Ottawa Business Journal Fall 2023

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OBJNews @obj_news FALL 2023 Vol. 25, NO. 1 ottawabizjournal ottawa-business-journal BEST PLACES TO WORK What’s their secret? CAREER EXPO Is your next employer here? AROUND TOWN How local businesses are faring street-level CEO OF THE YEAR
Community builder Mike McGahan


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may not be reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher. Publisher’s Liability for error: The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for other errors or omissions in connection with any advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue or the refund of monies paid for the advertisement. A guaranteed minimum of 10,000 copies are printed and distributed. Ottawa Business Journal is published by Great River Media PO Box 91585, Ottawa, ON K1W 1KO LETTERS TO THE EDITOR We welcome opinions about any material published in the Ottawa Business Journal or issues of interest to local businesspeople. Only letters with the writer’s full name, address and telephone number will be considered for publication. Addresses and phone numbers will not be published, but they might be used to verify authenticity. Letters can be e-mailed to 04 PROSPECTUS 08 CEO OF THE YEAR: Meet Mike McGahan 16 BRIGHT SIDE OF (DOWNTOWN) BUSINESS 20 COMMUNITIES: Chinatown revitalization efforts 28 HUMAN RESOURCES: The trouble with transit 51 TECHOPIA: Solink eyes IPO 64 EASTERN ONTARIO: Fed funding for port 74 OBJ.SOCIAL: Back in the saddle 78 PEOPLE ON THE MOVE: Mychelle Mollot CONTENTS PRESIDENT Michael Curran CO-FOUNDER Mark Sutcliffe 12 62 58 24 OBJNews @obj_news FALL 2023 Vol. 25, NO. ottawabizjournal ottawa-business-journal BEST PLACES TO WORK What’s their secret? CAREER EXPO Is your next employer here? AROUND TOWN How local businesses are faring street-level CEO OF THE YEAR Community builder Mike McGahan We need to be a partner at the table in helping move solutions forward. —
This year’s top ten places to work

PROSPECTUS Taking care of business … and community

The arrival of fall means a newly appointed CEO of the Year, as selected by OBJ, the Ottawa Board of Trade and partners at Boyden and the Telfer School of Management. The selection committee considers criteria such as corporate performance, leadership and vision, competitiveness, community involvement and timeliness.

When you boil it down, recipients really demonstrate two things. First, they show a remarkable ability to scale their businesses. Second, they have a tremendous commitment to Ottawa’s well-being.

Like his predecessors, the 2023 CEO of the Year checks all the boxes.Mike McGahan has spent 30 years in local real estate, about half that time building CLV Group and then InterRent REIT.

CLV Group has grown steadily over this period. And when McGahan became CEO of the REIT in 2009, it didn’t take long for the trust to expand in terms of geography and number of units. By 2015, it reached $1 billion in assets. Three years later, its assets doubled to $2 billion.

As McGahan transitioned into the executive chairman role at InterRent in 2022, the company had this to say about its leader. “Under his leadership, the company has flourished to nearly 500 team members and now provides homes to more than 13,000 households across Canada.”

But it’s not just about taking care of business for McGahan.

Driving corporate growth is balanced with philanthropic pursuits.

McGahan and his team at CLV

have been involved with a myriad of charities, ranging from BGC Ottawa, to Habitat for Humanity, to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

That type of commitment, as a fundraiser and board member, earned McGahan the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist in 2019.

This time of year, McGahan and his team throw themselves into organizing the Mike McCann Charity Golf Tournament, which these days nets $1 million in donations.

As mentioned, McGahan is not alone in achieving such a balance.

The 2022 CEO of the Year recipient Kyle Braatz cut his teeth in the community by establishing a charity in memory of his grandfather who died of liver cancer.

2021 recipient Kathryn Tremblay combined her love of art and a desire to raise money for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation through Art for Impact, a week-long online auction featuring work from 21 local artists.

John Sicard and Kevin Ford distinguished themselves during the pandemic by rallying to support live music in Ottawa.

These CEOs demonstrate that they want to go beyond bottom-line pursuits to achieve community impact.

That’s what makes them so inspiring to me.

Best Places to Work put traditional values into new context

I always enjoy reading about Ottawa’s Best Places to Work. It’s a bit like going to an open house in your own neighbourhood. What ideas can I take to make my own home better?

It’s particularly interesting these days as companies seek to find their place along the spectrum of completely remote to fully in-office. It must be very difficult to achieve the balance between what’s good for the company and retaining employees. Even tech companies — those who were quick to eschew the “officecentric” norm — are reconsidering. And having people quit as a result.

So it was reassuring to see that, in many ways, what makes employees happy at a foundational level hasn’t changed much in, well, centuries. Putting the work-fromhome issue aside, employees want to be recognized, valued, respected. They want to contribute and grow as professionals and be acknowledged as individuals with responsibilities outside the office. And often they want to feel part of something larger than themselves. Of course, fair pay and decent benefits are table stakes.

The challenge is in ensuring employees experience those things in a dispersed workforce. The onus is on managers to keep people whom they don’t see every day top of mind. Creating a company culture where employees are not always together in-person is a daunting task.

(As an aside, I find the concept of treating employees like “family” an interesting one. Maybe it’s just me, but my relationships with family are some of the most complicated of my life. Do we really want to translate that into the workplace?)


This issue includes a number of intriguing stories from OBJ’s amazing commercial real estate writer David Sali. Through these articles, we get a glimpse into the metamorphosis of our downtown core. As commercial rents nosedive, property managers are attracting tenants with new amenities. Once staid office buildings are being transformed into vibrant living spaces with a young demographic in mind. It seems the whole fabric of our government city is being ripped up and stitched back into something new. There will still be some recognizable bits, but the vibe could be something quite different. So kudos to the visionary people making it happen with their time, effort and money.

And, of course, kudos to the city’s business owners who adapt, re-imagine, pivot — all that. You’re what we’re all about.

So it’s great to see that this year’s Best Places to Work deliver on so many counts, even as they navigate the new world of work. Kudos to our top 10. Hopefully we can all “borrow” from their best practices.

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It’s a day dedicated to local talent. OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade are producing two events at the Shaw Centre. The Trillium Ballroom will feature the Talent Summit, a half-day conference aimed at business owners, managers and HR professionals. Deloitte’s talent expert Stephen Harrington will deliver an opening keynote titled “The Great Re-Imagination: Competing for Talent in a Post-Pandemic World.” He will provide attendees with the latest statistics, trends and recommendations on how to manage workforces. Next up, best-selling author Craig Dowden (PhD psychology) will moderate a panel with three recipients of CEOs of the Year: Kevin Ford of Calian, John Sicard of Kinaxis, and Kathryn Tremblay of Altis Recruitment. The panel will deliver a frank discussion on the disruption in talent. Finally, Priya Bhaloo of TAG HR will lead a crowdsourcing session that engages attendees on three key talent issues: recruitment, engagement and productivity. The afternoon will end with an optional awards cocktail to celebrate recipients of the 2023 Best Places to Work competition. Visit to register. Also that day at Shaw Centre, on the third level, OBJ will produce the Best Places to Work, an expo focused on careers and training. Approximately 75 organizations will exhibit and interact with attendees looking for career info. There will also be stage presentations on career trends, entrepreneurship, education and training. Attendance is free with advance registration. Visit for more information.


The Ottawa Real Estate Forum returns to the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre this October. The event promises to explore the “transformative shift” in Ottawa’s commercial real estate market. Attendees will learn about how to weather the current economic uncertainty and how Ottawa officials are planning for bills 23 and 109 and for updates to the planning act. BOMA Ottawa’s Space Directory, produced by OBJ, will also debut at the forum.


The region’s largest annual celebration of business is back with a posh gala at the Westin Ottawa. Major awards will include CEO of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, CFO of the Year, Newsmaker of the Year and dozens of other company awards, ranging from Best Business to Best Performance in categories such as sales, human resources and marketing. Get your tickets early. Visit

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Highrises planned for former Greyhound bus station site

The company that owns the former Greyhound bus terminal land says it plans to build three highrises ranging from 26 to 40 storeys on the site that would include more than 1,000 rental apartment units and commercial space.

A development application for the 2.8-acre property on Catherine Street filed on behalf of Gatineau-based Brigil says the project — which would be built in two phases and result in more than a million square feet of new real estate — will act “as a catalyst for the regeneration of the southern edge of the downtown area.”

Brigil’s proposal calls for towers of 26, 36 and 40 storeys, with two buildings facing Catherine Street and one fronting on Lyon Street. In addition, the developer wants to construct townhouses and a sixstorey residential building along Arlington Avenue as well as a 0.25-care public park on the northeast corner of Arlington Avenue and Kent Street.

The development includes a substantial commercial component. According to the application, the project will feature a market along with a mix of retail, arts and restaurant space, much of it located on the ground floor of two six-storey podiums that would face Catherine Street.

Current zoning bylaws require 25 per cent of new development on the site to be set aside for open public spaces. Besides the park, Brigil’s plan also includes a courtyard, an outdoor gallery and an outdoor amenity space.

The proposal has been more than two years in the making for Brigil, which purchased the site in early 2021 and demolished the vacant bus station last year.

Jessy Desjardins, the firm’s vicepresident of development, told OBJ two

years ago the property is an ideal location for a mixed-use project due to its proximity to downtown and the Glebe.

“When we talk about that 15-minute walkable neighbourhood, that site offers everything,” Desjardins said then, referring to the concept that everything residents need is within walking distance. “When this opportunity came up, we really felt like it was the right site for us.”

The area’s secondary plan permits buildings up to 25 storeys on the south half of the property and nine storeys on the northern portion. While buildings of up to 27 storeys are permitted if they achieve “landmark” status, Brigil says none of the highrises are being designed with that in

mind and all will require amendments to current zoning regulations.

The proposal includes a two-level underground garage with 394 parking spaces, fewer than current zoning regulations allow. Meanwhile, Brigil is proposing 738 bicycle parking spaces, most of which would be located indoors – more than 200 above the minimum required number.

Brigil says it plans to build the project in two phases, starting with a 26-storey, 313,000-square-foot highrise on the

Plan calls for five-tower residential complex near Blair station

Colonnade BridgePort says it plans to build five residential highrises with upwards of 1,200 units on property near the Blair LRT station it purchased earlier this year.

The Ottawa-based real estate firm has filed an application to develop the four-acre parcel of land at 2000 City Park Dr., about 450 metres west of Blair Station and the nearby Gloucester Centre mall.

The company is proposing to create a “planned community” with more than a million square feet of residential space in five buildings of between 20 and 30 storeys that would be arranged around a central park.

Under current zoning rules, the height limit for most of the property is 20 storeys.

Colonnade BridgePort, the city’s largest privately owned commercial property manager, partnered with an unnamed institutional investor to buy the land and an adjacent five-storey office tower at 1900 City Park Dr. from QuadReal Property Group in March.

The 2000 City Park Dr. property is already zoned for about 1.3 million square feet of residential and commercial development, Colonnade BridgePort CEO Hugh Gorman told OBJ earlier this year.

The firm is seeking Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments that would also allow residential towers to be built on the site of the office building.

eastern portion of the property that would be home to 289 apartments in a mix of one, two- and three-bedroom suites along with 141 underground parking spaces.

The builder says the second phase would begin “shortly thereafter.” It would feature towers of 36 and 40 storeys covering a total of 710,000 square feet, with 732 rental units of various sizes and a 272-car underground parking lot.

A 12,000-square-foot complex with seven townhomes would also be part of the second phase of the development.

Planning documents say the longterm conceptual plan for 1900 City Park Dr. calls for the office building to be demolished and replaced with three highrises with about 1,000 additional residential suites, but Colonnade BridgePort executives said those plans are not set in stone and the company is focused on developing the property next door.

“That office building has some great tenants in there already that are occupying the space that can continue to operate, so we’ll evaluate that when the time comes,” development manager Bonnie Martell said.

The five towers at 2000 City Park will be built in phases, with construction based on market demand, Martell added. The units will be rental apartments in a variety of sizes, but the company has yet to determine the exact mix and price range.

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Brigil has unveiled its plan to build three highrises on the site of the former Greyhound bus terminal. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

Tenants seeing best deals in years in ‘highly competitive’ office market

With tenants ditching office space across the city, the real cost of rent is falling to levels not seen in years as landlords offer discounts and other inducements to fill vacancies, industry insiders say.

While headline rental rates haven’t budged much during the pandemic, real estate observers acknowledge that many clients are now paying less for office space in Ottawa than they were in the pre-COVID era.

Across the National Capital Region, landlords are offering “significant incentives” to tenants, such as months of free rent and more capital to help pay for renovations, says Hugh Gorman, CEO of Colonnade BridgePort, the city’s largest privately owned property management firm.

“Those things have always been there, but they’re just a little more aggressive now,” the veteran real estate executive explains.

“I think you’ve got to be in tune with what’s happening in the market. I think any landlord that’s not being creative and being aggressive is falling behind very quickly. It is about occupancy right now and kind of weathering the storm.”

Indeed, Ottawa is a tenant’s market, from downtown to the tech hub of Kanata, as office towers have hollowed out amid the shift to hybrid and remote work under COVID-19.

The capital’s overall office vacancy rate rose to 13.6 per cent in the second quarter, according to real estate firm CBRE, up from 12.3 per cent the previous quarter.

Landlords in the downtown core have been particularly hard hit, with the vacancy rate reaching 15.1 per cent in the quarter ended in June. That compares with 6.5 per cent at the end of 2019, before the pandemic struck.

As a result, building owners are scrambling to offer various inducements —

and bargain-hunting tenants are taking full advantage.

“I think (tenants) see the opportunity in the marketplace right now, and they’re moving,” Gorman says, noting that tech firms in particular have been “very aggressive” at locking in long-term leases at favourable rates.

Alan Doak, a partner at Ottawa-based brokerage Proveras Commercial Realty, agrees.

Doak predicts more and more tenants in downtown properties will see “significant decreases in rental rates mixed with better and better incentive packages” as owners push to sign tenants to long-term deals, even if it is for less space than those companies occupied before.

“I think we’re just starting to see a real highly competitive environment evolve amongst multiple (office) towers,” Doak says.

Most vacant class-A office space in the core is now concentrated in a handful of properties, including Constitution Square, the Sun Life Financial Centre, the World Exchange Plaza and 55 Metcalfe St., notes longtime broker Shawn Hamilton, another partner at Proveras.

But incentives could spread to other properties in the core as short-term lease extensions signed during the pandemic start to expire and flood the market with even more vacant space, Doak adds.

“We don’t actually know how low people will go,” he says. “We haven’t seen the bottom yet.”

Determining exactly how much tenants are paying for space in the current market often requires a bit of digging.

Landlords typically like to publicize asking rents because rental rates help determine a building’s value. Research shows those rates haven’t changed much over the past few years.

According to real estate firm Altus Group, the average asking net rent in a class-A building in downtown Ottawa right now is just over $21 per square foot.

CBRE’s latest report pegged it slightly higher, at $22.90.

But most observers agree that the rate tenants pay after incentives have been deducted — known as net effective rent, or “NER” — has been declining throughout the pandemic.

Gorman estimates that average NERs in

downtown properties have fallen about 20 per cent since 2019, with rates at “Triple-A” buildings dropping from between $23 to $25 per square foot before COVID, to closer to $18 now.

Doak agrees, saying some properties that fetched NERs in the range of $25 a square foot in the first quarter of 2020 are now bringing in closer to $15 a square foot.

Altus, meanwhile, says its data, derived from surveys of owners, brokers and landlords, hasn’t shown as much of a decline in NERs since 2019, when they ranged from $14 to $17 per square foot.

However, Raymond Wong, the firm’s vice-president of data operations, says recent anecdotal evidence suggests NERs are on a downward trajectory in the capital.

“It’s a very competitive landscape,” Wong says. “Net effective rates are coming down, but maybe not at the same rate as compared to Toronto or Vancouver.”

Veteran broker Lindsay Hockey of Colliers International also says that while headline asking rents are holding firm, “the incentive pool is a lot deeper” than it used to be.

After a spate of short-term extensions early in the pandemic, landlords and brokers now say they’re seeing a shift back to more five- and 10-year leases.

Gorman says today’s falling NERs are really a reflection of trends that have been snowballing since the start of the pandemic and are still working their way through the system.

“It’s not like hotels, where the rate is set every night,” he explains. “There is really a time-lag factor.

“The feeling is in terms of occupancy, we’re at the bottom of the trough, and now we’re starting to see it come back out the other side. I think the worst is over. Tenants that are proactive are trying to take advantage of market conditions and are committing to space now.

“I feel like the tide is turning, but rates will lag and won’t catch up … probably for another 18 to 24 months.”



He might prefer to keep a low profile, but make no mistake — Mike McGahan is a towering figure in Canadian real estate.

After cutting his teeth in the business under the tutelage of mentors such as the legendary Jacie Levinson, the 60-year-old Ottawa entrepreneur became an industry giant in his own right. He helped form the CLV Group, which eventually became the property development and management arm of another Ottawa-based real estate firm, InterRent Real Estate Investment Trust.

In more than a dozen years as InterRent’s chief executive, McGahan oversaw the company’s ascent to the upper echelons of the Canadian real estate industry before stepping aside last year and assuming the role of executive chairman. Today, the REIT controls more than $2 billion worth of assets from Quebec to British Columbia, representing nearly 13,000 rental suites, and employs close to 600 people.

Meanwhile, McGahan continues to lead the CLV Group, which has become an industry trailblazer in office-to-residential conversions thanks to projects such as the Slayte at 473 Albert St., a former federal government building that is now home to 158 rental apartments.

A father of four grown children, three of whom now work alongside him at CLV Group, McGahan is also renowned for his tireless philanthropic efforts.

For two decades, he was a key organizer of the CLV Group’s Ron Kolbus Memorial Charity Golf Tournament, which raised more than $3 million over two decades

before wrapping up in 2017. Today, McGahan is a driving force behind another major fundraiser, the Mike McCann Charity Golf Tournament, an event named in honour of the former Ottawa advertising executive and philanthropist who was one of McGahan’s closest friends and passed away from cancer in 2019.

For all those accomplishments and many more, McGahan is the 2023 recipient of the CEO of the Year Award from OBJ and the Ottawa Board of Trade. OBJ’s David Sali recently sat down with McGahan to discuss his career. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation.

How did you get your start in the real estate industry?

I started buying properties while at Ottawa U. I was playing hockey and one of my buddies on the hockey team, his father was doing very well buying real estate. He gave me some part-time jobs when I was in university and I learned by watching and helping him. His name was Phil Drouillard. He had his own real estate company. He mentored me and taught me a lot of different things — buying and financing and just what kind of properties to look for. He spent a lot of time with me, which I appreciated. I was running five city park rinks when I was in high school, continued while in university, and that’s how I saved up to make my first down payment (on a property). I ended up buying about two or three properties when I was in university. I bought them, renovated them, refinanced

them and reinvested. My buddies would come with me and do painting and all sorts of odd jobs and I’d give them a case of beer. (Laughs.) As you go through life, you always have mentors, and I want to do the same thing for others.

How did you eventually form the CLV Group?

After graduating from university, I got my realtor’s licence and then I got my mortgage broker’s licence. I ended up working at a large (property management) company called Levinson-Viner for a few years and then left to start my own real estate company called Commvesco. I had a really good relationship with (Levinson-Viner

founder) Jacie Levinson, who was another great mentor. I bought Jacie’s company in 1998 and Jacie continued to be involved in the business due to his passion in real estate. We kept on investing together and he ended up being the chair of the REIT. He was an amazing gentleman. He had great business sense and was a great person. I count myself as being very lucky. That’s how CLV came to be — Commvesco LevinsonViner. We thought it sounded like a law firm, so we just shortened it to CLV. (Laughs.)

And how did InterRent come into the picture?

We went through the early ’90s and we saw a lot of pain in the real estate side.

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‘It’s not about what you take, it’s what you give’
the Year Mike McGahan is a community builder in every sense of the term

We ended up selling off some of our properties to this REIT (InterRent, which was established in 2006). We didn’t know anything about it. They asked me to take back some shares and asked us to stay on as their Ottawa managers. They got into a hostile takeover situation, and then they approached us about doing a friendly takeover. We ended up bringing in a group of pension funds and long-term investors. A lot of them are still in the REIT. In 200809, everybody was really nervous (during the financial crisis), as you can imagine. It was a big step, but we all did it together. We ended up doing a private placement. I had made a deal with the old CEO that, over a span of three to six months, we were going to find a new CEO. After we did our deal, he gave me his resignation. I was the temporary CEO for 12 years. (Laughs.)

InterRent is known for its strategy of acquiring older properties and modernizing them. Why did you take that approach?

Essentially, I was doing that from the first property I bought in university. It was the exact same formula that we’d done all the way through. We always wanted to deliver the best experience for our residents. A lot of these buildings were at the end of their life cycle. It was an opportunity to keep them going. We figured out which locations we wanted to grow in, and we sold the other properties that we didn’t think were good opportunities for growth. We just recycled the capital back into areas that we thought had good long-term growth prospects. We had such an amazing team and group of people. Dave Nevins and Ray Lachance were driving with me all over Ontario watching the operations.

How did you get into the office-toresidential conversion business?

We love to innovate. If you look at LIV (a major apartment complex on Bell Street that CLV renovated), we took those apartments on and just totally redid them. We thought it was a good move and saw the same thing with 473 Albert St. We had a lot of challenges with (Albert St.) — the time it took to get (applications) processed, supply chain issues, all sorts of things. The timing of converting that building probably couldn’t have been worse. But saying that, it ended up being terrific for us. We’ve done really well (on rentals) and learned a ton. We think we’re really good at doing office conversions, and you can’t do that

with many buildings — maybe only about 20 per cent of buildings make sense for conversions. But we understand how it works. We’re excited about doing it, and we’re not only going to do it in Ottawa, we’re going to do it in other cities. We’d like to do more in Ottawa, but we’re going to have to see how things go from here. We really need the city to become proactive like other cities across North America. This is a pivotal time where we can add housing and do it in a very sustainable way.

What’s your take on the potential for more conversions in Ottawa?

I think about 20 per cent of buildings could be conversion candidates, but you have to make sure the buildings are vacant. If you look at what’s going on with the federal government (looking to sell off surplus properties in Ottawa) and what’s going on with class-C buildings, I think about 31 per cent of them are vacant now, which is terrible. We need a housing solution, but everybody’s got to get on board. We’re really happy with the feds (agreeing to waive the GST on new rental construction), but it’s not a silver bullet. That’s one item. To get the housing that we need, we need to look at (lowering) development charges, property taxes and parkland fees and creating a concierge service for office conversions at the city so that your application doesn’t sit for a long time. Speed is a big thing. You need all levels of government and everybody to co-operate.

Where does your desire to give back to the community come from?

It goes back to having great mentors. When I started out in the business, I was lucky enough to know Ron Kolbus. Ron was a city councillor and he also ran Ottawa Housing and was a commercial realtor. He used to always talk about giving back to your community. He was an unbelievably generous person. Jacie was the same type of person. And my close buddy, Mike McCann, was the cornerstone of our golf tournament. He kept saying, ‘We’ve got to do more.’ He really drove us. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us, but he’s been our inspirational leader. You learn from that. It’s not just me — it’s our whole team. We want to give back to our community. It’s not about what you take, it’s what you give. We’re super lucky, and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to try to give back what we can. I feel really strongly about that.

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Smiths Falls leaders savour Hershey’s return

While Canopy Growth’s recent announcement that it’s selling the former Hershey plant in Smiths Falls back to the company that made it famous might feel like deja vu all over again, Sean Lawrence says the community is not the same place the chocolate-maker left in 2008.

“The attitude in Smiths Falls is completely different than it was 15 years ago,” says Lawrence, the president of the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce.

A financial adviser who’s been part of the Eastern Ontario town’s business scene for decades, Lawrence remembers how deflated residents felt when Hershey pulled out of the “Chocolate capital of Canada,” relocated the production facility to Mexico and left more than 400 local residents jobless.

It was one of many economic body blows the community 60 kilometres south of Ottawa suffered in a disastrous stretch in the early 2000s.

The same year that Hershey pulled

up stakes, Stanley Tools shuttered its manufacturing plant in the town, throwing 175 people out of work. The 2009 closure of the Rideau Regional Centre, a health-care facility that employed even more workers than the Hershey plant, followed. Five years later, Shorewood Packaging closed its

Growth to set up shop. At the height of the cannabis boom in 2018, Canopy employed 1,800 people in Smiths Falls, triggering a construction boom and helping revitalize the local economy.

Even though the company has since fallen on hard times, Lawrence says the community was in a good position to weather the storm when Canopy announced in February it was selling the former Hershey factory and cutting 350 jobs.

“People were still upbeat because they just knew that somebody was going to come in and take the plant,” he says.

Mayor Shawn Pankow agrees that Hershey’s departure left a void in the community that extended far beyond simple dollars and cents and took years to fill.

“It was a big part of our identity, a big part of our brand,” he says. “Our water tower had Hershey’s (name) on it, they ran annual track meets, they were a big employer and had a major profile in town.”

Like Lawrence, he says he wasn’t surprised that the facility attracted a highprofile buyer. Canopy Growth poured hundreds of millions of dollars into turning the 700,000-square-foot building into a state-of-the-art facility that rivals any industrial site in the province, Pankow says.

“I was confident it wasn’t going to take long before it would be occupied again, but it happened faster than we would have anticipated,” he explains.

While rumours had been circulating for months that Hershey would return to occupy the building once again, nothing

and once again be a major player in our community.”

Lawrence says he’s optimistic that no matter what Hershey ends up doing with the plant, the chocolate-maker will be in Smiths Falls for the long haul.

“I don’t think they took (the decision to leave in 2008) very lightly,” he says. “They were always a great corporate citizen, regardless of what happened, so I don’t think they’re coming back with the intent of, ‘Oh, we’ll try it there and pull out again in five or six years.’”

Hershey’s return re-establishes a corporate connection to Smiths Falls that stretches back 63 years and began as a result of happenstance.

It all started in the summer of 1960, when then-Smiths Falls police chief Reg Wride pulled over a car bearing Pennsylvania licence plates as it entered the town.

“It just happened to be the habit of our chamber of commerce back then to try to greet newcomers into our community every summer,” Pankow explains. “When chief Wride found out it was actually a team from Hershey that was looking for a location for a facility in Ontario, he put them in touch with our chamber of commerce, who sort of wined them and dined them and sold them on the town.”

The pitch worked. By the end of 1962, Hershey had built a 200,000-square-foot production plant, which shipped its first products early the following year.

For the next four and a half decades, Hershey was an economic pillar of the community. At its peak, the company’s factory employed more than 750 workers and drew nearly 450,000 annual visitors to its chocolate shop.

“Here we are, 60 years later, and after a 15-year departure, they’re back,” Pankow says. “I don’t think anyone ever expected them to return.

– Shawn

operations in Smiths Falls, leaving about two dozen people without jobs.

“When we lost Hershey’s, we lost Rideau Regional and Stanley Tools, it was pretty tough around here,” Lawrence says.

But he says times have changed.

The abandoned Hershey factory turned out to be the right place for a fledgling pot producer that became known as Canopy

was confirmed until recently, Pankow says. He says the confectionery giant is still working out its plan for the facility, including what exactly it will be used for and how many workers it will employ.

“The discussions so far have been very high-level,” he says. “It’s very premature and preliminary at this stage, but we’re confident they’ll become a major employer

“Had Hershey not located here and not left, Canopy never would have located here, not to the extent they did. When you think of the significance of that moment of time, who would have thought it would lead to such an incredible investment in our town?”

He echoes Lawrence’s assertion that while the community of 10,000 has suffered its share of economic hardship, it’s stronger for it.

“We’re in a much different place. We’re much more resilient than we were 15 years ago.”

DEJA VU: Hershey Canada will buy back its former facility in Smiths Falls from Canopy Growth.
Here we are, 60 years later, and after a 15-year departure, they’re back ... I don’t think anyone ever expected them to return.
Pankow, Smiths Falls mayor

U.S. urban strategist says Wellington St. should not be ‘commuter rat run’

While conversations about the future of Wellington Street have been contentious around the city, one urban design strategist out of the U.S. argues that Ottawa would benefit more if the street were closed to traffic and re-designed as an extension of Parliament Hill.

Andy Clark, director of strategy at Massachusetts-based Toole Design, delivered a keynote speech earlier this year at an event about reimagining Ottawa’s downtown core, organized by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi and the Trans Canada Trail.

In his address, Clark stressed the importance of recognizing and emphasizing a region’s most iconic cityscapes.

“The parliamentary precinct is an extraordinary place,” said Clark. “It’s a beautiful landscape with outstanding natural beauty. There are iconic buildings. It is the civic heart of the nation, a global capital in one of the G7 nations. And it’s the economic and social heart of a region that is thriving. That’s a lot of responsibility for a place, a relatively small place.”

As the primary buffer between Parliament Hill and the downtown core, Wellington Street, Clark argued, should be integrated into that iconography, rather than treated as a thoroughfare.

“I have heard that Wellington Street is a critical street for through traffic in Ottawa,” said Clark. “If that is the case, I have to say, why? Why would you have your most iconic street, in front of your most important civic buildings in the nation, be a commuter rat run for people scurrying from one side of town to the other?”

The idea of closing Wellington Street to traffic, as Clark suggests, has proven controversial in local circles, especially among the city’s business leaders.

The street was closed to vehicles for 15 months starting in January 2022, after

the area was overrun for weeks by the “Freedom Convoy.”

In April this year, the street reopened to traffic, but ideas about how it could be modified to improve safety, security and foot traffic have been floated across various levels of government.

Among business leaders, the idea of closing the street permanently has been illreceived. In recent conversations with OBJ, several local businesspeople suggested that a hybrid model with widened sidewalks or reduced lanes would be more appropriate than blocking the street off to cars completely.

Sparks Street, a pedestrianized stretch in the downtown core, is often cited as an example of why closing Wellington would fail. Storefronts along the pedestrian mall are increasingly empty and foot traffic has gone down, especially since the pandemic.

Clark said he doesn’t buy those arguments.

“I have heard it said that people will be frustrated and confused if they are not able to use Wellington Street as a through street and will therefore be discouraged from visiting,” he said. “You can’t stop or park or do anything on Wellington Street except go somewhere else. Ottawa has 6,000

kilometres of street and this is about a kilometre-and-a-half. The city will survive without having it as a through street.”

He added that the problem with Sparks Street is not that it lacks vehicle traffic, but that it lacks economic diversity. Repurposing office space, introducing more mixed-use buildings, and building residential apartments are more appropriate ways to reanimate the area, Clark said.

“Adding cars is not a way to animate streets,” he said. “It isn’t anywhere in the world and it won’t be here.”

If Ottawa decides to completely modify Wellington Street, it wouldn’t be the first major city to do so, Clark pointed out.

In Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed in 1994 and has remained closed since as both a tourism and security measure.

“All the arguments you see happening with Wellington happened 20 years earlier in Washington, D.C.,” said Clark. “People thought the sky was going to fall. Pennsylvania Avenue is a major corridor so this one connection was a major gap in the city’s street network. Within a matter of weeks, people adjusted,” he said.

Other, similar changes have been made in D.C. near the Capitol Building, with more measures planned to increase security since the events of Jan. 6, 2021. It’s a situation similar to Wellington Street, Clark said, with governments here searching for ways to improve security after the convoy took over the area right in front of Parliament Hill.

“All over the world, security and emergency service access is only improved by restricting large vehicles and creating places that are made for people,” said Clark. “You’ve probably seen footage of crowds parting like the Red Sea to get out of the way of an ambulance. You can’t do that on a street with cars.”

During a panel discussion, Benjamin Gianni, an associate professor of architecture and urbanism at Carleton University, agreed that Wellington Street would benefit from pedestrianization.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more people living downtown (in the coming years),” said Gianni. “It’s a transition period from a place where people work, to a place where people live. It’s going to take years but I’m optimistic about it.”

Gianni argued for reconceptualizing the street as an extension of Parliament Hill, potentially turning it into a plaza. He said Wellington Street should not be considered a second Sparks Street.

“If Wellington Street were primarily a plaza, it would have to be complementary to, as opposed to competing with, Sparks Street. I really see them being fundamentally different.”

The goal, he said, should be to turn Wellington Street into a “place” or a distinct destination, rather than a throughway.

“From a design perspective, it’s challenging, but it’s a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “It can’t be simply a closed road. It has to be aspiring to something else. I think it needs to be a ceremonial extension of the central block, rather than trying to be a less successful Sparks Street.”


building and trust are top of mind.

“When we talk about public markets, we instantly arrive at that connecting space, where people come together,” he said. “There’s a lot of shifting demographics, not only in Ottawa, but in every city across Canada. Over the last few years, we’ve worked with many great partners to be a welcoming space because that’s really what Ottawa is about, as the capital, but also as a city where people come to connect.”

Dayler said he and his team are working to expand cultural programming and looking for new outreach opportunities.

“It’s about creating a space that’s comfortable and welcoming for all communities in Ottawa,” he said. “Now, that’s not easy to achieve. You have to build trust within these communities. You have to build support and be authentic. The Market is part of an ecosystem.”

The strategy also needs to account for some perspectives that the Market is unsafe.

“Safety and security is both a perceived and real concern for people,” he said. “It’s a reality across all cities in Canada. It’s important that we approach challenges of mental health, crime and drug issues with respect.”

New ByWard Market authority plans outreach, advertising for official launch next spring

The new ByWard Market District Authority is rolling up its sleeves and getting to work in anticipation of its official launch next spring.

In June, city council approved a staff report that set in motion a major revitalization effort for the ByWard and Parkdale markets. Under the recommendations, the ByWard Market BIA and the municipal corporation that oversaw the area, Ottawa Markets, were dissolved to form a new municipal corporation called the ByWard Market

District Authority. Its mandate includes “enhancing the resident and visitor experience” and supporting property and business interests in the ByWard and Parkdale markets.

According to executive director Zachary Dayler, the new organization is currently in its “startup phase.”

The board of directors is focused on recruiting more members and a new business advisory committee is in the works, he said, while the authority works on its internal structure. By the end of September, Dayler said the BIA and Ottawa Markets websites will be merged, with services such as the business directory and vendor

applications available under one banner.

Over the next few months, the authority will also start releasing branding elements and marketing materials. Dayler said the authority’s official public launch is expected to take place in May 2024.

“It’s an amalgamation, really, of our work and the BIA’s work into a central authority,” he said. “These groups have invested a lot of time and energy into the area and what we’re doing is evolving into the next phase of work. The energy of those two entities is going to be the driving force in the next phase of reinvigorating our ByWard Market.”

When it comes to figuring out a marketing strategy, Dayler said community-

Under city staff recommendations, the authority’s mandate includes “undertaking initiatives that improve community safety and well-being,” something local business owners have been calling for.

Dayler said the organization’s goal is to collaborate with the city and area partners to address concerns and have the resources needed to support individuals affected by multiple ongoing crises in the Market, including homelessness and addiction.

That includes a community liaison program, which will launch in 2024, to increase on-street support.

“We want to begin talking around one table,” he said. “Some of the issues we’re not going to solve on our own. We need to be a partner at the table in helping move solutions forward.”

Dayler said the team will spend the next few months focused on lining up administrative affairs and building up staff. By early spring, the plan is to start pushing out advertisements and radio campaigns in preparation for the official launch.

Dayler added that they’re also working to establish partnerships with groups that want to do programming in the area. He said the ultimate goal is for the Market’s new slate of vibrant events and activities to become the focal point of the marketing strategy.

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Katasa Group buys Slater Street highrises, eyes office-to-residential conversion

Alocal developer is adding to Ottawa’s list of proposed office-to-residential conversion projects with a plan to turn a Slater Street commercial building into an apartment complex with more than 200 rental suites.

KTS Properties, the Ontario arm of Gatineau’s Katasa Group, has partnered with Sudbury-based ARG Devco to acquire a pair of office highrises at 66 and 130 Slater St. from Toronto’s KingSett Capital. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

In an interview with OBJ, Katasa Group partner Tanya Chowieri said 130 Slater St. — a 13-storey, 123,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1966 and is now only one-third occupied — is an “ideal” candidate to be redeveloped as a multi-residential property.

“There’s no wasted space,” said Chowieri, noting the L-shaped building is in good condition and has a fairly narrow, rectangular core that lends itself well to apartments.

“I thought the building had great bones already. KingSett has done a great job of (maintaining) the buildings.”

Chowieri said the company’s initial concept calls for about 203 rental suites in a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at starting rents of $1,600.

She said the developer is still ironing out details of the proposal, including what amenities will be part of the project.

“We’re thinking of different ideas of what to put in there,” she said, noting the company is also looking at incorporating groundfloor retail space into the proposal. “It’s very preliminary at the moment.”

While KTS initially targeted only 130 Slater St. due to the site’s potential for a conversion play, KingSett was also shopping 66 Slater St., a 22-storey, 262,000-square-foot office highrise just down the block.

Chowieri said her firm decided to bid on both properties, with the aim of finding new

homes for most of 130 Slater’s remaining commercial tenants in the neighbouring highrise, which has about 38,000 square feet of vacant space.

Completed in 1970, 66 Slater has undergone substantial renovations over the years, with KingSett investing about $29 million in the property since 2010.

Its tenants include several government agencies and departments, such as the Privy Council and Veterans Affairs Canada, as well as co-working giant Spaces, which occupies about 72,000 square feet.

Graeme Webster, a partner at Koble Commercial Real Estate and Brokerage who

represented the buyers, said 66 Slater boasts a strong lineup of long-term government tenants and is further bolstered by the presence of Spaces, making it an attractive long-term investment for a firm like Katasa.

“When you walk through the space … they’ve invested a lot of money,” he said of Spaces, a multinational provider of flexible office real estate. “It’s cutting-edge coworking space.”

In Katasa, 130 Slater has an owner that’s no stranger to the challenging task of transforming a 57-year-old office tower into a modern residential complex.

The company has overseen a number of

conversion projects in Montreal and Ottawa, including the Theo building, a 12-storey office-turned-student residence at the corner of Rideau Street and King Edward Avenue.

Chowieri said the company has been scoping out other opportunities to get back in the conversion game, but finding the right property is often easier said than done.

“We have quite a bit of experience in conversions, so we were not afraid of that,” she said, adding the firm conducted “extensive studies” of 130 Slater to determine whether it was a viable candidate before pulling the trigger on the deal.

“There are currently a lot of office buildings that are empty downtown and have possibilities of being converted that are for sale. However, the footprints don’t necessarily work.”

The sale is another sign that more developers are embracing the concept of conversions as the escalating housing crisis dominates headlines and Ottawa’s downtown office vacancy rate rises to record highs amid the shift to hybrid work during the pandemic.

In announcing the capital’s latest conversion project, KTS is following in the footsteps of Ottawa-based CLV Group, which recently completed a major redevelopment of a former government office building at 473 Albert St. into a 158-unit apartment complex.

Last month, CLV announced it is poised to launch its second conversion project at the recently vacated Narono Building at 360 Laurier Ave.

With the federal government planning to divest aging office properties in the National Capital Region and other 1960s-era buildings nearing the end of their life cycles, Webster said it’s no surprise that office-to-residential conversions have become the topic du jour in local development circles.

“At the end of the day, there’s residential demand, there’s pressure from virtually all levels of government to really look at (converting) existing (office) real estate and make a run for residential.”

... there’s residential demand, there’s pressure from virtually all levels of government to really look at (converting) existing (office) real estate ...
– Graeme Webster, partner, Koble Commercial Real Estate and Brokerage


demographic’s going to want to see,” Drewniak said.

The building’s existing windows don’t open and will be swapped out for modern, energy-efficient replacements. More windows will be added by punching out some of the precast concrete panels.

But the vast majority of the building’s exterior will be preserved, Drewniak explained, saving more than 15 million kilograms of concrete the equivalent of 720 truckloads of cement.

Concrete production is one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon dioxide pollution and Drewniak said the Laurier Avenue project is expected to generate 28 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than building a similar-sized development from scratch.

“There’s a ton of embodied carbon in concrete,” he said. “We’re going to be able to do this in a highly sustainable way.”

CLV Group is collaborating with many of the same partners it used on the conversion at 473 Albert St., including engineering firms Cleland Jardine and Smith + Anderson. The redesign is being spearheaded by Ottawa-based Linebox Studio, which also worked on the Albert Street redevelopment.

Narono Building to be converted to residential

The developer that transformed a vacant commercial building on Albert Street into an apartment complex is poised to launch its second office-to-residential conversion project in downtown Ottawa.

CLV Group plans to gut the recently vacated Narono Building at 360 Laurier Ave. W. and turn it into a residential development with 139 rental units, president Oz Drewniak said.

“No one wants to have empty buildings downtown,” Drewniak said. “It doesn’t do anything for anyone.”

The company and two partners purchased the 11-storey, 107,000-square-foot property from True North Commercial REIT for $17.5 million in a deal that closed in July.

The Correctional Service of Canada

previously occupied more than 100,000 square feet of space in the building, but the federal government did not renew its lease and the agency moved out earlier this year.

It will be the second major conversion project for CLV Group, which recently finished redeveloping another former government office, the 11-storey Trebla Building at 473 Albert St., into a 158-unit apartment complex.

Calling the first project “a little bit of an experiment,” Drewniak said his firm will try to apply the lessons it learned from that process to the new undertaking.

“To me, 473 Albert was almost like taking a bachelor’s degree, and 360 (Laurier) is going to be like taking a master’s degree. Afterwards, it’s going to be like we’re experts.”

Opened in 1968, the Narono Building is “as close to ideal” a candidate for a residential conversion as the company has found in Ottawa, Drewniak added. It’s the

right shape and its floorplate is compact enough to allow natural light to fill the apartments, he said.

“If it’s too deep from the core to the wall, you have super-deep units and it’s hard to design those units,” he explained. “This is kind of like a slab-style building where it’s rectangular in nature. It’s not perfectly ideal, but it’s close.”

CLV Group’s proposal calls for a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as 1,450 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

The 12th-floor mechanical penthouse will be enlarged to accommodate a rooftop patio and party lounge with a hot tub. Other amenities include a fitness centre, games room and potentially other offerings aimed at the young professionals who are expected to be the building’s target market.

“We’re thinking creatively to see what else we can put in there that our

“They’re being very creative with this conversion process to balance the ‘brutalist’ nature of the (architecture) with the modern needs that residents … expect,” Drewniak said of Linebox, a firm best-known for designing Shopify’s former headquarters at 150 Elgin St. “They’re doing a great job bringing those two together.”

Drewniak said CLV Group’s success with 473 Albert St. has triggered a flood of interest from investors interested in teaming up with the Ottawa firm.

CLV Group partnered with two institutional investors to buy 360 Laurier. Drewniak said those organizations, which do not wish to be identified, are keen to work with the company on other conversion projects in Ottawa and other Canadian cities.

“High-calibre institutions see (conversions) as a very responsible way to develop,” he said. “We’ve been constantly looking at leads. We’re definitely going to try to do more of these.”

Drewniak said it will take about two years to complete the conversion process at 360 Laurier.

“There are a lot of steps to go through,” he noted. “It’s going to be all hands on deck, for sure.”

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CLV Group plans to gut the Narono Building at 360 Laurier Ave. W. and convert it into residential space. FILE PHOTO.

Ottawa moves up in ranking of tech hubs

Ottawa has moved up to 11th place in CBRE’s annual ranking of Canadian and U.S. tech hubs and continued its reign at the top of the tech talent concentration list among the markets measured.

The capital’s ranking is an improvement from last year’s 13th-place finish.

Ottawa, with 57.8 points, up from 55.51 points in 2022, scored just ahead of Montreal and closely behind Denver.

CBRE’s Scoring Tech Talent 2023 report ranks 50 North American markets according to each city’s ability to attract and grow tech talent. The survey measures more than a dozen metrics, including tech

Capturing the moments that matter

graduation rates, tech-job concentration and tech labour pool size as well as labour and real estate costs, among other factors.

“The scorecard shows how competitive and tightly clustered the top tech markets are right now,” said Paul Morassutti, CBRE Canada chairman.

According to the report, Ottawa has about 94,100 tech employees, a significant increase from last year’s 81,200, with positions predominantly in government, core high-tech, professional services, manufacturing and information.

Tech talent comprises 13.3 per cent of total employment in Ottawa and 11.6 per cent in the San Francisco Bay Area more than double the 50-market average of 5.6 per cent.

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A celebration of aesthetically beautiful, functional and healthy workspaces across the National Capital Region. To be a part of our 2024 edition please contact Wendy Baily: SPONSORED BY 2023
Sarah Bradley 613-790-1716 TECH TALENT

The Bright Side of (Downtown) Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success. The column is presented by Star Motors, Ottawa’s original Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes Van dealer.

Free Form Fitness doubles down in the core

Transformation stories are nothing new for Free Form Fitness. In fact, helping clients reach their health goals is a large part of the reason why CEO Ashley Lawrie loves running the business.

But lately, she has been working more on transforming Free Form itself and keeping its five locations — including one on Albert Street and another in the ByWard Market — humming.

The approach at Free Form is a little different than most big-box gyms. With a focus on 30-minute personal training sessions, the goal is to work more directly with each client. It was a risky business model to follow, Lawrie said, as she effectively turned her back on the standard gym membership approach.

But the risk paid off and Free Form found itself so busy that, at one point, it had two locations on Albert Street.

Then the pandemic hit. As the world went into lockdown and businesses everywhere struggled to stay afloat, Free Form Fitness was no exception. The gym

facilities were shut down for months at a time and faced severe uncertainty about policies that might have kept them locked down.

“COVID was a big curveball,” said Lawrie. “We pivoted our model completely online. We were doing workshops, webinars. We were trying to figure out what we can do to help as many people during

this really weird time that everybody should still be working out.

“We even came up with things to use around your house to work out, like cans, like water jugs. It was great. It was honestly, we wouldn’t be here had it not been for our clients, that’s for sure. But it also was like our team rallying together to be like, how can we keep our clients active and still provide our personal touch as much as possible?”

The clients were loyal and didn’t want to see Free Form fail. Most continued to pay their fees, even with a scaled-back, at-home offering. Lawrie is happy to report that staff continued to be paid.

At the same time, the pandemic brought Free Form an unexpected gift: data. Lawrie said she began to understand her customers even better, as she and her team could step back and look at larger trends.

“The data we had on our clients and their changing needs became crucial,” she said.

“Our clients’ feedback and the data we had pointed towards a strong need for a holistic approach to health. People were

not just looking for a place to work out, but a space that catered to their overall wellbeing.” Lawrie said.

Recognizing this shift in the fitness landscape, Free Form will transform again this month, when it officially begins collaborating with La Vie Health.

“We’re noticing that it’s very hard to go see your doctor and ask for blood work or just general tests. So we partnered with the doctors at La Vie to help each other out. We both know how important it is for people to stay active and eat well and move better and improve their mental health,” Lawrie said.

And so, three years after COVID wreaked havoc, Free Form is launching a sister business, Sain Personal Training, which will operate alongside La Vie Health. This partnership allows Free Form to expand its offering under the Sain banner, combining fitness programming with wellness programs. The new service will operate out of the World Exchange Plaza on O’Connor Street downtown.

“They deal with a lot of executives and do health assessments with the doctors there. They have a huge health team. They kind of put you in this roster of two days of full assessment. And then we do the fitness assessment part,” Lawrie explained.

The fitness assessment looks at muscle tone and oxygen intake measurements (VO2). Clients also work with a dietitian.

“So we can dive into these clients a little bit more thoroughly. And it’s a personalized option for them,” said Lawrie.

Alongside Free Form’s locations in Kanata, the Glebe and Wellington Village, Lawrie says her locations on Albert Street and in the Market are seeing business building back, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“(COVID) was a rough period, but I feel like we’re past that. So I just see bigger and better things for Ottawa.”

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Integrating immigrants into the workforce fosters business and economic growth

Tobetter understand the issues preventing business growth and economic stability, the most critical piece of the puzzle is often people. In fact, it’s becoming an ever more pressing issue for local businesses, and was a major issue covered in the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey.

People, meaning the labour force, are the cogs in the wheels that keep things moving. Without people, businesses (and society) simply cannot grow and prosper.

We need to position people in the right professions and roles to maximize their skill sets and potential. Increased global mobilization of skilled workers has become an important topic and, along with the “Great Resignation” and more baby boomers leaving the workforce, Ottawa is relying heavily on newcomers to fill labour market needs.

However, there is a large portion of the population whose skills are underutilized because they are not working in their trained profession. Newcomers to Canada, often internationally educated and/ or trained professionals, face many barriers to practicing their professions and often end up working in positions that do not use the skills our society sorely needs.

In other words, there is a mismanagement and misuse of the newcomer talent pool.

But the problem remains how best to match newcomers’ skill sets to businesses and organizations looking for qualified talent. Qualified talent equals business growth. Full stop.

The inherent problems with integrating immigrants into the workforce are layered and complex and require a multipronged approach to finding solutions — there is no quick or easy fix. Governments, immigrant-serving organizations and businesses need to adopt strategies that

leverage and maximize newcomers’ skills and abilities so they can work within their profession and fuel economic growth.

Given Ottawa’s urgent labour shortage, government and businesses need pathways to new ways of thinking. We need to expose the gaps between the successful employment of skilled professionals and the failure in the Canadian system to attract, foster and retain newcomers, which often results in downward career mobility for newcomers and talent waste.

On the government side, there is a need for additional funding for coaching and mentoring programs, along with policies that shift the focus from jobs to employment trajectories based on economic needs and the professional identities and goals of newcomers.

There must be the creation of pathways that provide much easier opportunities for newcomers to build on their existing professional skills so they can accelerate to positions that maximize their talents.

Businesses can help by investing in a positive, inclusive and healthy work culture that allows newcomers to feel accepted and thrive. By understanding the cognitive process that can influence and facilitate a cohesive and collaborative working environment, businesses can bring new cultural perspectives to the table.

This article was submitted by Sprott School of Business. This piece first appeared in the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey, the city’s premiere survey and magazine that looks at business trends and confidence in the capital.

are encouraged to download a copy of the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey by visiting

ARIDO makes the difference: Hire a registered interior designer

The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is your connection to qualified, experienced, and innovative registered interior designers.

ARIDO protects Ontarians to ensure every person using the title ‘interior designer’ is qualified. In accordance with the Ontario Titles Act, an individual cannot use the title ‘interior designer’ unless they are a registered member with ARIDO.

Why should I hire a registered interior designer?

Registered interior designers have completed the necessary technical education and passed the required exams to meet ARIDO’s rigorous standards for membership.

Once qualified, registered interior designers must keep their knowledge updated through professional development seminars focused on topics including the Ontario Building Code, accessibility, sustainability, building and mechanical systems, inclusivity, etc.

How do registered interior designers become qualified?

They must graduate from an accredited 4-year Bachelor of Interior Design program. They must complete an extensive supervised work experience program under a qualified practitioner. Finally, they pass a rigorous 3-part practical exam which includes building code knowledge. Everyone benefits from good design…hire a registered interior designer.


ARIDO’s Eastern Ontario Chapter (EOC) is led by a group of dedicated volunteers. We sat down with three of the Chapter’s leaders to hear about their perspectives on interior design.

JUSTINE BALTESSEN, ARIDO | HDR Architcture Inc. | Chapter President

Q: What is the local impact you’ve made as a registered interior designer?

A: As a registered interior designer, I’ve been able to have an impact on our local community as we directly influence how people interact with the interior environment. I’ve designed spaces in Ottawa and beyond with an inclusive approach.

By following codes, guidelines, and best practices, I’ve created spaces that improve functionality and accessibility so people of different ages, genders, cultures, and abilities can navigate and use interior spaces safely and efficiently.

SERINA FRASER, ARIDO | Clear Interior Design | Chapter Treasurer

Q: Why is your ARIDO credential important to your business?

A: As a registered interior designer, I have extensive training in designing interior spaces, and my expertise goes beyond aesthetics to encompass functionality, safety, and sustainability.

When clients engage my professional services, they can trust that their projects will be handled with professionalism and adhere to the legal and ethical standards set by ARIDO. Most importantly, my credential underscores credibility and experience with each engagement and project.

JEREMY CHEFF, ARIDO | CLIQ Interior Design | Chapter Past-President

Q: How has your extensive training and the rigor of the process to become registered helped you better serve clients?

A: Being a registered interior designer demonstrates my commitment to professionalism and high standards in the field. This credential serves as evidence of my expertise and qualifications, instilling confidence in clients who are seeking professional interior design services.

Additional members of the Eastern Ontario Chapter Board are Samantha Derosier, Student, ARIDO; Juanita Dielschneider, ARIDO; Lizanne Dubien, ARIDO; Lynn Ferron, ARIDO; Colleen Howlett, Intern, ARIDO; Christine Panyszak, Student, ARIDO; Regan Preszcator, Student, ARIDO.

How can you join the conversation on interior design?

This October, the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is inviting you to join the conversation by hosting Interior Design Month, a major province-wide design event.

Sit down for a design consultation with a registered interior designer to have your design questions answered, hear about emerging topics and trends during the Speaker Series, and get a behind the scenes perspective of your local design community during Open Studio events.

This year’s edition is presented in partnership with Interior Designers of Canada, the national advocacy body for interior design. Learn more at

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When clients engage my professional services, they can trust that their projects will be handled with professionalism and adhere to the legal and ethical standards set by ARIDO. Jeremy Cheff, ARIDO
Left to right: Justine Baltessen, ARIDO; Serina Fraser, ARIDO; Jeremy Cheff, ARIDO. PHOTO CREDIT Urszula Muntean of Ula Photography

Chinatown BIA efforts at revitalization thwarted by crime, drug use, racism

Between an increase in drug use, rising crime and continued racism, Ottawa’s Chinatown has not recovered from the pandemic — in fact, according to at least one business official, things might be getting worse.

A community located along Somerset Street West between Bay and Preston streets, Chinatown is home to eateries, shops, markets and festivals that support and celebrate Asian culture. But Yukang Li, Chinatown BIA’s executive director, says the community faces “big challenges” that are straining local business.

Consisting predominantly of “momand-pop” shops and small businesses, Chinatown was hard-hit by the pandemic, Li said. But beyond the typical pandemic challenges such as less foot traffic and

increased labour shortages, Chinatown has also seen a rise in violence, crime and drug use and Li said his revitalization strategies can’t keep up.

“Every week, I get complaints or reports from business owners about thefts, vandalism, burglary, trespassing … you name it, and lots of these issues are related to drug use,” Li said. “It’s really bothering us a lot because, given the current economic situation, businesses are already having a hard time and now, on top of that, the owners have to deal with these safety concerns.”

Along with other community organizations and leaders, Li has been focused on street beautification and “working towards a big goal, which is to draw people back,” he said.

One of the initiatives was to install statues and figures from Asian legends to act as selfie stations for pedestrians. The

installations included two marble statues shipped from China of Qilins, a hooved creature from Chinese mythology. Not long after the statues were installed, quite a few got vandalized.

“Many of the statues are our cultural heritage and no matter what the motives are behind those thefts or vandalism, for us, as a matter of fact, it’s hurting us,” he explained. “It’s our culture, our heritage, and those statues are the symbol of that culture. When they get vandalized, what do they say to us? It says that our culture is not respected, our community is not respected.”

Stephen Mak is the owner of Oriental Charm Houseware and Gifts, a home goods store near the intersection of Somerset Street West and Bronson Avenue. As a resident, Mak has experienced some of the issues firsthand, including the attempted theft of his backpack, but the rise in crime

has also impacted his business.

There are often needles on the sidewalk outside his store, Mak said, and the current situation is deterring new customers.

“Right now, there are no new people coming to Chinatown for that reason,” he explained. “Because of the crime.”

Hobbiesville, a collectibles and hobby store on Somerset Street between Percy and Bay streets, has been a “hot target” for theft, said partner Edmond Georges. The store is about a block away from Dundonald Park, which Georges said can be a “riskier” area for drug use and crime.

Since opening during the pandemic, Hobbiesville has been broken into after hours and products have been stolen off shelves during the day, raising concerns for Georges when it comes to the safety of his staff and increased costs.

“We’ve been hit a few times, so it’s definitely a concern when it comes to protecting staff,” he explained. “But it’s also forcing our hand in terms of costs. We had to install metal bars, had to replace our glass every time it’s broken, and recently had to change all of our locks.”

During the pandemic, Chinatown saw a rise in hate crimes and racial incidents, Li said, including during the “Freedom Convoy” occupation of Ottawa in January 2022. He said he’s not sure if any of the crime and violence currently facing Chinatown is racially motivated, but said the incidents reduce the general feeling of safety in the neighbourhood, along with the rise in drug use.

Nevertheless, Li said he is dedicated to bringing people back to the area and sharing Chinatown’s culture and attractions.

The Chinatown Night Market at the beginning of June was a “huge success,” he said, drawing in more than 30,000 people, and the Chinatown Bazaar, a small-scale local marketplace, returned at the end of July.

Li has been working with the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition to bring performances highlighting Asian artists to the community, and with Hydro Ottawa to install outlets for new street lighting, all in an effort to make Chinatown “a cultural landmark in the city.”

“If you look at Chinatowns around the world or business streets in Tokyo, Beijing or Shanghai, you can see the richness of culture,” he said. “We have that in Ottawa Chinatown, but it does not look as good as those streets. We need to make it beautiful and attractive for all backgrounds.”


Entrepreneur makes lemons into lemon meringue pie

In the wake of the pandemic, the Chinatown business community has seen its fair share of struggles, with high rates of crime, theft, drug use and vandalism.

But the founder of 5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective on Somerset Street West said he’s choosing to turn a recent burglary at his property “into something positive” and as a way to give back to the community.

One week in August, Jay Lim was cycling down the street on his way to open the coffee shop when he saw debris on the road that began “looking familiar.”

“I was thinking it looked like our shop until I realized, ‘Oh, that is our shop,” he said.

When Lim approached, he could see that a small window in the kitchen had been broken and the coffee shop had been “ransacked.”

Lim is no stranger to theft. In addition to founding the coffee collective, Lim is also an architect and the founder of 25:8 Architecture. Two years ago, the primarily remote-work design firm moved into a rented garage to use as an office.

Since it was decked out with a commercial kitchen, the new space inspired Lim and his team to start selling coffee out of their workplace, at first focusing on microroasters, and the passion project soon turned into what is now the coffee shop.

But once they started operating out of the small garage, Lim said his team experienced break-ins and thefts of supplies and tools. The coffee shop also had a break-in to its small camper van, which is used to host backyard concerts.

This newest burglary, though, was different. Lim said he noticed drug paraphernalia left behind, as well as burn-marks, he guessed from a lighter or attempted arson.

Most interestingly, though, the theft targeted food, he said.

“They ransacked the kitchen, fridges,

took our computers, our supplies … really cleared us out,” Lim explained. “They could have taken a lot, lot more, but it told us it was an attack of desperation and that made us feel very heartbroken, because nobody should have to steal for a meal.”

“We know this area is in need, so let’s turn it into something positive.”

In the time since the break-in, 5:2:8 has been working with local organizations and outreach programs, including Cornerstone Housing for Women and Somerset Health and Wellness Centre, to raise funds and donate food, such as the cafe’s popular grilled cheese sandwiches, to those in need.

“The food industry doesn’t have high margins to begin with, so it was a big hit. But we don’t do it for the money, it’s for the community,” Lim said. “Donating food for a week isn’t going to make a difference to us and the staff, but it will for those people in need. We’re fortunate not to worry where our next meal comes from. So I can give up a weekend out to help someone else and I think a lot of us can.

“We want to set an example. The neighbourhood is struggling and we all know someone who could use a hand every once in a while,” Lim said. “There’s so much hate and we didn’t want to be part of that.”

Despite the struggles Chinatown is facing, Lim said he specifically chose it for the location of 5:2:8.

“The BIA is excellent at picking up paraphernalia, naloxone kits are distributed to all the businesses,” he said. “This area is in a place of transition, close to downtown, with a safe injection site close by and parks that are frequented, but we’re not interested in displacing people.

ABOVE: 5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective on Somerset Street West. LEFT: Jay Lim is the founder of 5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective and architect and founder at 25:8 Architecture and Design. PHOTOS SUPPLIED.

For example, while cookies and pastries weren’t stolen, takeout cups, sandwiches, bread, cheese and about eight litres of milk were.

The 5:2:8 team closed for a day to do repairs and take inventory as well as check on the other tenants in the building. Then, Lim said, he sprang into action.

“We made sure everyone was taken care of, then thought, ‘Why did this happen to us?’ We recognize the area we’re in and prosecuting isn’t going to help,” he explained.

“It’s part of being in an urban area and part of why we came here. We could have put our office anywhere, but we chose here because we did think we could help,” Lim continued. “Coffee shops are a community space. The costs are low and it brings people together and making that outreach is what we wanted to do.”

Now, he just hopes that other businesses and communities might be inspired to do the same.

“If we can get other people to think forward, that would be the greatest reward from this. To have empathy when this happens,” he said. “They’re not coming after me because they hate me, they’re coming out of desperation.

“I don’t want anyone to have to go through a break-in and I don’t want anyone to have to steal for a meal,” he said. “I want to encourage people to turn a bad situation into something good.

“Making lemons into lemonade isn’t enough. You need to make a martini, make a lemon meringue pie,” he laughed. “And I’ll do that any day.”

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Should artificial intelligence help you buy your next house?

Not so fast: real estate lawyer Matt Mayo is raising the red flag for AI

For most people, buying a home will be their biggest and riskiest financial transaction.

It’s one of the reasons the lawyers at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l. proactively identify issues to mitigate possible risks for their clients before the worst happens.

When buying your first home, the biggest risks have been getting carried away in a bidding war, or waiving a home inspection only to discover mold in the basement. But today there is a new risk to consider. Like many industries, real estate is being disrupted by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

That is why the issue is top of mind for lawyers like Matt Mayo, a real estate associate with PerleyRobertson, Hill & McDougall LLP/s.r.l.

Mayo says in a market where bidding wars and a low housing stock have upped the pressure and cost of finding your dream home, you need to know if the people you are working with — realtors, mortgage brokers, house inspectors and lawyers — are using AI, and how.

What AI can do to support professionals

To understand AI in the simplest of terms, AI is an algorithm — a set of instructions.

And it is important to remember the instructions were written by a person who brings their own biases and the

possibility of bringing human error to the table.

Mayo says AI is fine for professionals to use when it is supporting what they do, rather than replacing it, like marketing or an AI-driven chat bot that can answer simple questions.

He compares other recent technological developments to illustrate this point.

“The purpose of technology like electronic signatures and secure email for example, is to make the delivery of professional services easier in some way,” said Mayo.

So when you ask your real estate professionals if they’re using AI, you will be safe working

with them if it is being used as a tool to support their professional duties rather than replace them.

“AI is based on instructions, rules. Fraudsters succeed by finding the loopholes or vulnerabilities in a system,” said Mayo. “AI has no gut, intuition, or sniff test. If AI is used at all in this context, it must not replace anything a human can do.”

The second problem with AI concerns who is assuming the risk.

Professionals who use AI to perform a professional task like detecting fraud, knowing and understanding sophisticated trade terms, or even conducting research are enjoying the benefits of that technology, while passing on the risk of using it to their clients.

“The danger of using AI at all in this context is the subtle temptation to off-load the responsibility onto a tool not capable of handling it,” said Mayo. “People lean on the tools they are given. That is what tools are for.”


do you

need an experienced professional instead of a robot?

If AI is being used to replace a professional’s experience, cognition, judgment and expert decision making, Mayo says it’s a red flag for a couple of reasons.

First, there are certain things AI simply is not capable of right now. Any information AI delivers is only as good as the accuracy and currency of its database and algorithm — and both of those rely on humans.

Some of the aspects of a real estate prfeossional’s job that a robot can’t be trusted to handle include engaging with clients, research, fraud detection, and determining whether you are eligible for a mortgage.

The bottom line? You cannot have a complex conversation with a robot.

“The client is paying for your brain, not an AI,” said Mayo. So when you need a professional, look for someone who is trained, licensed, experienced, and accountable.

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In the heart of rural Ottawa, Carp BIA highlights agricultural traditions, outdoor amenities

For the Village of Carp BIA, it’s all about celebrating what local farmers “bring to the table” and ensuring that Ottawa residents are aware of everything the community has to offer, regardless of the season.

Located 10 kilometres west of Kanata, the village of around 1,500 residents is perhaps best known as the location of the Diefenbunker Museum. But there is also a small but active business community.

According to chair Jennifer Stewart, the Village of Carp BIA represents around 40 businesses in the area. Given the rural location, that includes agriculture, manufacturing and service-based businesses, but also includes a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, yoga and music studios, hardware stores and gift shops.

“We aren’t traditionally very commercial or corporate in the village,” said Stewart. “I think sometimes we like being the underdog.”

It’s a small, tight-knit community and one that Stewart said deserves a place on the Ottawa map.

“There’s a very unique small-town, agricultural flavour,” she said. “You come into this breath of fresh air that has a very walkable 15-minute community. We respect and appreciate the agricultural aspects of our community and we’re working really hard to preserve it.”

September is usually a busy month, capped off with the annual Carp Fair, a staple since 1863 organized by the local agricultural society. On Sept. 7, the BIA hosted its first Carp Village Harvest Supper to celebrate the turn of the season. It’s an event that Stewart said they’ve wanted to host for years and tickets sold out.

“I think more people, post-COVID, are really cognizant of where their food comes from,” said Stewart. “They’ve seen the world and borders shut down. So I actually think

there’s been an appreciation for our farmers and that’s why we’re doing the harvest supper. We’re making our best effort to demonstrate our community pride and our appreciation of what farmers literally bring to the table.”

She added that local farmers have always been a major driver in the community, with the farmers market being an important part of what makes the village a destination.

“In the spring, summer and fall, our main street is bustling. It’s great to see. COVID was difficult for many businesses and a lot of businesses love the boost in revenue during the weekends. The more people we can get up on a regular basis, the better.”

But once the harvest season winds down, so, too, will the traffic.

“(The challenge) for us is still getting people in the village in the winter months,”

said Stewart. “In the summer, you can’t find a parking spot, but after the fair, it can get a little sleepy.”

It’s why Stewart said the BIA is leaning into marketing efforts, which include collaborations with local media outlets and a biannual business magazine called The Villager

“We want to be making sure people know about us and remember the amenities we offer,” she said. “We’re not just a summer destination.”

The goal, she said, is to highlight Carp to those who have never been. For example, Stewart said, during the winter, Carp is a prime location for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking trails, snowshoeing, an outdoor skating rink and a winter festival.

“It’s fostering a sense of pride among citizens in the community about each other’s

accomplishments and growth. And it’s also drawing attention with the larger city of Ottawa to what Carp has to offer,” she said.

“That’s why we do these partnerships; that’s why we do The Villager. We really felt like a huge connector in business and community is sharing stories, so we’ve really put in a concerted effort to share the stories of local businesses.”

She added that while businesses have struggled in the past few years and more recently as inflation has sent costs soaring, the support they provide each other has been invaluable.

“It’s a very tight-knit community,” she said. “From the residential and commercial perspective, during COVID, that was so critically important. I’ve never appreciated both the business and personal network of friends I’ve created as much as I did then.”


Leanne Moussa chooses projects that reshape neighbourhoods

You can take the girl out of the business, but you can’t take the business out of the girl.

Twenty-three years ago, Leanne Moussa moved to our nation’s capital to work on Parliament Hill instead of joining the family business in her home province of Alberta.

“I wanted to carve my own path,” said Moussa, who earned a degree in political science at the University of Alberta. “I wasn’t

really interested in going into business.

“But, look at this?” she added before bursting into laughter at the irony of her current situation.

Moussa, 48, is the president and founder of All Saints Development Inc. It’s the community-led, privately held corporation that bought the century-old All Saints Anglican Church and turned it into a gathering place for local residents. It’s now called allsaints.

The property, located in the mixed urban neighbourhood of Sandy Hill, offers

venue spaces to host weddings and other celebrations as well as corporate events. It also operates Working Title Kitchen, which includes a bakery, restaurant and outdoor patio.

allsaints is an example of how the adaptive reuse of heritage spaces can breathe new life into empty historic structures and rejuvenate aging neighbourhoods, Moussa argues.

“Taking a space such as a church and making it secular, while still maintaining that community feel is, really, what we set

out to do,” said Moussa in an interview at allsaints, located at 330 Laurier Ave. E. at the southeast corner of Chapel Street.

The original group of investors bought the property in 2016 for $1.52 million. The ownership group was half Ottawa residents and half business investors, primarily Moussa’s family from Alberta, who took a leap of faith in order to preserve the heritage building.

“The emphasis was really to give people a voice in redevelopment of a site that they cared about. That was the goal,” she said.

As the risk profile of the project changed during COVID, the business investors bought out the neighbourhood investors but remained committed to maintaining the original vision laid out by the larger group, said Moussa.

Plans are now underway to build a nine-storey condo building on the property,




She recently helped the Catholic diocese set up a new café at Notre Dame Basilica on Sussex Drive. “It’s a beautiful little space. I think, overtime, it will grow into a tourist destination.”

pride in seeing the project move forward in a way that meets the public’s expectations and concerns. “What I like is that it’s allowed me to bring people together around redevelopment. So often, neighbours and developers are at odds. My goal was to give people a vehicle to shape their own community.”

To date, All Saints Development has invested $2 million into restoring the former church. “That’s just scratching the surface. There’s a lot of work left to do on this building but I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done so far.”

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She’s not looking to buy St. Brigid’s, a repurposed church on St. Patrick Street that’s currently for sale, but she does have some ideas for the property. “I think that the redevelopment of St. Brigid’s has to be part of a larger, coherent plan in the ByWard Market and I don’t think we’re there yet.”


All Saints Church dates back to 1900. That’s when Sir Henry Newell Bate, a wealthy industrialist and first chair of what is now known as the National Capital Commission, funded the construction of the Gothic Revival-style church.


She’s proud of her Lebanese heritage. Her immigrant father and his four brothers worked hard to build their real estate group of companies from scratch in Wetaskiwin, south of Edmonton. She learned “a ton” while working for them when she was growing up.

4Her father and uncles also taught her that “they’re stronger together than they are apart,” having maintained a 50year partnership in business.

Parishioners included former prime minister Robert Borden and Olympic figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott. The royal wedding of Lois Booth to Prince Erik of Denmark in 1924 was at All Saints. So was Borden’s state funeral in 1937.

All Saints was “a defining architectural building in the nation’s capital” when it was first built, said Moussa. However, it was headed toward demolition “by neglect” by the time it was put up for sale, she said. “For someone to invest the kind of money needed to restore it, they’d have to be interested in more than just the bottom line.”


She worked on Parliament Hill for the late Julian Reed (Liberal MP for Halton) and former Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Pettigrew.

with construction starting as early as 2024. allsaints is working with two respected Ottawa companies with experience in church redevelopments: green developer Windmill Developments and architecture/ design firm Linebox Studio. The application and review process has gone “very smoothly so far,” said Moussa.

“I’m really excited about the next few years.”

The married mother of four expressed

And Moussa was. She was driven by her natural interest in how people are able to come together to effect change. It was an area she focused on while earning her master’s in political science at Carleton University (she completed her degree over the course of her maternity leaves, when she was working as a public servant).

She first put the “people power” movement to the test in 2014, when she led a community initiative to purchase an old carriage house in Sandy Hill. She created a corporation with shares held by more than 20 neighbours. Moussa rezoned the property so that it could be used for much-needed child care. It’s now owned by Andrew Fleck Child Care Services.

“I’m happy every time I walk by and see kids playing out there,” said the Sandy Hill resident. “We have secured child care for generations here, and that is exactly what we set out to do.”

For Moussa, allsaints and the carriage house transformation are just the beginning. “I’m hoping to continue taking on projects in Ottawa to help shape neighbourhoods.”


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ThinkOttawa puts the city’s best and brightest on the world stage

Ottawa Tourism’s partnership with Invest Ottawa and the Shaw Centre creates a ripple effect across the city

Lesley Pincombe’s team at Ottawa Tourism knows their work won’t cure cancer, but the people they bring together under one roof just might.

As one of the partners of ThinkOttawa, Pincombe and the Ottawa Tourism team work closely with Invest Ottawa and the Shaw Centre to assist local leaders in planning conferences in the capital by helping organize bids, marketing material as well as locating venues, hotels and excursions – all free of charge.

“We market the city as much more than a leisure destination,” said Pincombe, who is Ottawa Tourism’s vicepresident of meetings and major events.

“We’re mandated to attract international meetings and events.”

In spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic, the ThinkOttawa team never missed a beat. Instead, they found new ways to continue to work with businesses and attract new conferences to the capital.

“We were really fortunate to hold onto our relationships with those international conferences – and the future looks bright,” said Pincombe, underlining the importance of these conferences to the city’s economic prosperity. “This year has been one of our busiest.”

Why ThinkOttawa should be any event organizer’s first call

Calling ThinkOttawa should be your first step to putting a potential ‘brain gain’ for Ottawa in motion.

“With these conferences, you can’t just pick up the phone and assume it’s a slam dunk,” said Pincombe, adding that it often takes a dedicated pitch and presentation to secure a city as a host. And for many first time organizers, the logistics of running an event can be daunting.

Pincombe sees her team as the experts working alongside Ottawa’s business community, helping local leaders in medicine, technology, engineering and immigration, for example, bring their conferences to the capital.

“We have the knowledge and connections with Ottawa’s hospitality industry to pull together a presentation that will ‘wow’ the organizers,” said Pincombe. “I don’t want someone like Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng., SMIEEE, EIC fellow — senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. — copying and pasting airport information. That’s our job.”

That said, ThinkOttawa understands how crucial the influence and support of their local ambassadors is to their success. “Sometimes it’s a local player that can tip the scale,” she said. In 2019, that local player was Enrico del Castello.

Bringing 2019’s International Metropolis Conference to Ottawa

Del Castello was director of knowledge mobilization and partnerships at Citizenship and Immigration Canada when he decided to bring the International Metropolis Conference to Ottawa in June of 2019

As a seasoned organizer of similar events, del Castello knew how much work it takes. That’s why he made ThinkOttawa his first call.

By leveraging local connections with Ottawa’s hospitality community, the ThinkOttawa team pulled together a package for del Castello that showcased everything Ottawa has to offer, both professionally and socially. The result was a record breaking conference.

“The director of research of the IOM — the International Migration Organization of the United Nations — commented that on the final Friday we had standing room only for our final plenary session,” he said. “Typically you see a lot of empty chairs on the final day, but people were really captivated by what we did.”

The event’s numbers tell the same story: representatives from 61 countries, seven keynote speakers and nearly 1,500 registered attendees visited the conference in the capital — the highest number of delegates and countries ever represented at this conference.

“No one can match what we did in Ottawa,” said del Castello, adding that organization members still reference the success of the conference to this day.

Dr. Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng., SMIEEE, EIC fellow — senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. and Lesley Pincomb, Ottawa Tourism’s vicepresident of meetings and major events

system is delayed or broken down and the employee could be late through no fault of their own,” he explained. “There’s nothing worse than waiting for someone to come in and not knowing why they’re late.”

For fast-paced work environments like restaurants and fast food outlets that rely on being well-staffed for peak hours, employers could consider extending shifts and creating an overlap to absorb the workload if a team member is running late, Brownrigg suggested.

“It could help in reducing anxiety, so it’s an interesting thing to consider,” she explained. “Now, there’s a cost factor, so do a cost-benefit analysis. What is the cost of students not being able to get there to the business to work, versus potentially paying people to come in earlier? That might just be the cost of doing business.

“It’s about having a plan before you

Employees struggling with transit?

Here’s what business owners can do to help

In the wake of a prolonged shutdown of Ottawa’s light-rail transit system and with winter weather conditions looming, unreliable public transit is creating uncertainty and worry for many businesses.

Experts suggest there are things that business owners can do to address the issue.

“It is hugely problematic if there’s a system that prevents employees from getting to work,” said Karen Brownrigg, founder and CEO of Ottawa’s iHR Advisory Services. “The onus is on the employee, but if you want to be a top-tier employer, you can look into possible solutions.

“You don’t own the responsibility to get your employee to work and you need to be clear about that,” she continued. “But there are alternative things you can do … It’s important for employers to sit down with people and get a sense of what’s going on.”

According to Brownrigg, some employers have started offering parking passes or additional vehicle allowances.

Businesses can also consider designated pickup zones, where employees gather for a carpool. Employers can discuss with their team whether there are areas of the city or times of day that create major transit complications, Brownrigg added, so that “work and solutions can be designed around those things to remove the barriers.”

“Some employees might see this as an accommodation requirement and that’s not the case, because (employers) are not required to accommodate transportation needs,” she said. “But employers should want to be engaged in conversation with employees and understand what they’re dealing with because if everyone is getting to work stressed and late, they’re not able to be productive.”

If employees struggle with the financial aspect of using a personal vehicle, employers could create incentives to help with gas or parking. To save costs, the incentives could even be part of a “self-select” benefits program for employees, she added.

“It’s only some or part of the workforce, so it’s not something that needs to be

offered to everyone,” Brownrigg explained. “It’s a two-way conversation about solving the unique problems that are happening for employees in the workplace. Situations are different pending on where people live and their mode of transportation.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has seen businesses negatively impacted by transit issues, with both employees and customers struggling to navigate the city, adding another layer of difficulty for small businesses that may already be challenged.

“For any business facing transit delays or issues, it’s incredibly frustrating,” said Ryan Mallough, vice-president of legislative affairs for Ontario at CFIB. “When you pay into a public transit system, you expect it to work and when it doesn’t, it has an impact on so many things.

“It’s not only another nail in the coffin for some, but another added bit of uncertainty and added layer of stress,” he added. “Often, (business owners are) just not quite sure what’s happening, which is so difficult for businesses when it comes to this. It’s just another thing to deal with.”

Open communication is key, Mallough said, to ensure misunderstandings or conflicts don’t unfold in the workplace.

“The main thing we see from small businesses is flexibility and understanding that this is a reality and to understand the

need it. Designing it while it’s happening, in more cases than not, involves people going back on their tracks,” Brownrigg continued. “If you’re not taking the time to sit down and look at the different scenarios, it’s not applied consistently, and that creates confusion and, in the worst cases, conflict.”

Overlapping shifts could be the most financially feasible option for some employers and one that Mullough said will likely be considered more often by businesses in the future.

“I’d love to say there are lots of businesses in a position that can offer financial support around transit, but that’s not the case.”

Ultimately, open channels of communication and discussion are vital in navigating the current transit situation. But that extends past employers and their teams, Mullough said.

“This same standard applies to city government and transit authority,” he said. “Both should be soliciting (input) from (business) owners and employers, seeing what the delays mean.

“You expect transit to run on time. When it doesn’t … it has an impact on the local economy for employers, for shoppers who can’t get around, and we need to be making sure on the government side that they’re aware of the impacts it’s having and make it a top priority to ensure this is fixed as quickly as possible.”


A new generation of workers is rewriting the rules on networking

While the pandemic took many traditional networking opportunities away, especially for the generation just entering the workforce, at least one HR expert says new grads and young professionals are creating their own opportunities to build connections.

Karen Brownrigg, founder and CEO of iHR Advisory Services, says the pandemic and the increased popularity of remote work have permanently changed the networking game.

“I’m a fan of in-person networking,” she said. “There’s no better way to develop and nurture relationships than when you’re doing it in person. So when you’re trying to do it remotely, you just can’t establish the same connection.”

While online networking events were a necessity at the height of the pandemic, they haven’t taken over, even as restrictions have lifted. In fact, Brownrigg said inperson events have made a comeback and young workers are leading the charge.

“There’s some really interesting opportunities,” she said. “I think with the pandemic we saw that this is a very specific group from our community that was robbed of that ability to develop relationships with mentors and people they need in their network because of all the isolation that took place. So these groups started to form on their own, with young professionals at the helm.”

Brownrigg is referring to a recent trend she’s noticed of young people creating networking and social groups to create online communities that translate into in-person events. While there are groups of young professionals in different industries, there are also groups formed around volunteering, charities, hobbies and other interests.

“It’s an opportunity (for them) to learn from each other and to engage,” she said.

“They’re building their own personal brand by posting on social media, learning from each other and posting new ideas. But there’s no better way to build your brand and create a broader network than to engage with something you’re passionate about with people who share the same interest.”

She added that social networking based on personal interests can be just as valuable for career success as professional networking. “It’s a beautiful way to build your network that goes above and beyond some of the traditional things we used to do,” Brownrigg said.

Sarwar Qureshi has run a local group called Beyond Networking for almost 10 years. He said he’s also seen a change in how people approach networking.

“There’s different camps of people. There’s some people who are less inclined to network because their outlook on networking has changed or they’re working online and feel they don’t need to network as much,” he said.

“And then I have another group where people are more interested because they’re doing remote work and they’ve lost some of the social contact, the adult conversation, that they used to have when they were in the office full time.”

Networking groups like his provide a wide range of events to fit participants’ interests, taking some of the friction out of meeting other professionals, he said. Beyond Networking has hosted picnics, soireés, paint nights and hockey outings, with participants ranging in age and profession.

Events such as these help early career professionals find mentors, build a resource base and make connections that can open doors, he added.

“The people you meet while networking, those people can become lifelong friends, bring career opportunities or become business partners,” said Qureshi. “You just never know what will happen.”

He said he has heard from many young people who feel like they’ve fallen behind

because of the lack of opportunities to network in university brought about by the pandemic.

“They didn’t do the typical in-person social events for a good two years,” he said. “They missed out on opportunities to build what would have been core skills that they needed. It’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve learned, you can pick it back up again later, but if you’ve never learned, it can be kind of awkward to start.”

It’s easier to get your foot in the door than it seems, according to Brownrigg. She encourages young professionals to use the internet to search out events and groups that fit their interests.

To combat any nervous jitters, she suggests either bringing a friend or, if that’s not an option, singling out one friendly face to make a connection.

“Say hello and tell them you’ve got the jitters,” she said. “You’ll often make a friend who can walk around and introduce you to people or maybe they’ll share your nerves.”

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It’s all about trust, recognition and camaraderie

While the global pandemic may be fading in the rearview mirror, the world of work has forever changed. Ottawa’s top employers recognize that what were once perks, such as flexible hours and a hybrid work environment, are now essentials.

And regardless of how they define “workplace,” the focus for Ottawa’s Best Places to Work is on building a team and a “family.” This means more than social nights or pizza lunches, but instead revolves around recognition, professional development and transparency about the business.

Each of the companies in Ottawa’s Best Places to Work for 2023 has made a commitment to listening to employee feedback and investing in the well-being of staff. Whether in software development, construction, fundraising or real estate, all of the companies believe in a culture of transparency and acknowledging good work. —



Established in 2003, Orangutech specializes in Microsoft-centric services and software. Its workforce mantra is “big company perks, with small company connection.” Although Orangutech boasts a state-of-the-art office in downtown Ottawa, the decision about where to work remains with the employee.

Dubbed the “O-Folk,” Orangutech’s team thrives in an environment where connections run deep and everyone is family. This closeknit atmosphere is cultivated through twiceweekly all-hands meetings, where personal stories reign. Annual multi-day company retreats (most recently an overnight in the Thousand Islands) and regular social events are testament to the company’s belief in fostering interpersonal bonds.

With a team of about 30 professionals, Orangutech ensures its employees are at the forefront of industry innovations. The Orangutech University and its AI product suite demonstrate the company’s commitment to professional growth. The company also offers a leadership development training program and reimbursements for professional development.

Proactive health programs, such as guided meditation and yoga sessions, underpin Orangutech’s dedication to holistic employee well-being.

Orangutech believes in recognizing achievements. Its “winners circle” is a digital and physical celebratory space where people announce an achievement, recognize contributors and take a fun pic. The achievements are celebrated quarterly and added to a scrapbook. Work anniversaries are celebrated with lunches and personalized gift cards. Orangutech also celebrates the birthdays of employees’ children.

Orangutech conducted a full benchmarking market scan of all roles that resulted in a 13 per cent upward adjustment of base salaries to be above market value. The company increased minimum vacation from three to four weeks and introduced RRSPmatching. Health benefits were significantly enhanced at no cost to O-Folk.


While DataKinetics has cemented its reputation as a leading technology company specializing in mainframe performance optimization for Fortune 500 companies, what sets it apart is its commitment to creating an inclusive and nurturing workplace.

With regular training programs and advancement opportunities, each individual is empowered to scale new professional heights. Competitive compensation packages, attractive benefits and recognition programs ensure dedication is rewarded.

From virtual escapes to creative contests, there’s never a dull moment. Long-term

commitment is cherished, with the Applauz platform recognizing birthdays, work anniversaries and personal milestones. However, DataKinetics employees likely won’t be celebrating their birthdays in the office — they get those days off.

DataKinetics recognizes the importance of holistic health care and strives to provide a supportive environment. A wellness support program encompasses a range of coaching services to address various health concerns. DataKinetics also offers a health spending account that allows employees to claim expenses not covered under the company’s health plan.

When it comes to volunteering, the company matches employee donations and employees can work in community service during work hours.

One of the cornerstones of DataKinetics’ workplace ethos is the “positive workplace environment” policy. It promotes a workspace free from discrimination, harassment and violence and advocates for a culture that respects the dignity of every individual.

DataKinetics takes proactive steps to embed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within its operational DNA. An established inclusion team, in collaboration with thirdparty consultants, delivers comprehensive cross-cultural competency training to the entire staff.


Employees at MP Lundy will say the business is more than just a construction company; it’s a family built on values, trust and culture.

The company’s ethos revolves around fostering strong relationships. This dedication to relationship-building extends to its projects, ensuring an engaging and positive client experience.

Despite the fierce competition for talent in the construction sector, MP Lundy has maintained a close-knit team of 35. Where MP Lundy shines brightest is its organizational culture and unwavering commitment to core values: courage, caring and teamwork.

Each hire at MP Lundy is considered a part of the family. Potential employees are evaluated not just based on their skills, but how well they align with the company’s core values. This approach ensures that teams collaborate and has created a workspace where individuals are motivated to give their best, driven by shared goals and common values.

The company believes in hiring the best person for the job. This equal opportunity philosophy has fostered a diverse and dynamic workforce. Besides promoting an inclusive work environment, MP Lundy rewards its employees with salaries above

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the industry average, bonus plans, health benefits, retirement programs and flexible work schedules.

Career advancement and development opportunities are abundant, ensuring that every employee can achieve their best potential.

MP Lundy knows the importance of spending time together outside of work. The company’s annual Christmas party provides staff and their partners with a night of dining, dancing and relaxation. In the summer, the company dives into sports, with softball being a favourite. The annual town hall meetings are infused with fun, as seen in the company’s unique version of “Lundy Jeopardy.”


Inside Edge Properties covers every aspect of the real estate investment and management process, from asset management and project management to finance and leasing.

At Inside Edge, the mantra for employees is trust and autonomy. Employees are not just workers; they’re valued members of a collaborative community. Leadership doesn’t micromanage; instead, it empowers. Employees

have the freedom to make decisions and bring their expertise to the forefront, ensuring that projects are executed efficiently.

Inside Edge prioritizes staff engagement, fostering a transparent communication environment. It holds quarterly town hall meetings, team-building activities and the leadership team has an open-door policy.

The workspace at Inside Edge exudes

creativity and comfort. The company’s advanced technological infrastructure, featuring cloud computing, user-friendly HRIS, dedicated task-management software, and top-notch videoconferencing facilities ensures seamless and efficient operations.

The company promotes a healthy work-life balance by offering a flexible work program that allows 20 per cent remote work

Upskill. Reskill. Learn for Life. Empower Your Employees.

per week. Inside Edge understands life’s challenges and offers flexible schedules to accommodate personal needs. Professional growth is also a priority. The company covers professional development costs and looks to promote from within.

Inside Edge offers competitive salaries, annual bonuses and a benefits package with 100-per-cent employer-paid health and dental premiums. Its retirement plan ensures its employees’ futures are secure.

Inside Edge’s core values include performance, integrity, expertise and leadership. Inside Edge leverages the diverse skills of its employees and provides complete transparency and compliance with regulatory standards. It encourages leaders and employees to share knowledge to foster professional growth. There is a streamlined hierarchy at the company and leaders are encouraged to lead by example.

The work culture isn’t just about work; it’s also about celebrating together. Be it a free monthly lunch catered by local eateries, quarterly all-staff events like axe-throwing or white-water rafting, or family-friendly festivities, the company ensures a cohesive and fun-filled environment.

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DataKinetics believes “culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Focusing on people first makes them one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work

Why is DataKinetics one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work?

“For us, it’s one word: culture,” says Allan Zander, CEO of the tech company that’s been serving Fortune 500 financial companies for nearly 50 years.

It’s why he and his team appreciate management consultant Peter

Drucker’s famous quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

And based on the frequency of unsolicited compliments Zander’s leadership team gets from their staff and customers it’s a winning strategy.

“We often hear things like ‘I wish all companies were more like you’ and ‘This is the best support I’ve ever

received,” said Zander. “These are unsolicited quotes we’ve heard dozens of times over the past 10 years.”

The biggest lesson Zander and his leadership team have learned is this: you’re only as good as your people. It’s why they’ve built a crack team of innovative thinkers to serve their existing customers and new markets as they continue to diversify and chase exciting new opportunities.

People before profits

At DataKinetics, good pay, benefits

and perks are just the beginning to their people-first work culture.

“We foster our team’s camaraderie by hiring the right people who blend together well,” said Randy McCoy, DataKinetics ‘huggable’ CFO, who also happens to head their HR department.

They do that with weekly corporate lunches, in addition to offering perks like extra days off at Christmas and on your birthday, RRSP matching, and regular opportunities to nab a couple of Sens tickets, to name a few.

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The results speak for themselves. “The team’s loyalty says it all,” said McCoy. “Our founders are still active board members and we just honoured four employees for decades-long service milestones.”

This people-first strategy also paid off during the pandemic, with the team’s camaraderie making it easy to pivot to working from home while improving their productivity.

“Many people in my network struggled with losing staff during the pandemic,” said McCoy. “But DataKinetics benefited from the tremendous loyalty we’ve built over the years and didn’t suffer the turnover that others did.”

What’s clear is that the camaraderie and trust comes from leadership setting the example of leaving their egos at the door.

“Open communication, feedback, transparency and a true sense of team accomplishments really go a long way to leveling the playing field for everyone to feel comfortable and perform at their best,” said McCoy.

They credit Zander’s conversational communication style in particular. “Allan trusts everyone to do the right thing, seeks input, sets a consistent direction and approach and then gets out of the way,” said McCoy. “People respond better when they know what to expect.”

And what the DataKinetics team can expect are opportunities for personal and professional development, as well as an open and flexible communication style and organizational structure.

“Fun and humour go a long way here. Even when things have been challenging, we’ll find a way to get a chuckle out of each other,” said Zander.

When you take care of your team, they take care of your customers While Zander is credited with knowing everyone’s name and taking pride in being approachable, he’s no stranger to a punchy line when it’s called for, like the way he encapsulates his team’s commitment to customer service.

”The sun never sets on a customer on fire,” he says.



• The Ottawa Hospital

• The United Way


• 46 year uninterrupted contributions streak

• a record 100 per cent employee participation rate to a couple of these, second to none in the tech sector here in Ottawa

DataKinetics matches employee’s other charitable contributions (like Cycle for CHEO).


• as board members in charities

• with their churches

• to help new Canadians

• to fight fires

Make no mistake, no one on this team — especially the chief products officer Larry Strickland, who happens to be a volunteer firefighter — is dousing flames every day, anything but.

But if there is a fire to put out, being customer-centric means they don’t care who started it.

“Sometimes we work hard only to find the problem isn’t with our product, but as long as we’re making

our customers happy, we’re happy,” said Strickland. “I often hear, ‘I wish more companies were like you’ for the outstanding quality of the products and the support my team provides.”

The sense of pride they feel after a customer thanks them for receiving after-hours support helps set the bar that will take DataKinetics into the future.

“We never stop reinventing ourselves,” said Zander, speaking to

how their core values of innovation, drive and execution have kept them in business for 45 years. “We have several irons in the fire with new customers, partners and diversification initiatives that can really accelerate our future growth.”

If you’re looking to work with great people at a great company where the CEO knows everyone’s name, you can contact DataKinetics here.


Why their critical mission makes The Ottawa Hospital Foundation one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work

President and CEO Tim Kluke is very clear about what makes The Ottawa Hospital Foundation — the fundraising arm of The Ottawa Hospital — one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work.

“Core to our employee value proposition is a focus on employee growth,” said Kluke. “We encourage everyone on the team to keep learning, and we want to give everyone the opportunity to spread their wings.”

It’s also about a dedicated group

of people who are motivated to be a part of a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Over the last five years, the Foundation team has expanded in preparation for the Campaign to Create Tomorrow – the $500 million fundraising effort to build the city’s new state-of-the-art hospital and fuel groundbreaking research.

Meeting this audacious goal means the Foundation’s team is helping reshape healthcare for generations to come — a tall order that for them is an honour to fulfill.

It’s why Kluke said being recognized as one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work is a “reflection of how we feel about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and who we are doing it with.”

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By focusing on employee growth and a team approach, fulfilling their purpose will become a reality

This close-knit team of professionals and community leaders are passionately committed to inspiring, enabling, and celebrating community support for The Ottawa Hospital.

A testament to their success is the work that goes into building lifelong relationships with their donors. That’s what drives the team to raise funds to save lives and help patients live better, longer lives.

“Many of us have a connection to the cause ourselves — whether it’s a family member who’s received care at the hospital or we’ve been there alongside a donor as they or a loved one has faced a medical emergency — this fuels our primary purpose of fundraising,” explains Kluke.

Ultimately, that’s the main source of job satisfaction for staff – their work will change the way healthcare is delivered for generations to come.

Growth strengthens the team’s mandate

To tackle such a significant fundraising campaign, the team needed to grow — it needed to recruit more like-minded people. And it’s apparent that not only are donors stepping forward to stake a claim at this moment in time, but so are those professionals who want to help the fundraising efforts.

“Our mission is what attracts amazing people to work at the Foundation — who wouldn’t want to be a part of the largest fundraising campaign in our city’s history?” said Shelley Crawford, vice-president of finance and administration. “The priority we place on culture also resonates with people we’re trying to recruit: we’ve got a living document (our Culture Code) as a guide.”

Expanding the team gave the Foundation the opportunity to define and develop the kind of work culture they’ll need to carry them through.

“The staff worked together to craft a code that defines our core values,” said Crawford. “The people who work here put their heart and soul into the work they do and that’s where our culture code comes in.”

In addition, Foundation leadership has worked to build a positive culture of its own, focusing on everything from setting goals and objectives, to staff development, recruitment and retention.

Supporting employees through health and wellness

It should come as no surprise that a hospital foundation would make employee health and wellness a priority — whether it’s ensuring everyone’s home office is ergonomic, or checking in to make sure they have what they need to do their job.

“We place a lot of importance on ensuring our people are comfortable and have the resources they need,” said Kluke.

Supporting mental health is a key pillar for the Foundation because staff are often meeting with donors who have experienced a tragedy or loss.

It’s why their next staff retreat will feature a speaker who’s going to talk about how to handle those experiences. “We want to help them learn how to cope with hearing these heart wrenching stories, instead of just holding it in,” she said.

Staff, like donors, understand that while these emotions can be difficult, they’re a source of inspiration for creating a healthier tomorrow that delivers better outcomes for patients.

Making time for fun

While the work the Foundation team does has a profound impact on the city, they also make room for fun and team bonding experiences inside and outside of the office.

To keep their family-like connection strong, they have a robust and creative social committee who make a point of celebrating their successes, like with a New Year’s party they host on March 31 to celebrate their fiscal year.

“It was funny the first year we did it, because staff had no idea what was happening,” laughed Kluke. “They came in and saw party hats, streamers, great food, as well as chocolate and strawberry mocktails. Now it’s become a tradition.”

While the team continues to evolve and grow as they tackle the city’s momentous fundraising campaign, part of what makes The Ottawa Hospital Foundation a great place to work is the man leading the charge, said Crawford, who unbeknownst to Kluke, made sure his dedication and leadership was properly recognized.

“Tim is an exceptional leader, an accomplished businessperson and strategist, but also a thoughtful, genuine and authentic human being,” said Crawford. “He sets the ‘tone at the top’ and much of the credit for our organization’s incredible culture is because of his leadership.”


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Decisive Group emphasizes the importance of enjoying the journey. From concise mission and vision statements, to leadership embodying and reinforcing the company’s values, there’s a synchronized harmony. The onboarding process is a testament to this, with new recruits introduced to the heart and soul of the company. The emphasis on social responsibility and ethical practices accentuates the company’s dedication to corporate governance.

Decisive Group isn’t just about work; it’s about enjoying what you do and being a part of something significant. Regular celebrations, whether for holidays, milestones or achievements, infuse joy into work. There are weekly catered lunches, on-site arcade games and spirited rounds of basketball, Mario Kart and Golden Tee. The office has installed an outdoor remotecontrolled racetrack.

Decisive Group understands employee appreciation goes a long way in motivating and retaining talent. It conducts a “celebration survey,” allowing employees to communicate their preference for recognition. The firm boasts a best-in-class eNPS score, consistently ranking in the top 10 for five consecutive years.

Decisive Group acknowledges the

underrepresentation of minority groups in the tech sector. Onboarding includes a course in understanding diversity and inclusion. The company holds training programs and dedicated spaces for conversations, such as the Decisive Women group, focusing on promoting women in IT. There is also a leadership development program about creating an inclusive work culture.

Decisive Group also believes in a strong work-life balance, with separate banks for vacation, sick and personal days. There are four-day work weeks throughout the summer, new baby leave and compassionate leave.


Through its state-of-the-art platform, Fellow empowers professionals globally to optimize meetings, thereby increasing productivity and fostering coherent teamwork.

Fellow says the diverse tapestry of its workforce reflects the global audience it serves and that this diversity isn’t just its strength, but its identity. From varied countries and cultures, every Fellow member is passionate, innovative and driven.

Fellow seeks talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. Fellow fosters a growth culture, supporting every team member’s learning and progress. The principle of “team-first” infuses retention strategies, focusing on trust, mutual respect and shared accountability.

Fellow encourages experimentation and exploration. Through open communication,

everyone is encouraged to share, leading to breakthrough innovations.

With a dedicated professional development budget for learning and skill enhancement, Fellow ensures its employees are always at the cutting edge of their areas of specialty.

Embracing a remote-first workplace culture, Fellow offers its employees the luxury of balancing work and life seamlessly. Comprehensive benefits, from health coverage to parental leave, make sure every Fellow member feels valued.

However, Fellow knows the value of social connections, whether it’s the excitement of the annual all hands hackathon, the fun of monthly remote social events, or the anticipation of the quarterly city-based meetups.

Positive customer feedback is testament to Fellow’s commitment to excellence. But internal feedback is equally cherished. Whether it’s through weekly shoutouts during all-hands calls or Fellow’s prestigious quarterly MVP-style award, the company ensures every achievement gets the limelight it deserves.

All feedback is valuable at Fellow and every suggestion considered. Initiatives like the tenure-based vacation structure showcase the lengths Fellow goes to ensure its employees feel recognized.

and manage bookings, while prospective renters can select from a broad spectrum of options based on size, amenities and budget.

But behind this streamlined user experience is a team of dedicated professionals whose well-being is RVezy’s top priority. RVezy’s commitment to its employees is evident in its nurturing and inclusive work environment. The company is built on a strong foundation of care, support and mutual respect.

By offering flexible work arrangements and prioritizing work-life balance, RVezy demonstrates its understanding of modern work dynamics. Opportunities for personal growth and skill enhancement are abundant, ensuring that every employee has the tools and resources to excel.

The principles guiding RVezy’s operations are values embodied by every team member.

RVezy understands the significance of engagement. Activities like “Office Olympics” foster team spirit, while quarterly hackathons stimulate creativity. Additionally, team and company retreats in varied locales offer refreshing breaks from routine.

Through the BucketList rewards platform, team members recognize one another’s efforts. Spot rewards, opportunities for growth and tokens of appreciation for milestones further motivate employees.

Maintaining open communication channels is pivotal. The company consistently seeks feedback from its employees, resulting in impactful changes like the introduction of quarterly hackathons, enhanced benefits and the invaluable yearly RV rental perk. “Ask Me Anything” sessions with senior leaders underscore the company’s commitment to transparency and open dialogue.

Prioritizing well-being, fostering a culture of inclusivity and growth, and ensuring a harmonious balance between work and leisure, RVezy isn’t just an employer — it’s a community.


Dubbed the Airbnb for RVs, the genius of RVezy lies in its simplicity: RV owners list their vehicles, set their prices

Stoneworks Technology services enterprises of all sizes, ensuring its clients have optimal technology solutions tailored to their current and future needs. Stoneworks embodies a “pay it forward” philosophy that manifests in top-tier solutions for its clients, but also in the work experience it offers employees.

Continued to page 13

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WCG Employment Ontario Ottawa & the Eastern Collaborative

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From supporting various community initiatives to creating an enriching workspace, Stoneworks believes in giving back. Employees are not only committed to the overarching team goals but are also deeply invested in each other’s success. Milestones are celebrated, achievements are recognized and a family-first approach ensures that the work environment is supportive and warm.

Employees are encouraged to set personal learning and development goals. Moreover, the autonomy granted to employees fuels creativity and innovation, with the added assurance of a solid team ready to assist. Stoneworks offers its employees a flexible work model — they enjoy the freedom to manage their schedules, attend appointments or work from home.

At Stoneworks, the founders are actively involved in nurturing this culture. Jody Burton, Stoneworks’ CEO, participates in the company’s “Dare to be Vulnerable” panel advocating mental health awareness.

Stoneworks believes in celebrating successes, big or small. Depending on the scale of the accomplishment, employees can earn bonuses, incentives or even passes to major industry trade shows, ensuring continuous growth and learning.

The company places a strong emphasis on team bonding. Events like the “Battle Axe,” the summer BBQ, or even a trip to Mexico for team members and their partners ensure that the team stays connected. Major work milestones are acknowledged, making longevity at Stoneworks not just a journey but a rewarding experience.


With more than 40 years in operation, DILFO Mechanical, a familyowned and operated business, offers employees an atmosphere that nurtures talent and fosters growth. With services from HVAC to plumbing, employees are exposed to diverse projects. DILFO ensures new team members are paired with mentors.

One of DILFO’s core tenets is teamwork. It fosters a culture that promotes sharing, questioning and collective problem-solving. Diverse backgrounds are not just accepted but celebrated, resulting in a tapestry of experiences that contributes to innovative solutions.

This collaborative approach extends beyond work projects to fun activities such

as company golf days and social nights.

DILFO has unique initiatives such as safety scratch cards on worksites. Supervisors will hand out scratch cards whenever they see a worker actively improving safety on site. Scratch cards give instant prizes and are entered into quarterly draws for larger prizes. Winners are recognized in DILFO’s monthly all-staff newsletter.

Celebrations are a big deal at DILFO, whether it’s the much-anticipated holiday gala or acknowledging milestones with custom awards.

The company is driven by employee feedback. Recent surveys indicate a high satisfaction rate among employees, reflecting the company’s care and value for individual contributions. Acting on this feedback, DILFO has amplified its internal communication efforts and introduced more engaging events.

Working at DILFO also means being a part of a larger mission. The company continuously works to support the local community and add a sense of purpose to the job.

DILFO isn’t just a mechanical contractor; it’s a thriving ecosystem where professional

growth, personal fulfilment and a sense of purpose come together.


The Ottawa Hospital Foundation (OHF), the fundraising arm of The Ottawa Hospital, is not only a pioneer in research and health care but is also an exceptional place to work.

Thanks to the dedication of its staff and volunteers and the generosity of its donors, the foundation has made medical breakthroughs the new norm. The historic Campaign to Create Tomorrow, with its ambitious $500-million target, is testament to OHF’s intent to raise the bar and to create the most technologically advanced hospital in the country.

At the core is OHF’s dedicated team of 65 professionals and volunteers. This team is a blend of unparalleled expertise and unwavering commitment.

The employee value proposition doesn’t only focus on remuneration; it emphasizes holistic growth. There are tailored growth plans for every employee, a vibrant workplace culture, open communication channels, and a receptive attitude to fresh perspectives.

An employee-centric approach is bolstered by competitive salaries, an unwavering commitment to wellness, and a comprehensive group benefits plan that boasts a top-tier pension plan.

While mission and vision statements give direction, OHF’s unique “Culture Code” is its compass. Crafted by employees for employees, this code is deeply interwoven into the fabric of OHF, from goals and objectives to peer recognition.

OHF celebrates achievements and milestones. There are New Year’s parties hosted by the CEO, celebrations of collective achievements and unique initiatives like “Time Island” that encourage creativity and foster knowledge about Ottawa’s history.

OHF believes in the importance of listening to employees. Regular surveys are conducted and the results are not just documented but acted upon. In one survey, 96 per cent of staff mentioned that they felt supported.

Whether it’s ensuring that staff have the right tools to work from home or addressing mental health and wellness, OHF is proactive. Policies like no meetings before 9 a.m. and no noon meetings underline OHF’s commitment to work-life balance.-

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Inside Edge Properties takes commercial real estate management to a new level as a tight-knit team

of autonomy,” she said. ”We’re empowered to make responsible decisions without having to go through multiple levels of approval.”

That’s why empowering people to do their job is a key ingredient that makes Inside Edge Properties one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work.

Collaboration is key

Understanding that you’re a member of a community — whether that community is your company, neighbourhood, or city — is another driving force behind the results Inside Edge Properties delivers for its clients.

Managing a portfolio of commercial properties takes a tight-knit team of problemsolvers, especially when you’re doing it to add the value that helps your clients and tenants succeed.

Taylor Hunter, senior vicepresident at Inside Edge Properties, helped build that team by focusing on the skills people bring to the table — which is why he hired an Egyptologist

with a PhD in archaeology to be his process person.

“When she was referred to us, her background jumped out,” he said.

And it’s fitting that Lindsay Ambridge’s most memorable archaeological work was at Amarna — an ancient capital city on the Nile river in Egypt — now that she’s working in Canada’s capital located on the Ottawa River.

While Ambridge’s official title is manager of corporate services, her unofficial title could be problemsolver in chief. “My job is to make sure that people have the tools they need to deliver the best service,” said Ambridge, an approach that’s aligned with how the company is managed overall.

“They don’t micromanage, but instead give us a high degree

It’s also why Inside Edge manages its team with the same entrepreneurial spirit it brings to manage its portfolio of properties across the city — they’re invested in their success, and take the time to build trust.

“Collaboration is at the heart of what makes this company successful,” said vice-president of acquisition and business development Jordan Bianconi. “We foster an open, inclusive environment where we work together to make the company better. That in turn helps our clients succeed.”

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How this intrepid team of problem-solvers are empowered to do their jobs

Successfully managing real estate investments means working face-toface, which brings this team together nearly every day — Wednesdays are reserved as the day you can choose to work from home.

Despite the team’s proximity, the leaders know throwing people into one space isn’t enough to build trust. That’s why they lead by example with the collaboration they want to see in their team.

“We’ve created an open-door policy and everyone understands they’re a part of it,” said Bianconi, adding you won’t find a top-down organization within their walls.

“There are no silos internally — it’s a very tight knit group,” said Bianconi. “When we’re in the office we can bounce ideas off of each other on the fly. I think everybody appreciates that.”

Building bridges with technology

Hiring the right people may be the first critical investment for any employer, but this familyowned and operated company is also making critical investments in communications technology to further develop bridges they’ve built.

“We’ve invested significantly in technology and can see the benefits on all levels,” said Hunter. “There’s more efficiency for employees and significant benefits to our clients and investors.”

Ambridge ensures that everyone has up-to-date devices, and the company has customized the best property management software on the market for their client’s particular needs. They’re also consistently rolling out new software to do the same for their staff.

When employees feel the impact of

that kind of commitment from their leaders, it motivates them to give back. “Everybody here is invested in client service,” said Ambridge. “How can we add value to this property? How could we serve our clients better?”

Nurturing connections over time

Regular communication with the team about the business is also a critical part of how the team stays connected, including monthly lunches and quarterly and annual updates.

But maybe the most important

investment for the IE Properties team is spending time together outside the office. “We have regular get-togethers like axe-throwing and visiting an escape room,” said Ambridge.

When you build your work culture on trust in a small, tightly integrated company like IE Properties, it’s easy to get along.

So if you’re the kind of person who’s invested in a team-oriented atmosphere, IE Properties could be the place for you.


Why Decisive Group’s north star is building community through diversity

CEO Mitchell Carkner leads with empathy and ‘hyper-transparency’

Whatever Decisive Group did to reach Ottawa’s Best Places to Work list for the third year in a row, it seems to be working.

CEO Mitchell Carkner is quick to give credit to his team, because when you lead one of Ottawa’s top digital transformation companies, empathy is essential.

Respecting diversity means knowing your team

Decisive Group believes that the best way to motivate a team of professionals is to know them and respect the diversity they bring to the table.

“It’s important to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work,” said Clare Sullivan, vicepresident of human resources.

“When we conduct our yearly ‘celebration survey’ we ask our staff what recognition looks like for them,” she said. “Some people appreciate public recognition, but for others it would be the worst thing to do.”

This approach — taking the time to know your team — starts at the top.

“When I join an organization, I start by getting to know the leadership team,” said Carkner, who joined the company as CEO in

2020. “The level of care and respect amongst ours and our employees makes it easy for me to show up every day.”

Professionals deserve hypertransparency

That openness isn’t just about knowing each other. It’s a core value that ensures everyone knows how they’re running the business.

“We are hyper-transparent around our financials, performance, objectives, and how we’re supporting our customers,” said Carkner. “We share that broadly across the entire

organization through a number of different meetings, whether it’s allhands calls, teams, chats, emails, or water cooler chat.”

Hyper-transparency also means they don’t shy away from sharing both the good and the not-so-good news.

“We want folks to know what we’re excited about, as well as anything that’s not so positive,” said Carkner. “We believe in treating professionals as professionals, so if you make a decision that doesn’t make sense to your team, you’ve failed at this.”

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Employee growth leads to business growth

Hyper-transparency has also taught them that when you’re clear with your team, they’ll be transparent with you.

They’ve learned that taking their staff seriously leads to business growth, because employees who feel heard bring their best ideas to the table.

“We like to reframe ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ through an entrepreneurial lens so we build the business together,” said Carkner.

“If an employee wants to develop a new skill set, we ask ‘Does that fit our mission? Is there a business case around it?’” he added. “If the answer is yes, we can build something new.”

While they’ve always supported professional development, Sullivan’s department has been making it even easier to access a plethora of learning resources to achieve this goal.

But it’s not the only way they foster an entrepreneurial spirit – they do it by keeping their operations just agile enough.

“There’s a fine line between being agile and structured enough to get things done,” said Sullivan. “We’ve struck that balance well by aligning new projects with the right business unit.”

Overall, this combination of efforts translates into a work environment their employees love. “I’m super proud of what we hear in our quarterly engagement surveys,” said Sullivan. “People always put a great work atmosphere in the top three.”

That’s why Carkner knows once you’ve found the best talent, you do what it takes to keep them.

I’m super proud of what we hear in our quarterly engagement surveys.

Building quality into worklife: How MP Lundy’s core values are infused in the company’s DNA

Sean Lundy runs a company that constructs some pretty big buildings.

But what he may do best is communicate complex ideas like someone with a blackbelt in mental jiu jitsu — or at least a degree in English literature.

He uses that skill to put MP Lundy’s company culture ahead of profitability – and everything else –making it one of Ottawa’s Best Places to Work.

“When you focus on creating a positive company culture first, the other things tend to fall into place,” said Lundy.

Every day the company’s culture is built on the values of courage, caring, and teamwork.

“Our core values are truly sacred to us,” said Lundy. “It’s how we intentionally create the DNA of the company.”

Putting culture first takes courage

In a tough industry like construction, where the day to day focus is on execution, putting culture first can seem counterintuitive.

“In our industry, it’s easy to end up in an adversarial relationship with the people that you’re working with,” said Lundy. “There’s a lot of stress around

time, money and making sure that the quality is there.”

It was his late father Mike Lundy who showed him how to bring a courageous mindset to those kinds of challenges. “When I saw him in a tough spot he would say, ‘Sean, I don’t know how I’m going to solve this. I just know I’m going to solve this,’,” said Lundy.

Encouraging his team to bring this simple mindset to any situation has been a game changer over the long term.

“Courage is our first core value for a reason,” said Lundy. “If you attach positive energy to courage in the face of a challenge, you’re 80 per cent on the way to a solution.”

He adds, “We’ve grown to love challenges, because embracing them is the hallmark of a strong, healthy team - a team capable of getting phenomenal results.”

Caring starts with crystal clear communication

The team also places a lot of value on clear communication, making sure everyone is on the same page, and working towards the same goal.

“The number one cause of stress in humans is the unknown,” he said. “So we’ve gotten really good at being crystal clear when it comes to laying out our company’s purpose and direction.”

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By making sure everyone understands the company vision, goals, priorities and must-win battles, the team is empowered to take ownership of the countless decisions they make every day.

Clear communication gives the team a feeling of purpose, agency and the satisfaction that comes from making a strong contribution. “When you have that level of clarity it’s easier to make decisions. That in itself is a form of stress relief,” he said.

And speaking of stress, one of the tough topics of conversation they don’t shy away from at MP Lundy is when things go wrong.

“We don’t punish mistakes,” said Lundy. “Learning from mistakes is a critical part of everyone’s path to growth and learning. In fact, we encourage team members to surface errors so we can tackle them and learn together.”

Teamwork ties it all together

Evolving their final core value, teamwork, is how Lundy put his own stamp on the company his father founded.

“In the early days, the company was focused more on individual achievement,” said Lundy.

Since then, Lundy has taken his father’s emphasis on relationships to a new level so they could take on bigger and more complex projects.

“We have strategic layers of resources that support our project teams,” he said. “We have in-house mechanical and electrical experts that help us optimize a project’s most complex systems. We have wizards in 3D modeling to help find and solve issues early. We have drone pilots that bring critical arial data back to our project managers for advanced planning and streamlined communications with our clients.

Focusing more on team work also gives their team leaders more bandwidth for planning and strategy instead of firefighting, another strategy that manages stress levels considerably.

Clearly, the efforts are paying off. “What I’m most proud of is the extent

to which our team truly has embraced the concept of teamwork on a day to day basis,” said Lundy. “For me, there’s nothing better than watching great people get inspired by their peers.”

In the end, investing in their culture is an investment in the business.

“If we invest our energy as a leadership team and help our people become really awesome at what they do, they’ll turn around and be awesome for our clients,” said Lundy. “Everybody wins.”

If you’re interested in joining the MP Lundy team to help contribute to upcoming projects, contact them here

CEO Sean Lundy at their flagship Canadian Tire build, completed in the fall of 2022

How one contract mistake cost a business more than $500K

That was a tough lesson learned in Monterosso v. Metro Freightliner Hamilton Inc., 2023 ONCA 413, a case that recently wound its way through Ontario’s court system.

“We’ve got this elusive case law that employers often don’t know about,” said Marianne Abou-Hamad, an associate with Emond Harnden LLP, adding that businesses need to be aware of what is – and isn’t – in their contracts as this area of the law is constantly changing.

What happened?

Seven months into a five-year fixedterm independent contractor agreement, a group of corporations (Metro) terminated the agreement with the independent contractor (Monterosso) without cause.

Because the contract lacked an early termination clause, it turned out to be a costly decision.

Monterosso sued, and the trial judge ordered Metro to pay Monterosso for the remaining 65 months of the contract, which amounted to $552,500 plus HST.

Metro appealed the trial judge’s ruling on two grounds.

They lost one argument and won the other, but the award ultimately remained unchanged — and Metro had to pay Monterosso’s legal fees on appeal as well to the tune of nearly $20K.

First, Metro argued that the trial judge had failed to properly consider emails that it stated indicated the full term of the contract was not meant to be guaranteed.

Second, Metro argued that the trial judge had

erred in ruling that Monterosso was not subject to the duty to mitigate his damages.

The “duty to mitigate” is an obligation to take reasonable steps to find other work after a contract is terminated and, if not met by a party, may reduce the damages awarded in their favour.

What happened at the Ontario Court of Appeal?

Regarding the first argument, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge’s decision, concluding the “entire agreement clause” in the contract meant the terms couldn’t be changed by any emails that had been exchanged.

For the second argument, however, the Court of Appeal found the trial judge erred regarding Monterosso’s duty to mitigate.

When an individual’s employment is terminated, they’re usually expected to take reasonable steps to find alternative employment to mitigate their financial losses — the general exception is when an employee is working under a fixed-term employment contract.

The trial judge erred in applying this exception to Monterosso because he was an independent contractor, not an employee or dependent contractor.

While Metro bore the burden of proving that Monterosso had failed to meet his duty to mitigate, they provided no evidence to back that claim up. The absence of this evidence, combined with the fact that Monterosso had provided extensive evidence of his unsuccessful job search efforts, meant there were no grounds to reduce the damages award.

What are the key takeaways for your next contract?

This case certainly qualifies as a cautionary tale, said Abou-Hamad.

“The most important takeaway for businesses is that the early termination of a fixed-term independent contractor agreement may carry significant liability,” she said. “The longer the contract, the more it can hurt.”

Since the smoking gun in this case was the missing termination clause, the obvious solution is adding one to ensure your initial contracts are airtight.

But if you realize some of your current contracts may need to be renegotiated, the most important concept to understand is consideration, said AbouHamad.

Consideration requires both parties to give something of value to enter into a valid agreement. “A business must usually provide something like increased compensation or a signing bonus in exchange for entering into the amended contract,” said Abou-Hamad.

That being said, there’s no guarantee the contract won’t be challenged.

“Someone who is upset by your decision may still want to file a lawsuit,” said Abou-Hamad. “But at least you have something that will make the other side consider whether it’s worth the cost to sue.”

The final takeaway for business owners is the importance of understanding that different mitigation rules may apply depending on whether an individual working under a fixed-term contract is an employee, a dependent contractor, or an independent contractor.

Abou-Hamad says this aspect of the ruling could create a ripple effect.

“I think we can expect to see an uptick in litigation,” she said. “Even if there’s a provision in an existing contract classifying an individual as an independent contractor, this case highlights that a new angle of attack could be to challenge that classification.”

This article is intended to provide readers with general information only. It should not be regarded or relied upon as legal advice or opinion. Accessing, reading, relying on or otherwise using this article does not, under any circumstances, create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Emond Harnden.

To be sure you don’t miss the next big case, subscribe to Emond Harnden’s complimentary Focus Alerts, which contain regular updates on employment and labour law at

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Sometimes, the worst kind of termination clause is the one that isn’t there.
Marianne Abou-Hamad

With fresh VC, Solink eyes IPO

Ottawa-based Solink has raised US$60 million in fresh venture capital as it sets its long-term sights on going public amid massive growth.

The video surveillance software company announced it has closed a series-C round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, with participation from existing investors OMERS Ventures and BDC IT Ventures.

Solink’s technology is used in more than 18,000 locations around the world.

Its artificial intelligence platform stores data from security cameras in the cloud, allowing customers such as restaurants, manufacturers, property managers, cannabis producers and hotels to quickly search and analyze video.

Since it was founded in 2009, Solink has developed a growing international reputation as a trailblazer in the fastgrowing video surveillance space.

Solink’s revenues have been growing at between 70 and 80 per cent a year as cloudbased video technology rapidly becomes the new industry standard.

“What we’re seeing is our market is

shifting further and faster into cloud,” Solink CEO Mike Matta said in a recent interview. “What we saw in the data centre space 10 years ago is what’s happening in the security space.”

Solink’s system taps into other hardware and software such as point-of-sale systems and inventory-tracking tools to help clients detect fraud and theft and spot inefficiencies, among other uses. The firm sells the software on a subscription basis, starting at around $150 a month.

Solink claims its products, which collect data from hundreds of thousands of cameras, typically deliver new clients a positive return on their investment within 30 days. Once buyers realize the software’s value, they’re hooked — the firm says it has a 96-per-cent customer retention rate.

The 230-person company now has more than 1,800 customers in 29 countries. Major brands that use its software include Tim Hortons, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and fast-food chain Carl’s Jr.

After years of strong growth in North America, Solink took a leap across the Atlantic last fall, setting up an office in London in a bid to expand its footprint in Europe. Matta said the firm is also poised to make a major push into Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region as more customers in industries that were previously reluctant to store video data in the cloud, such as financial services, embrace its platform.

“We see the opportunity to scale (the technology) internationally,” he said. “Inevitably, you kind of cross the chasm and everybody is doing it.”

While many tech firms have found fundraising to be tough sledding amid a widespread economic downturn that has seen valuations fall throughout the sector, Matta said that hasn’t been an issue for Solink, which brought in $23 million in a series-B round three years ago.

“We weren’t looking at fundraising at all,” he explained. “We were heads down, focused, we had cash in the bank. I think the benefit of not looking is that everyone comes looking for you. We had a lot of interest from various parties and we kept kind of shooing them away.”

Until Goldman came calling, that is. Matta said he was impressed with the investment firm’s approach.

“Goldman was interesting in the sense that they said, ‘Look, at some point you’re going to want to go public. But how do you (send that) message to public investors?’” Matta explained. “They showed us a path that’s not just for 12, 18 months, but a path of four, five, six years. There’s certain muscle that you need to build within the business and you need to plan for it today. You can’t just kind of think it’s magically going to happen.”

As for launching an initial public offering, Matta said it’s not a question of if it will happen for Solink, but when.

“We see a lot of opportunity to keep growing, and inevitably we have to return capital back to investors,” he said. “One way that’s within our control to do that is to go public. We have to do it. We’ve committed to doing that from our first (VC) investment that we did in 2017.”

Still, Matta said the firm’s board and management want to see more “predictability” in key cash-flow metrics.

“I think, realistically, given the growth and given where we’re at, it’s probably within the next two to four years. But it’s not something that we’re circling a date and saying it must happen by that point.”

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Ross Video on track for IPO despite sales downturn

Ross Video plans to go ahead with an initial public offering within the next two years, despite failing to hit its fiscal 2023 sales targets, the company says.

The Ottawa-based manufacturer of broadcasting and live-event production equipment laid off nine per cent of its workforce, or about 140 employees, after sales fell short of expectations this year amid a widespread economic slowdown.

“I think doing a layoff, especially of people you know, is one of the most difficult things, other than shutting

down a business, for a business owner or a manager to ever have to do,” chief executive David Ross told OBJ Ross, who is also the family- and employee-owned firm’s majority shareholder, said the company is continuing to lay the groundwork for an IPO in the near future.

Ross Video could have potentially entered the public markets in 2024, he said, but costs associated with the job cuts will likely delay those plans until the following year.

“That doesn’t make a lot of sense for going into an IPO in 2024, but because we’ve taken action and rightsized the company for 2024, I think our books in 2024 should look good enough,” Ross

explained. “I think that still leaves us right on track for 2025.”

Ross Video now employs about 1,400 people at 20 global offices, including its Ottawa headquarters and its main production facility in Iroquois, south of the capital.

Ross said initial projections based on Ross Video’s sales pipeline heading into 2023 and its typical contract win rate suggested sales would grow by more than 40 per cent this year, an unusually high figure.

“When we looked at the numbers for this year, it was startling,” he said.

Ross said he personally “culled” the projected growth figure down to 30 per cent out of an abundance of caution and

Ross Video hired hundreds of workers based on that projection.

But Ross said it soon became apparent that some customers were delaying planned expenditures as inflation remained stubbornly high and interest rates continued to rise. That forced the company to dramatically scale back its original forecast as the year went on.

“By the end of the third quarter, we realized the growth (rate) was going to be 15 per cent and not 30,” he said.

Ross said sales projections are educated guesses and knowing how much to expand a company’s workforce is never an exact science.

If all the contracts had come through and Ross Video didn’t have enough staff to fulfil them on time, “customers might not get their projects done or they have to go elsewhere or a stadium could get delayed or a newsroom might not go on the air when it needs to,” he explained.

“We would end up with employees that are working ridiculous hours trying to keep up with demands when all the signs were that we were supposed to hire and we didn’t. It’s a no-win situation when the math and the forecasts are saying one thing and your gut is saying another.”

Meanwhile, Ross Video is in the midst of a $236-million, multi-year project to develop a full suite of cloud-based event production software platforms.

The federal government has invested $49 million in the project through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund.

Ross said the company’s hiring and revenue growth commitments under the agreement were “well under 15 per cent” for the next several years. The company expects to meet or exceed all those targets and research and development of the hybrid cloud products will continue as planned, he added.

“From the point of view of what we promised for (the Strategic Innovation Fund), we’re actually right on track,” Ross said.

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“We would end up with employees that are working ridiculous hours trying to keep up with demands when all the signs were that we were supposed to hire and we didn’t. It’s a no-win situation when the math and the forecasts are saying one thing and your gut is saying another.” – David Ross, CEO

Telesat announces Lightspeed satellite project on course

Ottawa-based Telesat says it’s ready to shift production of its multibillion-dollar satellite constellation into high gear after a new supplier agreed to build the high-tech devices in a deal that will lower capital costs by up to US$2 billion.

Questions about the future of the project, dubbed Telesat Lightspeed, swirled in recent months as supply chain disruptions and soaring inflation forced the company to revise its timeline for launching the lowEarth-orbit (LEO) satellites.

“It would be hard to overstate how pleased we are with the arrangements we have put in place for Lightspeed and how keen we are to get out there

with customers, investors and others,” Telsat CEO Dan Goldberg said during a conference call with analysts.

“It’s been a long road — much longer than we anticipated. But we’ve always said we see a huge opportunity in the global enterprise broadband market and that we were laser-focused on finding the most compelling path forward. Given where we’ve landed, it’s been well worth the wait.”

Telesat’s original plan called for 298 LEO satellites to be supplied by French-Italian aerospace giant Thales Alenia Space at a price tag of about US$5 billion, with the initial launch targeted for 2024.

But supply chain disruptions and soaring inflation pushed the estimated cost up to US$5.5 billion, forcing the Ottawa company to delay production as it sought additional financing. Last year, Telesat announced it

was cutting the program to 198 satellites in a bid to rein in costs.

On a call with analysts in May, Goldberg said Telesat was “making headway” with potential investors and was open to switching suppliers should rising costs prompt a review of expenditures.

In August, the company announced it was indeed pulling out of its deal with Thales Alenia Space and going with Canadian aerospace firm MDA, which was already poised to provide phased array antennas for Lightspeed and will now manufacture the entire constellation.

Goldberg said the Brampton-based firm’s cutting-edge digital beamforming antenna technology can deliver better signal quality than Thales Alenia’s system for a lower price because MDA’s satellites will be smaller and cheaper to manufacture.

The CEO told analysts that Telesat looked at using MDA’s technology several years ago, but it “wasn’t ready for prime time.”

Since then, he said, MDA has refined its beamforming know-how to the point where the technology is now “sufficiently mature.” MDA, which was formerly known as MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates and is probably best-known for creating the Canadarm, recently won a contract to provide 17 LEO satellites to U.S. satellite communications giant Globalstar.

“The performance improvement relative to the analog (antenna technology) is dramatic,” Goldberg said. “It’s gamechanging. It’s just a home run.”

The total capital cost of the Lightspeed project is now expected to be in the range of US$3.5 billion, Goldberg said. In addition to the estimated US$2 billion in capital cost savings from switching to MDA, Telesat said it also expects “substantial savings due to significantly reduced financing costs relative to the company’s prior plan.”

Telesat said it has lined up about US$2

billion in funding from its federal and provincial government partners, financing that is contingent on conditions such as completion of due diligence and the conclusion of definitive agreements.

That money, combined with additional cash from vendors and its own reserves, will pay for the first 156 satellites, Goldberg said, enough to give the company “full global coverage.”

The remaining 42 satellites will be funded from existing cash flows once Lightspeed gets up and running at full speed, he added. The company expects to start launching the satellites in mid-2026, with global service scheduled to begin by the end of 2027.

The LEO satellites will be located about 1,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, much closer than traditional satellites. That will allow for lower latency, or lag time, which is expected to translate into better wireless service for customers in remote areas and mobile locations such as airliners and cruise ships.

While other competitors such as Elon Musk’s Starlink are targeting the direct-to-consumer market with their LEO constellations, Telesat is going after enterprise customers such as airlines, cruise ship operators, governments and telecom companies.

Goldberg said the global market for LEO services is pegged at more than US$400 billion, split about evenly between the direct-to-consumer and enterprise segments.

If Telesat can capture even two per cent of the enterprise market, he explained, “we’ll be hitting our business plan.”

The CEO also didn’t rule out expanding the Lightspeed constellation in the future.

“That will purely be a function of what the demand environment looks like at the time,” he said.

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“When you’re considering these tools, ask yourself, “do I fully understand the limitations of the system I’m applying? Do I understand what risks I’m passing on?” said Jason Millar, a professor at uOttawa’s School of Engineering Design and Teaching Innovation. “We don’t have a lot of regulation around AI right now and we’re really just starting to wrap our heads around what kind of documentation and testing needs to be done to roll these systems out responsibly to the public.”

Meet the professor

flipping to a random page – the difference with AI is that we haven’t fully developed the norms and limits that contribute to responsible use.

Perhaps you’ve considered integrating more AI tools into your work to improve efficiency or save staff time for more valuable tasks. Perhaps you’ve also heard the stories of businesses getting

burned by AI: the lawyer who used ChatGPT for case prep and was given fictional cases, or the eating disorder group that replaced its staff with an AI chatbot which started giving out bad advice.

Millar, who is also the Canada Research Chair in the Ethical Engineering of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence and Director of the Canadian Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Ethical Design Lab (, has been studying the ethics of technology and technology design for two decades, including topics such as privacy, safety, and responsible innovation of AI.

Millar is fostering a growing movement toward uniting engineers and ethicists to chart the course for these worldchanging technologies.

But whether it’s generative AI like DALL·E, automated driving systems, or simple chatbots, ultimately, Millar notes, AI is a tool – and all tools have their own strengths,weaknesses, and risks.

That is why the research Millar and his colleagues are doing to develop tools and methodologies that engineers and policymakers can use to integrate ethical thinking into their daily workflows is so critical.

You can use AI for idea generation just as readily as taking a book off the shelf and

“We don’t always know exactly what data set was used or how the model was trained and so, if we don’t have a lot of transparency with these models, it’s hard to really understand what all the risks are with a specific tool,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure for companies to use these tools and a lot of opportunity when we get it right, but the risks are significant.”

Millar suggests companies that are looking to do more with AI do some research before diving in head first. Even if they’re a small company or just starting out, they should look at forming partnerships with labs such as his to help ensure the right analysis and documentation is completed and that the social and ethical dimensions of potential products are carefully considered.

“Ethical concerns are best dealt with early on in the product development life cycle – you don’t want them getting baked into that whole process such that they become very hard to undo,” he says.

“There are tools and techniques and processes that you can use to do the analysis early on and it doesn’t have to be painful or confusing. It’s a matter of working with people who have the right expertise, and so we’re training designers and engineers to have that expertise so they can go out and support companies in applying AI safely and responsibly.”

To get in touch with Jason Millar and his lab, visit

Fake legal cases and bad weight loss advice demonstrate some ethical shortcomings of relying on AI
who’s helping write the rule book on the ethics of AI

Building the ‘University of tomorrow’ right here in Ottawa

For decades, the University of Ottawa has played a leading role in research, innovation, and skills development in the city –working closely with industry partners to find solutions to challenges and train the next generation of talent.

In 2018, the university opened its uOttawa Kanata North campus , a satellite campus located in the heart of the tech park, to position students and faculty closer to the heart of tech innovation, recognizing the incredible opportunities and value created by fostering strong connections between academia and industry.

As part of its 2018 strategic priorities planning, the University identified four areas of research excellence, relevance and impact – including Shaping our Digital World – to take that commitment to the next level by becoming an innovation leader and go-to partner in digital transformation.

By developing partnerships with global tech leaders as well as public sector partners, and guided by its institutional strategic plan

Transformation 2030, uOttawa is aiming to create the University of tomorrow – a campus that will not only provide cutting edge research and transformative learning opportunities as well as access to world-class researchers, but will help shape the digital world for both students and community.

“As companies navigate their digital transformation journey, uOttawa has established itself as key partner in supporting research,

Building on years of excellence in quantum research and innovation

A hub for cybersecurity and cybersafety

innovation, skills development, and accessing the next generation of talent,” said Sean Geddes, director, innovation and partnerships at uOttawa’s Kanata North campus.

Leading the way in 5G connectivity

At the center of uOttawa’s digital transformation initiative is the university’s commitment to becoming one of the most connected campuses in Canada.

Currently, uOttawa is one of a handful of post-secondary institutions working with a leading national 5G carrier to create a fully connected 5G campus. The $6-million partnership with TELUS will see uOttawa campuses outfitted with 5G infrastructure.

In addition to the 5G deployment on campuses, uOttawa is also developing two 5G-enabled living laboratories located on its downtown campus. With access to 5G and stateof-the-art technologies, these living labs will allow students and research to innovate in fields such as edge computing, smart-grid applications, artificial intelligence, learning technologies and more.

“Bringing together numerous stakeholder from our community, we have begun to imagine what a 5G campus could mean to uOttawa” said Geddes. “How could it impact research, innovation, and learning, or how the university operates? It’s something we are really excited about.”

While quantum technology isn’t new to the university – in fact they have been a leader in this space for years – the university recently consolidated its related centres, state-of-the-art infrastructure and efforts into a single institute: the Nexus for Quantum Technologies (NexQT).

Bringing together over 80 researchers and 300 students and postdoctoral fellows, the institute is home to one of three Max Planck centres in the Americas, the Joint Centre for Extreme Photonics (JCEP) established in collaboration with National Research Council (NRC), and state-of-the-art infrastructure such the NanoFab Facility that enables the fabrication of devices and novel materials for use in quantum science.

As a testament to uOttawa’s leadership in the field of quantum research and innovation, the university was selected to lead three of eight national networks, supported by funding through the National Quantum Strategy, in the fields of quantum information and cryptography, quantum sensing and imaging, and quantum materials.

Building on this momentum, uOttawa was also selected to lead three national training programs to support the development of the next generation of talent working in quantum-related fields. Two of the programs focus on training in quantum materials, while one focuses on autonomous vehicle technology integrating training in quantum sensing and encryption, which will be led out of the Smart Connect Vehicle Innovation Centre at uOttawa’s Kanata North campus.

The third major area of focus for the university is cybersecurity. Similar to its approach to quantum technologies, uOttawa has brought together its numerous initiatives in cybersecurity research, innovation, and skills development under one umbrella: the Cyber Hub.

The Cyber Hub brings together world-class researchers from 7 different faculties, state-of-the-art research and training facilities, and extensive programing to support professional skills development in cybersecurity and cybersafety.

Quite unique to uOttawa, the Cyber Hub also hosts the university’s Security Operations Centres (SOC), to enable novel training opportunities as it will be in close proximity to the showcase immersive cyber range facility within the Cyber Hub that will officially open next month.

As the university continues its digital transformation mission, each of these verticals will play an important role in uOttawa’s ability to lead and support research, innovation, and skills development in the field, said Geddes.


Trexity CEO is pitch perfect for investors

Alok Ahuja is hoping a compelling elevator pitch will soon open the doors to the U.S. market for his Ottawa-based on-demand delivery company.

The co-founder and CEO of Trexity recently landed a US$200,000 investment for the fast-growing startup after appearing on the season nine finale of Entrepreneur magazine’s online series Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch.

In the episode, the energetic Ottawa businessman’s passionate 60-second pitch prompted two of the show’s three-member board of investors — Marc Randoph, the co-founder and original CEO of Netflix, and serial entrepreneur Kim Perell, the founder and CEO of Miami-based investment firm — to bid for a piece of Trexity.

Ahuja, who taped the segment in Miami in mid-May, said he rehearsed his pitch in his hotel room for about an hour the night

before, knowing he was only going to be allowed one take to get it right.

“When I went in there, I just did it, and it came out the way I wanted it to,” Ahuja said of his pitch, which was indeed filmed in an elevator at a Miami television studio. “The judges all seemed to think so as well.”

After Los Angeles-based angel investor Jonathan Hung passed on making an offer, Randolph initially said he was prepared to

invest US$100,000 in the startup based on a valuation of C$15 million.

Perell then upped the ante, bidding US$200,000 for a stake in the company.

“I love Canada,” she said, noting she had just made an investment in another firm based north of the border. “I think it’s a great target market. I think there’s a huge opportunity that you can literally own it. That’s why I feel that, if you can own Canada, you can definitely own the U.S.”

Randolph rebuffed Ahuja’s suggestion to join forces with Perell, explaining, “She’ll be saying, ‘Go this way,’ I’ll be saying, ‘Go that way.’ It’ll tear you apart.”

But he did sweeten his offer to US$150,000, prompting Ahuja to admit that before entering the room he was hoping to do a deal with Randolph, an entrepreneur he has long admired.

Instead, after a moment of hesitation, Ahuja chose to go with Perell, the only woman investor on the panel.

“There’s something that’s more important to me, and that’s my daughter and female empowerment,” he explained, fighting back tears.

Even the panellists themselves appeared to get caught up in the moment.

“I might cry, too,” Perell said as she hugged Ahuja. “I’m so excited.”

Perell finalized her deal with Trexity just

weeks after the segment was filmed, Ahuja said, adding that the bestselling author and sought-after keynote speaker is now one of his most trusted advisers.

“She’s been incredible,” he said. “She’s just very hands-on.”

Since the segment aired, Ahuja said he’s been deluged with questions about how he could turn down an offer from Randolph, a legendary tech entrepreneur whose book, That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea, is one of the Ottawa founder’s go-to business bibles.

But the father of two said the inspirational example Perell has set for his 10-year-old daughter Aria trumped even his high regard for Randolph.

“I really did look up to this guy, and I still do,” Ahuja said. “The minute I got in there, I went into war mode. I said, ‘I am not here for me, I am here for this company.’ It was kind of surreal to get two offers, to be honest. It definitely was a bucket-list item to look the (former) CEO of Netflix in the face and tell him, ‘No, I will not take your deal.’ It was like an out-of-spirit moment.”

Months after his boardroom meeting in Miami, Ahuja has no regrets.

“It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made in life, because when I was there talking to them, I knew in my mind that the only people that were truly going to care about this whole ordeal after it’s done will be my kids.

“For me, the most important thing was setting that example and doing right by my family and my kids, who are the reason that I continue to push myself.”

Meanwhile, he remains optimistic that Randolph will eventually be part of Trexity’s investor mix.

“We’re still talking,” Ahuja said. “He’s still a firm believer in what we’re doing and I’m sure I’ll make something happen there, but for me it was really important to choose Kim.”

Founded four years ago, Trexity has 22 employees. Thousands of merchants in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg — including well-known local retailers such as Dominion City Brewing, Happy Goat Coffee and Kettleman’s Bagel Co. — now use its platform to provide same-day delivery to customers via a network of thousands of freelance drivers.

The firm’s recurring annual revenues are well north of $2 million and doubling yearover-year, and the firm is eyeing a move into other markets, including Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, in the near future.

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Entrepreneur Kim Perell, left, with Alok Ahuja, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa-based Trexity. PHOTO SUPPLIED.

Shopify leaders Lütke, Finkelstein pull up stakes from capital

More than two years after his company removed the word “Ottawa” from the placeline on its news releases, Shopify chief executive Tobi Lütke has stopped calling the city home as well.

In September, the founder of the e-commerce software powerhouse posted a shot of the CN Tower on X, formerly known as Twitter, along with a message that seems to confirm something many in the capital’s close-knit tech community had suspected was coming for months: Lütke and his family had pulled up stakes and relocated to Canada’s largest city.

“First week living in Toronto,” he said in the post.

Lütke’s move comes fast on the heels of Shopify president Harley Finkelstein’s decision to uproot his family from their Rockcliffe Park home and return to Montreal, the city of his birth.

Finkelstein, who’s become Shopify’s most prominent public face, told a Montreal magazine in July that the Quebec

metropolis “still felt like home to me.”

Their moves out of the capital follow a major makeover of Shopify’s leadership team that has seen many locally based members of its C-suite replaced by executives who live elsewhere.

In the past couple of years, many company leaders who called Ottawa home, including chief financial officer Amy Shapero, chief technology officer Jean-Michel Lemieux, chief legal officer Joe Frasco and chief talent officer Brittany Forsyth, have left the firm. Many of their replacements live in the U.S.

According to LinkedIn, the only member of Shopify’s core leadership team who still resides in the National Capital Region is chief information security officer Andrew Dunbar.

Shopify did not respond to requests for comment from OBJ

News that Lütke and Finkelstein have left town has fuelled speculation about Shopify’s future in the city where the company began.

One industry insider who did not wish to be named said losing the pair of tech titans to other cities should serve as a “call

to action” to local business leaders and government officials to push for more direct flights to major U.S. centres and step up efforts to revitalize Ottawa’s downtown core. In announcing his decision to relocate to Montreal, Finkelstein cited that city’s vibrant food, arts and music scene as one of the main reasons.

However, other observers downplayed the impact of the moves on Ottawa’s standing as a tech hub, saying they shouldn’t come as a surprise given Shopify’s digital-first mentality.

Lütke, after all, made headlines in May 2020 when he declared that “office centricity is over.” Just months later, Shopify announced it was vacating its 170,000-square-foot headquarters at 150 Elgin St. amid the widespread shift to remote work during the pandemic. In early 2021, the company removed “Ottawa” from the placeline on its news releases, replacing it with “Internet, Everywhere” – a clear signal that its digital-by-default credo was no passing fad.

“I think it’s meaningless now to talk about Shopify as an Ottawa-based company – and not just because two

Stay connected

people moved,” said Ian Lee, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business.

“If all data is digitized, it doesn’t matter where you are. It’s no longer a physical company with a physical presence. Where is Shopify? The answer is, it’s everywhere.”

Still, Lee said there’s no reason for panic in the local tech community.

While Lütke and Finkelstein may have good reasons to want to live elsewhere, Lee said the nation’s capital has many attributes – including a high quality of life and a lower cost of living than bigger centres like Toronto and Vancouver – that will continue to make the city an attractive destination for top talent at Shopify and other tech firms.

Rick Watson, CEO of New York-based RMW Commerce Consulting, agreed.

“My sense is that Harley and Tobi have always had affection for Ottawa,” Watson said. “I find it very hard to believe that they would forget about it.”

With many of Shopify’s key executives living south of the border and in the Greater Toronto Area, Watson said it made sense for Lütke to be closer to investors and major decision-makers.

“I think for being (leader of) one of the larger public companies in Canada, it’s probably hard for him to not be in Toronto,” he explained. “Shopify doesn’t really care where people work. But I think Tobi as a CEO, it does matter where he is.”

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The Salvation Army needs Ottawa’s business community to help their neighbours with food, safe housing

The Salvation Army in Ottawa is appealing to the generous business community to become corporate mission partners and provide hope to the most vulnerable through life-changing services during these times of record highs of inflation, food prices and housing costs.

As a corporate mission partner, you are supporting your neighbours in need and helping The Salvation Army serve individuals and families to find a way out of poverty permanently.

Last year, The Salvation Army was a beacon of light for 87,000 people in Ottawa. The need is increasing, as more individuals and families are finding themselves in dire straits and seeking support from The Salvation Army. Corporate mission partners, your time is now.

The Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre, a men’s emergency shelter, provides critical wraparound supports and assists those experiencing homelessness find long-term housing.

Supporting people living rough throughout the City of Ottawa is a daily transformative helping hand by The Salvation Army’s Street Outreach Teams, who provide clothing, sleeping bags, water and food to over 160 unsheltered individuals weekly with the goal of providing hope and ending homelessness.

Through early intervention and focusing on a housing first approach, last year The Salvation Army referred 440 people to housing.

Providing food security

For many of your neighbours, food is out of reach. As a corporate mission partner, help

The Salvation Army Community and Family Services assist the most vulnerable in providing emergency food, clothing, household items, school supplies and hygiene products, as well as other vital programs that help struggling individuals and families from choosing between groceries or paying for housing.

In 2022, generous donations from the business community helped The Salvation Army Community and Family Services provide food security to 1,200 single households and 750 families. This year, The Salvation Army anticipates an increase for their life-changing programs and support is needed more than ever from mission partners.

“We are noticing that more people are coming to The Salvation Army for emergency food and clothing, but for many it’s their first time,” said Diana Javier, manager of The Salvation Army Community and Family Services. “The need in Ottawa is great, and supporting our programs will change lives for the better.”

The Bethany Hope Centre

The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre is also a lifeline for many pregnant youth and young parent families by improving their well-being and assisting them to reach their personal goals of education, employment, food security and economic independence. Journeying with struggling young families and providing life-changing programs for the whole family including access to health care and prenatal and parenting courses.

“Investing in the future of our young families and children creates a healthy community for all, and The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre offers several ways for the business community to get involved in our transformational programs. I encourage you to help us support the most vulnerable and build a community legacy that lasts generations,” said Sandra Randall, executive director of The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre.

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a difference in your community, become a corporate mission partner.

Helen MacMillan shares her journey to the top ranks of the gaming industry

With construction underway at the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in south Ottawa, for general manager Helen MacMillan, the new resort will bring much more than just the brand’s iconic red guitar to the city.

The $350-million project will take over and expand the existing Rideau Carleton Casino, with the finished site including a six-storey, 150-room hotel, 24-7 gaming floor, and 1,800-seat live theatre, as well as restaurants, bars, gift shops and lounge areas.

First announced in 2017, the project has been repeatedly stalled by pandemicrelated closures, supply chain disruptions and labour shortages. Recently, the company finally held its official groundbreaking ceremony. A completion deadline has been set for the spring of 2025.

In an interview with OBJ, MacMillan, who signed on to the project in 2019, said it’s thrilling to see the work underway.

“I’ve had prior casino resort experience, but I have not had a build of this magnitude,” she said. “I’m still kind of shocked that it’s happening because it’s taken so long. But to see that progress, it’s exciting for sure.”

For MacMillan, bringing the Hard Rock brand to Ottawa means creating the best guest experience possible. It was the standard of service that drew her to the project in the first place, she said.

“When I got the call from a recruiter to ask me if I’d be interested in a position at Hard Rock Ottawa, I really had to think about it,” said MacMillan, who was running her own consulting firm at the time. “I went to Hard Rock International’s head office and met (CEO) Jon Lucas and we had a great conversation about how the people that work with you and your guests should be the focus.

“Hard Rock’s very much about attention to detail and quality of service and product.

It was a completely different experience than I’ve ever had at a casino anywhere.”

The Ottawa Hard Rock resort will also play a major role in the company’s efforts to increase the number of women within its leadership structure.

“The casino industry has traditionally been dominated by men,” said MacMillan. In fact, only 22 per cent of director and vice-president roles are held by women industry-wide, statistics show.

Ottawa will be the first Hard Rock location outside the U.S. to implement the company’s Women in Leadership program.

More than 1,000 women throughout Hard Rock’s U.S. properties have participated in the program, which launched in 2016 and pairs experienced female mentors with women breaking into the industry.

“I’m really excited to bring this to Ottawa,” said MacMillan. “Women in leadership is a different subject than men in leadership. It’s about focusing on how

a female becomes successful when you’re surrounded by male colleagues.”

MacMillan, who entered the casino industry in 2003, understands the value of mentorship from other women in a maledominated field.

“Especially earlier in my career, being at the senior executive or senior management level, I was often the only female in that boardroom,” she said. “There was another female leader at that time who was very much about promoting women within the industry. So having another female counterpart was a very important support for me.”

MacMillan started her career in marketing for Casino Nova Scotia. When that casino was purchased by a larger company, she moved out to Vancouver and became executive director of marketing for all 14 of the company’s casinos in that city. A few years later, she moved into operations and returned to Nova Scotia as regional vice-president.

In 2018, MacMillan was named one of the Top 10 Women in Gaming by Global Gaming Business, Las Vegas, but she admits it wasn’t a straight path to the top. During those early years, she faced a number of challenges as the only woman in the room.

“You tend to either find people who can be your champion, or find ways to make an impact on the people around the table,” she said. “I did find a male colleague who supported me, who had that awareness and wherewithal to interject when people weren’t allowing me a voice. That was helpful, but it’s also unfortunate and frustrating at times.”

As more women enter the industry, it’s an issue that’s slowly started to improve, she said. For example, it’s less common to see women’s ideas dismissed out of hand, just to be celebrated when reiterated a few minutes later by a male colleague, she said.

“I don’t really see that kind of thing happening as it had in the past.”

Still, men retain the majority of leadership roles, which is why MacMillan remains passionate about supporting and promoting women within the industry.

She is Canada’s representative on the board of directors for Global Gaming Women, as well as co-chair of the education committee, where she provides mentorship, education and scholarships for women in the gaming industry. She is also a contributor to the Women’s Business Network in Ottawa.

Last November, she was honoured with the Patricia Becker Pay It Forward Award on behalf of Global Gaming Women (GGW), which recognizes women who demonstrate a commitment to the advancement of women in gaming.

The Hard Rock mentorship program is just the next step, MacMillan said. Part of the focus will be on helping women build their confidence.

“Confidence is the foundation,” she said. “Helping people understand how to get into a leadership role, how to become a leader and what makes a good leader. How to be compassionate, show empathy and walk the walk.”

It’s lessons like these that helped MacMillan in her early career days.

“A colleague of mine said to me, you know your stuff, you know the industry, you have trust, respect and integrity,” said MacMillan. “He said to me, you really have to understand that that’s powerful and you have to figure out how to leverage that.”

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Helen MacMillan will be GM at the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

Rookie minister Jenna Sudds could be effective voice for Ottawa: observers

In the wake of significant changes to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet earlier this year, Ottawa has been left without a local MP holding a senior ministerial role in the House of Commons. However, the shuffle could still be good news for Ottawa businesses and the capital’s beleaguered downtown core, experts suggest.

About three-quarters of cabinet portfolios switched hands in the summer, with four former ministers announcing they would not be seeking re-election and three — including Ottawa-Vanier MP and former president of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier — being dropped from cabinet.

The appointment of seven new ministers along with the ouster of seven others leaves the Liberal cabinet sitting at 38 people, including Trudeau. Half of them are women.

The Liberal government is selling the new team as one that will take a fresh approach to housing, affordability and security leading into the next federal election.

Ottawa’s lone representative in cabinet, Kanata-Carleton MP Jenna Sudds, was appointed minister of families, children and social development.

Her perspective and background could be good news for Ottawa’s business community, one observer says.

“Jenna is unique and with the strategic value she’s going to bring, she’s also an experienced councillor who knows the inner workings of the city,” said Muhammad Ali, vice-president at Ottawa public affairs consulting agency Crestview Strategy. “Her background gives her a leg up in making sure the city gets its fair shake in the House of Commons.”

Sudds worked as an economist in the federal government for 12 years before becoming the inaugural president and executive director of the Kanata North

Business Association. Sudds also served as executive director at the CIO Strategy Council, a national technology council.

She was elected as city councillor for Kanata North in 2018 and served as deputy city mayor before entering federal politics in 2021.

Her ties to the local business and economic development community will give her — and the city — an advantage, Ali said.

“It makes her a very effective minister. Looking at this broadly, she’s in a portfolio that might not jump out as being flashy, but it’s all about her added value,” he explained. “If she sees there’s a need to do some extra, she will have that leverage.

“Jenna is a very pro-business type politician and she’s very supportive of economic development in the city, but she herself also has that focus, so that’s positive for Ottawa business leaders.”

Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University, agreed that Sudds’s background could be instrumental for Ottawa.

“All that a cabinet portfolio is is what the minister makes of it and how the prime minister prioritizes it,” he said. “Sudds is a former councillor, so she has more knowledge of the inner workings of the city. So we can speculate that would certainly be helpful in promoting Ottawa’s interests.”

Although Fortier occupied an integral role as president of the Treasury Board, she was “not known to be a strong minister or have a strong presence in cabinet,” Malloy said.

“Ottawa has the obvious issues of the public service workforce (and) working from home and it’s not very important to the entire country but it’s certainly important to Ottawa,” he added. “Sudds … will be able to bring that perspective that it’s something very important to the city.”

The shuffle comes as the federal government looks to tighten spending in the federal public service and reduce its office footprint. The 2023-24 budget proposed a three per cent spending cut for all departments and agencies. However, the government said the cuts would not include layoffs or staff reductions.

In May, the federal government also signalled it is planning to significantly reduce its owned and leased portfolio of real estate, including many buildings in the National Capital Region, citing the rise in remote and hybrid work.

Ali says the overall “message” behind the shuffle is that a campaign cabinet is being built and the Liberals will likely target Ottawa businesses when seeking re-election. An election must happen by October 2025, but could be called sooner.

“This new cabinet’s purpose now is to be more deliberate and make sure government policy comes back to focusing on that narrative of building jobs and ensuring stresses of business owners are properly supported so they can continue to thrive,” Ali explained.

“There’s the tech sector out in Kanata facing pressure and downtown Ottawa

is suffering more than a lot of cities in Canada,” he continued. “Having that lens of targeting small businesses and tracking investments … that’s the mindset this cabinet will try to capitalize on.”

At the same time, the cabinet shuffle could be concerning for some local business owners who have been navigating the “off-and-on” approach to economic development that the federal government has taken, Malloy said.

“It’s hard to figure out how much changes in public policy affect business, but my general take is that what businesses want most is consistency and predictability,” he explained. “But this government has been very on and off. For example, there were (CEBA) loans, which are now being taken back and I don’t think it’s been helpful for small and medium businesses.”

Ali also points to Minister of Small Business Rechie Valdez, MP for MississaugaStreetsville, who can pull from her own experience as a small business owner and entrepreneur. Ottawa could feel the impact of her presence in the House of Commons, Ali said.

“She’s already in a tourism and small business area, she lives and breathes small business where she is, and might be able to bring real-life reflection to how that sector feels about government policy and better adjust it to support them,” he said.

Ottawa’s business community could also see disruptions in procurement, Malloy said.

“If they’re contracting out business services, that would impact local business. Take, for example, the ArriveCan app that was contracted out at a considerable cost,” he explained. “If they’re looking at how to deliver services, that could have an impact, either positive or negative, on local business. But we haven’t had a lot of other details, so this is just speculation.”

– with files from The Canadian Press

Jenna Sudds is Ottawa’s only MP in the federal cabinet. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

Westboro’s Cupcake Lounge bakes Pride into its desserts

The owners of Westboro’s Cupcake Lounge want customers to feel like they are entering a safe and inclusive space. Pride flags hang outside the queerowned business at 324 Richmond Rd., and inside there is a wall of cookies decorated with various LGBTQ2S+ flags on display.

Owner Laura Porter, who took over the business alongside her wife, Mylène Côté, in August 2022, said they wanted to connect with the community and become a place where LGBTQ2S+ members feel accepted.

That’s why the local bakers decided to start selling sugar cookies with different Pride flag decals on them.

“You know when you’re a kid and you want to find a magnet with your name on it and it’s not a name you can usually find? Well, everybody should be able to find the flag they identify with,” Porter said. “You can come in, find your flag on a cookie, and know you’re in a safe space.”

There are at least eight Pride flag designs to choose from, including the bisexual, pansexual, and non-binary flags, which can be hard to find. The more common progressive Pride flag can also be found printed on the sugar cookies, alongside the trans flag. Because of the success of the cookies, they will be available year-round and not just during Pride Month.

Côté, who is a youth-in-transition worker by day, deals with young individuals who have been overlooked by the system, many of whom identify as part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. She said customers have been pleasantly surprised by the store’s queer focus.

“One customer came in and was so excited that we had cookies with the trans and non-binary flags because you just don’t see that elsewhere,” she said.

“Representation is important and cookies are a small way we can add to that, which is great.”

Porter got into the hospitality industry at 14, when she started working in wedding catering. After returning from studying social science in Newfoundland, she took the bakery and pastry arts program at Ottawa’s Algonquin College. Porter joined a catering company for one year after graduating but, not liking the 4 a.m. starts, she transitioned into property management.

The opportunity to work as a manager at the Cupcake Lounge came up unexpectedly while she was searching for jobs online. Porter learned she got the job over a Zoom call and instantly fell in love with the staff and business.

When the former owners had to retire for health reasons, Porter jumped at the opportunity to take over the business.

“My wife and I said there was no way we could swing that, but with the help of family and friends we got some loans and we made it happen,” she said. “We have such a warm and accepting group of us working here. It’s almost all femalepresenting. We have a really big queer number of people working here and it was important to me to keep that environment.”

Porter and Côté met during the start of the COVID pandemic and had their first in-person date cancelled because of the lockdowns. “It was a FaceTime relationship to start,” Porter joked. The couple legally wed in the summer of 2022, but didn’t have

a ceremony until this past June.

The pair wants to become more involved in Pride activities as they find their footing and plan to be a vendor at the Pride Parade in August 2024.

This past June during Pride Month, they had a special cupcake called “fruity loops,” which was a vanilla cupcake with Froot Loops cereal on top.

In addition to creative cupcake flavours, the Westboro business has been showcasing local artwork. The pieces are rotated every few months to give exposure to various artists.

“It’s such an easy way as a business to do something for the community,” Côté said. “It’s free for the artists and we don’t take any of the profits from the sales. They get to display their art for free and we get to enjoy the pretty art on the wall.”

Porter said opportunities in the hospitality industry can be “hit or miss” and so she and Côté want to ensure that they treat all their staff like family.

“I’ll never take credit for any of the fantastic designs the girls do because they are amazing,” she said. “They are artistic and creative. I throw things at them and they roll with it. We love being a part of the celebration.”

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Laura Porter (above) bought Westboro’s Cupcake Lounge alongside her wife, Mylène Côté, in August 2022. The pair decided to start selling Pride flag sugar cookies to be inclusive toward all members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. PHOTO BY CHARLIE SENACK.
You know when you’re a kid and you want to find a magnet with your name on it and it’s not a name you can usually find?
Well, everybody should be able to find the flag they identify with. You can come in, find your flag on a cookie, and know you’re in a safe space.
– Laura Porter, co-owner, Cupcake Lounge.
The Cupcake Lounge also has a store in the ByWard Market Square and a pop-up in Kanata on Hazeldean Road.

Port of Johnstown gets $2M from feds as part of cleantech program

The Port of Johnstown has received $2 million from the federal government for the purchase and installation of a new grain dryer.

The dryer has heat capture and air recycling features that will minimize fuel consumption by 20 to 40 per cent, or more than an estimated 344 metric tonnes of CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, annually. The project will enable local producers to dry grain more efficiently, move grain to market sooner, and reduce the risk of grain spoilage.

“By investing in the Port of Johnstown, we continue to establish the right building blocks to get to net zero by 2050,” said Francis Drouin, parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture and agri-food, in a news release.

The funding is part of the adoption stream of the Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) program. In Ontario, ACT has supported 113 projects to date, representing a total of $46.5 million.

“This will enhance our current grain services to our local producers while utilizing newer systems that will limit the impact to the environment,” said Robert Dalley, general manager at the Port of Johnstown.

The port serves as the industrial centre for the Township of Edwardsburgh Cardinal and is a key stakeholder for the agriculture sector, providing services to more than 1,600 farmers in the region.

Roxborough Bus Lines acquired by Ontario transportation company

Roxborough Bus Lines has been acquired by Ontario’s Switzer-CARTY Transportation, the companies announced recently.

The merger includes the entirety of the 60-year-old passenger transportation company’s operations, including its motorcoach division, 417 Bus Line. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Started in 1959, Roxborough is a family-owned company that operates facilities in Avonmore, Alexandria, Clarence Creek, Greely, Madoc and Casselman, providing transportation to 170 schools in the City of Ottawa and in Eastern Ontario. It currently has a fleet of more than 850 buses and employs nearly 900 people.

Nick McRae, president of Roxborough, has joined the senior team at Switzer-CARTY as vice-president of operations. He said the acquisition is a great opportunity for both companies.

“It is rare to find two companies that align so perfectly on culture and customer service excellence as Roxborough and Switzer-CARTY do,” said McRae, a 2021 Forty Under 40 recipient. “I am excited

about what the future holds with the combining of two great organizations that each are recognized as leaders in the school bus industry.”

The Roxborough name will remain on the company’s buses for now, as Switzer-CARTY takes over operations.

“They’re not coming in day one and ripping names off of buses and ramming processes down our throats,” McRae said. “This is really going to run in parallel and we’re looking at how we build best practices for both companies going forward.”

McRae added that the priority is ensuring that staff and customers are taken care of.

“No downsizing whatsoever,” he said. “We’re looking to scale up because we’re looking at other growth opportunities.”

Switzer-CARTY, which was founded in 2011, provides student transportation and charter services across Ontario, including the Greater Toronto Area and Niagara region.

“We are pleased to welcome the entire Roxborough team to Switzer-

CARTY,” said Jim Switzer, president and CEO, adding that both companies share a similar vision.

“The culture of Roxborough mirrors that of Switzer-CARTY where employees are treated with dignity and respect and student safety is a priority. We look forward to everyone from the professional drivers, technicians and operations staff to continue the great work in serving the local communities in their current roles moving forward.”

Switzer-CARTY was founded in 2011 by Switzer and Doug Carty, two transportation and school bus industry executives. The company provides student transportation and charter services to a diverse set of customers across Ontario.

In January, Roxborough Bus Lines announced it had finalized a deal to buy 417 Bus Line Ltd., a family-owned business based in Casselman.

In May, Roxborough Group acquired Foley Bus Lines motorcoach division, two years after purchasing Foley’s school bus division, allowing it to expand into Central Ontario.

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Robert Dally, general manager of the Port of Johnstown, MP Francis Drouin, Edwardsburgh Cardinal Mayor Tory Deschamps and Chief Edward Roundpoint, Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne. PHOTO TERRY TYO.

coming out of the pandemic.

A group of craft brewers recently urged the provincial government to revamp its beer tax system, arguing that the average Ontario beer-maker pays hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes each year than its counterparts elsewhere in Canada.

Still, Thompson said Calabogie and Whitewater are in a strong position to thrive under the new corporate structure.

The combined entity will have the equivalent of more than 100 full-time employees and is expected to generate annual revenues in excess of $11 million, with Whitewater accounting for about twothirds of those totals.

Known for brews such as Whitewater Farmer’s Daughter Blonde Ale and Calabogie Portage Pilsner, the two companies churn out the equivalent of 3.5 million-plus cans of beer each year.

Calabogie, Whitewater breweries join forces in bid to expand market share

Two of Eastern Ontario’s best-known craft breweries are joining forces in a bid to tap into new markets and expand their product offerings.

Calabogie Brewing and Whitewater Brewing announced they are forming a new entity called Canada Beverage Marketplace. Exact terms of the agreement, which was finalized this week, were not disclosed. Whitewater co-founder and chief executive Chris Thompson said the current shareholders of both breweries, including Thompson and Whitewater co-owner James Innes as well as Calabogie CEO Jeff

Gibson and his business partners, will control ownership of the new company.

Calabogie Brewing, which is located in Calabogie, about 100 kilometres west of Ottawa, and Foresters Falls-based Whitewater Brewing will remain separate entities under the Canada Beverage Marketplace umbrella, Thompson said.

“Both Whitewater and Calabogie have done very well to grow our brands over the last five to 10 years,” he said. “We both have amazing, loyal followers and customers. We don’t want that to change. Really, from a consumer standpoint, there’s not going to be any change, other than I think in the future we’ll be able to hopefully be more innovative and more creative.”

The deal, which has been in the works for months, will lead to greater economies of scale on the production side as well as cost savings in areas such as shipping and distribution, Thompson explained.

He said some of the breweries’ existing operations will likely be consolidated, but added there are no plans to cut jobs.

“We’re really going to be taking the next eight months to figure all of that out,” he said. “This is really a growth step.”

The new arrangement comes at a challenging time for Ontario craft brewers.

Changing consumer tastes and rising costs of ingredients such as hops have combined to put the squeeze on many microbreweries just as the industry was

That number has continued to grow during the pandemic thanks to multiple sales channels that include the breweries’ own tap houses, the Beer Store, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and bars and restaurants across Eastern Ontario.

“We did quite well through the pandemic,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t say either company grew huge numbers, but we did well to adapt.”

Perhaps Whitewater’s biggest move during the COVID-19 crisis was launching a distillery in September 2020. Its flagship product, Paper Boat Artisanal Gin, will be joined next month by a blended whisky called Broken Paddle.

Thompson said the gin has been a “steady” seller since its debut. He said the company eventually plans to build a dedicated distillery with an eye toward branching out into other spirits as well as products such as canned cocktails.

“That will allow us to really invest in that side of the business,” Thompson said.

In addition, the breweries are “actively looking into” adding non-alcoholic drinks to their roster, he said.

“It’s on the radar, whether it’s nonalcoholic or other types of beverages,” Thompson said. “What we aim to do is really keep on top of consumer trends and provide customers with what they’re looking for.”

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Both Whitewater and Calabogie have done very well to grow our brands over the last five to 10 years. – Chris Thompson , Whitewater co-founder and chief executive
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EASTERN ONTARIO Movies like ‘Barbie’ could be saving grace for small, regional theatres

In the wake of the pandemic and with his business’s loan repayment deadlines looming, Kevin Marshall is relying on a boost from a new friend — and her name is Barbie.

As the owner and operator of O’Brien Theatre in Arnprior since 1999, Marshall has seen the independent cinema through decades of ups and downs, from renovating and installing a second movie screen in the building, to the rise of VIP seating and recliners in big-name Ottawa theatres.

But nothing compared to the challenges thrown his way during the pandemic.

“Bums in actual seats have been on a steady decline in the industry in general for years. But COVID knocked the wind out of everything,” Marshall said. “They weren’t making movies, so even if we were open, we had nothing to play. And it drove people to streaming. If they were on the fence about Netflix or Prime or any of those, they went for it during the pandemic.”

To keep the lights on, Marshall took advantage of the Canada Emergency Business Account loans offered during the pandemic. But O’Brien Theatre has still not made a full recovery and Marshall says repaying the loans will be a “real challenge.”

“I needed the money at the time and I used it to keep the doors open and keep the bills paid,” he explained. “I was at a point where I couldn’t get any more credit and would go bankrupt if I didn’t get that loan.

“If it weren’t for (the loan), we wouldn’t be here, so I don’t want to complain too much. I’m glad I had it, but paying it back sucks,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a doubleedged sword.”

But in what might seem like a dire situation, an unlikely hero has appeared in the form of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a

star-studded film that has been generating international hype.

O’Brien Theatre is located far enough from major competitors in Ottawa that — unlike independent cinemas located within the city’s boundaries — it is permitted to screen the same movies as chains such as Landmark and Cineplex, Marshall said.

And Marshall’s decision to bring Barbie to his small-town cinema has been “fantastic” for the theatre, he said, with ticket sales eclipsing any other film shown this year.

“It’s been our biggest single movie of this year. It’s surpassed Super Mario Bros. and other big tentpole movies,” Marshall explained. “Barbie was a surprise.”

O’Brien Theatre had received a lot of interest from viewers about Barbie, Marshall said, but he didn’t know who the target audience was. Family-friendly films tend to do best at his cinema, he explained, so he wasn’t sure how it would be received.

“We knew it would be big … But we’ve seen lots of families, and even lots of seniors, all dressed in pink from top to bottom,” he said, laughing. “It’s been just fantastic for us.”

“We’re continuing into our second week of Barbie and have made more in our

second week than Mission Impossible did in two weeks,” Marshall continued. “Even in a second week, already it’s done better than any other movie this year. It’s just phenomenal.”

Many audience members have also been repeat viewers, Marshall said, which the theatre relies on due to the small population in Arnprior.

“They see it, then they bring their husbands, bring their kids, bring their grandkids,” he said. “It was like showing Titanic when people had seen it 37 times … In a small town, you need that repeat business.”

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer shared a release date with Barbie. But even with all the Oppenheimer buzz, Marshall said he prioritized Barbie.

“It came down to what I felt personally was going to do well and we do very, very well with family movies. Oppenheimer is a great film, but you’re not bringing your fouryear-old to it,” he said.

“If I’d had the other screen free, I’d have run it at the same time, but it just happened with the flow that I couldn’t … It’s a Tetris game. But I’m definitely bringing it in.”

But even with the record ticket sales that Barbie has sparked for O’Brien Theatre, Marshall said the business will need a lot more movies like it to truly regain its financial footing.

The cinema boasts two movie screens, seating 292 in the main-floor theatre and 140 upstairs.

“These days,” Marshall said, “the theatres are usually about 25 per cent full. And although Barbie is very popular, on the busiest night, the theatres were only half full.

“Unfortunately, I’m absolutely relying on Barbie and movies like it,” he added. “Smaller productions no longer pay the bills.

“The amount of people who come in for big movies, this year… They barely cover the costs. Something like Barbie is actually just getting us through.”

June and July are the biggest months in his business, followed by December, Marshall explained, and he has to rely on making enough money in those months to keep the theatre afloat through the rest of the year.

“In September, the gross earnings don’t even cover the basic costs,” he said. “We need these huge movies to pay the bills.”

An ongoing strike in Hollywood is also going to pose major concerns for the movie industry, Marshall said, and while the consequences might not be immediate, the cinema will see the effects in the coming years.

“With this strike, it’s not impacting us now, but it will next year,” Marshall explained. “The next Spiderman movie was going to be huge, and now it’s just gone and production has stopped. We anticipate these movies, thinking they’ll be big, and now we don’t know.

“For businesses like mine that have not recovered, even with Barbie, I won’t be close to my 2019 numbers.”

In the meantime, as he grapples with the quickly approaching CEBA loan repayment deadline and the effects of the strike, Marshall said he isn’t taking Barbie off the O’Brien screen anytime soon.

But in a declining industry, moviegoers and film enthusiasts are more important than ever in keeping theatres like the O’Brien open.

“In comparison to 15 years ago, when I would have been sold out for every evening and every matinee during the weekend, for Barbie I’m just barely half full,” he said. “It’s better than anything in the last five years. But in relation to 15 or 20 years ago, the numbers are still just not there.”

– with files from The Canadian Press

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O’Brien Theatre in Arnprior is banking on Barbie SUPPLED PHOTO.

Entrepreneur brings animal rehab services to region

Sophie Malo rang in her 30th birthday with her mini pig, cat and dog at her side — and those are just her own pets. She also spent the day knee-deep in water with four-legged clients using an underwater treadmill, and distracting them with treats as they undergo laser therapy.

Malo moved to Ottawa from Sudbury in 2011 to pursue a bachelor of science in kinesiology at the University of Ottawa but after graduating was torn between treating human or animal patients. In the end, animals won out, especially when Malo discovered an animal rehabilitation program at the University of Tennessee.

“I was looking for jobs working with animals and that’s where I came across it. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and, with my qualifications, I was able to get in,” she said. “And I’m so happy I did.”

A certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, Malo first began working at Rehab Fur Your Pet on Carling Avenue. In her four years at the clinic, Malo said the market for animal rehab “grew exponentially.” When she moved to Alexandria in 2020, Malo

said she saw an opportunity to bring those services to Eastern Ontario.

“I was doing the commute (to Ottawa) and I didn’t mind it, but I started meeting people out here and telling them what I do for a living and people thought it was really cool. It was fun explaining to people what I can do,” she explained. “I was looking into it and there were no services like this offered in this area, so I decided I’d do it.

“When I got into the pet clinic in Ottawa, I had no intention of (starting a business), but I saw a big need for it in these counties and I couldn’t give that up.”

Malo started Playbow Animal Rehabilitation Clinic (PARC) as a mobile service providing therapeutic laser, ultrasound and other portable services.

“There’s a different mentality here, a lot of farmers and more country living in general, so I wasn’t sure if I’d have the same clientele (as Ottawa),” Malo said.

After a year, Malo said she was seeing clients who could benefit from larger, more extensive support and she didn’t have anywhere to refer them.

“That’s when I started working on the next steps,” Malo said.

As a first-time entrepreneur, Malo said

she relied on support from the community to get her footing. She worked with Business Sisters, a business networking company for women in Alexandria, and was referred to Cornwall’s Starter Company Plus program.

With support from her family and the starter program, Malo opened a brickand-mortar clinic in April featuring a wide range of services and tools, including an underwater treadmill.

The clinic is open four days a week and Malo still provides mobile services one day a week for clients that struggle to get into cars or otherwise travel to the clinic.

To maintain her certifications, Malo treats “human clients” one day a week with in-home therapeutic services. But the “nonhuman” clients are where her heart lies.

As the sole employee and owner at PARC, Malo sees between six and 10 animals each day, though she hopes to double that number once she hires her first employee.

The startup costs for the clinic were steep, she said, since the equipment is an investment. For example, the therapeutic laser costs about $40,000 and the underwater treadmill was $80,000. Not to mention other costs, like animal lifejackets, blow dryers and “distraction techniques”

like snuffle mats, lick mats and treats. But with the steady growth of her business, she said she’s “happy where I am.”

“The program allowed me to do a twoyear financial plan and I’m on track for where I want to be,” she said. “I’m getting two to three new referrals a week, so I’m definitely on track.”

Tara Kirkpatrick, manager of economic development for the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, said PARC is “filling a defined need in our community.”

Although Malo most often treats dogs, she said she has also worked with cats and rabbits as the concept of animal rehabilitation gains momentum. She has helped almost 100 clients to date.

“Pet insurance is becoming more popular and a lot of it covers rehab, so it’s getting more normalized. There are lots of services for our pets and the services are very similar to services in human physiotherapy practices,” she explained.

Her treatment options include the underwater treadmill, which is a type of hydrotherapy that allows her to target specific conditions, including gait training and taking weight off the joints to allow an animal to build muscle.

The clinic also offers light therapy, which can accelerate healing and reduce pain, ultrasound and other therapeutic practices.

Malo has also started treating patients at Bee Meadows Farm, a nearby sanctuary that is home to hundreds of rescued animals.

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Sophie Malo, owner of the Playbow Animal Rehabilitation Clinic, is “filling a defined need in our community,” one local official says. PHOTOS SUPPLIED.

How to future-proof your communications tech for the next generation

With remote-first, hybrid workplaces here to stay, businesses are revamping the communications systems they set up during the pandemic with the future in mind.

That’s why David Turcotte, Acronym’s voice and collaboration product manager, has been busy helping Ottawa business owners futureproof their communication systems.

“Our customers needed a more reliable and stable alternative to their one-size fits all system,” he said. “What they had was a kneejerk adaptation to the challenges presented by the pandemic.”

But what was effective in the short term won’t be sufficient for the future. Systems cobbled together on the fly can be inconsistent, unintegrated and don’t scale as the business grows.

For many businesses, the tipping points for upgrading their voice system were dropped calls and overall call quality.

It makes sense. With most of today’s communications being delivered by text, email and chat, a conversation that’s ‘phone-worthy’ is more likely to involve a crucial, timely situation — not a great moment to lose touch or have degraded voice quality.

But while that reliability can give employers

peace of mind, the next question is whether it will fill your talent pipeline with younger recruits — the kind who aren’t big fans of talking on the phone.

Attracting and retaining the next generation of talent

Those looking to align their technology with today’s hybrid workplaces will need a tool that keeps their team in touch from anywhere, on any device.

“There are three types of users: office, home and hybrid,” said Turcotte. “Gartner says that seventy-five per cent of those workers will soon be millennials who say, ‘I don’t want to be handcuffed to a laptop.’”

It’s a reality business owners can’t afford to ignore. In addition to the shifting age demographic, two-thirds of knowledge workers will work remotely in the not-too-distant future.

Both stats suggest that attracting and retaining new recruits will depend on how flexible and adaptable your technology is, especially when the talent you need isn’t in your own backyard.

“With our voice and collaboration system, you and your employees can be reached anywhere with one number,” said Turcotte. “If

you’re in the office, you can be reached at your desk or on your mobile. If you’re at home, you can set it up in several places, like your mobile, home office and the cottage if you’re heading there on Friday afternoon.”

And flexible options aren’t the only thing these new recruits are looking for. They also want a commitment to work-life balance.

By taking unnecessary ‘busy work’ off your team’s plate by leveraging new automation tools, you free them up to be more creative and proactive, adds Turcotte.

A final must for new recruits is an inclusive workplace. Whether teams are on-site, hybrid or completely remote, businesses need to be working together on a level playing field. That’s why Acronym’s voice and collaboration systems have been designed with customization in mind, he says, to ensure all employees can stay connected.

“I can give you a solution for basic services so you can answer the phone,” said Turcotte. “Or I can give you elaborate collaboration capabilities to hold a webinar with 1,000 people.”

But if creating a system that will keep everyone happy sounds daunting, Acronym has your back for that too.

Let Acronym be your ICT troubleshooting team

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, there’s a real risk that configuring and managing it will steal valuable time away from your core business.

That’s why Acronym partnered with Cisco to offer their customers a fully integrated, single tool.

“We invest heavily in knowing the customer,” said Turcotte. “Whether they have 10 or 1,000 users, we use a consultative approach to understand their needs and where we can add value.”

They do it by taking the information they gather with their discovery tool and working with Cisco to build your system and troubleshoot any issues or adjustments as you scale.

“We give you the best of both worlds,” said Turcotte — meaning a system designed for your needs, without having to spend valuable time troubleshooting.

Acronym’s suite of services for small and medium sized businesses may be new on the scene, but their team is not. They’ve managed reliable ICT networks for government and health organizations for decades.

“Future-proofing your business with our network, technology and technical support just makes good business sense,” said Turcotte.

With Acronym’s track record with network reliability and their customer-centric approach to serving small and medium sized businesses, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your communications technologies.


Vegetarian single mom not sheepish about breeding rare Icelandic livestock

If you’d asked her six years ago, Kathryn Stuart would never have predicted where she would find herself today.

Allergic to animals and a vegetarian of nearly 30 years, Stuart was a single mother of four living and homeschooling her children in Montreal, where she was a yoga teacher, reflexologist and musician.

Fast forward, and Stuart now lives in overalls and rubber boots, working the land on her farm in Eganville, where she breeds rare Icelandic livestock.

“If you had said this was my future, I would have said it was a mistake,” Stuart laughs.

After years of travelling before settling in Montreal, once the homeschooling laws changed in Quebec, Stuart decided to return to her home province of Ontario with her children. It was then that she moved into an old farmhouse, one that had been in her family for centuries and rented out. The property, originally about 300 acres, had belonged to her family since the 1800s.

Not long after moving to the now-95acre farm, Stuart’s children began wanting to take advantage of the country lifestyle.

“I was allergic to animals. The kids wanted sheep and chickens and I said, ‘No way,’” she laughs. “But they said they wanted to do everything. They built all the pens and fences, so I started researching hypoallergenic sheep. People were claiming that the Icelandic sheep were.”

Since then, Stuart’s allergies have “mysteriously disappeared,” she says. And a good thing, too, since her farm is now home to two peacocks, 26 sheep and a variety of dogs, cats, geese and ducks. Even more rare than the peacocks, though, are the Icelandic sheep and chickens that are the claim to

fame for the farm, now known as Northern Viking Farm.

“I have a fatal allergy to eggs, but these eggs are 79 per cent genetically different. The chickens and sheep have so many unique qualities,” Stuart, 45, explains. “I don’t particularly like chickens or sheep, but I like ours.

“I fell into this without realizing and now, oh my gosh, I’m obsessed,” she says. “When they’re purebred registered, you can look up their genetics all the way back to Iceland. I didn’t know anything about any of this before and I just fell into it.”

Icelandic chickens owe their distinct genetics to the Vikings, who isolated and kept the chickens from the rest of the world for more than 1,000 years.

Similarly, the type of Icelandic sheep that are kept at the farm date back 1,100

years and are equally valued for their hair fibre, milk and meat. The sheep thrive on a grass-fed diet, can be kept as milk sheep, and are especially hardy when it comes to cold Ottawa Valley winters. They’re born in nearly 100 variations of patterns and colours of fleece, making for an exciting surprise each lambing season, Stuart says, and interesting, vibrant wool.

Some of the sheep in Stuart’s flock even boast names consistent with their Viking heritage, such as Gandalf, Gudrun and Ragnarok.

“I have been a vegetarian since I was 13, so it’s an even weirder thing,” laughs Stuart, whose family has Norse heritage. “I was a vegan for 15 years and I don’t eat eggs. But the kids eat everything.”

Now, when she isn’t homeschooling her children, Stuart spends her days caring for

the many animals on the farm, researching sheep genetics, travelling the region to breed her sheep and sell her wares, and exploring everything else her new life has to offer.

In addition to selling grass-fed Icelandic lamb, Stuart offers breeding stock for both sheep and chickens. Her children have also risen to the occasion, with her 14-yearold forging “Viking spear” utensils and traditional wares; her 12-year-old handturning wooden bowls, plates, drop spindles and decorations; and the seven-year-old handcrafting leather bracelets.

Wool products made from the sheep’s unique double-layered fleece are also popular, Stuart says.

“We started getting into the wool during the pandemic because we couldn’t get anyone out here to shear, so the kids and I started with scissors,” she recalls. “Now I shear them, wash the wool in an old bathtub, dry them in the sun, and it goes through a picker.”

The “roving,” or raw fibre, as well as yarn and felting wool, are featured on Northern Viking’s website.

The family travels to local markets and craft shows to sell their wares Viking-style, but with recent support from Enterprise Renfrew County’s Starter Company Plus program, Stuart says she has lots of plans in the works.

After completing the program, which she said was “intense and wonderful,” Stuart received a grant for Northern Viking, which she says will be a huge boost for operations.

She was able to purchase a breeding ram linked back to the first export of sheep out of Iceland, allowing for older genetics in her sheep. The grant will also go toward a freezer and coolers to support meat sales, advertising and marketing materials, and a revamp of Stuart’s farm kitchen to meet health unit guidelines.

Until now, word of mouth has been the main source of customers, but Stuart says she’s also planning to build an online store and ramp up marketing efforts.

And this life of wool, fields and hard work is full circle for Stuart, who only learned after starting the farm that her family has deep ties to the craft.

“My dad grew up on this property with a flock of sheep and my great-grandfather on my mother’s side had sheep,” she says. “But people were moving away from farming, getting an education, moving away from that lifestyle and thinking it was embarrassing.

“But I love it.”

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Kathryn Stuart “fell into” a life of farming when she moved to her family farm in the Ottawa Valley. PHOTOS SUPPLIED.

Leeds Grenville Entrepreneurs Loving their Lifestyles

Work-life balance is attracting newly inspired small businesses to villages and towns south-west of Ottawa. The key attractors are affordability and lifestyle, along with the 1000 Islands and Rideau Canal Waterways and easy access to major highways.

Ridgway Confections Inc. Chocolatier Derek Ouellet and partner/co-owner Cindy Healy began their adventure into chocolate and candy quite unexpectedly in 2012 after Derek retired from retail sales. They made fudge to help a shop owner and neighbour in their village of Seeley’s Bay. The response was so great; they decided to start their own candy shop and installed a professional kitchen in their Victorian-era home. “I think there’s a trend with people searching out places like ours as a destination point,” says Cindy. People look for uniqueness, quality and local food connections. Their shop has all of the above. Their creations are made with only fresh ingredients, like butter and cream, and are locally sourced when possible. Visiting the candy shop is an experience in itself with its interesting antique display cases, lights and cash register.

Maison Maitland

Cooking School & Villas overlook the St. Lawrence River. Owner Cynthia Peters relocated to the area after building a popular business in Prince Edward County’s culinary and tourism sector. In late 2021, she and her husband bought an 1820’s Georgian Manor in Maitland and renovated the kitchen for her cooking school. Chef Cynthia’s signature style is approachable international dishes with seasonal local ingredients, set in unique heritage surroundings. “I want to create a more personal, cultural experience that highlights local producers and their stories behind the place and region,” says Cynthia, a farm-to-table trailblazer, food tour curator and author.  Her new, two-storey holiday villas are in a refurbished former stone carriage house on their 5-acre property and will expand her offerings. “They will offer our guests an idyllic European countryside escape, unique to South Eastern Ontario,” says Cynthia. | | | 613-342-3840 ext. 5365 | 1-800-770-2170
Read their story HERE Watch their story HERE

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Influence. Grow.


Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce have been representing the interests of business worldwide for generations. The impact of that work has ensured economic growth that drives community prosperity, infrastructure, and innovation. At our AGM this year, our new board chair, Brendan McGuinty shared a compelling story of how our local business leaders throughout the years have worked together to build the foundation and evolution of our city.

In the last few years, we have convened many business and community leaders who acknowledge that radical collaboration is the way we must move forward to realize our full potential and build a city and

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economy for the next generation, one that is inclusive and sustainable.

The Ottawa Board of Trade is a trusted liaison at every level of government. We work in partnership with key stakeholders to represent businesses of every size and in every sector of our community. We believe that local business leaders have a role and responsibility to support decision makers faced with unprecedented challenges and opportunities. It is time to unite.


• ai talos

• Air France KLM

• Akran Marketing

• Alluvion Investments

• Ariana Spices


• Ayudante Canada

• Cole Media Group

• EY Centre

• Fidan Construction

• Gemstone Construction

• Giatec Scientific Inc.

• Grand Lake Consulting Inc

• H4G Geomatics inc.

• Hellamaid Cleaning Services of Ottawa

• i4C Consulting Inc

• IBM Canada

• JSI Telecom

• MAST industrial Services

• North45

• Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

• Quantum Lifecyle Partners LP

• R.W. Tomlinson Limited

• Relationship Capital

• Spruce Creative

• StrategyCorp Inc.


• The CFO Centre Canada

• The Properties Group

• Waterford Property Group


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Mark your calendars for events designed to connect, celebrate, and contribute to the success of your business and the growth of our city. Many sell out, so check in often for the latest! Mayor’s Breakfast Series........................................................................................ Feb to Nov 2023 Talent Summit .................................................................................................... September 28, 2023 Downtown Summit................................................................................................................. Fall 2023
Wine & Wisdom ....................................................................................... November 2023 Best Ottawa Business Awards ......................................................................November 23, 2023
Economic Outlook ................................................................................ December 2023 Stay tuned for our Fall event lineup: Sueling Ching,
Special thanks to our Pillar Partners: EVENTS & PROGRAMS
President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade

Spurs and Sparkles supports Queensway Carleton Hospital

There wasn’t a single long face to be found — except for the equine variety — at the Spurs and Sparkles benefit that returned to Wesley Clover Parks for the first time since its tremendously successful launch more than four years ago.

The 300-plus attendees seemed genuinely excited to come together for one of Ottawa’s more unique fundraising events. It featured a Get Up and Gallop three-part competition that consisted of show jumping with riders on horseback,

as well as local business leaders and celebrities participating in a golf cart obstacle course and football-toss challenge.

Ten-time Olympian Ian Millar was on hand to take everyone through the race format and rules. His daughter Amy Millar, also a Canadian Olympian, was one of the riders in the race.

Terlin Construction successfully defended its champion title in the eightteam competition.

OBJ.CA FALL 2023 74 is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS
Shannon Gorman (middle), with Jeff Todd and Patricia Santos. Winners and organizers celebrated a fun day. Darragh Kerins with Terry McLaughlin and Terry Marcotte. SUNKIST MEDIA Janet McKeage, Kathryn Tremblay, Marjolaine Hudon. Stacey Seller and Fred Seller. Marisia Campbell and Doug Hewson. Jonathan Westeinde and Susan Finlay. Show jumping riders took to the course for a good cause. SUNKIST MEDIA

Starry Night Glamping Gala raises $500K-plus for BGC Ottawa

It was as if everyone at the sold-out Starry Night Glamping Gala was grabbing one last burst of fun in a summer that’s coming to an end far too soon.

The massive benefit party, which raised more than $500,000 for BGC Ottawa (formerly the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa) was held outside the non-profit organization’s Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse on

Prince of Wales Drive, with luxury car dealership Mark Motors Group returning as the presenting sponsor.

The evening twinkled brightly in so many ways, from the amazing food and drinks to the magnificent party tents, decorated by Avant-Garde Designs, to an exciting assortment of activities. The weather was perfect, too. Also set up were tented lounges that major sponsors could use to host friends or

clients. The customized Airstream bar was back, allowing attendees to enjoy the outdoors while they grabbed some cocktails.

Michelle Taggart, vice-president of planning and land development for Tamarack Homes and Tartan Homes, returned for her second year to cochair the gala. She was joined this time around by her longtime pal Jeff Smith, president of Smith & Reid Insurance.

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Meredithe Rechan with Cindy Tomlinson, Jacqui Wilson, Will Keon and Michael Wilson. Jacqueline Belsito with Bruce Raganold and Rob Ashe. Jock Climie with Robyn Osgood and Robert Rhéaume. Alok Ahuja with his wife, Danika. Ian Taggart and Joanne Taggart with Katie Macmillan and Graham Macmillan. Cheryl Fougere with Sandra Plagakis. David Gilbert with his wife, Erin. Angela Singhal with Jeff Smith, Michelle Taggart and Alex Wilson. Shirley Kouri with Michael Mrak, Liza Mrak and Gary Zed.
OBJ.CA FALL 2023 76 $3,950,000 Amazing Glebe Family Home Ottawa’s Finest Portfolio of Luxury Homes 613.842.5000 | Reba Wilson Broker of Record Marilyn Wilson REALTOR®


Lumière Gala raises $120K for hospital

Lumière got its start as a magnificent bash created by legendary tech entrepreneur Terry Matthews to celebrate the 2003 grand opening of his Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. We’re happy to tell you that, 20 years later, it hasn’t lost that playful spirit or wondrous magic that made it such a great party to begin with.

The gala returned this year for its first time since 2019, with RBC Royal Bank as presenting sponsor.

The evening netted more than $120,000 for this year’s beneficiary, the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation. It also featured a Roaring Twenties theme in honour of the 20th anniversary.

FALL 2023 OBJ.CA 77 is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS Paul Chiarelli and Lisa Chiarelli. Performers at the gala included dancers and singer Rebecca Noelle. Veronica Farmer and Ian Spicer. Ray Rashed and Shannon Gorman. Bruce Linton, Heather Linton, Bruce Raganold, Giselle Bergeron-Raganold. Carole Saad and Nyle Kelly. Janet Yale and Barbara Farber. Amanda Gordon and Nataja Black. Harold Feder, Nancy Walkington, Ron Prehogan and Avalee Prehogan.

Improvised interview starts a new chapter for Mychelle Mollot

Knak co-founder and CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla must be doing something right: He’s got his former boss working for him now.

Long-time technology executive Mychelle Mollot is the new chief marketing officer at the Ottawa-based software firm. Her first day was Aug. 7.

“I’m very excited,” she enthused about joining Knak, a codeless campaign creation platform that, essentially, makes life easier for marketers.

With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Mollot has a proven track record in software marketing. She’s worked for IBM Cognos, Klipfolio and, most recently, Solace.

It was a knee injury, of all things, that rerouted her to this particular career path, years ago.

Mollot graduated from Queen’s University with an engineering degree in geophysics. It’s an area of earth sciences that requires a lot of field work, which wasn’t a problem until she tore a ligament in her knee downhill skiing. She knew she would have to step away from her job to undergo surgery and rehab. Fortuitously, she was contacted by Cognos for a marketing position in product management at the Ottawabased software development company.

Mollot almost missed her interview with Mike Laginski, who worked at Cognos at the time. They were supposed to meet in person, but Mollot was called out of the province

last minute to work in the field. She found a pay phone at a gas station in rural Manitoba to reach Laginski. “I had to make a collect call.”

Cognos didn’t seem to mind.

“They were so desperate at that point for people who were technical but also had the ability to write and communicate, that (Laginski) said, ‘Okay, come see me when you come back.’ I did, and they literally hired me on the spot.

“At the time, Cognos was exploding and couldn’t hire fast enough.”

Mollot looks back now at that gas station interview as a major turning point. “My whole career changed in that one moment.”

She had planned to return to engineering after recovering from knee surgery, but changed her mind. “I loved Cognos, I loved the excitement, and I just stayed.”

It goes to show, she added, “Your skills are more transferable than you think. You never know what you might get captivated by until you actually try it. I never thought I would be working in software or marketing.”

Mollot remained with Cognos from 1989 until 2014. The company was bought by IBM in 2008 for US$5 billion. Through IBM Cognos, she met Ujjainwalla. He was a junior member of the 200-member marketing team she was managing at the time.

“All I heard all the time was, ‘What a rock star, what a rock star,’” she recalled of Ujjainwalla’s stellar reputation as a rising young talent.

Ujjainwalla left IBM in 2010 to eventually launch his own consultancy, Revenue Pulse.

“He started developing the tools that became Knak when he was running his consultancy to help him and his team,” said Mollot of how Knak began in 2015.

Knak is pronounced with a silent ‘k’, much like knack, which means a clever and skilful way of doing something. Co-founders also include Brendan Farnand and Patrick Proulx.

Mollot became part of the advisory board for Knak in 2020, along with former Cognos CEO Rob Ashe and

former Cognos marketing executive Leah MacMillan.

“That’s when I really started to get to know Pierce, in the context of this company and his thinking as a CEO and how he was building it,” said Mollot. “I was just so impressed. Pierce is very creative. He’s really a great guy and a visionary.”

This past May, Mollot left her job as chief marketing officer at Solace due to “differences of opinion” between her and Denis King, who was promoted to CEO in 2020.

“It was time to go. It was not my decision but I’m happy with the decision,” said Mollot, who had built a marketing department and SDR (sales development representatives) team from scratch during her nearly six years at the software firm. “Look, I’m extremely happy and proud of what I did at the company.”

Mollot said she was partial to joining Knak for many reasons, including its Ottawa roots. She was born and raised in the National Capital Region. “I really wanted something local that I could help grow,” said the board member with The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

As well, she liked that the cofounders have a deep understanding of marketing due to their own marketing background.

Knak solves a problem that many marketers struggle with by helping them to build and manage online marketing campaigns in a way that saves them time and money, said Mollot.

Also a draw was Ujjainwalla, a 2022 Forty Under 40 award recipient. “Of course, having that personal connection to somebody, knowing that they’re a person you want to work with and they value what you can do and that you value what they do is always important,” said Mollot.

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The National Arts Centre announced in June that it’s appointed Juniper Locilento as new CEO of the NAC Foundation, effective Aug. 21. She takes over from Jayne Watson, who stepped down this past May after 14 years in the position. Locilento brings 20 years of experience in fundraising, philanthropy and non-profit leadership. She has driven strategic initiatives that have resulted in revenues of more than $200 million for arts and culture, education, health care, and human services, the NAC stated in a release. Most recently, Locilento was the chief development and communications officer for Toronto-based Community Food Centres Canada. She’s also served in key positions at the YMCA of Greater Toronto and Ketchum Canada. As well, her career journey includes roles at several arts institutions, including Soulpepper Theatre Company and the Canadian Opera Company.

The National Gallery of Canada has welcomed Jean-François Bélisle as its

new director and CEO, effective July 17. He was previously the executive director and chief-curator of the Musée d’art de Joliette (MAJ), one of Canada’s most important regional museums with a permanent collection that spans 5,000 years of visual art history. Under his leadership, the MAJ significantly expanded its presence, role and profile in Canada and abroad, with particular attention to the inclusion of diversified cultural voices, according to the National Gallery.

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has announced Deborah Lehmann as its new president and CEO. She began her new job on July 24. Lehmann had been executive director of the Parent Resource Centre for the past eight years. She replaces Michael Maidment, who joined the Ottawa Community Foundation in April as its new president and CEO.

Ottawa-based supply-chain management software company Kinaxis has promoted Megan Paterson, who has served as the company’s chief human resources officer for the past five years, to the newly created position of chief operating officer. Taking

over her former role is Amber Pate, the company’s former vice-president of human resources. Also promoted was Andrew Bell to chief product officer. As well, Kinaxis recently named Margaret Franco as its new chief marketing officer. Franco previously worked as the CMO at Finastra and as a senior marketing leader at Dell.

Canada Lands Company Limited, a selffinancing federal Crown corporation that specializes in real estate development and attractions management, announced the government appointment of Stéphan Déry as its new president and CEO for a term of four years, effective April 12, 2023. Déry most recently served as assistant deputy minister of real property services at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), an organization with more than 4,000 employees. In this role, he was responsible for the delivery of the entire suite of real property services to federal departments and agencies.

Full-service real estate investment and management company Colonnade BridgePort has announced the

STUFF Made and Built In Eastern Ontario

appointment of real estate veteran Andrew Blair as managing partner of its investment and fund management business. Blair’s previous positions include head of real estate investments for the Americas at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, executive vice-president and COO of TrizecHahn Development, and president and CEO of both StorageNow and Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities.

iSisters Technology Mentoring Inc. announced the appointment of Karyn Steer as incoming executive director of the Ottawa-based women’s charity that provides free technology and employment skills training to disadvantaged women, girls and gender-diverse people. Steer will assume the role currently held by Ann McSweeney, who is retiring on Sept. 30 after more than 50 years in the non-profit sector, including the past three years at iSisters. Steer has had a series of roles of increasing seniority at the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), an iSisters partner, and is an accomplished leader with over 20 years of experience within the charitable sector.

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