows them move up in the organization. And we reward based on what people accomplish and we have really good performance reviews set up. We promote based on performance and that happens even though you’re on leave — like maternal leave, or anywhere — you still get your reviews and will still be promoted based on past performances.”


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The management team at Decisive Group (photo above) expanded after the teams at Decisive Technologies and BriteSky Technologies recently merged, creating a one-stop-shop for digital transformation services.

Adopting a work hard, play hard mentality Having fun is considered a core value for the team at Decisive Group


or employees at Decisive Group, work isn’t just about helping customers develop custom IT solutions or implementing cybersecurity services – it’s about having fun. Fostering close relationships between employees and infusing ele-

ments of playfulness into the culture is an important piece of the puzzle for Decisive, landing them a spot on Ottawa’s 2021 Best Places to Work. This balance of work and play is accomplished through team outings to sports games, shared meals and

even the occasional Nerf gun battle in the office. “When I look at what’s been consistent this whole time, it’s really been the people who are our biggest strength,” says Clare Sullivan, vice-president of human resources. “We all spend so much of our lives at work, so if you can do what you love and can feel like you have the opportunity to bring your full self to work


and feel supported...I think that for most people is the real sweet spot.” While Decisive Group is a new name in the Ottawa market, the employees and the culture at the company have a longstanding history in the capital. A recent merger between Decisive Technologies and BriteSky Technologies spurred Decisive Group, streamlining its services.


The sister companies – which fell under common ownership – traditionally worked closely together, but by bringing the two companies under one roof, clients now have a one-stop-shop for their digital transformation needs and employees have more opportunities to collaborate with team members. “We’re supporting our clients by providing the right technologies, with world class professional capabilities,” says CEO Mitchell Carkner. “We have a matrix approach when it comes to supporting our customers or tackling a tough internal problem. Having a supportive environment creates that customer focused magic.”


Decisive currently sits at over 70 staff, and is continuing to grow – increasing the opportunity for collabo-

How does the team at Decisive Group incorporate fun at the office? • • • •

Scavenger hunts Team viewing parties Workplace fitness challenges Summer BBQs

ration and fun office activities. But, while the team likes to play hard, they also work hard. Employees are encouraged to collaborate and innovate, developing their professional skills. “We’re a technology company

focused on enabling our engineers and developers,” says Carkner. “We deal with a ton of different technology partners or ‘toys’ and our engineers have the freedom to explore and improve their skills.” Decisive supports multiple core values within the organization, including exceptional customer experience, supporting employees, customers and partners, as well as giving back to the community. Tanya Hall, vice-president of business alliances, has been with the company for 10 years, and sees the excitement within the team when the company takes on a charitable initiative. “The highlight for everybody is either the Back to School Day or the Christmas Day initiatives,” she says. On different occasions, the Decisive team has come together to supply schools with sneakers, backpacks, or

household supplies for families in need. The supplies are purchased with funds donated by the staff through in-office events such as ice cream socials. Even throughout the pandemic, the team was committed to maintaining its workplace culture through safe socialization. With collaboration and fun being an integral part of Decisive, it was important that it didn’t fall to the wayside when employees were separated, adds Sullivan. “How people show up at work and what discretionary effort they give us is really the difference maker at our company,” she says. “Whenever they’re feeling really passionate about what they’re doing, then they’re more likely to feel comfortable looking for opportunities or figuring out how they can go the extra mile for our customers and for their team.”






3 39 OBJ.CA



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We have a matrix approach when it comes to supporting our customers or tackling a tough internal problem. Having a supportive environment creates that customer focused magic.

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hopes employees feel they’ve made the best career decision possible. “We hope that it has an impact on their career goals and helps them grow, both personally and professionally.” But it’s not easy to develop an unconventional, Bailey says. “There’s definitely a lot of things that, when you trailblaze, there aren’t set processes or policies,” he says. “So, we’re developing a new way of doing things, and sometimes that can be challenging..” With 117 people employed at the company, Solink wants to build a sense of community and be transparent with information to help everyone reach their goals.

STONEWORKS TECHNOLOGIES WHAT THEY DO: Custom IT infrastructure builder for corporations and government. LESSON: Longevity matters.

company. Now, the Christmas committee is working on starting their activity plans — and they cannot wait for their first big (and safe) “in person” activity.



WHAT THEY DO: Cloud video

WHAT THEY DO: Video game and

security system. LESSON: Ownership motivates

interactive media development. TIP: Subvert industry norms.


make sure that no good idea is left without a chance to be put in place.” Because Snowed In has a people-first mindset, retention is high in an industry that has a lot of turnover. “In the end, we perform well as a studio because our teams are experienced, motivated and feel trusted,” he says. “Our employees get more than a job with a paycheck. It’s an environment where they are listened to and where the organization makes efforts to adapt to what they really want. We understand they work to have a great life, not the other way around.” In a recent show of appreciation, Snowed In sent lunch gift cards to everyone in the

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From day one, Snowed In Studio wanted to create the best environment for its colleagues to thrive. That meant being mindful of concerns with overtime and crunch — two things that plague the video game, studio head Jean-Sylvain Sormany says. “While we now see a few more studios adopting similar guidelines, we are proud of the environment we’ve created and the adoption of this culture at all levels of the organization,” he says. “For engagement in the office, while the COVID-19 situation and the working from home has made personal engagement a little harder, we provide support to any employee that has ideas on how to engage with others. We encourage and provide resources to

When you work at Solink, not only are you an employee — you are part owner of the business as well. “Employees are granted options through their employment and as the company grows, the goal is for those options to gain value,” says Erin Bailey. Employees don’t need to sign up for the shares — they’re automatically given to every full-time staffer. The idea is to provide autonomy to the employees, Bailey says. “We want all of our employees to feel like they take ownership and have an impact on the business,” he says. “I believe that they do, by having the impact that they do by making suggestions or finding better ways to do things.” By offering the shares, the company

According to Stoneworks’ CEO Jody Burton, the company has always taken a team first (or work family) approach, and management believes in a strong corporate culture. “I feel that in taking this type of approach, we have created an ecosystem that everyone believes in and loves to be a part of, or contribute to,” Burton says. “We work hard as a team and we play hard as a team as well. It creates a great synergy amongst the team when we can collectively pay it forward together in various ways.” What they do, Burton explains, is have the team take on charity and community services that they feel they can add value to or be assisted with. “Whether it’s a corporate function or teammates doing initiatives on their own, our hope is that in having this culture [it] cultivates positive behaviours for our company and the community we serve.” There’s no such thing as a “punch clock,” Burton says. If someone needs to do something during work hours, a teammate is always ready to help pick up the slack. “Most importantly, we love to laugh and to have fun. We are passionate about what we do and encourage everyone to be an integral part of making our environment as fun and as humanly possible.” The payoff? The company says it has an extremely low turnover rate.


“Our team’s health and well-being is more important than ever, so we provide our team members access to expanded benefit supports for physical and mental health, financial well-being, supports for parents and virtual health care for our team members and their families to help them cope during the health crisis.” As part of their efforts, Rogers launched a National Wellness Fund to give the team expanded benefits support for mental health, financial well-being, support for parents and Virtual Health Care to help them cope during the pandemic. Some of the services offered include access to virtual healthcare professionals, including nurse practitioners and doctors since 2019, parental benefits including virtual educational resources, progressive return from maternity leave and more. “Also, with today’s reality one of the key factors is the fact that the majority of our team members are equipped to work from home safely and efficiently. From the onset of the pandemic, our team members’ safety and well-being has been our top priority.” Other elements affecting Rogers’ employee engagement are the different resource groups that build awareness and a culture of allyship for equity-seeking groups, Gratton adds. This includes groups representing people of colour, LGBTQ2S+, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and women.


42 2

Apply for the job, stay for the culture How Knak created a workplace that employees don’t want to leave


hen thinking about what makes a great workplace, we often hear things like free gourmet food or on-site gyms and arcades, but those who work at a great company know it runs much deeper. Culture, trust, and the people themselves become the foundation of happiness for employees. Just ask the team at Knak, one of Ottawa’s 2021 Best Places to Work.

Knak is a software as a service (SaaS) company that provides a codeless email and landing

page creation platform for large companies. It’s an enterprise-level platform built to give marketing teams agility and creative freedom. Knak currently has more than 40 employees, with about half of them living in Ontario and the other half spread out across Canada. At Knak, people work how they need to work – and that doesn’t always mean in the office. The company was well prepared when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 from a communication, culture and social standpoint, as its operations were already mainly virtual. Zoom

was always a widely used platform within the company, which minimized the remote working learning curve for employees. “Knak has been a flexible workplace since the beginning,” says Pierce Ujjainwalla, co-founder and CEO of Knak. “We’ve always worked remotely quite a bit. So for us, we were prepared and comfortable adapting when COVID came around.”


Knak’s 10 core values – which include “Respect,” “Go Above and Beyond,”


and “Get Sh*t Done,” are embraced from the top down and are posted on a pillar in the office for employees to see, and be encouraged by each day. When it comes to those values, it’s about leading by example. “You can say work-life balance is an essential core value, but if the leaders are working all night, or sending emails at all hours, that’s not promoting a healthy work style,” says Chris Davies, chief creative officer. “Balance starts with the bosses.” Right from the interview process, new hires are considered on how they would not just fit – but add – to these values. It’s more about culture addition than culture fit, and with each new hire, Knak’s culture grows.


Knak has has been been aa flexible flexible workplace workplace Knak since the the beginning beginning since

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Theleadership leadershipteam teamalso alsoprioritizes prioritizes The transparency, giving the team transparency, giving the team updateson onthe thewins winsand andlosses lossesof of updates the company. That way, employees the company. That way, employees haveaasense sensethat thateveryone everyoneis ison onthe the have same bus and headed in the same same bus and headed in the same direction. direction. There’salso alsoan analignment alignment There’s between teams – even thosewho who between teams – even those don’t directly work together. don’t directly work together. Employeesare areencouraged encouragedto topair pairup up Employees in weekly “donut” meetings to talk in weekly “donut” meetings to talk aboutanything anythingbut butwork, work,creating creating about a level of comfort among team a level of comfort among team members. members. Thatmakes makesweekly weeklyall-hands all-handsZoom Zoom That meetings more relaxed and open, meetings more relaxed and open, witheveryone everyonefeeling feelingequal equaland andsafe. safe. with Peers are also encouraged to Peers are also encouraged to rewardand andacknowledge acknowledgeeach eachother other reward with a weekly “Knakolade” award. with a weekly “Knakolade” award. Eachweek, week,the theprevious previousrecipient recipient Each awards the Knakolade to someone awards the Knakolade to someone new based on how they exhibit the new based on how they exhibit the company’s core values. company’s core values. Scheduledon-site on-sitemeetups meetupsare are Scheduled also a priority for the company as also a priority for the company as it allows employees from across it allows employees from across Canadato tocome cometogether togetherin in Canada person. While Zoom is amazing for person. While Zoom is amazing for communication, having in-person communication, having in-person bondssolidifies solidifiesthose thoserelationships relationships bonds and provides employees withaarealrealand provides employees with time connection to the company they time connection to the company they work for. work for. AtKnak, Knak,employees employeesare arehired hired At because they positively contribute because they positively contribute tothe theculture cultureand andcore corevalues valuesof of to the company, but they stay because the company, but they stay because thepeople peoplesurrounding surroundingthem them the create a welcoming and accepting create a welcoming and accepting environment, says Kelly Rigole, environment, says Kelly Rigole, directorof ofoperations. operations. director “There’s supportamong amongthe theteam team “There’s support that you really won’t find anywhere that you really won’t find anywhere else,”adds addsRigole. Rigole.“Sometimes “Sometimes else,” just finding a team whoyou youcan canbe be just finding a team who yourself around and have your hard yourself around and have your hard workappreciated appreciatedby byis isall allyou youneed.” need.” work Forthose thosewho whowork workat atKnak, Knak, For regardlessof ofwhere wherethey theyhappen happen regardless tolive, live,it’s it’smore morethan thanjust justaajob. job. to Together,they’re they’repart partof ofsomething something Together, bigger. bigger.




44 FALL 2021


Companies let workers to carry days through pandemic, but now those days are liabilities on the books BY LINDSAY CAMPBELL


Overnight, we went remote and had to get on the hamster wheel… For a lot of businesses, workloads skyrocketed.

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Public WorkshoPs: 200 one or two-day TAP Strategy and HR Consulting says it’s not ideal to allow a transfer of vacation days into the following year. “Employers might think that they’re doing a good thing or being an understanding employer, but it’s a liability on their books if your business has to close or if you ever have to pay out an employee who leaves,” he says. “We work with organizations who are having this problem, but because of the pandemic it’s probably something that’s happening a lot.” There are always going to be situations where exceptions can be made to this rule, Weippert says. Yet having an employee take a break and use available vacation time is going to be beneficial to their mental health and productivity, he adds, which in turn will positively impact business operations. Weippert, Rowe and LaVoy all stress the importance of open, respectful lines of communication. “Let’s keep this conversation going,” LaVoy says. “Stay connected with your employees. It’s going to be something that they’ll not only thank you for, but you’ll thank yourself for too.”

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struggling right now,” she says. “They’ve gone a little ways past the Employment Standards Act to create a policy that provides maybe a little bit more vacation leave or they provided a benefit to their employees by allowing some level of carryover. Some of the things are in place, but they didn’t anticipate a huge problem around it.” She suggests a two-step process to refine policy framework and contractual agreements that clearly outline policy around vacation. First, she says employers should provide workers with a period of time to transition to any new policy. This is because many people have likely planned the next few months around current rules. When they establish a new policy, they should look to resolve questions around the amount of time allowed to be carried forward, putting caps on banked time and outlining the latest that vacation days can be used that following year. And while some companies may not strictly follow the Employment Standards Act (which doesn’t have a provision for carrying over vacation time), Bruce Weippert, president and senior strategist at

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s pandemic restrictions have put a damper on travel, many employers have faced unprecedented circumstances, trying to understand how to support their workers while simultaneously dealing with a backlog of unclaimed vacation. Data released from Robert Half has shown that while employees have been working longer days from home, employers are not communicating about policies around vacation. Approximately 67 per cent of employees across Canada say they received no direction about how to handle vacation with only 28 per cent of employers encouraging them to take time off. Sandra LaVoy, regional director for Robert Half in Ottawa, says these findings illustrate one of the biggest challenges in transitioning to remote workplaces. “Overnight, we went remote and had to get on the hamster wheel… For a lot of businesses, workloads skyrocketed,” LaVoy says. “Unfortunately, as employers failed to check in emotionally with employees or talk about vacation, it’s lead to burnout and people leaving because they think ‘I can’t continue on this path.’” LaVoy adds that the past two years have been a wake-up call for employers to encourage employees to take time off and put a plan in place around vacation that benefits both workers and the company. But for businesses still working through the kinks of this new normal, what’s the best way forward? It depends on existing policy around vacation, according to Morgan Rowe. The Ottawa-based employment and labour lawyer at Raven Law says businesses fall into three categories around this issue and explains that those relying only on the Employment Standards Act or those that created robust policies pre-pandemic are likely without problems. “It’s the ones in the middle that are


Employees banked a lot of time, so what happens next?

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GEM Healthcare owner Gaye Moffett administers a COVID-19 rapid test to co-worker Sophie Balog.

How GEM Healthcare is keeping workplaces COVID free Rapid testing for your employees can protect the health of your business

Proactive instead of reactive While GEM has always been invested in the health of the community, the pandemic has put the company in the business of providing “peace of mind” for Ottawa employers, says Gavin Schnobb, chief operations officer at GEM. Schnobb, son of the founder, says the company is making it its mission to help employers gain confidence their workplaces are safe, with minimum disruption and quick results. “You know that everyone has been tested and you have peace of mind,’’ he says. Another good reason to get tested with GEM? You don’t have

In 1994, registered nurse Gaye Moffett found herself wondering what else she could do to create better community care. As an experienced healthcare worker, she had a network of contacts at the city’s hospitals and nursing homes. She started phoning them from an office on Parkdale Avenue and they told her they needed help filling gaps in staffing. So she became a healthcare recruiter, and things grew from there. “I thought I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “So I went out on a limb and became an entrepreneur.” Today, GEM Healthcare Services Inc. has offices in Brampton and Newmarket and currently sits at 150 employees. Home and community care account for around 70 per cent of GEM’s business. To find out more about GEM or to book your COVID-19 test visit

to wait until you show symptoms or prove you were exposed to the virus to get tested. Whether for work, or personal reasons, Ottawans can book an appointment for a test at GEM for as little as $35, making it safer for everyone in the community. As for the fully vaccinated, Sophie Balog, GEM’s COVID co-ordinator, says they too should get tested, especially if they plan on heading back to the workplace. “While you are protected against serious illness, you can still get it,” she adds. At the end of the day, a half-hour spent at GEM is a good investment for the wellness of your balance sheet and everyone in your office.


from homecare and physiotherapy to N95 mask test fitting, and now testing for COVID-19. Clients can drop by GEM’s office on Parkdale Avenue for their test, or businesses can have a certified healthcare professional administer the tests at a workplace, business event or social gathering. Health Canada warns up to 50 per cent of COVID-19 transmission could be caused by people without symptoms, which recently prompted the province to give out rapid antigen testing kits to local companies. The problem with those free kits, says owner Gaye Moffett, a registered nurse who founded the company in 1994, is do-it-yourself testing really isn’t very practical.


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As workers trickle back to the office, employers will be anxious enough about withstanding the pandemic without having to worry about their workforce being COVID-free. Is there someone who is asymptomatic, unknowingly infecting their colleagues? Should your fully-vaccinated employees get tested, just in case? And where can they get tested without losing half a day in a lineup at a public health COVID testing site? All these wildcards will be competing for mind share as employers pivot to a pandemic economy. That’s where GEM Health Care Services comes in. GEM offers a wide suite of services that includes everything

Companies would need to appoint an employee to administer the tests daily, which can be a time consuming and complicated process. Better to have the testing done by a healthcare professional wearing medically-safe clothing and gear, she says. GEM offers two types of easilyaccessible COVID-19 testing — rapid antigen and PCR. Rapid antigen testing involves nose swabs to examine for protein specific to the COVID-19 virus. While these tests provide quick results, they are considered to be less accurate than PCR tests, but are fine for most uses. PCR tests are the gold standard in COVID-19 testing. They provide more accurate results than the rapid tests because they use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify viral genetic material of COVID-19. Clients can receive their test results from GEM in as little as 15 minutes and with regular testing, Moffett says, employers can be confident everyone is safe and have the certainty they need to run and plan their business.


AMBICO achieves a ‘higher level of execution’ for staff training

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Algonquin College Corporate Training helps local manufacturer access provincial programs



In 2016, Ottawa company AMBICO took on the job to design, build and supply new doors and frames as part of the major renovations on Parliament Hill. But these were not just ordinary doors and frames. AMBICO specializes in custom doors, frames and windows that must meet the highest standards for acoustics and bullet and blast resistance. Since the 1950s, this familyowned business has grown into a major player in its market space. AMBICO’s products are exported around the world, for use in hospitals, universities, banks, prison facilities, hotels, museums, art galleries and, of course, government buildings. The company employs about 100 people in Ottawa, many of whom are involved in manufacturing. Given the highperformance assemblies that AMBICO designs and produces, conventional skillsets in metal fabrication are not enough. That poses a persistent challenge for AMBICO when it comes to hiring and training staff in the Ottawa area. “We are not going to find people just down the street who have these skills – they have to be trained in house,” said president Jack Shinder, son of

co-founder Israel Shinder. He runs the company with vicepresident Judah Silverman, son-in-law of AMBICO’s other co-founder, Emanuel Lightstone. As a home-grown manufacturer with unique needs, AMBICO long ago learned how important it is to be plugged into government programs and agencies that can assist with new product innovation, global export and talent development. On that last point, talent, AMBICO maintains close ties with Algonquin College. Algonquin is a member of the Eastern Ontario College Consortium (EOCC). This collective of five colleges supports employers in key industry sectors with the essential skills training their workforces and new hires need, to keep Ontario’s economy humming. This work is funded by a provincial initiative, Skills Advance Ontario, so that it’s free to both employer and jobseeker. Algonquin is the lead college for Skills Advance Ontario’s Steel and Aluminum project, where it delivers innovative, sector-based workforce training and talent development programs for a stronger future in the steel and aluminum industry.

Inside AMIBCO’s manufacturing plant. Photo provided by AMBICO.

Enter Algonquin College Corporate Training (ACCT) ACCT provides professional development for individuals and teams already in the workforce, either from its own facility in downtown Ottawa at 700 Sussex, on the jobsite, or remotely. It works closely with companies in Ottawa and the surrounding area to align workforce skills with business needs and the demands of industries that are increasingly competitive and high-tech. In the months prior to the pandemic, Shinder and the rest of the AMBICO team worked with ACCT team to take advantage of new training funded through Skills Advance Ontario for steel and aluminum manufacturers. This enabled AMBICO to use ACCT’s services to improve its staff onboarding and training processes in way it would not have otherwise considered. ACCT tackled five projects for the company: • Delivered health and safety training • Developed and delivered a customer experience and transactional project management program

• Developed an online video Standard Operating Procedures onboarding training program • Developed an online video training production onboarding program • Developed online video training for stainless steel door finishing “We had come to realize that our training needed a higher level of execution,” Shinder said. “ACCT considered our needs and took care of all the details to develop from scratch everything we needed to train new employees so they can successfully integrate with our team.” The result is a more consistent onboarding process, with training resources that show a professional production value that would have otherwise been beyond AMBICO’s budget. “These videos and training materials make us look good as a destination employer, and they help us to continue offering great manufacturing jobs in the Ottawa area,” Shinder said. “These are jobs for life. When there is collaboration like this between industry and government to create jobs and build skills, everyone wins.”

Get in touch To learn more about how ACCT can help you prepare for the next phase of your organization’s growth, call 613-727-7729, or visit for more information.

to two more buildings of 130,000 and 400,000 square feet. The proposed facilities don’t have tenants yet, but Jager said he’s not worried given eastern Ontario’s growing prominence as an e-commerce distribution hotbed. “We’re firm believers in spec builds,” said. “If you build it, they will come. We believe that the market will be able to absorb (the space) quickly.”

Mero Technologies’ pandemic play KINGSTON — With vaccine uptake allowing more and more businesses to think seriously about reopening their offices, cleanliness is increasingly top-ofmind for employers and employees alike. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston tech company Mero Technologies turned itself into a “full cleanliness platform.” Operating in commercial buildings, hospitals, airports and other facilities, Mero provides peel-and-stick sensors that collect data for commercial cleaners, showing how much stock is left for essential items such as paper towels, toilet paper and soap — reducing the need for workers to physically check the areas. Mero was officially launched in 2019 by Nathan Mah and Cole MacDonald, who joined forces to automate the data-collection process, building a proof of concept with support from Queen’s University.

Ford plans massive car parts hub in Casselman “work, live, play” lifestyle. “You have all that in Casselman,” he said. The Ford distribution centre is located on a 1.5-million-square-foot parcel of land just off Hwy. 417. Jager said the builders are finalizing a deal to buy an additional 1.5 million square feet of nearby property that’s eventually expected to be home


centre for Ford that’s expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023. Casselman is about 55 kilometres southeast of Ottawa. Rosefellow cofounder Mike Jager said the automaker was attracted to the site because of its close proximity to major population centres in eastern Ontario and Quebec, its amenities such as restaurants and hotels and its

HAMMOND — Brad Cartier and his business partner, Aaron Markel, have opened Hammond Hill campground, a welcome addition to camping options in eastern Ontario. Their 62-acre property, about 20 minutes from Orleans, opened in August. As much as possible, the partners used materials from the site for construction. They bought a small sawmill to transform the limited number of trees they cut down into fence rails, yurt foundations (the campground has a few rentable yurts) and wood chips for trails. Continued on page 57

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Ford Canada will be the anchor tenant in a new 1.1-million-square-foot industrial hub in Casselman.A pair of Quebecbased firms, Rosefellow and Bertone Development, are partnering on the multiphased development. The project is slated to eventually include three buildings, with work already under way on a $95-million, 531,000-square-foot auto parts distribution

Campground with a beer garden


Maria Rasouli says many Ottawans have an outdated notion of Cornwall, saying its perfect for cycling because it’s “flat, safe and scenic.” PHOTO BY LISA PAQUET

‘I think it has the perfect recipe’ Entrepreneurs are looking beyond Ontario’s traditional tourism hotspots BY LAURA BYRNE PAQUET

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hazad Ahmad didn’t plan to open a location of his kayak-rental business in Cornwall. After setting up his first spot in Wiarton, Ontario, he planned to establish his second location somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, near his Mississauga home. Red tape and a lack of support from large municipalities discouraged him. His experience in Wiarton had shown him that small places also offered lower operating costs, less competition, and more support from tourism organizations and fellow entrepreneurs. “If you’re going to start a small business, always start it in a smaller town,” he says.

“You have much more opportunities.” He started searching further afield and discovered Cornwall, where Cornwall Tourism helped him find a suitable location on Lake St. Lawrence—a quiet stretch of the St. Lawrence Seaway—and promoted the operation he runs with business partner Imran Haider. Their company, Boatingery Adventure Trends, has 16 transparent kayaks for rent. They recently added fat bikes to the mix to make the business a year-round operation, says Ahmad, who now lives in Cornwall. Another entrepreneur who spotted tourism potential in Cornwall was Robert Prowse. A decade ago, the Toronto television producer wanted to buy a

historic home to convert to a bed and breakfast. He knew southwestern Ontario well, but found prices there prohibitive. “The problem is the economic shadow of Toronto is so long that you really have to go all the way to Lake Huron to get out of it.” Then, by chance, he discovered a derelict 1814 former inn in Cornwall, being sold via bank foreclosure. He knew little about the city, he says, but he was intrigued by a growing restaurant scene and the scenic waterfront. “I was very impressed. Cornwall is a post-industrial Ontario city that’s done a very good job of reinventing itself.” Prowse paid $195,000 for the 6,400-square-foot building in 2013, then spent a year on extensive renovations before opening Chesley’s Inn. The work included replacing burst pipes and installing a new natural gas heating system and 31 vintage radiators. To his surprise, about 70 percent of his clientele comes from the GTA and Southern Ontario, while many of the rest are from Montreal, British Columbia and Europe. “Cornwall is still a harder sell in Ottawa,” he concedes, noting that many Ottawans remember its “stinky” industrial past. Maria Rasouli says many Ottawans

have an outdated perception of the city of about 47,000 people. In 2021, the owner of Ottawa’s Escape Tours and Rentals chose Cornwall as the place to launch her first cycling tours beyond the National Capital Region. “I think it has the perfect recipe for what people looking for bike tours and outdoor activities like to see…it’s flat and it’s safe and it’s scenic,” she says. Cornwall Tourism has made cycling a key part of its promotional efforts. Given the pandemic-era interest in outdoor activities, the city’s 75-kilometre network of bike trails and lanes, and its position on the province-wide Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, “It was natural that cycling rose to the top,” says Kevin Lajoie, tourism officer with the City of Cornwall. Cornwall Tourism has been using its share of the municipal accommodation tax, a 4-percent levy on short-term stays, to fund everything from advertising and festivals. In addition, it is one of several partners in the Spark program, a Dragon’s Den-style competition where would-be tourism entrepreneurs pitch their ideas in the hopes of landing $3,000 in start-up funding. Winners so far have included a food tour company, an event space and a sunflower farm. Even in the pandemic, entrepreneurs continue to open tourism businesses— even if they didn’t initially have entrepreneurship on their minds. For instance, Ashley Willis moved from Toronto to Cornwall in 2018 to work in a bank and “to provide a better life for my daughter…in a smaller city.” In September 2020, she launched AshNa Airbnb Property Management, managing four vacation rental units for private owners. A big fan of Cornwall’s community spirit, she’s building an informal network of local restaurants and shops so that she can create packages and arrange discounts for visitors. While all of these entrepreneurs readily concede that the last two years have been far from easy in the tourism industry, they seem bullish on Cornwall’s prospects for riding out the wave. Innkeeper Prowse says friends were surprised years ago when he didn’t buy a place in Kingston or another wellestablished tourism destination, but he preferred to get in on the ground floor of a good deal. “If you’re investing your life savings, you want to invest in a place on the way up.”

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the normal numbers of sawmills. I think it was due to Covid, but I think now a lot of people are becoming more self-reliant. They’re buying local and it’s opened a lot of people’s eyes to what we have to do here to support our local industry. How valuable is it to you to have a backyard sawmill? AW: Very. I actually just bought my miil last year and thank goodness I did because if I would have waited until this year, I wouldn’t have got it. It’s about a year and a half wait now. The main reason why we bought it is we were depending on other people that saw our logs for us and I thought, well maybe we’ll get our own mill and it’ll speed up the process. We’ll have more lumber to sell in the long run.

The Sawmill Redemption: Backyard loggers draw on history to reshape lumber industry BY MARK VAN DUSEN

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ood cutting tools are essential in rural areas of Eastern Ontario and back in the day one such tool dominated the backroads landscape. Now with fluctuating lumber prices and sometimes slow delivery, the backlot sawmill is making a big comeback. Just ask woodlot owners in Renfrew County, where business is booming. OBJ spoke to sawmill owner Andrew Warren and Darrell Sennett of Darrell Sawmill’s Sales about an industry resurgence that can barely keep up with demand. MARK VAN DUSEN: Let’s start with this what’s a backyard sawmill? ANDREW WARREN: We manufacture our own lumber from the mill and we sell it to the public or use it ourselves depending on the project.

How far back back in local history in Renfrew County does the tradition of the backyard sawmill go? AW: That would be from whenever they started to build sawmills, 200 or 300 years ago. I think every farmer at one point had a sawmill. Then there were less of them, because they’re a lot of work. Then times came about that you could get lumber at a store. So this goes back to the homestead days. Why did they mill their own lumber back then? AW: Probably because to travel to a store to get the lumber was a pain and there were lots of trees on the property. So why not saw your own lumber right there? What kind of wood products do you mill? AW: We’re making cedar lumber, so we’re selling lumber for decks and fencing. Sometimes we get into a little bit of spruce

lumber and pine lumber, but mostly it’s cedar lumber that’s our specialty and that’s what we tried to stick with.

How do you operate your business? AW: I’m the only sawmill operator - I have two sons and I trained them to run it when I can’t be there. I take orders for lumber over the phone. I tell people right now the demand is so high, it’s four to five weeks waiting time before we can get caught up to that order. How much do you produce? AW: On a good day, by myself if everything is going just right I can produce around anywhere from a 1,000-board-feet to 1,500-board-feet depending on the size of my logs, the length of my logs. There are (large industrial) mills in Renfrew County that are putting out 200,000-board-feet in one shift.

Are we seeing a resurgence of the backyard sawmill in Renfrew County? DARRELL SENNETT: Definitely. Lumber prices have gotten a lot of people back into the personal sawmill and they’re also sawing for other people as well. It’s the lumber prices, the lack of the lumber - all of that has really boosted my business.

Do you think this is a flash in the pan or or is this revival going to be around for a while? DS: People are becoming more self-reliant. They don’t want to depend on the bigger businesses, the bigger companies. We’re always able to save a little bit of money here and there and the backyard producer can certainly operate a lot cheaper with smaller overhead compared to the big sawmills.

How many sawmills would you sell in a normal year? DS: Pre-Covid we probably sold about 50 or 60 and this year I will probably sell 140 mills - twice as many if the manufacturer was able to produce them. The manufacturer is having trouble getting material - even down to the workforce. They have a lot of skilled trades in the factory and they’re just not able to produce

What do you see when you look at a fresh cut, milled piece of ash? DS: I just like being able to go out there and make something out of nothing. You’re making something that’s usable. In the case of the ash it’s dead standing - you know if you don’t use it soon it’s gonna be basically no good for anything so. So if you can cut that down and make a piece of furniture at least you put that to good use.

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With the great connectivity my daily work, team meetings and client outreach can be done from my home office or on my back deck. My kids enjoy the small town life and I am never far from them.

EASTERN ONTARIO BUSINESS JOURNAL It seems that clothing demand in a global pandemic isn’t a high priority. Many shops are still closed worldwide. ​– Eric Bjergso, general manager, Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers

The price of wool has dropped almost 65 per cent from the highs of 2018 and now sits at the same level as a decade ago. PHOTO BY TOM VAN DUSEN

Can ewe believe the price? BY TOM VAN DUSEN FALL 2021




urmoil. That one word best describes the state of the international wool market and Canada’s position within it. So says David Mastine, president of Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers, the central clearinghouse for collecting, grading and marketing of 1,360-tonnes of raw wool

a year from across the country for domestic and foreign markets. Attributable in part to COVID-19, the wool trade has been tough. Prices have dropped 65 per cent since 2018, with wool’s trading price on the benchmark Australian commodities index now sitting at the same level as a decade ago. The co-op’s general manager Eric Bjergso calls it the deepest slump ever experienced in the industry. While demand for fine wool

has increased, demand for broader wool has not. There’s a surplus of coarser types in every wool-producing country in the world. “It seems that clothing demand in a global pandemic isn’t a high priority,” Bjergso observes. “Many shops are still closed worldwide.” A visit with Bjergso reveals a warehouse with about 50 percent more stored, unsold wool than usual for this time of year. He says producers with adequate on-farm storage

have been asked to hang on to their bundles until conditions improve. However, wool is still being accepted and graded in Carleton Place. Payments to producers are being processed. The co-op employs 50 staff, about half in Carleton Place, and no layoffs have been necessary during the downturn. Under co-op guidelines, no matter the size of the submitted wool bundle, members are paid the same price for the same grade (fine, medium, coarse) rated according to fibre diameter and length, yield, colour, and presence of foreign matter, minus fees for operating the service. The price to producers is adjusted quarterly to reflect global market conditions. The pandemic hasn’t been the industry’s only challenge. The market’s stagnation dates back to the China/U.S. trade dispute that’s run for almost a decade. That crisis forced the Canadian co-op to look at ways to diversify into new markets, with 90 per cent of its raw product exported to China, the U.S., India, Czech Republic, Egypt, Bulgaria and Uruguay. The market is truly global, with Canada accounting for just a fraction of the almost 400-million tonnes of production each year. As it waits for the industry to rebound, the co-op is pursuing research funding for developing new technologies which will permit scouring and processing raw wool in Canada. It’s also conducting a feasibility study on potential new products and markets. Farmer-owned and established in 1918, the co-op occupies a large stone structure in Carleton Place, originally built as a Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse and machine shops. The 103-year-old national network also operates several outlets for farm supplies and wool clothing. Its Carleton Place headquarters contains the cozy, colourful Real Wool Shop and Livestock Supplies & Equestrian Centre, which contribute substantially to the CCWG bottom line, which, in good times, includes $12 million in sales.

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REGIONAL ROUNDUP Continued from page 49 Other eco-friendly initiatives include nokill bug spray and a chemical-free Japanese process for treating wood. Hammond Hill also has an unusual campground attraction — a beer garden serving beer from Markel’s Broken Stick Brewing Company, which is located at the nearby golf course. Because they’re all on the same property, the craft brewery’s licence extends to cover the campground. “As far as we can tell, I think [we’re] the first campsite [in Ontario] that is offering draft beer onsite,” Markel says.

New inventory management software CHALK RIVER — CyberStockroom gives clients a visual approach to inventory management, allowing customers to create a virtual map of their business and populate it with their products. Creating a map-based approach to inventory management made

sense to CyberStockroom president Emad Hanna, who said he has always been “a very visual learner” who liked to sketch things out when he was solving a problem. The flexibility of the software means the Renfrew County firm has a wide range of customers, including EMS, fire departments, police forces, warehouses, IT departments, labs and event production. It has even brought in big-name customers including Roche, Hasbro Gaming and Nordex.

Ross Video breaks ground on $15M expansion DUNDAS — Just months after cracking the 1,000-employee mark, one of eastern Ontario’s leading manufacturers is breaking ground on a multimillion-dollar expansion of its largest plant. The expansion is expected to create dozens of additional jobs. Ross Video is spending $15 million on the project, which was launched Aug. 5

and will see the existing facility expanded by 55,000 square feet. The additional space will include two new production lines at the site in Iroquois, about 70 kilometres south of Ottawa on the St. Lawrence River. The Ontario government is contributing $3 million to the expanded plant, which is expected to create more than 40 new jobs.

says it will be hiring mechanical assemblers, drivers and quality inspectors as well as shipping and receiving clerks at the Cornwall plant. The new facility will add to CMP’s growing presence in Cornwall. Last year, the company opened a 90,000-squarefoot warehouse and logistics centre in the Cornwall Business Park.

Quebec-based CMP to open assembly plant in Cornwall

$7-million distribution centre in Prescott

CORNWALL — Chateauguay-based CMP, a Quebec manufacturer, is setting up a 40,000-square-foot light assembly plant in Cornwall. The company has leased a building on Montreal Road in the eastern Ontario city and plans to hire up to 25 workers at its new facility. “As we grow our business, the need for additional capacity for light assembly work has emerged,” CMP talent acquisition and recruitment strategy adviser Alexandra Keenan told The company designs and manufactures products for customers in a range of industries, including the telecom, security and medical sectors. CMP

PRESCOTT — Milan-based Prysmian Group, a European manufacturing giant, is beefing up its presence in eastern Ontario with a multimillion-dollar expansion of its facility in Prescott. The company announced a $7-million plan to add a “world-class distribution centre” to its existing manufacturing plant in the town about 95 kilometres south of Ottawa on the St. Lawrence River. The company says the project will create about 15 new jobs in the region. As part of the investment, Prysmian plans to relocate its regional distribution centre from Brampton to Prescott. Construction will start this year, and the new facility is expected to be in operation by the third quarter of 2022.

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Kanata ‘bungalows in the sky’ create new lifestyle options for long-time homeowners

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Amid Ottawa’s real estate market boom, two new premium apartment developments in Kanata are enticing homeowners to tap into the built-up value of their property and unlock a new high-end lifestyle. Located in Kanata Lakes, The Normand and the Saint Émilion are two recent additions to Lépine’s portfolio of premium apartment developments. Designed for tenants seeking an elevated lifestyle, the neighbouring buildings are outfitted with resortstyle amenities and high-class finishings. With large open floor plans, access to green space and several on-site spaces for tenants to host guests or enjoy downtime, the appeal of rental living is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners. “Tenants are anxious to maintain the comfort and standard of living they’ve come to enjoy, which is why we prioritize modern designs and premium amenities,” says leasing agent Francesca Lépine-Willson. “Our Kanata Lakes developments offer premium living space for residents at all stages of life.”



Explore Kanata Lakes Leasing a unit in either of Lépine’s Kanata Lakes developments opens the door to carefree living. Residents no longer need to worry about property maintenance or expensive repairs as they have access to a host of on-site amenities and stylish units that make the transition from a family-style home to an apartment that much easier.

The buildings are fully equipped with a fitness center and an interior saltwater pool as well as a large reception lounge, billiards table, TV room and catering kitchen for hosting parties. Each development also hosts underground parking for residents. “Lépine residents can access a lighter pace of life,” says LépineWillson. “Each unit is filled with upgrades and finishings that make you feel at home.” The apartment units themselves are spacious and bright, featuring eco-friendly fixtures, wood floors and cabinetry as well as modern kitchens and in-suite laundry. For tenants wary of giving up their backyard or patio space, Lépine’s Kanata developments are located near ponds and nature trails as well as offer beautifully landscaped outdoor courtyards, personal garden boxes and gazebo areas with a shuffleboard and a life-sized chess game for guests to enjoy. An attainable lifestyle The community strikes a balance between quiet comforts and city conveniences. While the buildings provide a tranquil and relaxing place to call home, they are located just minutes away from popular shopping districts and entertainment hubs such as Tanger Outlets, Kanata Centrum and the Canadian Tire Centre. Residents who choose to sell their home and move to a highend Lépine apartment are gaining access to a lifestyle that many previously thought was out of reach.

The Normand development in Kanata.

The Saint Émilion development in Kanata.

“Many people are selling their homes for more than they ever thought they could, which opens up a new world of living opportunities,” says company president Francis Lépine. “With a predictable cost of living through leasing a Lépine apartment, tenants can then use their earnings for activities they truly enjoy, while living in a home that checks all the boxes – and more.” Located just minutes away from restaurants, shopping and the Kanata Lakes Golf Club, The Normand and the Saint Émilion are the perfect spot to start your next journey.

Find a Lépine apartment near you Looking to transition to a premium apartment? Lépine Apartments has several new locations across the Ottawa region for you to explore. Schedule a viewing at one of their many locations today: • Howard Grant (Barrhaven) • Johanne’s Court (Carleton Place) • The Lépine Lodge (Renfrew) • Les Terrasses Francesca (Overbrook) • Saint Émilion (Kanata) • The Normand (Kanata) is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties and the National Arts Centre. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS

Catherine Landry of Call Betty Marketing with Darpan Ahluwalia of Manotick Natural Market. PHOTO BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS NETWORKING

Ladies Who Lunch make their triumphant return


well-known entrepreneur Catherine Priestman, president of CP Business Solutions. Her company is also in the city’s east end. “I’m a raging extrovert, so this is fabulous for me,” said Priestman, whose expertise is in helping companies elevate their corporate image through marketing and branding. Attendees included award-winning entrepreneur Terri Storey, CEO of OneHealth and a leader in the field of mental health, while helping out behind the scenes was Darpan Ahluwalia, owner of Manotick Natural Market. The luncheon included a fundraising component for Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI), an Ottawa-based community organization for Inuit in Ontario, offering support in food and housing, employment, cultural education,

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While lunch is often the most underappreciated meal of the day, it was not to be skipped for the dozens of Ottawa businesswomen who got together in late August to support each other and their community at the latest Ladies Who Lunch: The Reunion. The networking event, organized by Call Betty Marketing CEO Catherine Landry, was held at OCCO Kitchen at its Orléans location. As many business owners slowly emerge from the pandemic, the powerhouse planner felt it was time for women to meet again in a manner that was safe and that followed COVID-19 regulations. Landry kept the mood fun and breezy, giving prizes away throughout the event that had been donated by local businesswomen. She joined forces with OCCO co-owner Caroline Côté and

counselling and healing, family wellbeing, and children and youth. It was represented by executive director Amanda Kilabuk and by Rhonda Huneault, manager of the food security program. “COVID highlighted the need for food security for our Inuit families in Ontario,” said Kilabuk, who said they were able to use gift cards to keep up with increased demands from all areas of the province. Priestman chose the beneficiary based on her love of Northern Canada. She lived in Yellowknife during her high school years and does business in Nunavut. “I have a real connection to the North, to the people and the land,” she said. “Once you feel it, it’s always with you.” Canadian North Airlines stepped up to donate the grand prize of a pair of return flights to Iqaluit. The community of women at Ladies Who Lunch, and even supporters who weren’t there, generously bought tickets, raising a total of $3,420. As the group of 75 women performed a mass drum roll with their fingers on

their tables, Shelly De Caria, senior director of sales and community investments at Canadian North Airlines, drew the winning ticket for the flights. The prize went to Sue Vye of Coldwell Banker Sarazen Realty. Unfortunately, she is in treatment for cancer and was not at the event. The luncheon was, for many, an attempt to “get back out there” following months of pandemic isolation. For those who were still feeling anxious or uneasy, Priestman provided comfort, reassurance and a solid dose of humour, particularly as she shared some of her own challenges with COVID. “It’s been hard to live with a 15-year-old and 17-year-old and my husband — still my husband — for 18 months. The kids are pretty much nocturnal and borderline feral,” she joked. She offered the women several tips to consider when marketing their businesses. She suggested they keep their information simple, and to be kind and sensitive. “Instead of saying ‘No more than three people in the store’, say ‘We are pleased to welcome three people at a time’,” suggested Priestman. “It is the same message; it’s just received very differently, and it makes your location and the vibe of your company just so much more positive.” As well, she said it’s important to remember and celebrate one’s team. “Wherever you are in your business right now, you probably didn’t do it by yourself. It takes a team, even if you’re a sole entrepreneur, even if you are a very, very small business, somebody helped you get to where you are today. It’s because of them as much as it is about your hustle.” Suzanne Cyr, president of Cyrious Connections, has regularly supported the Ladies Who Lunch events over the years because of the networking opportunities. “You never know who you’re going to meet,” she told “We always have a tendency to stay in our own circle but Ladies Who Lunch has given us an opportunity to meet so many other people, and to help one another as women.” is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties and the National Arts Centre. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS


Construction industry comes through for CHEO The Ottawa construction industry knows how to dig deep. It happily took part in the Construction Community Cares for CHEO celebration held on a cool mid-September morning outside the regional children’s hospital. The first-time event saw an imposing procession of big shiny trucks, some with flatbed trailers hauling excavating equipment and other machinery, make its way past CHEO. Some young patients watched through the hospital windows, while other kids, both from CHEO and the greater community, gathered with their families along the route. Even CHEO’s mascot was behind the wheel of a construction machine that was being carried along.

CHEO Foundation president and CEO Kevin Keohane expressed his deep gratitude to the National Capital Heavy Construction Association (NCHCA) and Ottawa Construction Association (OCA) for their participation in the event while speaking at a ceremonial cheque presentation held just prior to the drive-by celebration. “Both of you are involved in helping to build the infrastructure and better facilities that allow all of us to live a better life in this community,” said Keohane. “But you do so much more. You take that other step further. That philanthropy and generosity that comes out of the construction industry in Ottawa is really, really something special, and something for

which you don’t get enough credit.” He thanked the associations for the joy they were bringing to the children at CHEO. Besides being sick, the young patients also have to deal with being indoors, away from their schools, families

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and, in many cases, friends. “For you guys to take the time to rally together to raise money and to bring together something that’s really going to put smiles on the faces of kids … You should be really, really proud.”


A million bucks for BGC Ottawa Guess who woke up feeling like a million bucks? BGC Ottawa. For the second year in a row, the nonprofit organization is believed to have reached its seven-figure fundraising goal, following its 12th annual breakfast held Sept. 10. The event was once again presented by Mark Motors Group but with a friendly new name, The Morning Social. Business and community leaders roused themselves early to support a local charity that gives thousands of atrisk children and youth in our city a safe and supportive place to go after school, where they can have fun, be inspired, learn new skills and hang with friends. Audience listened to heartwarming stories about how BGC Ottawa has positively impacted, even transformed, the lives of its young members. Said board chair Stephen Beckta, owner of Beckta, Play and Gezellig restaurants: “It’s game changing for

the organization. Without this, we’d be in a huge deficit for the year. It allows us to keep our life-changing programs happening for our members now that we’re re-open again.”

100 Men Who Care They’re 100 Men Who Care to actually meet in person again. With more than Ottawa residents now more than 80 percent double vaccinated against COVID-19, members of the charitable social group felt comfortable enough to hold an outdoor get-together in September. Thespecial evening took place at TD Place in Lansdowne Park, on a spacious patio overlooking the westend zone of the stadium. The fundraiser was in support of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Foundation and its commitment to help local youth, particularly those from vulnerable communities, to reach their full potential. It featured recently retired RedBlacks star receiver and fan favourite Brad Sinopoli in a Q&A.


Waterfront in Dunrobin - $2,900,000 613.842.5000 |

FALL 2021



FALL 2021




Hotel sales and marketing director Roger MacKinnon found himself out of a job at the worst possible time — during the height of the pandemic, when his industry was fighting for its future. The two downtown Ottawa hotels that MacKinnon had poured his heart and soul into for the past 18 years had been sold, with the new owners wanting to turn The Albert at Bay Suite Hotel on Albert Street and the Best Western Plus on O’Connor Street into rental apartments. “It was tough,” said MacKinnon, who still regrets that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, he was unable to say a proper goodbye to his former colleagues last October. “It was a sad day for absolutely everyone.” As for what to do next, “It was not like I could walk across the street to another hotel.” MacKinnon looked at working in a different industry. He talked to the right people, got deep into the interview process, landed a few job offers, but his gut was telling him not to go through with it. “It didn’t feel right,” said MacKinnon. “What I figured out is, I’m a hotel guy and I always will be.” Last month, MacKinnon started his new job as sales director at Brookstreet, a luxury four-star, 276-room hotel located in Kanata’s high-tech district. Once he was reminded of how much he loved the hospitality industry, he created a list of potential hotel employers, putting Brookstreet at the top. “I was the luckiest guy in the world to land such a great place like the Brookstreet. I could not be any happier; I think it’s a great fit.” Brookstreet is led by Nyle Kelly, who’s been at the hotel for more than 18 years, working his way up to general manager. MacKinnon said everything he’d always heard about the culture at Brookstreet has turned out to be

Brad Weir, former senior director with the Senators Community Foundation, is now working for the Canadian Bank Note Company as director of engagement. Weir had been with the Foundation (formerly the Ottawa Senators Foundation) for almost 11 years in marketing, communications and community investments roles. Arnprior Regional Health has announced that Leah Levesque will become the next president and CEO of the organization, taking over from Eric Hanna, who will retire on Sept. 30th. Levesque is the VP of patient care and chief nursing executive at Queensway Carleton Hospital. She previously spent six years at ARH in the role of VP of patient and resident care and chief nursing executive.

Roger MacKinnon / Brookstreet true. “There’s a common theme, from the general manager to the server in Perspectives Restaurant, and everyone in between. Everybody who works there understands what the essence of hospitality is supposed to be.” Brookstreet has been in a better position than other hotels during the pandemic because it’s similar to a resort in its layout, MacKinnon pointed out. It offers such outdoor amenities as a golf facility, swimming pool and pavilion for hosting weddings. “There are a few things that would give it a leg up,” he said. MacKinnon is originally from Prince Edward Island, where he studied hospitality and tourism management at college. As a young man, he worked in hotels all over Canada, including Halifax, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Lake Louise, and New Brunswick’s Miramichi, before deciding to settle in Ottawa in 2003. One day, he noticed that The Albert at Bay Suite Hotel was hiring for a

sales job. He spotted the posting the old-fashioned way: in a newspaper classified ad. His experience was in food and beverage operations, but he applied anyway and got an interview. “I had to really prove myself worthy of a sales position, with zero sales experience,” said MacKinnon. “I said, ‘I’m a hotel guy; it’s in my blood. I don’t know sales, but I know everything else, so I think I’ll be good. Take a chance on me’. They did, and I eventually became director of sales and marketing and took those hotels on a journey to becoming two of the top hotels in Ottawa.” Looking ahead, MacKinnon is confident that the hotel industry is going to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. “People are ready to travel.” The hotel industry was the first to be hit by the pandemic and, he predicted, it will be the last to recover. “But, if there was ever an industry that could adapt and evolve and be creative, it’s definitely the tourism and hotel business.” — Caroline Murray

Mitchell Bellman, former president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, has joined Service Coordination Support as executive director and CEO. SCS is the initial contact for people who have a developmental disability or autism in Ottawa and the Eastern Region. OneLife Wealth Management has added two well-known female professionals to its team: advisor Joanne Kudakiewicz, a 2019 Forty Under 40 recipient, and director of strategy and client success Jill Fratpietro, previously a senior account executive with Great-West Life. “We’re lucky to add such strong female entrepreneurs who are focused not only on their work, but on serving their community,” said OneLife Wealth Management president Chris Bockstael. “Plans are in motion to form a women’s business group that helps empower women in business and create an environment for women to learn from others who have already walked a similar path.” Mischa Kaplan, former HR director with Ottawa Tourism, is now director of people and culture with Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Rick Corcoran has left his position as general manager of the Fairmont Château Laurier to become general manager of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a luxury hotel located on the Brooklyn waterfront in New York.


Habitat for Humanity CEO steps down to launch horticultural therapy business Alexis Ashworth has always had a passion for plants. During the height of COVID-19, her fondness further blossomed as she cared for both her fruit and vegetable gardens and her large collection of houseplants. It kept her calm and focused. “I always thought of it as just a hobby, but throughout the pandemic I really found myself turning to plants and gardening,” she said. It never occurred to Ashworth that her gift of a green thumb could become a marketable business until she started doing research early last February into the growing field of horticultural therapy. She credits her executive coach with encouraging her to look into it. “When I did, I discovered that there is an

opportunity here that could be a good career path,” she said. After more than seven years of leading Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa as its CEO, Ashworth is stepping down to launch Root in Nature. Her goal is to bring the healing power of nature and plants to the community through horticultural therapy, nature-based programming and corporate team-building. The native of Halifax is a go-getter at heart. By age 10, she was using her mother’s scrap fabrics to sew together hair scrunchies and headbands that she later sold to classmates. In junior high, she ran a business helping parents organize their kids’ birthday parties. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” said Ashworth, who has a commerce degree from St. Mary’s University as well her MBA

from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. In many ways, the pandemic planted the seed for Root in Nature. Without the global crisis, said Ashworth, “I don’t think I would be making this exact move. It was borne out of my experience over the past year and a half of maintaining really good mental health because of plants and gardening.” Horticultural therapy uses plants, gardening activities and the natural landscape to boost physical and mental health. Gardening has been found to reduce depression, stress and anxiety while helping people develop new skills, overcome isolation and build a sense of purpose. The formal practice had been on Ashworth’s radar for years. When she was

younger, she volunteered internationally with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and, while working on a farm in the U.K., saw the benefits of plants and gardens on children with autism. The first thing Ashworth needed to do, however, was find out whether there was a demand for horticultural therapy in Ottawa. She turned to the world’s greatest knowit-all, Google, and came across the plucky young Sarah Shapiro, a brand new registered horticultural therapist who was working with residents of The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. She reached out via LinkedIn to see if Shapiro wanted to collaborate. She did. Word soon got out that a new for-profit horticultural social enterprise was in the early planning stages. “More and more people started reaching out to me through different networks. All of a sudden, a team was forming, and it felt like it was meant to be. I decided to seize the opportunity and go for it.” So far, the reaction to Root in Nature has been “overwhelming,” said Ashworth, who has hired four horticultural therapy practitioners, with Shapiro as her lead. “People have been very positive about it.”

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VOICE OF BUSINESS Unite | Influence | Grow

A Message From the CEO


hope nothing big ever happens, and we don’t have a strong voice of business.” Fast forward two years and we are faced with a global pandemic that has changed life as we know it. The economic and mental health impact of COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our businesses and community. At the board of trade, we have been working with all levels of government and local stakeholders to ensure that programs and policies support business through this time and build a strong foundation for economic recovery.

Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade

Intuity Performance

Advanced Business Imaging

Iona Natural Care

BDC - Business Development Bank of Canada

Linebox Studio

Louis W Bray Construction Limited

Branch Audio Visual

Brown Bag Tour Co.


Calian Group Ltd.

Matthew House Ottawa

CANImmunize Inc.

Merkley Supply Ltd.

Causeway Work Centre



New Purveyors

Dalcini Inc.

Numetrica City Inc.


St. Lawrence College Employment Service

Digital Oyster Inc

Sure Print & Graphics

Experior Financial

The Cherrie


Halpenny Insurance Brokers Ltd

Twenty-Three Accounting

Hyatt Place Ottawa West

Valley Airway Mechanical



FALL 2021

s the voice of business and an advocate for economic growth in the nation’s capital, the mission of the Ottawa Board of Trade is to cultivate a thriving world class business community through leadership and partnerships. This was our vision when a small group of local business leaders advocated to consolidate the Ottawa Chambers in 2018. Add to that the pace and scope of change in a global economy and you had a great case for optimizing the resources of the business community by working together. At that time, we said, “better

We have also completed our first strategic plan as the new board of trade with a focus on elevating our advocacy, economic development contributions and membership support. We will direct our attention to the most impactful initiatives encompassing equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our local business community is well positioned to drive growth in the nation’s capital. The board of trade is at the ready. This is a call to action to be a member, to join forces for the future of Ottawa.

Events & Programs CEO Talk October 13, 2021 | KIN Vineyards Keynote: John Sicard, CEO Kinaxis Small Business Summit October 19, 2021 | Virtual Keynote: Isabelle Hudon, President & CEO, BDC Mayor’s Breakfast October 22, 2021 | Virtual Keynote: Anthony LeBlanc President of Business Operations, Ottawa Senators Mayor’s Breakfast November 19, 2021 | Virtual Keynote: RoseAnne Archibald National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Best Ottawa Business Awards November 25, 2021 | Broadcast Celebration for Ottawa’s Top Businesses Including, CEO & CFO of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Rapid Test Kits for Workplace Protection September 2021 to March 2022 Distribution sites sponsored by: TCC Canada Delivery support sponsored by: Trexity POST Promise (People Outside Safely Together) August 2021 to December 2021 In partnership with the City of Ottawa Details for events and programs found at


FINDING INSPIRATION Stories of access, hope and new possibilities





I have lived with depression for so many years. There were some days when I was struggling with my depression that even taking a shower would seem to be an overwhelming task. In January 2016 my intention was not to be here anymore and to take my own life. I had a full suicide plan in place. As an Indigenous woman working in the community, I am extremely aware that suicide is an epidemic, especially with our youth, and I want to be a part of the change. I have always admired The Royal and their part in helping those living with mental illness. I am thankful that they give people the opportunity to use our voice and help others. I’m learning how to take better care of myself. You just have to hold on long enough and you will see it, despite how difficult it can be.

I started struggling with mental illness before I even knew what mental illness was. At eight years old, I started restricting food intake and obsessing about my body and weight. My eating disorder quickly became my life; there was simply no room for anything else. By my mid-twenties, it was completely out of control. I began spiralling into a deep depression. I felt isolated, alone, lost and hopeless. It was only through the support of friends and family, access to community services and lots of hard work and kindness towards myself that I was able to begin my journey to recovery. I wish for anyone struggling to know that they are not alone, they don’t have to feel weak, ashamed or scared of admitting that they need help. When I was finally able to accept that mental illness was a part of my life journey, it is almost as if I was able to take back my power. You’re worth it. You matter. You are good enough. You are loved.

I was lucky. I was a smart kid, I got good grades and I used the veneer to fool everybody into thinking I was okay. I did that successfully. I ended up being valedictorian of my graduating class. I never felt like I truly belonged though. When I went away to university, drinking was a massive social lubricant. Then drugs pushed that sense of false power further. It pumped me up and I felt great – until I didn’t. By then, I couldn’t stop. I continued to create this masterful illusion for the outside world of who I was. Eventually, I would secretly have to twist, lie and steal to fuel my addiction. I was in denial for a long time. There was so much guilt and shame in admitting that I was an addict. When I lost my job, I lost my identity. In retrospect, it was precisely what I needed. I am so grateful for my life now. I can be authentic for the first time. I no longer wear a false veneer of success. I can be vulnerable.





The Royal is so fortunate to have champions across our community and around the world who volunteer their time to support the incredible mental health care and research that helps provide hope and transform lives.

FINDING BEAUTY THROUGH DARKNESS llusive is a local Ottawa based artist who has been pouring their heart and soul into creating emotive and meaningful pieces of art since 2019, through their company Illusive Artworks. They use art as a creative outlet for their own mental illness, while advocating for mental health. “The opportunity to work with an organization like The Royal is

monumental to me,” says Illusive. “I’m doing this creative work because I’m taking care of my own mental health, but also trying to encourage active mental health care in others. I found a way to look back at my own struggles with beauty. When I have a painting that’s about a sad story, but it looks beautiful, that helps me feel better about the experience.” The Royal Ottawa Foundation is grateful to Illusive for collaborating with us on the beautiful cover art they created for this special insert.

INSTAGRAM: illusive_artworks WEBSITE: EMAIL:


Co-creating access, hope and new possibilities for our clients and families


implementation starting with areas where we have momentum. We will continue the process of engagement and co-design to ensure that our transformation is inclusive of the expertise available to us through our community. No organization will be the same as it was before COVID-19, because the world is irrevocably different. The Royal, and our partners in the mental health and addictions space, will be called to support an ever-growing demand for services. This year has taught us that we are well positioned to take on the challenges of the future. We have the right plan and the right people. Together, we will rise to the occasion, just as we did so many times this year, remaining a beacon of light that inspires hope and the possibility of brighter tomorrows.

Research at The Royal is home to a diverse community of passionate researchers, who have dedicated their lives to shaping and improving the future of mental health. With more than 140 ongoing research studies, involving 85 researchers, utilising state of the art facilities, including the Brain Imaging Centre and the LEARN MORE HERE

— Joanne Bezzubetz, PhD, president and chief executive officer, The Royal

— Chris Ide, president, Royal Ottawa Foundation and vice-president brand marketing, The Royal

Neuromodulation Research Clinic, we are demonstrating the value of our inquiries and collaborations. It is the diversity of our teams, experiences and perspectives that make all of this possible. Their passion and dedication to provide access to care through research is a source of inspiration.

— Florence Dzierszinski PhD, president, Institute for Mental Health Research and Vice-President, Research, The Royal


hile the world grappled with COVID-19, The Royal began a metamorphosis. Propelled by fast-paced changes to care delivery across the country and empowered by the support and partnership of our community, we tackled our most ambitious strategy yet focused on redefining what client-centred mental health care looks like. As we look to the future, we see new possibilities to increase access and inspire hope for our clients, their loved ones, our colleagues and the communities we serve. The pandemic left a resounding mark on the mental health of our country. The need continues to outpace supply challenging us to look differently at how we plan for and deliver care. In some capacities, that means further exploration around the convergence of technology and service delivery and in others, it is a deeper understanding of what is valuable and meaningful to clients and their loved ones. Through powerful conversations with individuals across our community, we are breaking down preconceived notions around what it means to “get into The Royal” and transforming our organization to address access, inspire new research, advocate for systemic equity and deliver in the areas where it counts most. At its heart, this is what our strategy, Co-creating Access, Hope and New Possibilities, exists to accomplish. To challenge what has always been and position The Royal for the future. Specifically, our strategy guided our organization through a process of re-examining the client experience at The Royal. This exploration, grounded in the process of co-design, resulted in the development of the client-centred, team-based care model, which puts the client at the centre of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary care team. This care model intends to meet the evolving needs and expectations of clients and their loved ones in both mental health care and research. It also helps us meet the promise of serving as a hospital without walls and one that can be nimble and responsive while maintaining and advancing specialty mental health care. As we look ahead to 2022, we move into the exciting phase of

This is an incredible time to join The Royal. I look forward to joining forces with our board, community members, and hospital leadership and our research institute as we focus on the future. The committed professionals here have a tremendous impact on the mental health, research and wellbeing of people across eastern Ontario, and I’m excited to contribute to the vital work that lies ahead.

The Royal partners to deliver lifelines to students


hile the world grappled with the complex implications of living in the time of a pandemic, students across Canada faced unprecedented mental health challenges. For one student at Algonquin College, a lifeline forged through a partnership between the RBC Foundation and The Royal made all the difference. Last fall, while struggling with his feelings of depression, Henry* made the brave choice to go to Algonquin’s Counselling Services. The counsellor referred Henry to a family doctor within their Health Services Clinic, who then referred Henry for a psychiatric consultation with The Royal.

Thanks to a $250,000 donation to The Royal from the RBC Foundation, clients at the Youth Services Bureau and students at Algonquin have significantly improved access to virtual mental health care. Through this program, Henry received timely care that allowed him to “visit” with clinicians via a secure video link. By virtue of the partnership between The Royal and Algonquin; Algonquin’s counselling team received training earlier in the year and were able to help Henry set healthy boundaries and enact strategies to more effectively manage his anxiety and depression. When the counselling appointments at Algonquin concluded, Henry reflected that he had begun to accept his depression as an illness, and was better equipped to understand and manage it. By facilitating access to timely psychiatric care and by sharing The Royal’s expertise with Algonquin, the special partnership greatly improved Henry’s quality of care and quality of life. Thanks to the evidence of this partnership, Carleton University and University of Ottawa have adopted a similar virtual care program for their students. This equates to over 40,000 college and university-aged students who have access to this expertise, and, as Henry taught us, life-saving care. *Not his real name



The Royal receives $1.5M anonymous donation for mental health research Funds will help scientists explore biomarkers for suicide ideation, advance treatment for major depression and study the impact of COVID-19


transformational gift of $1.5M from anonymous donors through their fund at the Ottawa Community Foundation will help three key research initiatives at The Royal’s Institute for Mental Health Research (IMHR) make profound advancements to improve mental health.


• •

Examining physical indicators in the brain called biomarkers to understand the biological underpinnings and consequences of depression and suicide. The mental and physical toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) as a new treatment for people with persistent depression.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, and as the stigma around mental illness slowly dissipates, more and more people are reaching out and asking for help. We want to make sure the best possible care is there

I am very grateful to the donors for their extraordinary generosity and support for our research efforts. It is incredibly humbling to have the opportunity to explore the mental and physical toll of the pandemic on our healthcare providers who are sacrificing so much to deliver continuing care. — DR. JENNIFER PHILLIPS, SCIENTIST, THE ROYAL’S INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH.

for them. Research plays a key role in that,” says Joanne Bezzubetz, president and chief executive officer, The Royal. “The Ottawa Community Foundation is very pleased to be part of the ground-breaking research this gift will make possible,” says Bibi Patel, former vice-president of the Foundation. “The donors who are making this generous donation have given much thought and consideration to come to a decision that would mark their legacy gift to our community.”

Research in this area is leading to a better, more personalized standard of care for patients with depression and related mental health disorders, for whom traditional treatments haven’t worked. — DR. SARA TREMBLAY, SCIENTIST, THE ROYAL’S INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH.

“There is still so much about the human brain and mind we don’t understand, both in health and in illness. As our understanding grows, it will improve our ability to provide patients with more personalized and effective care. That is where research comes in,” states Dr. Florence Dzierszinski, president of the IMHR and vicepresident of research at The Royal. “Innovative research in mental health and addictions is bringing us closer to finding answers to some of the biggest questions that currently exist within the mental health and addictions care landscape.”



A celebration of community & collaboration


Glenda O’Hara, is a member of The Royal’s Client Advisory Council. This council is instrumental in co-creating The Royal strategy of Access, Hope and New Possibilities. PHOTO BY SHANE FRANCESCUT

tremendous difference in my life and I am so grateful.” Based on the positive response to the C-PROMPT Clinic and The Royal’s initial program evaluation, it became apparent that the Clinic was able to successfully fill a gap in services related to the pandemic. It has also confirmed that there is a clear need for expanded secondary level mental health services in Ottawa, in order to better serve people with more serious and complex mental illnesses. Many people who had never had access to assistance like this now had a place to receive care. Care that made a difference. Once you see this, you have to keep dreaming, planning and building towards a permanent Prompt Care Clinic model. The Royal proudly opened a permanent clinic on January 18th which recently received its 1,000th referral.

Prior to COVID-19, The Royal embarked on a strategic planning process to reimagine its role, work and services in mental health care. Over the past few months, leaders at The Royal met with care providers, community partners, clients, families and many others about how we can be better. The pandemic has also accelerated the thinking on how The Royal could and should deliver mental health care to those who need it most; the success of the C-PROMPT Clinic was a great example of this and is a model that The Royal can build on for the future. THANK YOU for supporting The Royal’s strategy and development of new and needed models of care.


The Prompt Care Clinic offered a ray of hope for getting the immediate help I needed. - JESSICA, PROMPT CARE CLINIC CLIENT


he Prompt Care Clinic began as an idea and a dream to help provide more timely access to mental health services. This concept quickly developed as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold during the late winter of 2020. With the help of many clinicians and the generous support of organizations and our community - both clinically and with financial support from both corporate organizations and our generous donors - within weeks, a new, then temporary model of care, was brought to the community. In a regional system of care that did not have a robust model for secondary level mental health care, how could The Royal — a tertiary provider, partner with others to fill a gap? We researched, we listened and we learned from our partners in the mental health field such as Dr. Gillis and her expertise in Shared Care both at The Ottawa Hospital and in New Zealand, from clinics around the province and country and from the research on how to serve people in quick models with impact. In partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal clinical and leadership teams worked efficiently to launch the formally named, C-Prompt Clinic (C for COVID) to help meet the needs of our community as mental health services and programs were closing one by one, day by day. The temporary C-PROMPT Clinic received over 850 referrals in its initial 13 weeks of initial operations. These referrals — 67 per cent for women — covered a range of urgent mental health needs including: diagnostic assessments, medication management, brief psychotherapy, access to lab and Long Acting Injectable medication services and system navigation. This service was a lifeline for individuals in our community who are living with mental illness. As one C-PROMPT client, Barbara, shared, “Thanks to the C-PROMPT Clinic, I was able to talk with a doctor and finally, I had hope. This service made a


Dr. Tim Lau, psychiatrist and clinical lead of the Geriatric Psychiatry Inpatient Unit, The Royal. PHOTO BY SHANE FRANCESCUT

Integrating research, education, care and lived expertise


ementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a complex neurodegenerative disease that is oftentimes difficult to diagnose and treat. Characterized by progressive cognitive decline, executive dysfunction, visual hallucinations, fluctuating cognition, and Parkinsonism, DLB is often underdiagnosed, or more so, mistaken for other types of neurodegenerative diseases and sub-types of dementia. Making a clinical diagnosis of DLB remains an ongoing and challenging issue for psychiatrists. DLB is also unique when compared to other neurodegenerative diseases, as many people with DLB are unable to take antipsychotic medications due to a sensitivity that puts them at a significantly higher risk for severe autonomic dysfunction. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been described as a potential treatment for neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with DLB; however the studies are limited to very small case reports, so this form of treatment is still novel in clinical care. Studies have shown that medical imaging offers new opportunities to narrow the differential diagnosis in many neurodegenerative diseases including the dementia subtypes. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to show specific patterns of atrophy in the brain and can also eliminate other pathologies. Positron emission tomography (PET)

coupled with an imaging tracer called 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) can be used to examine regional patterns of glucose utilization, where distinct utilization patterns are directly associated to different subtypes of neurodegenerative dementia. While clinical MRI is provincially funded in Ontario, there is no comparable mechanism for access to FDG-PET for neurodegenerative dementia. Access to FDG-PET specifically for the diagnosis of dementia is only accessible through hospital-led clinical trials. Dr. Tim Lau, psychiatrist and clinical lead of the Geriatric Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at The Royal, was treating one of his geriatric patients with suspected Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), when he made an interesting discovery. Dr. Lau’s patient had been receiving ECT for neuropsychiatric symptoms of depression, anxiety and visual hallucinations. Through her ECT treatment, Dr. Lau began to notice a significant improvement in her DLB neuropsychiatric symptoms. This was the moment that Dr. Lau knew a collaboration with his research colleagues at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR) was required. Dr. Lau and Dr. Lauri Tuominen, Emerging Research Innovators in Mental Health (eRIMh) scientist and PET expert, partnered to delve further into what was going on inside their patient’s brain.

Dr. Lau, Dr. Tuominen, the Geriatric Psychiatry department and the research team at the Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) led by Katie Dinelle, manager of the BIC, developed a personalized clinical case study for this one patient. “One of The Royal’s strategic goals is to integrate research and care for the benefit of our patients,” says Dr. Lau. “This collaboration is enabling us, for the first time, to open our BIC to patients for imaging that can directly impact individual diagnosis and personalized treatment planning. Even for specialists in the field, much uncertainty exists for clinical diagnosis. Until recently the brain has been a black box into which we could not explore much aside from its structural appearance. Tools like PET-MRI not only show what something looks like but also how it works. In this particular case we were able to study not only how things work but also what was improving as a person clinically improved.” They used neuroimaging modalities of PET and MRI in order to get a better look at the patient’s brain, specifically to see if they could use diagnostic PET-MRI to confirm the suspected diagnosis of DLB. The use of FDG-PET imaging provided the ability to confirm a differential diagnosis of Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) – as distinct from other dementia sub-types and depression – and therefore to tailor treatment approaches. “The scan helped confirm the diagnosis, which was unclear prior to this case study,” says Dr. Lau. “Four different nuclear medicine specialists all agreed on the pattern.” The results and success of this case study demonstrate the collaborative capabilities of our clinical and research teams at The Royal and have fostered future collaborations between research and care. “The future of research at The Royal is about researchinformed care and vice-versa,” says Dr. Florence Dzierszinski, IMHR president and VP research, The Royal. “Our interprofessional teams composed of patients and families, clinicians, program leaders, and scientists are co-designing studies that are clinically impactful, and provide access to care through research.” Dr. Lau and Dr. Tuominen have received funding through the Translation of Research into Care (TRIC) grant to conduct a larger study at The Royal that will potentially improve care and dementia diagnosis for patients in the Geritric Unit. “This case study was our first step towards the long term goal of improving access to diagnostic imaging for clients of The Royal via research,” says Dinelle. “Longer term we hope to add imaging tracers that would allow us to visualize beta amyloid plaques [deposits that form plaques around brain cells] into our studies, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.” The feedback received from the patient’s family was all positive and everyone involved is motivated to build on the success of this experience. “My patient benefited greatly from the scan and from the treatments she is receiving,” says Dr. Lau. “She is still receiving ECT as an outpatient and her daughter, who is her substitute decision maker, is very appreciative of the research-informed care she has received. Access to research offers the hope and promise of a better future. The scans offered something my patient’s daughter did not have before, and that is certainty of diagnosis.”

Canada Life funds grants to translate research into care


or the last decade, Canada Life has played an integral role in the development of The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) by supporting the advancement of depression research at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research. Their $1M donation was divided three ways between the BIC, depression research and a new initiative called Translation of Research into Care (TRIC). The TRIC Grant supports interdisciplinary research projects that have the potential to improve care at The Royal. The six teams receiving funding through the TRIC Grant competition will look to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. They also support the meaningful engagement of clients and families —a key factor driving mental health solutions. “When clients are engaged in care and research we see consistently better outcomes,” said Dr. Florence Dzierszinski, president of the Institute of Mental Health Research and vice president of research at The Royal. “The TRIC Grant enables deeper integration of clinicians, scientists, clients and their families in a manner that truly facilitates bench-to-bedside

research. Through our strategy, Co-creating Access, Hope and New Possibilities, we are redefining how lived expertise can inform and shape care, education and research that advances our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders. I believe that programs like TRIC result in more intentional collaboration and more powerful exploration that has a resounding impact on client care.” Together, donors like Canada Life and The Royal’s

We know that mental health diagnosis, treatment and prevention play a vital part in creating strong and healthy communities.

scientists, clinicians, staff, clients and caregivers are working shoulder-to-shoulder to help ensure that those struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders receive the care they need, when and where they need it. “At Canada Life, we believe in supporting the wellbeing of Canadians and in the value of expertise,” said Debbie Down, director, community relations, Canada Life. “That’s why we’re thrilled to support the innovative TRIC program – because it will bring together experts who can help make a tangible, positive impact in the mental health journey of Canadians every year. We know that mental health diagnosis, treatment and prevention play a vital part in creating strong and healthy communities.” We are so grateful to Canada Life for the tremendous impact they are having on mental health research at The Royal.





Future vision for the BIC



Katie Dinelle, manager, Brain Imaging Centre, The Royal. PHOTO BY SHANE FRANCESCUT


The Royal is a pillar of hope to philanthropic donors


athleen Grimes and her husband Ersin Ozerdinc, owners of Site Preparation Limited, believe that giving back to the community is an integral part of being a responsible citizen. Kathleen’s philanthropic support began in 1986 when she became involved in the family business. She and Ersin have given back to charities that resonate with her family ever since. “We have a son that lives with schizophrenia, so that’s one of the reasons we began giving to The Royal,” says Kathleen. Kathleen has been a loyal and generous supporter of The Royal since 2012 and she played a critical role in the

n 2016, thanks to the generosity of donor support, we opened the Brain Imaging Centre [BIC] at The Royal. With the knowledge that mental health and substance use disorders stem from biological brain dysfunctions, and that their care has to be informed by diagnostic imaging in the same way we do for physical ailments, we set out on an innovative and forward thinking research journey at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research (IMHR). Over the last five years, we have recruited world-renowned research scientists from around the globe with key expertise in brain imaging, physics and neuroscience. After forming this team of specialists, we launched clinical research programs to identify biological indicators of mental health and substance use, to establish correlates between brain biology, diagnostics, and treatment effects. Our field of mental health is not nearly as advanced as the fields of care in cancer or cardiovascular disease, so we still have much

establishment of The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre at the Institute of Mental Health Research. Kathleen’s son, Devrim, has had a long journey of recovery since he first sought help back in 2012. Thanks to the help of doctors at The Royal, Devrim is now at a point where he understands the illness and has come to terms with it. “The Royal is the pillar of hope and beacon of hope for everyone suffering from mental illness in Ottawa,” says Kathleen’s son Devrim. “All of the physicians at The Royal really care, they love what they do and they always have the patients best interest at heart at all times.” “One of the things I feel is of crucial importance, is educating not just the community, but educating the professionals - the school teachers, nurses, doctors, to be able to identify mental health issues sooner than later,” says Kathleen. In more recent years, Kathleen has become involved in helping to fund an innovative, new resource team through The Royal’s Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders (SUCD) program. Kathleen’s interest in supporting The Royal’s SUCD program emerged after one of her close friends lost their son to an accidental drug overdose, resulting from a lack of treatment for an undiagnosed mental illness and substance use disorder. Through her support of The Royal’s SUCD program

work to do. Our vision for the future of the BIC is bright, hopeful and rich with new possibilities. As the BIC evolves from prototype to a centre of expertise, our leadership team at The Royal’s IMHR have plans that align our BIC with The Royal’s strategic plan over the next four years. In our accountable and accessible BIC, clinical research will be carried out with clients, not on clients - it will be shaped by the needs and questions of our clients, families and communities. Research will inform care and care will inform research. Clinicians and research scientists will have the opportunity to collaborate like never before. We plan to bring together scientists, clinicians and communities to develop interdisciplinary, socially responsible and culturally-sensitive whole-person approaches to mental health and substance use needs.


Kathleen Grimes and Ersin Ozerdinc.

resource team, Kathleen hopes to help The Royal build capacity in our community by providing education and training to other agencies that are working with concurrent disorder clients. “Hope is the most important thing that people can have,” says Kathleen. “You can never give up hope…never. And at the end of the day, The Royal is that pillar of hope.”


TechInsights proudly supports The Royal to help promote mental health and wellness. We are the authoritative information platform for the semiconductor and microelectronics industry. Through our platform, we enable a marketplace which supports innovation to advance the world we live in.


Through our relationship with The Royal, we help to inspire hope within our community.

Healing happens here T

It is said that one act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and thus, the BMHC “kindness tree” was born. Paper leaves with messages of kindness and gratitude were collected from over 100 clients at BHMC.

wo separate initiatives at the Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC) came together to spread kindness and highlight creativity at a critical time during the pandemic last year. The Kindness Connection group was developed by staff in response to the lockdown brought about by COVID-19. Group members came together every week from May 7 until their “graduation” on August 21, 2020. Melissa Harris, a senior psychometrist in the forensic program at BMHC and one of the group’s facilitators, said the group’s program was loosely based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a form of behavioural therapy that combines mindfulness with self-acceptance. ACT encourages people to accept what is out of their control and embrace their thoughts, feelings, and challenges. Group members brainstormed ways to show kindness to themselves and to others, which grew into a commitment to be more mindful, make positive changes, and spread kindness to others. “It created that kind of small pocket of hope,” said Harris.

“Being resilient within this time was an accomplishment, and I think that really helped people get through and see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Kindness Club’s graduation coincided with a client-based multimedia art show that was planned with assistance from support staff, including recreation therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychometry and the members of the Client Advisory Council. “The art show was client-centred and client-driven all the way through and I think it was really great how the allied health staff came together to help organize it,” said Natalie Zizzo, an occupational therapist who was involved in the event. “It was a very positive experience.” “It helped us cope with some of our own issues, the time that we had to spend inside,” said Mike, who contributed three pieces of art to the show. “It’s therapeutic, and it was nice to see some of the people’s work. It was encouraging to see their involvement.”


The power of community partnerships The Royal’s community mental health program is comprised of 12 teams, each with its own unique mandate. This important work covers communities such as: Ottawa, Cornwall, Pembroke, Brockville, and Lanark. For this magnitude of service, there is one very vital component and that is our community partners.


Making a difference together. Through various sponsorships and community involvement, we believe in helping and making a difference together, to reduce the stigma around mental health in Canada.

BMO is proud to support The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.


At BMO, we are committed to advancing health and wellness in our local communities.




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