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Greenhouse effect New Ottawa startup gives northern communities a platform to grow food year-round — and save big money



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February 13, 2017 Vol. 20, NO. 8

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Intelligent approach City employs local firm’s cutting-edge AI tools to find out what the public really thinks about proposed new developments. > PAGES 6-7

Meet the new boss

Ottawa tech company Signority brings on veteran entrepreneur as new CEO in bid to become leader in e-signature sector. > PAGE 14

Greg Lipin, co-founder of North of 7 Distillery, says the province’s craft whisky producers still face hurdles in their bid to expand their reach. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

Pouring their hearts into whisky Local distillers and blenders aiming to quench our growing thirst for craft spirits Carleton student’s startup Twelve Barrels joins Ottawa-based North of 7 on expanding list of Ontario enterprises > PAGES 4-5

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LAUNCH PAD “How is it that these people can’t even access food even if they have a decent living? If you’re paying $12 for three peppers, you really don’t have much in terms of choice.” – COREY ELLIS, CO-FOUNDER OF THE GROWCER

Corey Ellis is a founder of The Growcer, which provides equipment to help northern communities grow food year-round. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

Hydroponics startup a real growth opportunity for company founders The Growcer provides remote northern communities with the tools to produce their own fruits and vegetables year-round BY ADAM FEIBEL





hen students Alida Burke and Corey Ellis were on a visit to Nunavut two years ago to research ideas for social entrepreneurship in northern communities, one thing stood out more than all the rest: food insecurity, particularly the inaccessibility and exorbitant cost of fruits and vegetables. The food insecurity rate – the percentage of residents who lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food – in Nunavut ranges between 50 and 80 per cent, according to a report by the territory’s health department. Statistics Canada data shows that food in Nunavut costs up to three times the national average.

Those startling facts spurred Ms. Burke and Mr. Ellis to launch The Growcer, a social startup formed out of the student-run social entrepreneurship program Enactus uOttawa. The Growcer aims to empower northern communities to grow their own produce locally rather than relying on expensive shipments from the south. The company is doing that by manufacturing and selling retrofitted shipping containers designed specifically for Arctic conditions which use hydroponics to grow produce yearround. “People connect with food on a very personal level,” says Mr. Ellis. “It was one of those hard-hitting issues. How is it that these people can’t even access food even if they have a decent living? If you’re paying $12 for three peppers, you really

don’t have much in terms of choice.” The firm wants to address food insecurity and change the way produce is bought and consumed in northern Canada, while also working to improve health and wellness education and increase employment in those remote communities. “It’s the reason people have breakfast programs, the reason you donate to the food bank,” says Mr. Ellis. “It’s the idea that food is one of those basic, basic things that without it you can’t really lead a fulfilling life.” After kicking the company into gear as part of the 2016 cohort of uOttawa’s Startup Garage, the firm is now working with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to finalize a manufacturing agreement and will be selling its hydroponic systems across Canada

throughout late spring and summer. Mr. Ellis says some examples of buyers include businesses such as restaurants, catering companies or grocery markets; entrepreneurs who have a background in hydroponics, agriculture or farming; or non-profit organizations that are looking to grow food, revenue and employment in their communities. The Growcer currently has buyers lined up in seven communities in Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Manitoba, and expects to roll out the first one in April and the last one by July. Mr. Ellis says the company could end up selling as many as 12 systems – at $140,000 per unit – by the end of 2017. Not all participants are remote northern communities; one is a non-


Real Estate Today profit in Ottawa that will be buying one of the company’s systems in order to create employment for youth and sell the produce year-round. The technology has appeal even in urban settings, because it provides a solution to the costs that come with the seasonal availability of produce, Mr. Ellis says. “This model is very flexible,” he says. “It appeals to a wide audience because it can do very different things to different people and their needs.” The Growcer is projecting $1 million in sales revenue for 2017 and expects to turn a profit quickly, after only the first couple sales of its system. Within the next year the company hopes to triple its headcount (the firm currently consists of just the two co-founders) in order to double its capacity to deliver the systems and double its sales as a result.


WIPEBOOK MAKES A BIG COMEBACK After completing a $500,000 Kickstarter campaign, rolling out its product at Staples and Walmart stores across Canada and then landing a Dragons’ Den deal with Arlene Dickinson, Wipebook hit a snarl. An internal founders’ dispute that lasted a year and a half resulted in the firm losing the Dickinson deal along with a significant sum in legal fees, putting a damper on the reusable whiteboard producer’s early momentum. But the company’s remaining founders, Toby Maurice and Frank Bouchard, are making a comeback in 2017. It begins with a newly inked partnership with Grommet, the digital distributor that helped Fitbit and SodaStream become household names. Then in the third quarter, Wipebook will be releasing a co-branded product with German writing instrument company Staedtler, which is anticipating sales of 250,000 units per quarter.

Validating Your Business Idea Monday, Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. Invest Ottawa, 7 Bayview Rd. More info at

MYDOMA SET FOR MAJOR SOFTWARE RELEASE Ottawa startup Mydoma is readying the release of a new version of its interior-design software in early spring. While the existing software allows interior-design professionals to collaborate with clients, build product catalogues and manage business processes, the new version will build upon existing features and cater to larger design firms. The new release comes as a result of a $275,000 cash injection last year from the Capital Angels Network, Wesley Clover and two private investors, plus an ongoing IRAP project, the company said. FINALISTS NAMED FOR REBOOTED BOOTSTRAP AWARDS After a three-year hiatus, the annual Bootstrap Awards have returned this year and are quickly approaching. Originally organized by Bruce Firestone’s Exploriem incubator to honour startups and entrepreneurs in Ottawa and the surrounding region, the awards are now being run by the Ottawa Network and Wesley Clover. Winners will be announced Feb. 21 and the ceremony will take place March 8.

Three Luxury Designations are the Latest Coup for Real Estate Star Marnie Bennett


otable Ottawa real estate broker Marnie Bennett has long possessed an enviable knowledge of the luxury real estate market. Now she’s been recognized for her expertise with the bestowing of not one, but three, prestigious international Luxury Designations. For both her understanding of the intricacies of this specialized market, and for her sheer luxury sales numbers, Marnie has been designated both a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist® and a member of the Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist Million Dollar Guild®. In addition, Marnie has entered the chronicles of real estate distinction as a member of the coveted Who’s Who of Luxury Real Estate® – a company whose website has traffic surpassing that of both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. “Real estate professionals who have earned admittance to the Million Dollar Guild have specific uppertier market knowledge, understand the unique needs of affluent buyers and sellers,” according to Amanda Hammer, Director of Membership at the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing. Marnie has been busier than ever with several far-reaching projects. These include the recent launch of the book “Ignite Your Life: The World’s Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets to Ignite Your Health, Wealth and Success”. Featured alongside other champions in their respective fields, Marnie was honoured to tell her story with co-writer Brian Tracy. Yet another jewel in the Bennett crown is the upcoming U.S. opening of brokerage Bennett Property Shop

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Realty International. This project will see Marnie’s vision expanding to Miami, Florida, where the Bennett Pros will be working closely alongside Heafey Groupe on a pair of stunning large-upper scale condo projects. In keeping with Marnie’s specialization in luxury real estate, The Bentley Edgewater in central Miami is nothing if not decadent with luxury suites priced from $329,000 to $2.75 million USD. In Fort Lauderdale, Marnie will be collaborating on The Conrad Hotel and Residences, highprofile condominium-hotel hybrid that occupies a gorgeous stretch of beachfront property with luxury suites priced from $343,000 to $3 million USD. Between her new designations, her new book and her new international ventures, Marnie Bennett has sparked her year off in a beautiful way.

Patents for Startups Friday, Feb. 17 at 10 a.m. Invest Ottawa, 7 Bayview Rd. More info at Introduction to Discovery-Driven Entrepreneurship Friday, Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. Invest Ottawa, 7 Bayview Rd. More info at

Taxes for Small Business – Corporations Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Ottawa Public Library (Main), 120 Metcalfe St. More info at

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“That’s the sort of exponential growth that we’re looking to have in the next year,” says Mr. Ellis. Because the company’s target communities also tend to lack access to financial capital, the firm is working on setting up an internal micro-loan fund whereby it provides its product as a loan to be repaid as the buyer makes money off it. Mr. Ellis says that would help speed up the sales cycle. He says the company’s response rate so far has been very encouraging. “We know this is a huge issue that a lot of people are facing. The minute people hear what we’re proposing, they want to jump on board. We expect that as we scale up our ability to deliver these and scale up our sales effort, we’ll be able to have a lot more of these things running.”

ENTREPRENEURSHIP Enterprising spirit Carleton student Cole Miller’s soon-to-belaunched whisky brand, Twelve Barrels, is already gaining fans both for its smooth finish and its intriguing back story BY DAVID SALI



ole Miller might be majoring in cognitive science at Carleton University, but the 21-year-old entrepreneur has really been a student of business for most of his life. Like many kids, his first jobs included mundane tasks like mowing lawns and shovelling snow. But even as a youngster growing up in Napanee, Mr. Miller had a knack for devising more creative ways of making money. One of his first ventures was scouring garage sales for items he could resell at a profit on Kijiji. Later, he built benches that resembled, of all things, ice cream sundaes. He ended up selling more than a dozen at $1,500 each. Now just a few months away from graduating, Mr. Miller spends 80 hours a week on a fledgling business in an industry that has exploded south of the border and is gaining traction in Canada: craft distilling. While the craft brewing industry has been booming in the Ottawa region for more than a decade – the area is now home to upwards of a dozen microbreweries – the craft distilling sector is still in its embryonic stage. Mr. Miller’s company, Twelve Barrels, is one of only two Ottawa-based enterprises in the sector. The young entrepreneur believes the craft brewing space is almost tapped out at somewhere between 12 and 15 per



cent of the overall Ontario market, but he sees plenty of opportunity in distilling. “Beer’s not sustainable,” says Mr. Miller, who began making booze for friends as a teenager using grape juice and baker’s yeast. “It’s not that the pie is growing any more – it’s that you’re cutting up the pie into smaller and smaller pieces.” Based at Carleton’s Lead to Win incubator, Twelve Barrels doesn’t actually make its own whisky. Instead, Mr. Miller buys surplus stock from three larger suppliers – one in Ontario, one in western Canada and one in Kentucky – and combines it into his own smoothdrinking blend at 66 Gilead, a craft distillery southwest of Napanee. MONEY IN BLENDING It’s an approach he learned in the summer of 2015 while on an overseas apprenticeship sponsored by the since-discontinued Ontario Global Edge Program to help train young entrepreneurs. Mr. Miller spent several months working at England’s Lakes Distillery, which produces its own spirits but generates much of its revenue by blending whiskies from other sources. He soon realized he could save huge money in startup and overhead costs by blending instead of distilling, allowing him to pour more of his precious funds and energy into marketing. “Whisky has to be aged for three years,” he explains. “You’ve got to put lots of capital up front; you’ve got to build a warehousing space; stills are

Carleton student Cole Miller has launched his own whisky brand. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

expensive. If you’re a first-time brewer, it takes four weeks to six weeks to (make) beer. You can experiment for six months until you get your recipe perfect. Whisky, you’ve got to wait three years at least to find out if it was any good. You’ve got no idea.” When it comes to liquor, he says, branding is more than half the battle. It’s a lesson he learned in high school, when his friends chose to buy his crude version of moonshine “because it was illegal. There was a story behind me making it in my basement. I realized early on it doesn’t really matter what’s inside the bottle – it’s all about that label.”

I realized early on it doesn’t really matter what’s inside the bottle – it’s all about that label.” – TWELVE BARRELS FOUNDER COLE MILLER



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the pockets of craft operators – about $2.50 on a $40 bottle, according to Mr. Lipin, the distilling association’s secretary. But he says small operators in Ontario would prefer a graduated system similar to that imposed on beer and wine makers that taxes higher-volume producers at a higher rate. “We were looking for that and we haven’t seen it yet,” Mr. Lipin says, adding craft distillers are also pushing for the right to deliver their spirits directly to bars and restaurants. North of 7, which currently sells its gin, rum and vodka in about 25 local LCBO outlets, is also in the midst of redesigning its logo after a trademark dispute with the provincial Ministry of Transportation. The province argued the company’s current logo, based on a 1940s-era provincial Highway 7 sign, looks too similar to current road markers. “It’s a pain, but it’s manageable,” Mr. Lipin says of the decision to revamp the logo. Despite those setbacks, he says the business is “pretty much breaking even.” North of 7 sold an average of about a case of a dozen bottles of its spirits at each LCBO location over the peak Christmas period, and Mr. Lipin says he expects the firm to start showing a profit once its first batch of three-year-old whisky hits shelves at the distillery’s store in May.

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Considering the business they’re in, it’s appropriate that local distillers Greg Lipin and Jody Miall share a passion for rock climbing. To make it in the whisky business in Ontario, they say, you have to be good at navigating your way around obstacles. The co-founders of Ottawa’s first craft distillery, North of 7, launched the company in the fall of 2013 at the site of their other business venture, Coyote Rock Gym, an indoor rock climbing facility on St. Laurent Boulevard. When North of 7 first got off the ground, it was one of just a handful of craft distilleries across the province. Today, the Ontario Craft Distillers Association boasts 16 members. However, that’s still barely as many craft spirit makers as there are on Vancouver Island alone. Mr. Lipin says the business climate for small distilleries is far friendlier in British Columbia, where spirits aren’t taxed if they’re sold on-site and made with B.C. grain. “We’re expecting something along those lines down the road, but Ontario’s a tough province,” he says. By contrast, new legislation in this province replaces a longtime LCBO markup with a 61.5 per cent tax on each bottle of booze sold in independent distillery stores – 10 times what wineries pay for on-site sales. The new system puts more money back in

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EYEING U.S. MARKET Currently financed by more than $40,000 in funding from Carleton’s Nicol Entrepreneurial Institute, the Ontario Centres of Excellence SmartStart grant program and the Ontario Global Edge Program as well as about $15,000 of his own cash, Mr. Miller is searching for bigger sources of capital with an eye to eventually cracking the U.S. market. His ambitious projections call for $1 million in North American revenues within four years on sales of up to 80,000 bottles. But just as with crafting high-quality liquor, building a robust brand doesn’t happen overnight. “I want this to be long-term, sustainable, slow growth,” he says. “We’re not going to rush it. We’ll expand into the States when we’re ready.”

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moving forward if they’re interested.” The LCBO has now given Mr. Miller the go-ahead for a six-month trial run at 25 stores, mostly in the Ottawa and Toronto regions, although the launch date has yet to be finalized. His goal is to sell 15,000 units in his first year at $35 for a 750-millilitre bottle, which would elevate him to the LCBO’s general listing category and allow his product to be stocked in hundreds more outlets. Liquor boards in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have also expressed interest in his whisky, as have stores in Alberta. Mr. Miller is setting his sights on the international market as well; he’s planning a trip to China later this year in the hope of winning a share of that potentially massive customer base.

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Before launching his enterprise last year, he did months of research to come up with the Twelve Barrels theme. It’s based on the story of Napanee’s George Meagher, a champion figure skater in the 1890s whose father was a distiller. Mr. Meagher’s signature stunt was a leap over a dozen whiskey barrels on a frozen river, a feat he supposedly even performed for Queen Victoria on the River Thames. Mr. Miller’s target market are those he calls “engaged newcomers” – consumers who are new to the whisky game and eager to experiment. The Twelve Barrels brand is a particular hit, he says, with married women over 55, who form the largest share of his 1,000 or so Facebook followers. Females actually make most of a typical household’s whisky-buying decisions, he explains. They “love the Twelve Barrels story, and they’re willing to spend a little bit of extra money.” The producers of CBC’s Dragons’ Den were also big fans of Mr. Miller’s pitch. In a segment that was filmed last spring and aired on Feb. 1, Twelve Barrels landed a $150,000 investment from dragons Jim Treliving and Michael Wekerle, who loved both the company’s story and its product. In the end, various obstacles – including a delay in getting approval from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to put his whisky on its shelves – scuttled the deal. But Mr. Miller says the experience was well worth it. “We’re still on good terms,” he says of his relationship with Mr. Treliving and Mr. Wekerle. “I’d love to work with them

TECHNOLOGY AI firm brings new level of intelligence to city consultations Company’s cutting-edge system breaks down comments into raw data to track public’s opinion on issues ‘in real time’ BY CRAIG LORD


n Ottawa startup has brought a new approach to public consultation in the city, using artificial intelligence tools to break down how residents feel about proposed developments. Milieu, a startup launched last year by Carleton University graduates Luisa Ji and Lee-Michael Pronko, was commissioned by Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper to survey public sentiment for the Armstrong Street Community

Vision Study. The final version of the report, including Milieu’s findings, will be presented to planning committee on Feb. 14. Milieu’s report, in all likelihood, does not resemble any public consultation you’ve seen before in Ottawa. Two key metrics comprise the report: sentiment and controversy. Milieu uses the cognitive application programming interfaces of IBM’s Watson, essentially an artificial intelligence that reads text the way a human mind does, to break down the sentiment behind users’ comments into raw data. Milieu can tell you, then, that the

phrase “I hate bike lanes” translates into disapproval and anger regarding bike lane proposals. Not remarkable, perhaps, but if a consultation has gathered feedback from thousands of residents, the application can process the entirety of comments in mere seconds, with pertinent data ready to display. “You can know, in real time pretty much, what the public sentiment about a project is. You can capture the community,” Milieu lead data scientist Trevor Deley told Techopia in August. The second metric, controversy, reflects the spread of opinion on a particular issue, helping both the city

Lee-Michael Pronko and Luisa Ji started their company, Milieu, last year. FILE PHOTO

and developers identify the hot-button issues that might require more attention. The data is accompanied by residents’ quotes, selected by Milieu staff after analysis, providing context to their concerns. In the Armstrong Street report, patio-style cafe seating development


A decade connecting to what matters uOttawa’s Telfer School of Management marks its 10th anniversary





n 2007, mining industry magnate and University of Ottawa alumnus Ian Telfer made what was then the largest donation ever given to a Canadian business school. He gave $25 million to uOttawa’s School of Management. Faculty of the rebranded Telfer School of Management have since built a bright future. Telfer has become a top institution for research, education and community engagement. Telfer connects students with opportunities across Canada and abroad, and it helps faculty make a positive impact beyond the campus. It also provides expertise and horsepower to help alumni and the business community at large conquer

barriers to growth. Telfer even reaches into high school classrooms to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and educate on vital topics such as financial literacy. “We continue to focus on connecting all our stakeholders to what matters most to them,” said Dean François Julien. 10 years of accomplishment: 1. A new home designed for collaborative learning – The Desmarais Building. 2. Teaching and research focused on three strategic areas of expertise: entrepreneurship and innovation, health systems management, and analytics and performance.

3. More opportunities for students to learn through competitions, work experiences, international exchanges and interactions with business leaders. 4. Professorships, fellowships and research programs that enable specialists to delve into today’s most pressing business problems and share findings with students. 5. New PhD program and Master of Science degrees, as well as specialized courses and curricula for rising executives. 6. A financial research and learning lab and other tools that allow students to learn by doing. 7. A stronger faculty staffed

by accomplished, ambitious academics. 8. Strong donor engagement to amass a sizeable endowment. 9. A coveted triple crown of accreditations (AACSB International, Association for MBAs and EQUIS), one of only two business schools in Canada to do so. 10. A deepened appreciation for what makes Telfer different from other business schools – it connects you to what matters.

Where can Telfer take you in the next 10 years? “Credit for our success goes to our students, professors, researchers, alumni, donors and partners—for staying connected with us and helping us build in ways that matter to them,” Dean Julien said. “We have much further to go together. We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring.” To learn more about how Telfer can further your career or advance your business, please visit

“You can know, in real time pretty much, what the public sentiment about a project is. You can capture the community.” – MILIEU LEAD DATA SCIENTIST TREVOR DELEY

and clear cycling signage scored strongly on sentiment but low on controversy, indicating a general approval of these proposals. On the other hand, a question about closing off Carruthers Street from vehicles showed that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed approved of the idea, but a controversy score of 76 per cent means there are a number of residents who would highly oppose such a move. “We want to foster a culture where residents are inputting their sentiments or are sharing their visions ahead of time, so they can shape their neighbourhoods,” Ms. Ji said in an interview with Techopia in August. The report also breaks down sentiment by key term, so city officials can see which words are most often

associated with negative comments. While “clear signage” was a positively associated term, one of the most negative terms was “extra road markings.” Mr. Deley says city staff and planners can add great value to the process by reconciling these discrepancies. “What this points out to me is that you need consensus-building in your community on what clear signage is,” he says. Mr. Leiper was among the first to see the value in Milieu’s work, giving the startup a $5,000 grant from his office’s budget to take on a similar study for a proposed development at 190 Richmond Rd. Since then, the company has also landed a role in the City of Guelph’s Civic Accelerator and set up an office for itself in Little Italy.

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COMMENTARY Great River Media 250 City Centre Ave., Suite 500 Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 6K7 TELEPHONE Phone: 613-238-1818 Sales Fax: 613-248-4564 News Fax: No faxes, email PUBLISHER Michael Curran, 238-1818 ext. 228 CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER Terry Tyo, 238-1818 ext. 268 EDITOR, PRINT CONTENT David Sali, 238-1818 ext. 269 EDITOR, ONLINE CONTENT Peter Kovessy, 238-1818 ext. 251 REPORTER Craig Lord, 238-1818 ext. 285 COPY EDITOR Samantha Paquin CAMPAIGN MANAGER Cristha Sinden, 238-1818 ext. 222 ADVERTISING SALES General Inquiries, 238-1818 ext. 286


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Little relief in Liberals’ latest tax cut pledge

Carlo Lombard, 238-1818 ext. 230

After crunching the numbers, Michael Prentice says the average Canadian won’t gain much – if anything – from the so-called ‘middle-class’ tax break

Celine Paquette, 238-1818 ext. 252


SUBSCRIPTIONS/DISTRIBUTION Patti Moran, 238-1818 ext. 248

he average Canadian will probably have about $1 a week extra to spend this year thanks to the Trudeau government’s so-called middleclass tax cut. And if you think your income is high enough to qualify for this extra $1 a week, there is a strong chance you are wrong. I was always skeptical of the government’s promised tax cut for the middle class. Who, exactly, belongs to the middle class, anyway? I thought I did. I live comfortably on a pension income and mostly own my home. But my income is too low to get any benefit from this tax relief. I already knew – because the Trudeau government informed us – that the biggest beneficiaries from this tax cut are couples with two big salaries and a combined gross income of more than $200,000 a year. Such couples are getting a tax break of as much as $1,340 this year, according to the Liberals’ campaign pledge. And it’s true, according to data provided to me by the Canada Revenue Agency. What’s the average Canadian getting

from this so-called middle-class tax cut? To answer that, you have to know the average Canadian’s annual income. The Canadian government estimates the average gross income of working Canadians last year was $55,300. That is before all deductions such as contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, old-age security, unemployment insurance, union dues, work pension plans, personal pensions, and medical expenses. These are tax-deductible. What really counts is the average taxable income. That is the sum that determines whether you qualify for the tax cut. 2017 TAXABLE INCOME


$45,916 or less..................................... No savings $50,000................................................. $60 a year $60,000................................................$210 a year $70,000...............................................$360 a year $80,000...............................................$510 a year $90,000...............................................$660 a year

The average taxable income for Canadian adult tax filers was $41,860 in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. This figure was provided to me by David Walters, a spokesman for the Canada Revenue Agency. Taxable incomes were no doubt higher than that in 2016, but probably not by much – and almost certainly not high enough to give most Canadians a tax break from the middle-class tax cut. The income tax cut kicks in this year on taxable income exceeding $45,916. So, if your taxable income is less than that, you get no federal income tax relief. The Trudeau government’s tax cut lowers income tax from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent on taxable incomes between $45,917 and $91,831. In other words, taxes are lowered by 1.5 percentage points on income between those two extremes. For a person with a taxable income of $50,000 in 2016, that is a tax break of about $60 a year, or barely more than $1 a week – far less than the price of a cup of coffee in most places. As another example, take a person

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A person who earns $1,500 a week before taxes and other deductions can expect to see about an extra $4 a week on his or her paycheque. That is enough to buy one fancy coffee a week, but will not do much to stimulate the economy, which I understand to be the aim of the middle-class tax cut who earns $1,500 a week before taxes and other deductions. That is well above the Canadian average. This person can expect to see about an extra $4 a week on his or her paycheque. That is enough to buy one fancy coffee a week, but will not do much to stimulate the economy, which I understand to be the aim of the middle-class tax cut. At the high end of the scale, a person with a taxable income of $90,000 receives an annual tax break of about $660 a year – just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised. So, about 50 per cent of Canadians get no income tax relief whatsoever. For many better-off Canadians, the tax relief is probably minimal. For retired Canadians, in particular,

there is likely no reduction in their income taxes. That’s because taxable incomes usually decline when people retire. Of course, seniors usually have lower expenses than when they were working. Simultaneously, the Liberal government raised taxes on the richest Canadians. On the face of it, the only winners are well-off Canadians. And the government has changed the definition of what constitutes the middle class.

Michael Prentice is OBJ’s columnist on retail and consumer issues. He can be contacted at


POST-BUDGET BREAKFAST The highly-anticipated federal budget will be released in a matter of weeks. What will it mean for business? What will it mean for Canada? What will it mean for Ottawa?

Stay tuned for more information on this must-attend breakfast. Watch for event details.

No shower? No problem


Tammy Pilon-Cecchetto Co-owner Hat Trick Hair Products


ntrepreneur Tammy PilonCecchetto wants to remove one of the biggest barriers preventing businesspeople from biking to the office or squeezing a workout into their lunch hour. No one wants to arrive at work with helmet hair or sit down at their desk while still soaked in sweat. With relatively few office buildings containing employee showers, Ms. Pilon-Cecchetto has watched office colleagues trying in vain to clean themselves up using a bathroom sink after a midday trip to the gym. She knew there was a better solution. This year, Ms. Pilon-Cecchetto is officially launching Hat Trick Hair, a portable all-in-one hair product that neutralizes odor, replenish nutrients and rejuvenates hair. With ingredients such as tea tree oil, peppermint and sea salt, the Quick Fix mist leaves one’s hair and scalp feeling fresh, clean and healthy in addition to fighting dandruff and inhibiting lice. Its Restyle product line helps to hold hair and are ideal for people who wear caps, hard hats, helmets or toques, as well as businesspeople trying to stay active. “More and more people are walking and biking to work, or trying to squeeze physical fitness into their day,” Ms. Pilon-Cecchetto says. “But many people don’t have enough time for a workout and a shower during their lunch break.” However, the uses for Hat Trick Hair’s products go beyond white-collar office workers. In fact, the idea first came when Ms. Pilon-Cecchetto was watching her nephew play hockey. “After the game, the stench coming off these 12-year-olds was horrendous. We joked, ‘You’re not

getting in my car,’” Ms. PilonCecchetto says. The culprit, she realized, was their sweaty hair and helmet. Armed with a diploma in holistic nutrition, the Ottawa resident worked with a Hamiltonbased chemist to develop a formula for the made-in-Canada product that would be kid-friendly but still kill the odor. But as the development progressed, Ms. Pilon-Cecchetto realized there were additional opportunities. Her husband was looking for a hair product that offered a little hold, without being starchy or sticky. She also realized that many people don’t have easy access to water or time for a shower, such as kids rushing out the door or patients who are spending several days in a hospital. Hat Trick Hair offers portable product that help such individuals quickly clean their hair. At the moment, Hat Trick Hair is primarily sold directly from the retailer online. It’s also sold at Repurpose General Store, a social enterprise in Centretown that’s affiliated with Operation Come Home. The local charity is an employment, education, and support centre for homeless and at-risk youth. Hat Trick Hair is donating 70 per cent of all purchases of its products from Repurpose to Operation Come Home.


Gain insights on business, tax and economic measures and determine what it means for you.

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EVENTS Biz community hosts fundraiser with heart



r. Fraser Rubens’ two worlds – saving lives and singing opera – seemed to collide on Feb. 6 when the Ottawa cardiac surgeon performed from Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen (the story ends with a fatal knife wound for the central character) on the same day he found himself operating on a patient with a stab to the heart. “I’m thinking, ‘This is Carmen on the table,’” the trained tenor recalled while engaging with his audience of 150-plus at a benefit for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI), held in one of the backstage rehearsal halls at the National Arts Centre. He and soprano Maghan McPhee were accompanied by Matthew Larkin on a magnificent $170,000 Steinway Spirio from the Steinway Piano Gallery on Innes Road. The second annual sold-out event, called Music for the Heart, was hosted by Leaders at Heart, a group of businesspeople and philanthropists who raise money and awareness for the Heart Institute. The reception was followed by a concert with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra in the NAC’s Southam Hall. Event chair Bill Sioulas, director of real estate at property leasing and acquisition firm Golpro Holdings, and Leaders at Heart chair and UOHI Foundation board member Nick Pantieras, co-founder of Primecorp Commercial Realty, were on hand to present a $32,000 ceremonial cheque to UOHI Foundation president and CEO Jim Orban. The proceeds will go toward buying highly specialized equipment for the Heart Institute’s new 170,000-squarefoot expansion, slated to open in just over a year.



Mr. Pantieras, a married father of three, credits the Heart Institute for saving his life. Thirteen years ago, he suffered a heart attack at age 37 during a game of pick-up hockey. He was operated on by Dr. Marc Ruel, now chief of cardiac surgery at the Heart Institute. Shared with the room was a charming CTV Ottawa News story done on Mr. Pantieras to raise awareness for National Heart Month. “Without the Heart Institute, I wouldn’t be here today,” Mr. Pantieras, who was joined by his family and business partners, said in his remarks. “We are fortunate to have a world-class organization in our backyards.” Attendees included Honey Construction president Doug Assaly; Jacques Emond, a senior law partner at Emond Harnden and past chair of the UOHI Foundation board; and the hospital’s founding chief of cardiology, Dr. Don Beanlands. Caroline Phillips is a freelance journalist who has covered the capital’s social events scene for more than a decade. Clockwise from top, Allison Ross and Stephanie Oakes with their parents, Wanda Bosada and Ottawa lawyer and University of Ottawa Heart Institute supporter Richard Bosada at the Music for the Heart benefit on Feb. 6 at the National Arts Centre; Jacques Emond, senior law partner at Emond Harnden, with Tony Rhodes of Rhodes Barker Luxury Real Estate, Doug Assaly, owner of Honey Construction, and Pia Rhodes; Dr. Don Beanlands, founding chief of cardiology at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, with Christine Struthers, an advanced practice nurse of cardiac telehealth at the heart institute; Dr. Fraser Rubens, a cardiac surgeon at the heart institute, shares his operatic talents with guests at the VIP pre-concert cocktail reception; Bill Sioulas, director of real estate at Golpro Holdings, and Nick Pantieras, president and co-founder of Primecorp Commercial Realty; and Elaine Nadeau, owner and art director of AN Design Communications, with Peter van Roon of RBC and sustainable development consultant Ricarda McFalls. PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS


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Gala-goers having a ball for a worthy cause Clockwise from above, debutantes perform a carefully rehearsed waltz at the Viennese Winter Ball on Feb. 4 at the Shaw Centre, accompanied by the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra; volunteer committee member Birgitte Alting-Mees with volunteer co-chairs Liza Mrak, executive vice-president of Mark Motors, and Grant McDonald, regional managing partner of KPMG, and his wife, Carol Devenny; Christopher Spiteri, senior partner at Spiteri & Ursulak and board chair of Music and Beyond, with wife Jane and their daughter Rebecca; David Luxton, president of DEFSEC Corporation, and his spouse, Laura Brown-Breetvelt, with the U.S. Embassy’s charge d’affaires Elizabeth Aubin and her husband Daniel Aubin; and Franklin Holtforster, president and CEO of Colliers Project Leaders, with colleague Alison Wesley-James. The event raised more than $30,000 to help kids gain exposure to classical music through avenues such as OrKidstra. PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS

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TECHNOLOGY E-signature firm has what it takes to ‘be a leader’: new CEO BY DAVID SALI


spacious new headquarters in Hintonburg is just one more sign of bigger and better things to come from Ottawa startup Signority in 2017, the firm’s new CEO says. Founded in 2010, the company makes subscription software that allows customers to sign documents electronically with just the swipe of a finger. Now at 16 employees, Signority is ramping up its sales and marketing staff in an effort to reach its goal of sevenfigure revenues by the end of this year, says new chief executive Samer Forzley. A former entrepreneur-in-residence at Invest Ottawa who helped build local startup eBillme into a fintech force before it was sold to Western Union, Mr. Forzley officially joined the Signority team in December. He says the company

is looking at a “few interesting plays” to enhance its products, a drive being led by co-founder Jane He, who shifts from the CEO’s position to chief operating officer. “The market is ready for disruption and we’re looking at doing that,” the 2010 OBJ Forty Under 40 recipient says. “I’m coming in to kind of help grow the business and add sales experience, a bit of marketing experience.” Moving out of Invest Ottawa headquarters on Bayview Road to its own

“The market is ready for disruption and we’re looking at doing that.” – SIGNORITY CEO SAMER FORZLEY


space on Wellington Street West will give the company room to grow, he adds. The firm expects to keep adding to its current headcount over the next few months while it settles into its new 3,000-squarefoot office, Mr. Forzley says. Signority targets its software-as-aservice offering at small and mediumsized enterprises. Some of its most popular clients are insurance agents who a need quick and efficient way of exchanging and verifying documents with their customers electronically, Mr. Forzley says. Citing a recent industry study that found only about five per cent of Canada’s insurance agents are currently signing forms electronically, he says there is plenty of room for growth in that sector. “That market alone is significant,” he says. “That’s the right-sized market for us; that’s the right customers for us.” Signority is working on offering

Signority’s new CEO Samer Forzley likes where the firm is headed. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

additional services to help separate it from the pack and take its product “to the next level,” he adds – though he declined to be more specific because the company has yet to roll out the new technology. Mr. Forzley says Signority is operating in a very competitive space, but he’s confident the firm will continue its upward growth trajectory over the long term. “We feel that we have a good chance to be a leader in this market,” he says. “The question is are we able to find the resources, whether it’s financial or human, in Ottawa to actually make it happen. I hope so.”

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FOR THE RECORD People on the move Intouch Insight has added the position of vice-president of sales to its leadership team and has appointed Rob Sutherland to the position. Mr. Sutherland brings more than 20 years of sales experience, much of it in the SaaS and software space, to his new role. DRS Technologies Canada announced that Martin Munro has been named as vice-president and general manager of its operations in Canada. During his time with the company, Mr. Munro led several successful government and commercial captures for the firm.

Hats off Kroon Electric has received an International Contractor of the Year award by TEGG Service. The recognition acknowledges Kroon Electric’s sales growth, profitability and adherence to technical standards and training, among other achievements.

The Orleans Chamber of Commerce recently held its annual Business Excellence Awards. The recipients included Jeremy Ash of C.C. Tatham & Associates (non-financial professional of the year), Bellefleur Physiotherapy (small business of the year), Core Elements Registered Massage Therapy (new business of the year), Lisa Cruickshank of State Farm Insurance (businessperson of the year), Cumberland United Soccer Club (community and not-for-profit organization of the year), Downsize Fitness (arts, recreation and leisure business of the year), Lunetterie Clearview Eyewear (retail business of the year), Oakwood (large business of the year), Jason Pilon of RE/MAX Hallmark Pilon Group Realty (realtor of the year), Rangoli Indian Cuisine & Sweets (restaurant of the year), Rhapsody Strategies (service business of the year), Amanda-Lyn Smith of The Massage and Treatment Clinic (health-care professional of the year) and Paul Vaillancourt of Vaillancourt & Associates (financial professional of the year).

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“Ottawa Business Growth 2016”


OBGS MAGAZINE 2016.indd 1

2016-05-24 2:23 PM

Ottawa Business Growth Survey Coming Spring 2017 Download the free 36-page 2016 report at This survey gathered input from hundreds of local businesses. and is made possible by Welch LLP, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Business Journal. Download the free 36-page 2016 report at

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Ottawa Business Journal February 13, 2017