Ottawa Business Journal May 2019

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Fastest growing companies Ten Ottawa firms tell OBJ what it takes to expand at warp speed SPECIAL SECTION STARTS ON P19





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‘I wasn’t going anywhere’ In an ugly landlord-tenant dispute, Ottawa restaurateur Jon Svazas was locked out, threatened with eviction and stuck with a six-figure repair bill. Here’s how he persevered and, with some creative legal help, opened one of Canada’s top eateries. Jon Svazas, owner and restauranteur, Fauna

TIMELINE May 22, 2012 Jon Svazas signs a lease with Ahmed Abou-Gabal of Velkia Realty Inc. for a new restaurant at 425 Bank St. The cost of renovations are to be split between the tenant and landlord in exchange for seven months of free rent.

MAY 2019

Dec. 22, 2012 Landlord fails to complete repairs and agrees to extend free rent to February.



April 11, 2013 Svazas sues landlord for repair costs.


fter spending months preparing to launch his new Centretown restaurant Fauna, Jon Svazas received a troubling phone call around midnight just hours before its grand opening. A water pipe had burst in the restaurant, flooding the basement and damaging the dining room. That setback alone would be discouraging for any entrepreneur. But for Svazas, it was just the latest in a series of disturbing developments that would ultimately delay the opening of Fauna by some two years. Roughly a month earlier, in December 2013, Svazas arrived at the Bank Street restaurant to find that his landlord, Ahmed Abou-Gabal of Velkia Realty, had the locks changed and posted eviction notices on its windows.

June 2013 They settle out of court with the landlord promising to complete repairs by July 30, 2013. Landlord does not complete the repairs.

Craig O’Brien, partner, Nelligan O’Brien Payne

What had started as a dispute over responsibility for the cost of fit-ups and upgrades to the property quickly spiraled into an ugly battle that threatened to destroy Svazas’s career. “I thought if I can’t get this restaurant open, then I will never open a restaurant

Early December 2013 Landlord posts eviction notice on restaurant and changes locks.


in Ottawa because people won’t want to invest in someone who failed,” he recalls. But today, Fauna is a thriving eatery that’s been named one of the country’s top 100 restaurants. The journey from that seemingly intractable conflict involved a series of court orders, sustained legal pressure and a creative solution proposed by Svazas’s lawyer, Craig O’Brien – a partner at Nelligan O’Brien Payne – that led to Svazas gaining ownership of the Bank Street property. RED FLAGS The first signs of trouble came early on, not long after Svazas and Velkia Realty signed their lease in May 2012. In exchange for Svazas taking on $100,000 in minor renovations, the landlord promised to spend $600,000 upgrading the HVAC and water systems, making structural enhancements, repairing the basement floor and installing new electrical panels. When the landlord delayed his repairs, Svazas had to do the work himself. Then the landlord blocked approval for contractors to work at the restaurant. That was a red flag for O’Brien. “It’s unusual for a landlord to refuse to give consent for construction,” he said. The series of events reminded lawyers at Nelligan O’Brien Payne of a scenario they’ve seen before: Landlords have tenants pay for renovations and, once the upgrades are finished but before the business can open and generate revenue, try to evict them when they’re financially leveraged and thus weak. “Jon was doing everything right but I knew if this behaviour continued, the landlord would win,” O’Brien said. As the delays continued to mount, Svazas was still legally obligated to pay rent even though Fauna hadn’t opened. To put financial pressure on the landlord, O’Brien advised Svazas to make the scheduled rent payments to the court, rather than Velika. This would force the landlord to complete its

Dec. 13, 2013 Court issues order requiring the landlord to remove the new locks. As part of the order, the landlord cannot enter the restaurant without court approval. Svazas sets new opening date for Jan. 17, 2014.


February 2017 After lengthy negotiations, Svazas receives ownership of the property.

March 7, 2016 Landlord’s appeal to Sept. 15 court order fails.

September 15, 2015 Court orders that administrator is assigned to take over the property.

August 21, 2015 Court orders landlord to pay $900,000 to the court to cover all costs from previous orders.

works and then go to court and prove he was entitled to the rent. “The landlord failed in his obligations by not doing the repairs and blocking the contractors from coming in,” O’Brien explains. “Because of this, the tenant has the right to withhold rent until the landlord does what he promised.” Despite the pressure, Velika and Abou-Gabal raised the stakes. He locked Svazas out of his restaurant and disconnected the electricity. The water pipe in the residential apartment immediately above Fauna suspiciously burst, causing major flood damage to the restaurant. Velika refused to authorize repairs. CREATIVE TACTICS O’Brien and Svazas continued to fight back. They won a court order requiring

the landlord to restore the electricity and authorizing police to keep Abou-Gabal and Velika out. With the landlord unable to interfere, Svazas completed all repairs and opened Fauna in September 2014. But there was still the problem of getting reimbursed. Svazas spent more than $900,000 in repairs and legal fees – costs that the landlord is required by the courts to pay back – as he borrowed money and worked part-time jobs to keep his dream of opening his restaurant alive. When Velika’s final appeal failed in 2015, O’Brien saw a potential problem brewing that could prevent Svazas from collecting the money he was owed. “The landlord was losing money and I was concerned that he would file for bankruptcy,” says O’Brien. “If he did, Jon would get very little money back.” With rent still being held by the court,

March 1, 2014 Svazas pays rent to the court.

March 19, 2014 - Landlord attempts to once again change the locks. Security guards hired by Svazas call police. At 4 p.m., landlord comes again and shuts off the electricity. Police are called again.

April 16, 2014 Court orders a contractor to enter the restaurant to restore power and for landlord to cover the costs.

April 11, 2014 Court orders landlord to restore electricity.

March 28, 2014 Landlord shuts off electricity again.

March 21, 2014 - Court issues order allowing Svazas to continue paying rent to the court.



Sept. 1, 2014 Fauna restaurant opens.

MAY 2019

Jan. 16-17, 2014 Water pipe bursts, flooding basement and damaging dining room of the restaurant. The landlord prevents contractors from entering the building.

O’Brien came up with a solution. He persuaded the landlord to hand over ownership of the building – worth $1.45 million – in exchange for O’Brien asking the court to release some of the rent to the landlord. Svazas became owner in 2017. “He was entitled to more than what the property was worth,” says O’Brien. “And this way he would be done with AbouGabal and Velika. It would be over.” Building off the success of Fauna, Svazas has since expanded and opened a second restaurant in Hintonburg. His ability to establish his business depended in no small part on his own perseverance and ability to find a like-minded ally in O’Brien who was willing to help him fight until the end. “I wasn’t going anywhere,” says Svazas. “After all the damage Abou-Gabal caused, I had to open.”

PROSPECTUS Disruption more than a catchphrase for Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies There are many truisms in business. Just check the business book section of your local bookstore. Some ring true, others seem trite. Students in the fine art of business management need to check out the profiles of Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies. (This special OBJ report starts on page 19.) The commonality in these success stories really jumped off the page for me. Take Rock Networks, for example, which has posted a whopping 5,036 per cent revenue growth over a three-year period. The shift from oldschool analog radios to digital is opening up new opportunities in wireless communications. The runner-up in Fastest Growing Companies is Lightship Security, with 664 per cent revenue growth. This company specializes in security certification for IT hardware such as switches and routers. The company is bringing a radically different and efficient certification method to market. In third spot is Envolta, with 400 per cent growth. Working in the accounting sector, Envolta is embracing cloud technology to help customers with bookkeeping and related services. Not only is cloud technology making the process much more efficient, but it’s also eliminating traditional geographic barriers, as the firm attracts new clients beyond Ottawa. For me, the constant theme is disruption. Each of these three companies (and others

ON THE STREETS on the top-10 list) are working in established industries where incumbents have become perhaps too comfortable. There is a real lesson in these profiles. Find longstanding pain points for customers and innovate. Break the rules. Embrace new thinking. Judging from these remarkable stories of revenue growth, it works.

THANKS, LINKEDIN I sometimes wonder about the real benefits of technology. Still, there’s no denying that daily reminders on my smartphone of birthdays and anniversaries are incredibly useful. This month, April, LinkedIn was kind enough to remind me that I’ve officially hit 20 years at OBJ. Wow. I vividly recall meeting with Mark Sutcliffe and David Luxton, both at the helm of OBJ back in 1999, in the boardroom of our offices on Catherine Street. Together, they laid out a grand vision for OBJ that involved web-only news reporting, radio and TV shows, events, special projects and much more. Well, it all came true. I’m very fortunate to be associated with something that I consider to be a force for good in our city. Thanks to all the wellwishers on LinkedIn.

@objpublisher Michael Curran

MAY 2019

The Westboro Village BIA is in search of



Please contact:


MEETING IN THE CAPITAL Meeting in the Capital is OttawaGatineau’s guide to corporate meetings and events planning. This special annual feature from the Ottawa Business Journal highlights the city’s biggest and best business, charitable and social events, in addition to providing practical event logistics takeaways and a comprehensive overview of event spaces in the National Capital Region.

IN THIS ISSUE HR UPDATE HR Update is a joint biannual publication of OBJ and the HRPA Ottawa Chapter that provides practical advice for engaging and managing employees. At a time when many employers report difficulty hiring skilled workers, this issue focuses on recruitment and provides fresh strategies for finding talent. Read the special pullout report in this edition of OBJ.


Women, Wine & Wisdom. Need we say more? The Board of Trade is organizing this event, dubbed as a “candid conversation about leadership, life balance and legacy.” Enjoy a beautiful dinner, share real stories and be inspired by powerful women who are known for “owning it.” Visit for tickets.

MAY 22

Talent acquisition, formerly referred to as hiring more employees, seems to be the hottest business issue in Ottawa these days. Here is a unique and worthwhile take on solving that issue. The READ Initiative (Research, Education, Accessibility And Design) is hosting a one-day forum called Enable Ottawa 2019 at Carleton University. The goal is to improve employment prospects for people with disabilities. Organizers say attendees will “discover how advances in engineering, industrial design and technology are addressing and helping overcome the challenges persons with varying abilities face.” Search “Enable Ottawa 2019” on Eventbrite to register.


In local business circles, this is the party that kicks off summer. It’s the annual Forty Under 40 awards gala, where OBJ and the Board of Trade recognize 40 rising young business leaders who are notable for their business achievements, expertise and community involvement. It’s a high-spirited event that captures the energy of its recipients. It takes place at the Hilton Lac-Leamy. Visit for tickets.


growing C O M PA N I E S 2019

Building on the cover story for this issue of OBJ comes the Fastest Growing Companies awards reception. This is your chance to network with executives from some of Ottawa’s hottest companies. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and celebrate with recipient companies. The event takes place at Head Office Ottawa, a cool new co-working space in Kanata. Visit for tickets.

Be a

on your next promotion by staying dry with the coolest umbrella in town.

Contact Jennifer Bedwell for ideas that bring your brand to life 613-226-7755 x223


The Rebel Inverted Umbrella


Brexit is dominating international business headlines as the European Union’s trade zone is redefined. With this backdrop, OBJ and the Board of Trade welcome British High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque (her name broke our spell check) to the Mayor’s Breakfast in June. This recurring event takes place at Ottawa City Hall with close to 300 attendees networking and enjoying a buffet breakfast, followed by a City Hall update from Mayor Jim Watson and a keynote presentation. Visit for tickets.

MAY 2019

48” arc

MAY 27


Tweed excursion no tokin’ offering An Ottawa company that runs tours of local craft breweries will soon be giving cannabis connoisseurs an up-close look at pot producer Canopy Growth’s Smiths Falls operation. Starting this summer, Brew Donkey will be offering trips to Canopy’s facility as part of a swing through eastern Ontario. The first tour, slated for June 29 and dubbed “Rideau Valley High,” will offer customers a 75-minute tour of Canopy’s Tweed visitors’ centre and grow-op. The itinerary also includes stops at Perth’s Top Shelf Distillers and Braumeister

Brewing in Carleton Place. Brew Donkey owner Brad Campeau said the tours are meant to educate consumers about cannabis, its history and how it is produced. Unlike the company’s brewery and distillery tours, the cannabis sessions won’t include any sampling of the product itself. Provincial law currently prohibits Canopy Growth from selling weed at its visitors’ centre or allowing its consumption in an enclosed public space, and toking on the bus is also off-limits. Nonetheless, Campeau fully expects the new tour to be a hit. He’s planning to offer trips to Smiths Falls once every two months to start, but he says he’ll make the excursions a more regular part of Brew Donkey’s itinerary if the demand warrants it.


As the saying goes, it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. –​ AVIVAGEN HEAD OF INVESTOR RELATIONS DREW BASEK, ON THE FIRM’S BID TO MAKE A BREAKTHROUGH IN THE U.S. MARKET (SEE PAGES 14-15)


Bronson Centre theatre renos music to fans’ ears The Bronson Centre is teaming up with the owners of a Toronto concert hall in a bid to turn the non-profit Ottawa corporation’s downtown theatre space into a must-visit venue for touring music acts. Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre said in mid-April it has signed a long-term lease to manage the Bronson Centre’s 864-seat performance theatre. The company said it plans to install the latest in sound and lighting technology at the

aging concert hall in an effort to make it a go-to destination for more live acts. The new operators, who will take over the facility on Oct. 1, also plan to replace the permanent seats in the concert hall with removable seating to boost standingroom capacity. “We come in with a focus to make sure it’s a great concert experience, both for the fans and the artists themselves,” said Phoenix Concert Theatre president Lisa Zbitnew, a former Ottawa resident.

“It’s a great theatre as it exists, but it definitely needs some upgrades.” The concert hall is located in the 45,000-square-foot former home of Immaculata High School, which was built in 1928 and expanded several times. The school moved to Main Street in 1994, and the Bronson Centre was established at the site two years later. The charity organization provides affordable office space for about 40 nonprofit agencies.

Calian makes first-ever foreign acquisition After buying three Canadian companies last year, Calian Group decided to venture a little farther afield for its first acquisition of 2019. The Ottawa-based professional services firm made its first-ever M&A foray into Europe in early April, acquiring German satellite communications company SatService. Under the terms of the all-cash deal, Calian is paying 6.45 million euros (C$9.6 million) up front for SatService. The purchase price includes two additional payments over the next two years totalling up to $5 million, contingent on SatService hitting certain earnings targets. The company will be absorbed into Calian SED, Calian’s Saskatoon-based communications systems branch. SatService will continue to operate out of its German office, and founder Michael Ulbricht said in a news release he plans to stay on as managing director for the next few years to help grow the business. Based in Steisslingen, Germany, SatService employs about 20 people and last year generated revenues of roughly $10 million. It serves customers in several European countries.

MAY 2019




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Real estate investment: Benefits and pitfalls I

nvesting in residential or commercial properties can be an excellent alternative to an often-volatile stock market, but there can be costly pitfalls if the investment is structured poorly. Rule one: Plan ahead and know exactly what you’re getting into before you seal the deal. Structuring a real estate deal that dovetails with the buyer’s intended use of the property is key, says Josh Engel, managing partner at Ottawa accounting firm GGFL. “If clients tell me they are interested in buying real estate,” he says, “my first question is ‘what do you intend to do with the property?’ Are you looking for a short-term investment? Do you intend to buy, fix it up and flip it? Or are you interested in holding onto the property as a longterm investment to rent out? “The tax implications from the investment income in these two situations are very different,” says Engel. “The government regards profit from flipping as regular business income and that can potentially mean double the tax rate relative to the longer-term investment option of owning and renting real estate.” Buying to flip isn’t necessarily a bad option, he adds, but it depends on the price of the property, its location and an individual investor’s ability to


afford the immediate renovations necessary to drive up the price and, ultimately, sell at a profit. To avoid at least some of the pitfalls, GGFL’s Engel offers these general tips for the prospective investor in residential or commercial real estate:

“If clients tell me they are interested in buying real estate, my first question is ‘what do you intend to do with the property?’”

1. Do proper due diligence on the property to ensure there are no environmental issues or other undisclosed liabilities related to the property.

– Josh Engel, Managing Partner, GGFL

If you plan to finance the property and it’s for investment purposes, see if it can be structured in a manner such that any interest would be tax deductible. For commercial properties, inquire as to the state of the leases with current tenants. How close are they to expiry? It’s all well and good to buy a building, but if the leases with tenants are about to expire, you have to cope with renewals and filling vacancies. Conversely, are they locked into leases with terms that are so generous that you’re not able to turn a profit? Have significant repairs been done in the past few years? If not, you need to assess the potential cost of future repairs when determining how

much to pay for the property and in budgeting for future years. Research sale prices of comparable properties that have recently sold in the same immediate area. Prepare cash flow projections to ensure the property will be generating sufficient funds to cover the mortgage payments and allow for the creation of an emergency fund to cover unexpected repairs. Are you in a financial position to have your real estate investment cash locked in for the long term? The stock market can be risky, but you can sell some shares if you suddenly need access to cash. With real estate, investors often only have two options: sell or refinance. Consider diversifying and investing in several properties.

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Consider investing with one or more partners to mitigate risk.


If the choice is between commercial or residential real estate, Engel cautions that investing in a commercial unit can

MAY 2019


be a more complex proposition and, generally, a riskier venture. “Finding tenants for a commercial building is generally more challenging than finding residential tenants,” he says. “Typically, a 10-unit residential property with one vacancy is easier to cope with than a five-unit commercial property with one vacancy.” Whether residential or commercial, there may also be potential sales tax issues to be addressed as well as federal and provincial rebates to consider. Other important considerations for real estate investors include whether to own the property through a corporation or as an individual. There are also varying risks and rewards between buying new and older properties. Regardless of an investor’s level of expertise, a discussion with a legal and/or a real estate accounting and tax specialist is time and money well spent. The bottom line is that there is a lot to know when investing in the residential and commercial markets and some not-so-obvious financial pitfalls to be avoided. Which brings us back to rule one: Plan well and seek the best advice.





His father, Maurice Foster, served as a Liberal MP for the northern Ontario riding of Algoma for more than 25 years (1968-93). Foster believes he learned the arts of consensus-building and how to get along with everyone from his dad.


Earlier this spring, a customer accidentally crashed her car into Pelican. Fortunately, no one was injured and the damage to the building was covered by insurance. “We had people calling to see if everyone was all right,” says Foster, who was touched by his customers’ concern. “I think our business really feels like a community.”


Foster plays the keyboard in a rock band with his buddies, but don’t go looking to become a roadie; they jam just for fun. “A lot of guys do Sudoku, but I try and figure out how to play Let It Bleed by the Stones,” jokes Foster.

From left, Pelican Seafood Market and Grill co-owners and brothers-in-law Jim Foster and Marc Roy with Foster’s son, general manager Emile Roy-Foster. PHOTO BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS

Hooked on the seafood biz

After nearly four decades in the industry, Pelican Seafood Market and Grill co-owner Jim Foster says he considers himself one of the ‘luckiest people in the world’ BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS

MAY 2019




n the Ottawa seafood scene, Jim Foster is what you’d call a big fish. For years now, the 55-year-old entrepreneur has been the friendly face of Pelican Seafood Market and Grill, a small business that he co-owns with his brotherin-law, Marc Roy. The fish market and adjoining 60-seat seafood restaurant remain tucked away in a nondescript strip mall south of downtown. Yet, on any given day, the place is bustling with a community of customers​ – serving between 10,000 and 11,000

people each month. What’s the secret? “Free parking,” quips Foster during an interview at Pelican, located at the Blue Heron Mall on Bank Street, just a few doors down from specialty grocery store Farm Boy. Foster still remembers his first sale: a piece of sole. “It was spectacularly mundane,” he says of how the female customer entered the store, ordered her fish, paid for it and then left. “It was so simple. Looking back, I think that was a sign that things were going to be good.”

Pelican, founded in 1978 by the late Gilles Roy, has been operating for more than 40 years in Ottawa. Over time, it’s grown, shrunk, expanded and expanded some more. In May, it will start offering seafood catering services via its new Pelican food truck, which comes equipped with a full kitchen. “I always think of myself and Marc as two of the luckiest people in the world that we get to do this for a living,” says Foster. “We joke that we’d otherwise be unemployable. “We work with great people and have great customers. We take nothing for granted.”


Foster co-starred in an episode of Chris Knight’s TV show Licence to Grill. The Winter BBQ Special episode involved him facing the elements and barbequing in the snow with chef and host Rob Rainford and chef Ned Bell at a cottage in Calabogie. It opens with Foster enjoying a bubble bath at home.


Foster loves reading (he plows through his wife’s assigned book club novels), travelling (the family visited China when their youngest was just six) and cooking (his favourite dish to make is paella, over an open fire). Despite his many interests, he’s not looking to retire. “I want to work for a long time,” he says.

Foster got his start in customer-service jobs as a teenager in Ottawa. He joined Pelican after high school (but not before taking a year to travel to Australia). At that time, in the early 1980s, the store – which was both a fish market and wholesaler – was on Merivale Road.

It was there that Foster fell in love with his boss’s daughter, JoAnne, to whom he’s been married for nearly 31 years and with whom he’s raised three boys. JoAnne ended up exiting the family business for a federal government job. Each of their sons has gone on to study engineering at Queen’s University. Sebastien, 29, earned a degree in civil engineering, while Emile, 25, went into mining mechanical. Quentin, 20, is finishing his second year in computer engineering. Engineering happens to be the path that Foster would have followed had he been a stronger student. That’s why he had some doubts when his middle son, Emile, expressed an interest in returning to Pelican. “As a dad I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, you’re an engineer; you’ve got this great job,’” Foster says of his initial reaction.

LEARNING NEW LESSONS However, the father changed his mind after his son created and presented a proposal with ideas on how to move the business forward. They hired Emile as general manager.

“He’s been great. My son teaches me new things all the time.” Pelican has been located on Bank Street, in the Alta Vista area, since the early 1990s. Foster runs the day-to-day operations while Roy works more behind the scenes, handling administration and seafood purchasing. The fish comes from all over Canada. “You name the province,” says Foster. “Well, maybe not Saskatchewan.” Pelican has been big on sustainable seafood since before it was mainstream. “We know where our product comes from, and often we’ll be talking right to the fisherman,” says Foster. “Marc is the best seafood purchaser around.” Foster remains proud of the positive work environment at Pelican. The business employs a combined part- and full-time staff of about 40. “For me, feeling successful is being able to provide a stable job for a lot of people, where everyone feels empowered,” he says. “We had a new employee say to me not too long ago, ‘When you guys hired me, I was in a really low place but coming here to work every day makes me feel better.’ That’s a pretty nice thing to hear.”


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Morguard mulls major makeover at St. Laurent

Owner of region’s third-largest shopping centre says new office building, apartments, hotel all possibilities thanks to mall’s proximity to LRT


MAY 2019




he owners of the St. Laurent shopping centre say they are considering a “massive redevelopment” of the region’s third-largest mall that could include a hotel, office tower and residential complex. Morguard CEO K. Rai Sahi told OBJ in a recent interview that the pending arrival of light rail opens up “all kinds of potential opportunities” at the retail and commercial complex five stops east of downtown. In addition to the 865,000-squarefoot shopping mall, Morguard also owns an 88,000-square-foot office building next door and has several acres of property ready to develop nearby, Sahi said. With an LRT station just steps away set to open in mid-2019, “it becomes viable to put an office building in St. Laurent,” he said. Sahi said Morguard is looking at various options for new construction projects at St. Laurent. While the shopping centre will remain the key component, “you could see an office building coming up there, an apartment building coming up there, a hotel, or all of the above,” he added. “In the future, (St. Laurent) will be one of our core development opportunities.” Morguard isn’t the first builder to see LRT-related development potential near shopping malls along the Confederation Line. A few kilometres east of St. Laurent, RioCan and Killam Apartment REIT are building hundreds of rental apartments near Blair station

In the future, (St. Laurent) will be one of our core development opportunities. – Morguard CEO K. Rai Sahi and Gloucester Centre. Based in Mississauga, the Morguard group of companies is Ottawa’s largest commercial landlord with more than five million square feet of property. Long a major player in the Ottawa market, Morguard has become even more prominent in recent years following a number of acquisitions and high-profile builds.

NEW HILTON HOTELS The company recently opened a pair of Hilton-branded lodgings at its redeveloped Queen Street property, a project Sanjay Rateja, Morguard’s vice-

president of hotel operations, called the “crown jewel” of its national portfolio. Late last year, Morguard announced it was buying 49.9 per cent of the 552,000-square-foot Jean Edmonds Towers office complex at 300 Slater St. and 365 Laurier Ave. Among its other notable properties are the CBC broadcast centre at 181 Queen St. and Performance Court, a 360,000-square-foot office tower at 150 Elgin St. that it built on spec before attracting Shopify, CIBC, KPMG and other prominent tenants. Spurred by the rise of “urban tech” firms such as Shopify and others,

Ottawa’s commercial real estate market has experienced a bit of a renaissance over the past year or so. According to Colliers International, the availability rate of downtown office space ​– the amount that’s on the leasing market, even if it’s currently occupied by existing tenants –​ fell from seven per cent in the last quarter of 2018 to just 4.8 per cent in the first three months of this year. Although brokerage firm CBRE warned earlier this spring that the shortage of available commercial space in Ottawa is tying the hands of tenants looking to expand or relocate, Rahi said he’s not expecting a wave of new office developments any time soon. “I don’t think anybody is building in a hurry on spec in the office (sector),” he said. “We might, depending on what happens.” Rahi said Morguard owns several pockets of prime real estate in the core, including space next to Performance Court. He said much of the firm’s development strategy will hinge on what the city’s largest office tenant, the federal government, decides to do. “Will they end up coming back to downtown as opposed to going to the suburbs? We’re hoping that the government will continue to grow.” While Morguard keeps looking for opportunities to expand its footprint in the National Capital Region, Rahi noted that other dominant landlords such as Brookfield and big pension funds have scaled back their presence. Brookfield, for example, divested itself of Jean Edmonds Towers last fall. A year earlier, the then-owners of Constitution Square –​ Oxford Properties, the real estate arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ​– sold the massive downtown office complex to a consortium of developers. Meanwhile, Rahi said he remains as bullish as ever on the city. “We basically love Ottawa,” he said. “It’s the capital of the country, and we don’t have very many major competitors.”


Why is Ottawa facing an office and industrial space crunch? A

mid warnings that many tenants have few options for space when looking to relocate or expand, the Ottawa Real Estate Show invited the head of one of the city’s major developers to explore some of the factors limiting new office and industrial construction in the capital. Earlier this spring, brokerage firm CBRE said Ottawa is facing a “shortage” of office spaces in excess of 50,000 square feet – a situation that’s limiting the ability of tenants to expand or relocate. Similarly, CBRE said tenants in the industrial market are currently facing a record low availability rate of 2.2 per cent, constricting their ability to expand. “Larger tenants have few options.

Smaller (tenants) still have a number of options, but across the board and in all markets, inventory is drying up and tenants are faced with less and less choice,” said Shawn Hamilton,

managing director of CBRE Ottawa. This is putting upwards pressure on rental rates; downtown class-A rates rose for six consecutive quarters before softening slightly in early 2019 to an average of $23.63 per square foot, while industrial asking rates are up 5.7 per cent year-over-year to $10.12 a square foot, according to CBRE figures. However, the tightening of the market has yet to spark any major new developments. Hugh Gorman, the CEO of developer and property management firm


OBJ.CA/ OBJ-DIGITAL-EDITION Explore the trends and developments shaping the capital’s commercial property market. Watch at OttawaRealEstateShow. Thanks to our sponsors Mann Lawyers and CBRE Ottawa.

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Colonnade Bridgeport, told the Ottawa Real Estate Show that this stems in part from the city’s historically modest absorption rates relative to other cities. “Ottawa traditionally hasn’t been a spec-build market where landlords (construct) buildings and hope that the tenants will come,” he said. Instead, Ottawa developers must typically secure a certain amount of preleasing commitments from tenants before their capital partners give the green light to break ground. Another related factor is the comparatively low concentration of corporate head offices in Ottawa, Hamilton argued. While many of the locally based R&D centres and other divisions may be growing, he said it’s often the companies that are headquartered in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary that commonly kick off new builds in those cities. For more insights into Ottawa’s development landscape, including multi-residential construction, watch the Ottawa Real Estate Show on YouTube. – Peter Kovessy


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Deadline to get involved is June 14th




Why isn’t your commercial property listed on the MLS System? 3 MARKET ANALYSIS For real estate professionals, the MLS System is also a market analysis tool. OREB uses software to verify each listing to keep information accurate. Besides comparing prices and square footage, OREB members also use the MLS System for preparing appraisals and checking property valuation. “The MLS System is a great source for comparable products, viable spaces and access to legally vetted documents,” says Lewicki. “That gives my clients piece of mind.”

Receiving the best offer when selling commercial property typically requires a listing to be highly visible and marketed to the right group of potential purchasers. That’s where the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – a database of properties for sale or lease – gives sellers a competitive advantage. It also gives real estate professionals another tool to find the right property for their clients. Only Realtors can post listings on the MLS System, which means sellers get the added benefit of working with experienced professionals. Here’s a quick rundown of several other benefits of the MLS System:



PROFESSIONAL SERVICES The Ottawa Real Estate Board manages the MLS System for Ottawa, Renfrew, Cornwall, and Rideau-St. Lawrence and only Realtor members of those boards can post listings. The first step for sellers is to find a listing broker who will post the details of the property, including square footage and amenities. The broker will be in charge of selling your property.


‘EXPONENTIAL’ REACH OREB is one of the two largest real estate boards in Ontario outside of the Greater Toronto Area and has more than 3,000 registered brokers and salespeople. This means your listing will be seen by a massive pool of real estate professionals and their clients. “The marketing reach is exponential – every Realtor has a large network,” says Geoffrey Godding, vice-president and sales representative at Decathlon Commercial Realty Corp.

MARKETING BEYOND OTTAWA An abbreviated version of MLS listings are also posted on CREA’s website, which had 264 million visitors in 2018 and 5.3 billion views. Working with an OREB member helps to reach potential buyers from across Canada and all over the world. is one of the top two most viewed real estate websites in Canada. According to SimilarWeb, a company that tracks web traffic, is also one of the top 25 real estate websites in the world. “You’ll have your property in front of one of the largest pools of real estate professionals on a daily basis,” says Michael Lewicki, a real estate broker at Keller Williams Integrity Realty.

WHAT IS A COMMERCIAL REALTOR? “Realtor” is not a job description. It is a trademark of the Canadian Real Estate Association and stands for service, competence and high ethical practice. OREB’s commercial members who have met those high standards are eligible to become members of OREB’s Commercial Services Network.



MAY 2019

Commercial Realtors provide professional services including: • Far-reaching marketing services through their exclusive access to the MLS System • Access to listings of thousands of other Realtors through their exclusive MLS System access • Professional advice based on knowledge, experience, and education • Tenant and landlord representation • Advice on real estate investment purchases • Competent service based on extensive market knowledge


Avivagen predicts healthy demand for immuneboosting supplement Ottawa-based firm says $5M funding boost will help it crack lucrative U.S. market for product designed to replace antibiotics in livestock feed BY DAVID SALI

MAY 2019




n Ottawa-based biotech firm that makes natural health products for livestock says a multimillion-dollar new funding round could pave the way for a massive breakthrough in the United States. Avivagen closed a private placement sale of secured debentures in late March that brought in more than $5 million. The company –​ which was founded in

2005 and has racked up more than $27 million in losses while it waits for its products to gain regulatory approval around the world –​ says the capital will help carry it through until it starts to show a profit. “As a fledgling company, it always takes a lot longer than you think it’s gonna take,” said Drew Basek, the firm’s Toronto-based head of investor relations. “As the saying goes, it takes 20 years to become an overnight success.” But now, Basek says, Avivagen is

ready for prime time. The firm’s flagship product, OxCbeta, is designed to replace antibiotics in livestock feed. OxC-beta was recently approved for sale in the U.S., and the company has signed a deal with Ohiobased CSA Animal Nutrition to market the feed supplement powder to poultry, pig and dairy farmers south of the border. The agreement will see CSA distribute a minimum of 11.5 tons of OxC-beta in the first year of the deal, 35 tons in the second year and 56 tons in the third year. Considering that Avivagen’s main customer up to now, Philippines-based UNAHCO, bought a little more than nine tons of the product in 2018, Avivagen CEO Kym Anthony is predicting a major

uptick in the company’s sales trajectory. “There’s a very real difference between being a research institution and a company that actually grows its sales and is successful commercially,” he said. “We’re already seeing things changing now, but I think by the end of this year, you’ll see some tremendous breakthroughs.” For years, health experts have been calling the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” a simmering global health crisis. With 70 per cent of the world’s antibiotics consumed by chickens, pigs, cattle and other livestock, often as a way to promote the animals’ growth, critics worry overuse of the drugs could make them less effective in humans. As a result, the chorus of voices calling for an end to the drugs’ use in food production has grown steadily louder. The European Union recently banned the use of antibiotics in livestock without a prescription from a vet. Fastfood chains such as Pizza Hut, A&W and others now trumpet antibiotic- and hormone-free meat as a major selling point. Avivagen believes it has the ideal alternative to antibiotics. Originally developed by scientists at the National Research Council, its solution is a compound derived from carotenoids – organic pigments produced by plants and algae that give fruits and vegetables such as bananas, carrots and tomatoes their bright colours. Various studies have suggested carotenoids can help reduce the risk of various types of cancers as well as conditions such as Parkinson’s disease in human beings. Avivagen officials say they’ve conducted dozens of tests that prove the natural antioxidants boost the immune systems of livestock, reducing the need for antibiotics.

REGULATORY HURDLES But gaining broad regulatory approval for OxC-beta has been a major hurdle for the 18-person company, which employs nine people at its Ottawa headquarters and R&D hub and the rest in Toronto and Charlottetown. Countries where Avivagen’s products had previously been approved for

sale – New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand – are comparative minnows next to China and the U.S., the top two global markets. Basek said it took the cumulative weight of more than two dozen studies and millions of dollars in research to finally convince government regulators south of the border to put OxC-beta on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Generally Regarded as Safe” list for food additives. “You know that expression, you create a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door? It’s not true,” he said, referring to the company’s long and winding road to commercial approval in the U.S. “Now we’ve got a whole bunch of data behind us. Now we can really sell it down there.” The product has also caught the eye of Canada’s hottest industry. Avivagen recently announced it is working with licensed cannabis producers on ways of combining OxCbeta with oils, extracts and other THCinfused medicinal products aimed at pets. Anthony said OxC-beta’s antiinflammatory and immune-boosting

properties seem to complement weed’s ability to reduce pain and anxiety. He wouldn’t reveal which cannabis firms his company is partnering with, but said tests are going “extremely well.” As for OxC-beta’s benefits to people, Anthony said the company has done some preliminary testing with encouraging results. “There’s no reason why this would not work on humans,” he said, adding Avivagen would likely market the product as a supplement similar to vitamins. “We’ve got a lot of work yet to do, and we’re just in the early stages of discussions.” Anthony said OxC-beta is close to getting the green light in Australia, Mexico, Malaysia and Brazil, the world’s third-largest animal feed market, and tests have been ongoing with partners in China and other Asian countries. If all goes according to plan, Basek added, the firm could hit the break-even point by the end of this year. “The last hurdle for us, we think, is just having enough money in the bank to make sure,” he said. “Now, everything else is execution.”

Ted Mann is the managing partner of Mann Lawyers

WHAT LEGAL ISSUES WILL SHAPE THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR IN 2019? Watch the Ottawa Real Estate Show Visit Ottawa Business Journal on YouTube

YOUR TICKET TO EUROPE Europe is closer than ever this summer with our seasonal non-stop flights from Ottawa to Frankfurt. Book now at

Cet été, l’Europe est plus près que jamais grâce à nos vols saisonniers sans escale entre Ottawa et Francfort.

MAY 2019

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Silver Anniversary Gala Fundraiser


Airport traffic nears record high in March The Ottawa International Airport took no breaks in March as the local travel hub saw some 462,959 travellers pass through its gates last month, nearly 16,000 more than in the same period last year. The Ottawa airport saw traffic rise across the board in March, as domestic, transborder and international passenger volumes all increased year-over-year and month-to-month. International traffic accounted for the biggest bump from 2018, with nearly 9,000 additional travellers passing through the airport compared with the same period a year ago. March was by far the local airport’s busiest month of 2019 to this point, with January and February both checking in at slightly more than 400,000 passengers. March 2019 was also the second-largest


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MAY 2019




month by passenger volume since 2013, which is the beginning of the Ottawa International Airport Authority’s publicly available data. Only August 2018, when some 480,898 travellers passed through the airport, surpassed last month. YOW’s record highs might soon come back to earth after United Airlines announced earlier this year it will temporarily suspend service from Ottawa to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, one of the United States’ busiest travel hubs. A United Airlines spokesperson told OBJ the suspension of flights is related to the airline’s fleet availability in the busy summer season. YOW-ORD service is expected to return in March 2020. ​– OBJ staff


STEPS TO MAXIMIZING A RENTAL PROPERTY’S INCOME AND LONG-TERM VALUE Strategic upgrades can generate significant returns


hen renting residential property, tenant turnover, or the completion of a newly constructed unit, gives landlords the opportunity to set a new rental rate that will determine an investor’s return for potentially years to come. Without the right market insights, a landlord could be leaving a significant amount of money on the table. “Some of our clients underprice their units,” says Conrad Pool, the president of Sleepwell Property Management. “That’s lost rental revenue compounded over the years.” With their extensive portfolio, Sleepwell – one of the city’s largest third-party property managers – can generate market analysis reports that provide investors with insights into the pricing of comparable units in the neighbourhood as well as how to factor in the value of parking spaces, modern appliances and other amenities. A trusted leasing advisor can also make recommendations on capital upgrades that will result in higher rents as well as an increase in the property’s appraised valuation.

“Year over year, we analyse the assets under our management and determine which capital investments and renovations will generate a higher return on investment,” says Adam Pearce, Sleepwell’s vice-president of sales and operations.

PROPERTY IMPROVEMENTS One of the first steps is to look for ways to inject a “wow” factor into a house or apartment. “Tenants want a fresh, bright unit,” says Pool, adding that a new coat of paint is an easy way to start. Choose two different colours – one for the walls, and one for ceilings and trim. A modern neutral with white trim is always a classic choice. As you progress to considering more extensive upgrades, it often pays to look underfoot and evaluate whether there are opportunities to increase a property’s value by replacing old, tired flooring. Pool strongly advises against installing carpeting in rental units. If a tenant with pets moves in, the odours tend to linger. Hardwood may have a higher upfront cost than carpets, but it won’t come with the costs of deep cleaning or replacing the carpet in the future. In the kitchen, avoid laminate countertops and use quartz or granite instead. Although laminate is cheaper than stone, it’s more easily damaged if a tenant neglects to use a cutting board and cuts into the surface. Quartz and granite are more durable, last longer and give an apartment or home a more upscale look. Similarly, a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances and cabinets may justify an extra $500 in rent to many prospective tenants. This adds up to an additional $6,000 a year in income, shortening the payback period. “You want to do these renovations right the first time and not cut corners,” says Pool. “It’s about the quality of your finishes and amenities that really make an apartment shine.” More information about property management is available on Sleepwell’s website.



A new kitchen with stainless steel appliances and cabinets may justify an extra $500 in rent to many prospective tenants.

MAY 2019


Visit OBJ.CA/OBJ-DIGITAL-EDITION to view the digital edition for exclusive features

2019 Share your creative, clever and inspiring work spaces. Eye-catching designs, colourful details and innovative layouts are just some of the elements that create an engaging work space. What is your story?

MAY 2019

Contact Wendy Baily 613.238.1818 ext. 244 |




Wireless radio supplier’s growth strategy solid as a ROCK

MAY 2019


Three years ago, Joe Hickey was in the midst of an impressive career in engineering and sales that had included a stint as Nortel’s youngest vice-president. Approaching his 50th birthday, Hickey was comfortably entrenched as VP of sales and marketing at Christie Walther Communications, an awardwinning Ottawa-based supplier of radio equipment. But Hickey, like many entrepreneurs, wasn’t comfortable with being comfortable. When Christie Walther was acquired by fellow Canadian company Turris Communications in early 2016, the father of five left the firm to strike out on his own. “I decided that was my passion,” says Hickey, now 52. He already had a vehicle for his entrepreneurial drive in ROCK Networks, a consulting firm he’d started more than a decade earlier as a side gig in between tech jobs. ROCK’s name might have harkened back to Hickey’s Newfoundland roots, but he saw a future for the company that stretched from coast to coast to coast. Barely a year after leaving his old job to focus full-time on his own venture, Hickey had already won a major contract to supply communications equipment to the federal government. Using the profits from that deal and a loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada, ROCK Networks acquired Nova Scotiabased two-way radio supplier Nova Communications in a multimillion-dollar transaction in the fall of 2017. With the stroke of a pen, ROCK Networks transformed from a tiny venture based in Hickey’s living room into a wireless technology business with offices in three provinces. ROCK now supplies two-way radio equipment and maintenance services to

It’s been quite a ride, but Hickey believes it’s just getting started. As radio technology shifts from oldschool analog to digital-based systems, he sees new opportunities for partnerships in emerging fields such as 5G networks. ROCK recently formed a joint venture with Gatineau-based Solacom to provide next-generation platforms that will allow smartphone users to text 911 in emergencies. ROCK is also planning an aggressive move into the managed services space, in which suppliers charge a monthly subscription fee to maintain and upgrade wireless equipment for customers such as police and fire departments. The firm currently competes against hundreds of independent wireless equipment resellers across Canada for smaller contracts and individual sales while going toe to toe with multinational players such as Texas-based BearCom Group for bigger deals. ROCK is not quite in the same weight class as the likes of BearCom and Bell just yet, but Hickey is nothing if not ambitious. “The goal is to build a national company and be a $100-million-plus business,” Hickey says. “I can’t get there YEAR FOUNDED: 2007 selling one two-way LOCAL HEADCOUNT: Five, radio at a time.” with 25 employees in other He concedes he provinces initially wavered THREE-YEAR REVENUE on submitting an GROWTH: 5,035.61% application for 2019 RANKING: #1 OBJ’s fastestgrowing companies competition this year, fearing he wouldn’t make the cut. ROCK Networks founder Joe Hickey. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON Clearly, Hickey had nothing to worry customers ranging from the Department e-commerce site has customers in every about. He’s already pondering his of National Defence to Cape Breton’s province and territory. prospects for a repeat in 2020. Cabot Links golf course. The firm has This January, ROCK’s corporate “If we’re No. 1 again next year, that 30 employees and operates sales offices headquarters officially moved from really means we’ve knocked the ball out in Calgary, Ottawa, Moncton, N.B., Hickey’s living room to its own space in of the park.” Dartmouth, N.S., and St. John’s, while its Ottawa’s south end. – David Sali


Jason Lawlor, Brad Proffitt and Greg McLearn. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON


MAY 2019

IT certification firm light years ahead of the competition



The irony in Lightship Security’s back story is not lost on Jason Lawlor. A few years ago, Lawlor and fellow IT security certification veterans Greg McLearn, Brad Proffitt and Lachlan Turner surveyed the landscape of their industry and realized things needed to change. Customers were growing increasingly frustrated that a sector focused on cutting-edge technology was still operating essentially the same way it had for decades. “The testing that we do has historically

been very manual, very labour-intensive,” says Lawlor. “There hasn’t been a lot of innovation in our little niche industry. We’re like, ‘Hey, guys, this is ripe for some disruption here.’” In late 2015, Lawlor and his pals launched Lightship Security, an Ottawabased company that automates the arduous process of verifying that hardware such as switchers and routers meets rigorous government security standards before being sold to governments themselves.


Lightship is one of just five labs in Canada accredited to perform such tests. Lawlor says its product certification software, known as Greenlight, has distilled a process that used to consume as much as a year’s worth of manual labour down to as little as 30 days, thanks to the power of technology. The market has taken notice. Despite competing against the likes of global tech consulting giant CGI, Lightship has quickly made a name for itself ​– most of its two dozen customers are major publicly traded U.S. corporations such as Dell and Xerox that do millions of dollars’ worth of

business with governments in North America every year. “They can’t sell to these federal agencies until these certifications are done, so time really is money for them,” Lawlor says. Now at 13 employees, Lightship remains focused on its core business of certification testing. But the firm, which pours about a quarter of its rapidly growing revenues back into research and development, already has its eye on what it sees as a market with even greater potential. Right now, Lawlor says, Greenlight is simply a tool the company uses to perform a service for clients. By next year, he says, the firm expects to start selling the software directly to clients on a subscription basis, opening the door to what he hopes will be exponential growth. Still, Lightship’s dramatic rise hasn’t come without a bit of turbulence. Lawlor says an industry steeped in old-school thinking took a while to come around to the idea of turning the IT certification process over to machines. Governments and big corporate clients want to see a track record of success before buying into disruptive new technology. “There was certainly some skepticism out of the gate about our ability to actually be able to automate this kind of testing,” he concedes. “We had to prove that the product did what we actually said it was going to do. They put us through the wringer, which is good. We learned a lot from it.” The bootstrapped firm has relied on federal IRAP grants and loans from the Business Development Bank of Canada to fuel its growth so far, but will likely pursue venture capital funding soon as it continues to refine its product and chase new customers, he adds. “It takes a while to get momentum, but momentum begets momentum,” Lawlor says. “We want to go and capture our fair share of that market.” – David Sali


Envolta’s cloud-first approach on the money in competitive accounting space

REPEAT FEAT: Six of this year’s Fastest Growing Companies recipients are back on the list for at least the second time, with one — Solink — making its third consecutive appearance.

MAY 2019


For David DiNardo, the sky’s the limit. The dynamic founder and owner of local cloud accounting company Envolta sees the reach of cloud technology as an ever-expanding frontier and is eager to keep exploring it. “There’s no limit. Because of the cloud, we can do anything remotely,” DiNardo says. “We are going after businesses in other cities.” Named to Hubdoc’s Top 50 North American Cloud Accountants list in 2018 in addition to earning a spot YEAR FOUNDED: 2014 on OBJ’s fastestLOCAL HEADCOUNT: 35 growing companies THREE-YEAR REVENUE list two years in a GROWTH: 400% row, DiNardo’s firm is poised to remain 2019 RANKING: #3 on the forefront of technology-driven accounting, and not just in Ottawa. Envolta’s current focus lies in servicing small to medium-sized businesses across Canada. “We are building a marketing and social media campaign to reach those Envolta founder David DiNardo. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON markets,” DiNardo says, explaining that the medium of cloud technology allows it to provide accounting services and technology curve is key to thriving in a looking to hire more all the time.” expertise to any business in Canada ​– competitive industry. DiNardo emphasizes the importance services and expertise he believes sets “This is all very new to the market,” of finding the right people for the job his company apart from its competitors. he notes. “We are really the pioneers and working with them to build a strong “All other accountants work more with this new software, so the main team. He says its team-first culture is with CRA compliance, while we focus challenge right now is that nobody is one of the pillars of Envolta’s success on that plus the advisory service doing what we’re doing. As the leaders, – an ethic he says was born out of his we provide to help business owners we are developing our own processes.” years playing soccer at St. Bonaventure actually understand their numbers,” he Envolta, which currently has 35 University, an NCAA Division I school in explains. “Our main focus is automating, employees, recently added to its ranks western New York. eliminating administrative costs, making through the acquisition of fellow Ottawa “I always valued leadership, and everything electronic to streamline firm Picco Accounting. DiNardo is not I knew the importance of building a the process and be able to provide this putting an upper limit on the firm’s team,” he says. “Two minds are better advisory work.” growth potential. than one, and a team is better than an DiNardo, who owns the company “We value tech-savvy accountants. individual.” outright, says staying ahead of the We’ve been hiring a lot recently, and are – Asen Aleksandrov

2019 FASTEST GROWING COMPANIES the most challenging, but also the most satisfying, because I think we’ve figured out who we’re going to be as a company.” Keynote now works with about 125 clients, including some of Ottawa’s largest private and public enterprises. Its role, James says, is not simply to find someone to occupy a C-suite. He believes some of Keynote’s most valuable work happens after an executive has been hired, when his team helps to ensure the new employee is a smooth fit with the organization. To that end, Keynote is planning to roll out an executive coaching service. It’s also set to YEAR FOUNDED: 2015 launch “mastermind LOCAL HEADCOUNT: 15 groups” where the executives it has placed THREE-YEAR REVENUE gather for two-day retreats GROWTH: 299.41% to share their insights on 2019 RANKING: #4 leadership and receive individual coaching to help them get even better at their new roles. New Keynote Group executive Brad Ezard (left) with co-founder James Baker. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON James says research suggests up to half of all senior executive hires fail to click with their new employers. He says Keynote’s services are aimed at ensuring his clients don’t add to those statistics. “All of these tools that we can give them, the support to get the right approaches for every situation, means that they get up to Despite enjoying revenue growth most including the HR component –​ and focus with a headcount of 15. While the former speed a little bit quicker, which means they other companies can only dream of, the on what they felt the company did best: HR practice is gone, the firm has bolstered earn the trust of people a little bit quicker, founders of the Keynote Group took a finding and placing senior executives. its team in other areas. which means they communicate a little bit good, long look in the mirror last year and “As we grew, we tried a lot of things,” Last fall, Keynote brought in M&A better.” determined big changes were in order. says James, the agency’s CEO. “A lot of expert Brad Ezard, a former corporate While 80 per cent of its clients are It’s not that the husband-and wife team things worked, which was terrific. Some lawyer at the high-powered firm of Latham located in Ottawa, Keynote’s growing of James and Donna Baker weren’t proud things didn’t work.​” & Watkins in Washington, D.C., to serve client list includes companies in Toronto, of what they’d accomplished at the HR and While it might seem like the move to as its head of business operations. In Montreal and western Canada. James recruiting firm they launched in 2015. The pare down the HR and executive search January, 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Kyle says he expects the share of out-of-town agency had just soared to the top of OBJ’s firm’s service lines as it was growing at Turk joined the fold as vice-president of customers to double over the next couple fastest-growing companies list in 2018 warp speed was a case of messing with a marketing. Along with veteran industrial of years, meaning Keynote will likely look with three-year revenue growth of almost good thing, James believes it will pay off in psychologist Craig Dowden, they form at opening satellite offices in other cities. 1,000 per cent and had grown to nearly 20 the long run. a powerful triumvirate of talent in the “We’re still a small company,” he says. employees. “Now we know what we’re good at and Keynote C-suite. “We know 80 per cent of businesses fail But the Bakers felt the company’s now we’re focusing on what we’re actually “These are significant steps for us within five years. So every day, I’m thinking top-line numbers weren’t telling the whole good at. We’re going to double down on that we simply wouldn’t have been about what are the things we need to do story. After analyzing their entire business that, and I think that will allow us to reach capable of doing last year,” James says of to give us the best chance of long-term with a critical eye, they made the tough the next level.” the new hires. “Last year was probably success.” call to jettison most of its service lines –​ Today’s Keynote is a leaner operation, a combination of the most humbling, – David Sali

MAY 2019

Keynote Group finds its hire purpose with pared-down business model




Solink’s Pej Javaheri, Erin Bailey, Cory Michalyshyn and Michael Matta. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

Solink adjusts the formula, not the rapid growth

THREE-YEAR REVENUE GROWTH: 287.08% 2019 RANKING: #5 #2980ba


look through and consume in any meaningful way,” Michalyshyn says. Solink often sells its software-as-aservice solution on the loss prevention angle, but once a customer has adopted the solution, the company then reveals its AI’s full analytics capabilities. Michalyshyn says one of the features the company has recently been pushing


their businesses,” he says. The Kanata-based company applies artificial intelligence to the vast amounts of surveillance video generated by its customers in the banking, retail and restaurant sectors, including franchisees of Tim Hortons and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. The constant stream of new footage is too much for any one person to parse through to spot potential fraud, but an AI tied to an operator’s point-of-sale system can ‘watch’ the video and detect anomalies itself. “There’s just way too much data for a normal operation to be able to


MAY 2019

Solink is no stranger to OBJ’s fastestgrowing companies list. With three-year revenue growth of 287 per cent, the local video analytics firm finds itself on the annual list of Ottawa’s hottest firms for the third consecutive year. But as chief financial and operating officer Cory Michalyshyn explains, what landed Solink on the list two years ago isn’t necessarily what’s fuelling its growth today. “We’re always trying to innovate on the formula … but we’re trying to be consistent in what that service does for our customers and what it means for


is an integration with drive-thrus that can detect inefficiencies in the system tied to certain orders and give fast food franchises tips to improve the flow of customer traffic. Already in 2019 the firm has released a motion search feature, which allows users to track activity around a particular object in the video frame, such as a cash register. But some of the biggest recent changes around the fast-growing firm have been internal. Solink nearly doubled in size from 40 to 75 employees in the past year and has added executive roles such as a director of marketing, HR manager and vice-presidents of operations and product. As the company grows, Michalyshyn says it has been important to add managerial roles to keep the ratio of managers to employees close to oneto-eight. Otherwise, he says, employees aren’t receiving the kind of professional development attention they need to thrive. Team size should scale in line with the company’s growth, in other words. “That’s really important for us, because we want our employees to constantly be pushing themselves to be better,” Michalyshyn says. Solink has had a busy 2019 already. The firm kicked off its year with a $16.3-million series-A round, which Michalyshyn says has thus far largely gone to funding costs of growth, such as deploying new customers and marketing efforts, in addition to hiring more workers. Michalyshyn says Solink hasn’t struggled finding the talent it needs to grow in Ottawa. He points to bygone analytics companies such as Cognos that built up expertise in the local talent market. “We’ve had a lot of success in being able to hire (employees) – salespeople, marketing staff, admin staff, R&D – of any different skill set,” he says. “At least for the near term, we’re going to continue hiring locally without anything really holding us back.” – Craig Lord


Fast facts about this year’s recipients Youthful enthusiasm

15 years+


Ottawa definitely has a healthy startup culture, if this year’s FGC list is any indication. Seven out of the 10 firms that made the cut in 2019 were founded less than a decade ago, and just one is more than 15 years old.

5-9 years

10-14 years



Under 5 years



growing C O M PA N I E S 2019

Lean business machines This year’s list is dominated by small and mediumsized businesses, with the largest firm employing 75 people. Only one entrant has a workforce of fewer than 10, while the average headcount of this year’s recipients is 28.

MAY 2019




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Mayor’s Breakfast Series A unique opportunity to enjoy breakfast with His Worship Mayor Jim Watson and hear from business and community leaders about issues critical to Ottawa. Guest Speaker: Mrs. Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque British High Commissioner

Celebrate Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies and their business accomplishments at a special awards reception. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, network and learn about the amazing success stories behind these fastest growing companies.

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Under 10

Tickets are now available to salute this year’s top companies!

Thursday, May 23, 2019 • 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Head Office Ottawa • 430 Hazeldean Road – Unit 6


Monday, May 27, 2019 Location: Ottawa City Hall Registration: 7:00am Buffet Breakfast: 7:30am Presentation: 8:00am INDIVIDUAL TICKETS: $35.00 + HST (Ottawa Board of Trade Members) $50.00 + HST (Non-Memebers) CORPORATE TABLES OF 8 WITH SIGNAGE: $245.00 + HST (Ottawa Board of Trade Members) $350.00 + HST (Non-Memebers) Register online

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Arctic Leaf heating up in bid to become ‘tech powerhouse’ YEAR FOUNDED: 2010 LOCAL HEADCOUNT: 20, WITH ANOTHER 20 IN THE UNITED STATES THREE-YEAR REVENUE GROWTH: 227.46% 2019 RANKING: #6

Arctic Leaf founder Josh Garellek. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON The company still gets most of its clients through referrals and word-ofmouth, but Garellek isn’t shy about extolling ArcticLeaf’s virtues. He says the organization is well on its way to becoming a 100-person company. “We’re kind of almost at a point where we can’t hire fast enough right now,” he says. “It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a challenge for sure.”

After what he called a breakout year in 2018, Garellek feels ArcticLeaf has started to hit its stride. “We want to be the biggest and the best in the industry,” he says matterof-factly. “We’ve built this machine, and now it’s just about pushing volume through it. We just want to keep the momentum going and keep growing.” – David Sali


the combined entity as a “tech powerhouse,” and he might be on to something. Arctic Leaf has become a go-to e-commerce website builder for companies in a growing number of sectors, particularly niche sports apparel and equipment firms such as California-based surf clothing manufacturer Birdwell and TrainingMask, which makes high-tech breathing aids designed for NFL players and other high-level athletes. The company recently moved its headquarters to a new office in Centretown, and it runs its U.S. operations out of NewLeaf’s former home base outside Los Angeles. With the eastern and western regions of the continent covered off, Arctic Leaf is aiming to open another office in Austin, Tex., in the near future to service clients in the central time zones. Arctic Leaf has also begun branching out into the software-as-a-service space, recently taking home a 2019 Bootstrap Award for, a SaaS platform that helps clients track how much business sales partners are generating.

MAY 2019

One of a multitude of Ottawa tech companies that have sprung up in the wake of Shopify’s rise to e-commerce superstardom, Arctic Leaf believes it’s ready to graduate from supporting player to a leading role. The firm that began life in 2010 as a Montreal mobile gaming studio called Arctic Empire has evolved into a one-stop shop providing services ranging from website design and app development to graphic design and branding. Now at 40 employees and growing, the firm works with Shopify among other partners to serve hundreds of customers across Canada and the United States. “A lot of clients that are coming to us, it’s because they have a challenge,” says founder Josh Garellek, who moved to Ottawa in 2012 and brought his startup with him. “They haven’t been able to solve that challenge somewhere else, or they’re looking to do something slightly different or something outside the box.” After steadily building its customer base for years, Garellek’s venture took its growth to another level in 2017 when it merged with California-based NewLeaf. Garellek hit it off with NewLeaf’s founder, Jonathan Coy, after they worked together on various app development projects. They soon realized their two ventures complemented each other: while Arctic Empire specialized in creating custom apps, NewLeaf focused on e-commerce. A few discussions later, a transborder partnership was born. “We just put a deal together on a handshake agreement, and that was it,” Garellek says. Today, the affable 35-yearold entrepreneur likes to refer to



Snappa co-founders Christopher Gimmer and Marc Chouinard. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

MAY 2019

Founder draws on past experience to create game-changing graphic design startup



Good graphic design can help elevate a business to new heights ​– but it’s not always easy to create, even when the talent or inspiration is there. Frustrated with the lack of effective tools to create such game-changing graphics, Christopher Gimmer set out to come up with his own. The result is Snappa, an online graphic design tool producer that has landed on this year’s list of OBJ’s fastest-growing companies. “While I was creating content at our

previous startup, I experienced several pain points when it came to creating visuals,” says Gimmer, who also cofounded local startups BootstrapBay and StockSnap. He stumbled over problems such as unreliable freelancers, unco-operative graphic design tool interfaces and even things as trivial as gaining the usage rights for stock images found online. All are things that could hamper the creative process and subsequently stifle business

growth, and all, Gimmer believed, are problems that could be solved with a single product. He launched Snappa in 2015 as an “online graphic design tool for non-designers.” The venture took root very quickly. His motivation to solve a problem rather than simply create an alternative resonated with many other creative marketers and entrepreneurs who had been dealing with the same problems Snappa had set off to fix. Today, Snappa services more than 100,000 monthly users, and more than 15 million images and designs have been created using the tool. Gimmer credits his success to a handful of core values, scrappiness being at the top of the list. “Since we’re a bootstrapped startup, we’ve had to be very scrappy to get to where we are,” he explains. “Everyone on our team is extremely resourceful and we always try to be creative when solving

problems rather than throwing money at it.” That approach is integral to why Snappa works, especially considering the company is run by a team of just four people, including Gimmer himself. In keeping with the firm’s theme of simplifying and streamlining the graphics process, his team tries not to micromanage each other and relies on its creativity and resilience to overcome obstacles. “We don’t overcomplicate things,” Gimmer says. “We bake simplicity into our product, our marketing and the way we run our company.” That approach appears to be working. Over the past two years, the company has added a number of product features to the service, introduced new subscription options and expanded the scope of products its software can handle. Even though Snappa’s baseline functionality is free, more than 5,000 customers have purchased subscriptions to take advantage of the expanded features. As the service grows and offers more options to users, Gimmer says it won’t lose touch with its original goals. “From the very beginning, we have focused on making Snappa super-fast and incredibly easy to use,” he says. “Our customers love the fact that they can spend less time making graphics and more time growing their business.” – Asen Aleksandrov


CanadaWheels revved up about e-commerce growth


CanadaWheels founder Saleh Taebi. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

the shipping process or finding new ways to thwart would-be fraudsters. But no one ever said the life of an entrepreneur would be a Sunday afternoon drive. “It’s been challenging,” Taebi concedes. “We’re definitely learning every day and tweaking and adjusting to make sure we stay on top.” – David Sali


The 10 companies on the 2019 list have been around for an average of only eight years, but they’ve racked up eye-popping average revenue growth of 752 per cent over the past three years.


help visitors to his site find the quick oil chain’s nearest locations. The 13-person company is eyeing other ways to diversify its customer and product base. Taebi says he expects to add auto accessories such as bike and roof racks and “lift kits” that help trucks accommodate fancier, larger rim sizes to CanadaWheels’ product roster soon. And he is forecasting the company will make its long-awaited debut south of the border before the end of this year –​ a move that has the potential to fuel a whole new wave of exponential growth. Indeed, things appear to be rolling along smoothly for CanadaWheels. With the firm’s fiscal year-end still more than three months away, Taebi says the site has already surpassed last year’s revenues. Even before it was redesigned, he says, it attracted four times as many page views in 2018 as it did the previous year, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. Taebi has had to navigate his share of bumps in the road along the way, whether it’s managing the logistics of

MAY 2019

Saleh Taebi isn’t about to take his foot off the gas pedal in his quest to dominate the auto accessories online retail market. Taebi is the founder and CEO of CanadaWheels, an Ottawa-based e-commerce site that specializes in automobile rims and tires. Since it launched seven years ago, Taebi’s business has gained a loyal following from customers frustrated with the limited selection of products at traditional brick-and-mortar auto shops and the logistical headaches of going store to store to comparison shop. Big-time growth is nothing new to CanadaWheels, which also made OBJ’s list of fastest-growing companies three years ago. But Taebi says that trend has accelerated since the organization revamped its website in February to make it easier and faster to navigate. “The whole user experience is better,” he explains. “Sales have been going like crazy.” The site now offers nearly 200 different brands of rims and tires for dozens of makes and models of vehicles, with a visualizer that shows users what different rims will actually look like on their cars. The company minimizes shipping times and costs by using customers’ locations to match them to nearby warehouses. CanadaWheels also partners with auto shops that install the products it sells, providing links to stores in several cities. Taebi says he expects to have about 40 partners on board from across the country within the next few months. “Shops love us because we’re driving traffic to their (locations),” he says, adding CanadaWheels is also pursuing a similar agreement with Mr. Lube to


MAY 2019

Firm’s thorough approach generates NewFound respect for recruiting



What do you do when you are told to find 180 qualified consultants in a month? That’s exactly the situation that Ottawa placement firm NewFound Recruiting faced last August. According to company managing partner Steve Stanley, the key is to stay calm and have a plan. “We had a number of on-site meetings and sat down as a team to organize our plan of action,” he says. “We understand how frequent communication and having a clear plan contribute to problem management and the successful execution of projects.” Needless to say, the client’s needs were met, and it was hardly the first time NewFound had demonstrated its ability to tackle high-pressure situations. Finding the right placement for jobseekers comes down to working with their strengths, and NewFound turns that approach inward to harness the potential of its own employees. “Each staff member leans on their strengths to allow us to succeed as a team,” Stanley explains. “We have an internal committee designated to develop strategy and solve issues both proactively and as they arise. They lean on more than 30 years of combined experience in the industry.” The company ​– which was named one of OBJ’s fastest-growing companies

YEAR FOUNDED: 2011 LOCAL HEADCOUNT: 22 THREE-YEAR REVENUE GROWTH: 109.39% 2019 RANKING: #9 NewFound’s Todd LeSage and Steve Stanley. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON in 2014 as well –​ has achieved impressive growth since its inception in 2011 to become one of Ottawa’s leading staffing firms. Specializing in information technology, finance and administration for small and large organizations,

NewFound recognizes the need to branch out and diversify its client pool. Comfortable with its foothold in the private sector, the company has its sights set on tapping into the region’s largest employer. “We are now focusing on growing

our government division,” Stanley says, adding the firm has placed more than 250 consultants involved in multimillion-dollar public-sector projects over the past six months. – Asen Aleksandrov



Decisive Technologies executives Mike Smith, Richard Losier and Joey Harrison. PHOTO BY MARK HOLLERON

Decisive part of dynamic data security duo operations around the world. Harrison says Decisive’s robust security features have always been a major selling point. Its latest offerings include custom-built, military-grade server infrastructure designed to withstand harsh conditions often found in industries such as defence, mining and construction. Decisive president Mike Smith says a key to the company’s success has been its ability to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest technology. “Selling a server as a server is just getting harder and less valuable to the client,” he says. “You have to be moving up the food chain with your product offerings.” And in a business where data sovereignty is a never-ending topic of


where we took our expertise in the data centre and we built BriteSky.” Harrison says the two firms work hand-to-hand to tailor solutions to fit their customers’ needs, whether it’s providing on-premise hardware or backing up data in the cloud. “We’re able to give them the best of both worlds,” he says. “We’re not really tied to one or the other.” Decisive focuses on building secure data-storage infrastructure for clients. The federal government accounts for a large share of its sales, which is to be expected for a firm based in the nation’s capital. But Decisive, which also made OBJ’s fastest-growing companies list in 2014, serves a wide variety of private customers, including several that have

MAY 2019

It seems only fitting that Decisive Technologies and its sister firm, BriteSky Technologies, finished back-to-back on this year’s list of Ottawa’s fastestgrowing companies. Decisive, a data centre solutions company founded in 2001, came in at No. 10 in OBJ’s annual rankings with three-year revenue growth of nearly 103 per cent, while BriteSky, a cloud services provider launched in 2013, was right behind with a mark of just over 102 per cent. The companies are really two sides of the same coin, says Joey Harrison, the vice-president of sales and marketing for both. “They really kind of play off each other,” he explains. “What BriteSky did for Decisive was bring the cloud aspect,

conversation, the executives say being headquartered in Ottawa gives their companies a huge advantage over foreign-based competitors because it guarantees all customer data stays within Canada’s borders. “That’s a big selling point,” Harrison says. Decisive and BriteSky have a combined total of about 60 employees, a number that’s expected to rise to 80 by the end of the year. While about 35 officially fall under Decisive’s umbrella, the two sister firms regularly draw on each other’s talent, depending on a client’s needs. Harrison says the calibre of that combined workforce is a big part of what separates Decisive and BriteSky from the pack. “We all see where this can go, and it’s exciting,” he says. “It’s fun to come to work, and you can see that in the office.” If Harrison and Smith seem to refer to Decisive and BriteSky as practically the same entity, it’s easy to understand why when the two operations are so intertwined. “There’s nobody out there that’s really doing this,” Harrison says. “You’re either a cloud company or you’re an on-premise infrastructure company. We really cross all barriers to give the best outcome to the customer.” – David Sali

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2019 RECIPIENTS Stephanie Appotive Howard Fine Jewellers & Master Goldsmiths

Mostafa Farrokhabadi BluWave-ai

Ron McLester Algonquin College

Alexis Ashworth Habitat for Humanity

Erin Fenn 1VALET

Aliasgar Morbi Brash Inc.

Ian Bingeman Youth Ottawa

Amy Friesen Tea & Toast

Alex Patrick Take the Shot Productions

Katie Black Caza Saikaley LLP

Josh Garellek Arctic Leaf

Jacob Shabinsky Glenview Homes

Chantal Boyer-Casey 4té

Sacha Gera Ribbon Communications

Ali Shafaee DNA Presents

Krystal Cameron Assent Compliance

Elliott Gillespie Gold Bar Whiskey

Candace Sutcliffe C.A. Paradis

Joseph Carpinone Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton

Sender Gordon Regional Group

Liam Swords Plum Realty

James Ciesielski Rewind

Chantal Hackett Sing House Studios

Elias Theodossiou EVOO Greek Kitchen

Francois de Bellefeuille Spiria Digital

Joanne Kudakiewicz Yorkville Asset Management

Christopher Thompson Whitewater Brewing Co.

Heather Desjardins The Open Door Educational Services

Steve Lavigne Opin Software

Danya Vered StrategyCorp

Alex Dorward Simple Story

Cindy MacKay Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre

Hamed Zadeh SINIX Media Group

Jana Dybinski Kelly Elliott Dentons LLP Kara Eusebio Invest Ottawa

Brandon Malleck Bentall Kennedy Matt McEvoy MaxBounty

Joelle Zagury Merivale Vision Care John Zinati Zinati Realty


Network with the city’s rising business stars! MAY 2019

Forty Under 40 Gala | Friday, June 21, 2019 @ Hilton Lac-Leamy





Individual tickets: $200 Ottawa Board of Trade members $220 Non-members

Corporate tables of 10: $1900 Ottawa Board of Trade members $2100 Non-members MEDIA SPONSORS


La Cité’s Excentricité brings new immersive experience to Ottawa businesses Architecture, engineering, 3D animation and skilled trades students team up to create ‘virtual projects’ in high-tech studio


here’s something extraordinary happening at La Cité’s main campus near the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. It’s called Excentricité. In the words of Lise Bourgeois, the college’s president and CEO, it’s a place where businesses, students and faculty can “meet, create, innovate and dream together.” Excentricité contains 34,100 square feet, capable of accommodating up to 1,100 people. It has seven retractable screens, 43 surround-sound

speakers and 252 square feet of screens around the room to create a 360-degree experience. “We needed a beacon of creativity and innovation,” she says. “This place is a living lab for exploration and experimentation.” The vision for Excentricité was conceived in 2013 and cemented three years later when the federal and provincial governments committed to provide $20 million in funding. Combined with a $5-million student


Businesses can book a demonstration or reserve the facilities for outstanding events. For more information, visit the La Cité website.



MAY 2019


contribution from the Students’ Association and $5 million from La Cité’s Foundation and partners, the building was completed in April 2018. As a bonus, the project was also able to accommodate a new pub, Le 801 – an amenity long soughtafter by students – and the upgrade of the sports facility. Excentricité – which is open to the public – is already being put to creative uses. In the “Imaginarium” project students and faculty will design an interactive content bank and a small mobile interactive tower image gallery, where people can choose different projections for classrooms, seminars and galas. Students and faculty from the digital arts, photography, graphic design and electrical engineering are scheduled to complete the project this fall. Architecture, civil engineering and animation students are working on a “visual architectural walk” with 3D images, giving the illusion of actually walking through a physical space. Visitors will be able to feel immersive sensations and images without helmets or 3D glasses. As well, students from the Skilled Trades Institute and the Technology, Arts and Communication Institute will design a modular escape game system that develops skills such as communication, team building, time management, decision-making and adaptability.


Ross Video’s ‘idea factory’ keeps growing Local firm announces two more acquisitions as it ramps up bid to become a billion-dollar company within a decade BY DAVID SALI


iding a wave of 27 consecutive years of revenue growth, Ross Video just keeps finding new ways to outdo itself. The Ottawa-based video technology company announced not one, but two acquisitions in April. Ross Video bought U.K. firm Piero Sports Graphics,

whose state-of-the-art software is used by high-profile clients ranging from Premier League soccer clubs to the British Broadcasting Corp., in a deal that closed in late March. Though the companies wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, Ross chief executive David Ross called the transaction “the biggest acquisition we’ve ever made financially.”

It’s the Ottawa firm’s 14th such deal in the past decade, and, in Ross’s words, one of the “more interesting” he’s ever pulled the trigger on. When he first zeroed in on Piero in mid-2018, the company ​– a division of Red Bee Media, itself a subsidiary of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson –​ wasn’t even for sale. But Ross saw massive untapped potential in Piero, a firm that sprang out of software designed by engineers at the BBC and was eventually spun off and sold to Ericsson. The company has fewer than 20 employees and a small sales force, but

Ross believes with his firm’s worldwide marketing muscle behind it, it can easily “double or triple” its revenues within the next few years. Ross Video, which already operates a sales office in Reading, England, plans to house Piero’s employees at a new R&D hub in London. “When we approached the CEO of Red Bee, it was a bit of a surprise to him,” Ross said. “He was like, ‘But I had a strategy for that.’ And we said, ‘Well, maybe your strategy is to sell it.’ He came around to the idea and we started negotiating.” Ross says Piero’s pioneering technology that allows broadcasters, sports teams and other clients to electronically “move” images around in video replays goes hand-in-hand with Ross Video’s own products. “It’s just a perfect complement to the sorts of things we’re already doing for our sports and stadium customers,” he said, referring to Ross Video equipment that’s used to produce 3D graphics and other elements at big-time sporting events such as the Super Bowl. “There’s only a couple of companies

Coming soon!

Dining in the Dark raises $22,000 for the CNIB Foundation A century of experience has taught us that turning our bold dreams into reality takes a community. Thank you to everyone who joined us for Dining in the Dark on March 28, 2019 at Crust & Crate Public House. With your support, we raised more than $22,000 for the CNIB Foundation’s accessible technology program!

MAY 2019

A special thanks to our event partners:



Canopy Growth Corporation, Crust & Crate, Ottawa Business Journal, Pelee Island Winery and Beyond the Pale Brewing Company. Together, we are changing what it is to be blind!

Tee off in support of CNIB CNIB Charity Golf Tournament Saturday, August 10, 2019 @ 1 p.m. Hammond Golf and Country Club 600 Golf Road, Hammond, ON For tickets, and sponsorship opportunities, please contact: Julia Canning Manager, Community Giving CNIB 343-961-1046

in the world that really do this. It’s a high-profile thing, and Piero is the most legendary of them all. They have done some amazing, highly valuable technology that is being undersold – at least in our opinion.”

‘REALLY COOL’ TECHNOLOGY The other acquisition Ross Video announced in April actually closed late last year. The firm it purchased, Portalis, is a small Utah-based manufacturer of niche video technology. Portalis’s system allows users who need to keep track of action on dozens or even hundreds of computer monitors to put all those screens on to one “super desktop,” moving around windows as necessary with the ability to hide and reopen them like internet tabs. “That’s the sort of company I like to buy,” said Ross, OBJ’s CEO of the Year in 2016. “I look at a lot of companies that are already at the early stages and they need help. They’ve done something really cool, but they need us to take them to the next level. It’s like venture capital, but the difference is I have a

100 per cent success rate.” Ross says he held off on announcing the deal until Ross Video’s manufacturing plant in Iroquois, south of Ottawa, was ready to ramp up production of the Portalis system. “There was a lot of logistics to make that happen,” he explained. The latest deals are just the newest chapters in the remarkable story of Ross Video, which has more than 700 employees and expects that number to surpass 800 by the end of this year. Last year, the firm’s revenues – which are now in the hundreds of millions of dollars – rose 20 per cent over 2017, and the company says its 2019 numbers are 20 per cent ahead of last year’s pace. Ross said the company has an even more ambitious target in its sights: becoming a billion-dollar enterprise within the next decade. “Ross is definitely an idea factory, and it’s kind of like the more you know, the more you know what you’re not doing and what you can be doing,” he said. “As we grow, we just see more and more opportunities. This is a lot of fun that we’re having right now.”

Your business experts Robert Héroux, Manager of Desjardins Business– Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, is pleased to announce the arrival of two new account managers who are ready to support your business. Mayada Daher has worked in commercial banking for 17 years and knows the ins and outs of Ottawa real estate financing. She can add real value to multi-unit residential, commercial rental, and new construction projects.

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MAY 2019

Mayada and Steve will use their expertise and the support from their team of financial experts to help you take your business where you want it to go. Contact them today.

YOU ARE NOW A MEDIA COMPANY In the digital age, your association needs high-quality content on a regular basis to tell your stories and grow your membership.

MAY 2019

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How does your association’s content stack up? Find out with a free content analysis. Call 613-238-1818 x268.

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, the Foundation (WCPD), Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, Fondation Bruyère Foundation, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS


STEPPING UP: DOCS DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY TO RAISE $455K FOR THE OTTAWA HOSPITAL physicians,” he told “They are incredibly busy people during the day, but they’ve taken numerous dance lessons during the evening, and some have taken more, to prepare for tonight.” During the competition, infectious disease specialist and Dancing with the Docs alumna Anne McCarthy



to view the digital edition for exclusive features


each in support of their work in CAR-T therapy for treating blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. Later, the crowd piled onto the dance floor to try out some of their own moves. Back to emcee the fifth annual gala were CTV News Ottawa anchors Graham Richardson and Patricia Boal, who also posed some post-performance questions to the dancers. Shawn Simpson, host of TSN 1200 The Drive, was back judging the dance competition with Jennifer Van Noort from The Ottawa Hospital Foundation and a candid Carlos Lourenco from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Oakville. New to the panel this year was Dr. Roanne Segal, 2017 Dancing with the Docs champ. The presenting sponsor was MD Financial Management, represented by executive vice-president Mike Gassewitz. Also in attendance was The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s president and CEO Tim Kluke. “I have so much respect for the

MAY 2019

No second opinion was required; all the medical experts agreed that the annual Dancing with the Docs fundraising dinner has become one of the most entertaining galas in town. Nine fearless physicians shimmied and shook the night away in the ballroom of the Hilton Lac-Leamy on April 6 during a dance competition that helped to raise $455,000 for patient care and research at The Ottawa Hospital. Cheering them on was a sold-out crowd of 840 excited spectators, of whom about 70 per cent work at The Ottawa Hospital. Once the dancers were done taking their final bow, the votes were tallied and the prized medicine ball trophy was awarded amidst a shower of confetti, accompanied by party anthem music. It was presented to Drs. Arleigh McCurdy and Natasha Kekre, who wowed the judges with their group hip-hop dance, performed in partnership with the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Ottawa. They also raised the most amount of dough, bringing in more than $70,000

cartwheeled across the stage like a school girl as she performed a hustle and jive number. Otolaryngologist Laurie McLean impressed everyone with her energy and enthusiasm. “I was a highland dancer when I was a kid,” McLean revealed while still catching her breath from her jive and swing medley. Dr. Tim Ramsay, a senior scientist with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and director of the Ottawa Methods Centre, danced an Argentine tango with medical student Maria Gladkikh. For Dr. Glenn Posner, the dance competition was about exiting his comfort zone. “I just want to lead an interesting life,” said Posner, who performed a fun medley of the swing dance, Lindy hop and the cha-cha. Dr. Joyce Schachter was raising money for the Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery Clinic. She was described as a “firecracker” by her dance partner in a sexy tango reggae fusion, while Dr. Sue Dojeiji fed off the positive energy in the room during her cha-cha and reggae medley. Orthopedic surgeon George Grammatopoulos had only just arrived to town from the United Kingdom when he was recruited for the competition. “Actually, it was in my contract,” he joked following his passionate cha-cha, bolero and tango medley.

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, the Foundation (WCPD), Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, Fondation Bruyère Foundation, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS


Army Ball marks 75th anniversary of D-Day landings For those who love a man or woman in uniform, the Army Ball was the place to be on April 13 as members of Canada’s military came dressed in their finest for the black-tie gala at the Hilton Lac-Leamy. More than 950 people attended the spectacular evening hosted by Lt.-

Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier and Chief Warrant Officer Stuart Hartnell. The ball ​– chaired by Lt.-Col. (retired) Fran Chilton-Mackay ​– was rich with military pomp and circumstance, from the Governor General’s Foot Guards to the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa to the action-

packed war period re-enactments. The evening focused on the 75th anniversaries of the D-Day landings on the beaches in Normandy, France and the army’s Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The crowd gave an enthusiastic welcome to a pair of World War II

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MAY 2019

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veterans who were among the roughly 14,500 Canadians who took part in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, and the subsequent campaign to capture Nazi-occupied Normandy. The nonagenarians live at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre in Ottawa. Pte. Bud Hannam, who’d been part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, wiped his eyes with a tissue as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Gunner Jack Commerford made a memorable entrance by running up the aisle with the help of his walker. He had to stop, but only because his jaunty gait caused his bar of medals to fall from his suit jacket. Nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed in the invasion area on D-Day, including 14,000 Canadian soldiers at Juno Beach. The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF contributed 15 fighters and fighter bomber squadrons to the assault.

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CARLETON CAMPAIGN SURPASSES $300M FUNDRAISING GOAL It was a proud and historic moment for Carleton University on April 17 as it celebrated the successful close of its campaign to raise $300 million. The Collaborate Campaign passed its target in February and ended up raising more than $308 million. “Not too shabby,” Carleton University’s president and vicechancellor Benoit-Antoine Bacon said

with a smile as he spoke at the podium, acknowledging the generosity of the school’s donors, alumni, supporters and partners. Guests heard how the Collaborate Campaign involved 29,000 donors, the creation of 404 new student scholarships and 191 FutureFunder projects. A host of Carleton alumni and faculty members were on hand for the event.

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OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, the Foundation (WCPD), Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, Fondation Bruyère Foundation, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. STORIES AND PHOTOS BY CAROLINE PHILLIPS AWARDS

BYAs CELEBRATE WOMEN’S BIZ ACHIEVEMENTS Just as a woman gets better with age, so do the BYAs. This year’s Businesswoman of the Year Awards, hosted by the Women’s Business Network, enjoyed a sold-out night April 11 as it drew a record-breaking crowd of 450 women and men to the Infinity Convention Centre to celebrate the career accomplishments and achievements of this year’s 12 female finalists. The presenting sponsor was wealth management boutique PWL Capital, represented by portfolio manager Nancy Graham. “I grew up in a household where I was told I could be anything,” said Jennifer MacKinnon, founder and CEO of web technology company Fenix Solutions, who

received the Established Entrepreneur award. Professional category award recipient Katherine Cooligan spoke of how becoming a family law lawyer has allowed her to make a difference in people’s lives. More recently, she’s also taken on a senior leadership role as regional managing partner of the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais. “I’m so thrilled to be on this journey with all of you,” said Amy Friesen, owner of Tea & Toast, after collecting her award for Emerging Entrepreneur. Christina Hlusko, the president and CEO of CAA North & East Ontario, was named the winner in the Organization category.

meet our menu

MAY 2019

A new season brings new food and a new menu to the Shaw Centre with fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients. Chef Patrick Turcot works with local suppliers to secure the very best in farm to table produce. Our talented kitchen creates incredible, palate-pleasing dishes with élan and flair. Prepare to be wowed as Canada’s Meeting Place becomes Canada’s eating place!




Op-ed: Entrepreneurs, beware the reality distortion field


impact they imagined. It’s a lesson I learned early on as an entrepreneur and almost the hard way.


SELF-DOUBT AS STRENGTH Luckily, we were able to raise a series-A round just before the 2008 financial crisis, and all our hard work paid off when RIM finally acquired us in 2011. But many startups and entrepreneurs don’t fare as well and end up succumbing to the reality distortion field. I wish I could pretend that it was my confidence and sheer willpower that pulled us through. But honestly, I had a lot of doubts. When I was younger, I saw it as a sign of weakness. But as I’ve matured as an

BREAKING THROUGH THE REALITY DISTORTION FIELD “You have to have conviction in yourself to make something happen,” Holmes says at one point in The Inventor. “But ultimately that’s up to you.” The phrase “fake it till you make it” is a popular aphorism in the tech community and beyond. But there’s a fine line between a storyteller and a snake oil salesman, and confidence and charisma can only get you so far if deceiving ​– either yourself or someone else ​– is the end goal. To truly succeed, it’s important to step outside yourself. Marc Gingras is a Canadian entrepreneur, angel investor and CEO of Gatineau-based Foko Retail.


I had a bit of a breakdown one night in the summer of 2008. Two years earlier, I had founded Tungle, an online scheduling startup that could synchronize and schedule meetings across various calendaring applications. A year later, we raised $1.5 million in seed funding and were gaining traction. Despite making good progress (we had a small team of 12 employees), we were running out of cash (and fast). Slowly, selfdoubt started to creep in, along with the fear that I was letting everyone down, and there was no going back. The idea for Tungle was just that ​ – an idea. Somehow I had convinced hundreds of people ​– from investors to team members to users ​– that it was a good one. And now, with a dwindling bank account and the full weight of a company’s future on my shoulders, it

seemed like a bad one. People had trusted me with their hardearned money; uprooted their families, or quit their current jobs, to be a part of the project; and migrated businesses over from existing platforms because they saw something in us – ​ and my vision. Now, it looked like it was all for nothing. I had distorted people’s perception of reality with my idea, and it (and I) had failed us.

MAY 2019

, like a lot of CEOs in the tech community, recently saw The Inventor, Alex Gibney’s documentary about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, whose company Theranos went from a US$9-billion valuation to a net worth of zero dollars after allegations surfaced that she helped defraud investors through years of false claims and misleading data. The film raised a lot of questions in my head: How could someone be so self-aggrandizing? How could they be so blindly deceitful to investors? And how could a boss let so many employees down? The truth is, all CEOs and entrepreneurs use a mixture of smoke and mirrors, confidence and charisma to make the impossible seem possible to get the job done. There’s even a name for it: the “reality distortion field.” First coined about Steve Jobs’ notorious managerial practices, it alludes to his ​– and like-minded leaders such as Holmes’ and Elon Musk’s – ​ ability to convince employees and investors alike that seemingly unrealistic feats are surmountable through ingenuity, determination and hard work. But there’s a clear distinction between being a visionary and being a fraud. Every successful business needs to test limitations to accomplish their goals. But over time I’ve learned that what separates great leaders from the merely good ones (or, in the case of Holmes, potentially criminal ones) is their ability to step outside the reality distortion field continually and reassess whether their goal is becoming a reality or having the

entrepreneur, I now see the value in selfdoubt. It allows you to step outside the reality distortion field, and yourself, to get a clearer picture of what it is you’re aiming for, and if it’s worth doing. I surround myself with employees and peers who keep me mindful, humble and curious because of that. Doing so allows me to see the signs that I’m falling into the trap of my own reality distortion field and alter the course if necessary (like we did at my current startup Foko Retail, which pivoted in the early stages from an enterprisefocused, Instagram-like photo-sharing app to a social and collaborative store management platform that’s now used by retailers and brands worldwide). Of course, not everyone has a team that helps them check their ego at the door. So next time you fear you’ve stumbled into the reality distortion field, ask yourself this: Are your board members asking a lot of questions about the point, purpose and target market of your platform? If so, chances are you’re not asking enough questions yourself and some improvements need to be made. Are you dismissing any questions about your product point-blank? Then chances are you’ve drunk too much of your own Kool-Aid. (That doesn’t mean they’re right. But if you can’t reason your way out of any line of questioning, that’s another tell you’re stuck in your reality distortion field and might need to return to the drawing board.)


Preparing for the next tornado

Researchers at the uOttawa Wind Lab. From left to right: Elena Dragomirescu, Charly Massaad and Zhe Xiao.

uOttawa researchers explore solutions to make low-rise buildings safer


MAY 2019

rior to the year 2000, the National Capital Region only experienced three tornadoes in its recorded history. Since then, there’s been 15. Preparing a property for a tornado includes keeping large rooftop objects – think solar panels and air conditioners, for example – tied down or firmly attached to buildings to prevent them from being ripped off and causing injuries to bystanders or major damage to other buildings. Research on the extent to which rooftop objects can withstand tornadoes is currently lacking. Elena Dragomirescu, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Engineering, is looking for answers. “We don’t have enough analysis about Ottawa storms,” she says. “We need that so we’re prepared.” Using a giant three-meter windbox, her research team is testing different solar panels and rooftop air conditioners to see which ones can withstand extreme winds of up to 290 km/h. “We need to know how much force the rooftop elements can take before they start breaking apart,” says Dragomirescu. The results will be recommended for the next update of Ottawa’s building codes – expected in 2020 – so that homeowners and real estate developers know which solar panels and air conditioners to use for rooftops.



KEEPING ROOFS ATTACHED But it’s not just the objects atop roofs that can be a hazard. A roof itself can become airborne in intense storms and cause enormous damage. There is a solution: Dragomirescu says tornado steel brackets and straps in structural beams that are added during construction can keep the roof and the building firmly attached. The problem

is that building code does not require tornado brackets and straps for Ottawa region because the city is still considered a low risk area for tornadoes. Dragomirescu says that has to change. “Our buildings are like stacked chopsticks so they need something to hold them together,” she says. “Once a building is built, you can’t access all the parts of the building to add steel straps later. We need to change the codes quickly.” Even though the tornado brackets and straps aren’t required, real estate developers can ask contractors to add it in their buildings from the construction phase. A set of straps for one home is estimated at $400 to $600. Besides advocating for changes in the building codes, Dragomirescu also wants to raise public awareness about safety. In collaboration with her

uOttawa professor creating fertilizer from renewable resource When water drains from farmland, phosphorus enters into rivers and other waterways. High phosphorus levels can lead to toxic blue-green algae blooms. When these toxins enter drinking water, they can cause illness as well as liver and kidney damage. Phosphorus from agricultural drainage and urban stormwater is difficult to treat as there are a multitude of sources throughout the watershed. Chris Kinsley, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Engineering, has developed passive filters to remove phosphorus but wants to make this process more environmentally friendly by creating renewable filters


colleagues from mechanical engineering and computer science she’s planning the development of a mobile app that will give tips on what to do before, during and after a tornado. The most important tips are to hide in a basement during a tornado and stay away from windows. “No one died in last year’s tornadoes because everyone did the right thing,” she says. “That’s amazing!”

and reusing the phosphorus. The renewable filters – which are still under development – would be soaked in light acid to release the phosphorus. Once the phosphorus is dried, it would be used to make fertilizer. Kinsley believes his research is critical because phosphorus will soon become a scarce resource. Most fertilizers are made from mined phosphorus but in 20 to 30 years, many known sources could be depleted. “This is the best time to do this research,” says Kinsley. “We don’t have a lot of time to find alternatives.”

Ottawa climbs global tech hub rankings


new ranking of global startup ecosystems has Ottawa making waves as one of the top 100 tech cities in the world. StartupBlink, a Zurich-based tech research centre, recently released a new

ranking of global startup ecosystem. The report algorithmically ranks 1,000 cities and 100 countries on a variety of tech factors: the sheer number of startups, accelerators and co-working spaces in a location; the size and market share of

a city or country’s tech firms; and the overall business environment when it comes to regulations, censorship and technological infrastructure available. It looks to highlight both the wellestablished cities and countries when it comes to starting a tech firm as well as the regions on the rise. Ottawa jumped a full 39 spots on the list since StartupBlink’s last ranking in 2017, entering the top 100 cities at No. 63. The nation’s capital took the fourth spot nationally, with other Canadian centres Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal all landing in the global top 50 despite each dropping a few spots. San Francisco, New York and London took the top three spots globally. Canada maintained its No. 3 ranking on the countries list, just ahead of Israel and behind only the United Kingdom and the United States – the latter of which holds a dominant grip on the top spot. The report highlighted attention from Canada’s governments and other public institutions as driving its top-three ranking. StartupBlink draws its information from its own database of more than

Global rankings of Canada’s startup ecosystems 15. Toronto 25. Vancouver 49. Montreal 63. Ottawa 95. Edmonton

4 6 15 39 34

60,000 startups as well as from partners Crunchbase, CoWorker and Similar Web, the latter of which compares companies based on anticipated market share. Ottawa’s momentum on the StartupBlink list aligns with a few other rankings in recent years. Real estate services firm CBRE said Ottawa was the second-best tech talent market in Canada this past year for its expensive but well-educated workforce, while Expert Market called Ottawa the country’s best tech hub for its affordable cost of living back in 2017.



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AccelerateOTT taking 2019 pitchfest to the ‘next level’


n upcoming shot at $150,000 could represent more than just a major payday for a lucky Ottawa startup. As organizers for the capital’s annual AccelerateOTT conference told Techopia Live recently, the sizeable pitchfest prize at this year’s entrepreneurial expo could be a stepping stone to scaling success. Invest Ottawa, the city’s economic development agency, dropped the news in March that the annual pitchfest at this year’s AccelerateOTT conference in June will come with a $150,000 investment from Montreal-based Panache Ventures. The organization says it’s likely the largest prize ever put up at an Ottawa pitch competition. Nick Quain, Invest Ottawa’s vicepresident of venture development, told Techopia Live recently that the AccelerateOTT organizers had talked

to stakeholders about how to take the excitement and energy around the conference’s regular pitchfest to the “next level.” The big prize isn’t the only change at AccelerateOTT this year. To accommodate attendance demands, the conference is also moving from Lansdowne Park to a new downtown venue at the National Arts Centre.

they’re going to be well on their way up it,” he said. Before startups are given the chance to take the stage at AccelerateOTT, they’ll have to make it past a panel of judges at two pitch-in events. In addition to Panache Ventures, other venture capital funds will be on hand for the

preliminary pitches to check Ottawa’s promising firms. Susan Richards, Invest Ottawa cochair and managing partner of Techopia sponsor numbercrunch, told Techopia Live that while $150,000 could be a game-changing amount of cash for a startup, the attention that comes with that level of investment could be the real difference-maker. “It’s always a good thing to win a pitchfest – that looks good to investors,” she said. “But to win a pitchfest for $150,000 – that makes eyebrows go up and people take note, and then they want in.”

BIGGER OPPORTUNITIES A growing conference means bigger opportunities for pitching startups. While joking about the clich​é hockeystick-growth chart common to most companies’ slide decks, Quain said many of the companies in the pitchfest this year will be further along the path to scale than in years past. “Some of those hockey sticks –


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

Spring clean your books No job is too big or too small. Bank reconciliations going back months or years.

MAY 2019

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Securities law: What entrepreneurs need to know Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall offers insights on changing securities regulations


egalized marijuana and digital currencies have generated attractive returns for early backers who timed their investments right. However, new regulations, cross-border complexities and growing fraud concerns are creating new wrinkles for entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on these rapidly growing sectors. “These areas of business are two of the most exciting things that are currently going on and getting lots of attention,” says Robert Kinghan, Partner and Head of the Business Law Group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall.

obtaining OSC approval of the offerings of their tokens, which would be the first in Canada. CANNABIS Investors around the world have taken note of Canada’s legalization of cannabis for recreational use – a move that effectively created a multibilliondollar industry virtually overnight. Amid this inflow of foreign capital, the OSC has taken steps to formalize the process for reporting issuers to issue stock to international investors in certain foreign jurisdictions and comply with reporting requirements. Kinghan believes that even more foreign investors will come into the cannabis market. While that’s great news for producers in this country, cannabis companies – and any Canadian public company taking foreign capital – should make sure they’re doing their due diligence. “For example, in the case of a U.S. resident investor, the U.S Securities and Exchange

Commission might say because you have American investors, you have to comply with SEC laws too,” Cronin says. Accepting foreign investors may also require the company to comply with various anti-terrorism, money laundering and corruption regulations. Capital markets have been flourishing. PerleyRobertson has been involved in a number of recent transactions including $13.75 million bought deal, reverse takeovers, qualifying transactions and over $100 million in various brokered and non-brokered financial transactions for listed companies here in Ottawa, Toronto and across Canada. For more information, visit the Perley website. MAY 2019

CRYPTOCURRENCIES The popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin rapidly rose among adherents drawn to its decentralized nature, free from the control of central banks and major financial institutions, as well as those who believed the value of various digital currencies would appreciate. But the technology used to offer the so-called digital “tokens” for sale is entirely different from what’s used in traditional securities offerings. “It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” says Conor Cronin, an associate at PerleyRobertson, Hill & McDougall. “Everyone is still trying to figure it all out and regulators are paying close attention.” For starters, cryptocurrencies are bought and sold online, but are currently unavailable on any regulated Canadian stock exchanges. “Buying tokens is like offshore gambling,” says Kinghan. “You’re buying something in a (grey) market.” The firm is at the forefront of efforts by entrepreneurs to change that. The Ontario Securities Commission generally categorizes cryptocurrencies as securities and requires issuers to comply with applicable securities laws. Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall is currently working with clients interested in


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Nick Noreau is on a mission to make Spartan Bioscience a household name in DNA testing. Despite being around for more than a decade, the Kanatabased biotech firm still refers to itself as a startup. Noreau, a marketing veteran who’s spent more than 15 years in the medical technology sector, says it’s time for Spartan to take the next step in its evolution. “The company’s really been primarily an R&D company and a pre-commercialization company for 13 years,” says Noreau, 46, who joined Spartan in March as its chief revenue officer. His main role will be to help Spartan break into new global markets. “I think that this is a perfect time for me to come in here and help put in process and structure and a sales team so that this company can shift from being an R&D company to a fully commercialized company,” he says. The Ottawa venture’s marquee product, the Spartan Cube, is a box-shaped device about the size of a coffee cup. The company says it is capable of collecting and analyzing human DNA samples in about half an hour, compared with wait times of days or weeks for traditional tests. It’s being used in Canada and other countries in fields such as Alzheimer’s research. Health Canada approved the Spartan Cube in 2014. Originally, most of Spartan’s customers were hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies. In the past couple of years, however, the company has



NICK NOREAU/SPARTAN BIOSCIENCE gradually diversified its client base to include real estate firms, hotel chains and other businesses that use the device to quickly detect the presence of bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease ​– a potentially deadly respiratory illness that can spread rapidly through heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. While the firm says it now has “several hundred customers,” 70 per cent of its workforce is engaged in research and development, with only a handful of employees devoted to sales and marketing. Noreau says that will soon change.

His top priorities are building Spartan’s sales team as well as seeking other strategic sales partners and combing for new markets. He sees a day in the not-too-distant future when the Spartan Cube will be sold for home use, allowing individuals to test their own DNA for diseases and drug interactions. “There’s a huge move towards personalized medicine and telemedicine and precision medicine,” Noreau says. “I know that DNA (testing) is really going to be at the core of that. I truly do believe that the Spartan Cube and the technology that we’re bringing forward here will revolutionize

medicine. I feel super excited and privileged to be here.” Noreau was previously in charge of sales at M&A strategy at Massachusetts-based Nuance Communications, which specializes in voice-recognition software. The University of Ottawa alumnus commuted from his home in Kanata, racking up hundreds of thousands of air miles every year as he jetted back and force to Nuance’s head office and client meetings around the world. Tired of the gruelling travel schedule and itching for a change, Noreau finally got his opportunity. Even though he lived just a five-minute drive from Spartan’s headquarters, he’d never heard of the company until Ottawa entrepreneur Aydin Mirzaee introduced him to co-founder and CEO Paul Lem at an event a few months ago. Noreau says he was “blown away” after hearing the firm’s story. “It’s a rare breed of person who’s a doctor and an entrepreneur and a great guy,” he says of Lem. “That combination was just an instant attraction for me.” It didn’t take long before Noreau was on the Spartan payroll. He’s still pinching himself. “You can’t shake a stick in here without hitting someone who has a PhD or is a scientist who has their master’s or is an MD,” he says with a touch of awe. “It’s really an incredible group of people. I feel like this job was literally just designed for me.” – David Sali

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE Paul Cooper has joined the ADGA Group as program manager, defence. Cooper is leading a team of more than 200 employees, contractors and consultants serving clients in the defence industry. A graduate of Royal Military College, Cooper served in the Canadian Forces in the communications and electronics branch. During his time in the Forces, Cooper worked with NATO, most recently as chief analyst of the Joint Warfare Centre. Chris Lalande has joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies Ottawa as senior account director. Lalande has worked and volunteered in politics for more than three decades and most recently served as chief of staff to a member of Parliament. Prior to that, he spent close to 10 years working for two senior ministers in the government of Nunavut. Heather Norris is the new president and CEO of the Ottawa Network for Education. Norris was previously CEO of Northumberland United Way and brings 20 years of experience in the health-care and non-profit sectors serving in operations management, fundraising, government relations, human resources and volunteer management, board governance and public speaking roles. Quarterhill has appointed John Gillberry as chair of its board of directors. Gillberry has been on the Quarterhill board since May 2005. He is an accomplished senior technology executive and the founder

and president of Bayfield Capital Group, a corporate finance advisory firm. He previously served as CEO of Coreworx and GuestLogix and was the chief financial officer of eSentire Inc. Richard Nottenburg has joined the board of Edgewater Wireless Systems. He is currently chairman of Q-Sensi Corp. and serves on the boards of directors of Verint Systems and Sequans 7. October 2 Communications SA. Previously, he was president and CEO of Sonus Networks (now Ribbon Communications) and held various senior executive roles at Motorola.


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Zoning in on a better Ottawa In the first of a three-part series, OBJ columnist Bruce Firestone explains how the city’s efforts to create a new official plan could set the stage for unprecedented economic growth – and how you can help make that happen BRUCE FIRESTONE

MAY 2019



The late urban planning writer Jane Jacobs, the renowned author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities, had a theory: the closer government is to people, the more important it is to its citizens and the better its performance, productivity and delivery of services are likely to be. She called this the “subsidiarity principle.” Cities, towns and villages provide a host of basic services, including water, sewers, roads, electricity, public transit, parks, libraries, schools, garbage collection, recycling, policing, firefighting and much more. I would argue these are all essential

services that make a huge difference to a resident’s quality of life. But municipalities, counties, townships, provinces and states exert a more subtle influence over urban residents in ways that have huge potential to affect their daily lives –​ through zoning codes and official plans that determine the shape, density and form that our communities take. Several recent studies have suggested that zoning restrictions have played a huge role in skyrocketing housing prices while severely impeding economic growth. In their groundbreaking study, University of Chicago economist ChangTai Hsieh and University of California at Berkeley professor Enrico Morerri argued that zoning restraints on new housing have prevented people, especially younger workers, from moving to or staying in clusters of innovation. They concluded that such constraints lowered aggregate U.S. growth by 36 per cent between 1964 and 2009. Think of it this way: if zoning codes had been as open and permissive in 2009 as they were in 1964, the U.S. economy would have been one-third bigger. That’s an enormous increase in economic wellbeing amounting to nearly $7 trillion per year in additional gross domestic – or an extra $21,432 US per year per person, based on 2017 population estimates. In the words of Harvard economist Edward Glaeser: “Arguably, land use controls have a more widespread impact on the lives of ordinary Americans than any other regulation. These controls, typically imposed by localities, make housing more expensive and restrict the growth of America’s most successful metropolitan areas.” Here in Ottawa, the city’s planning department led by general manager Steve Willis is currently reviewing its official plan, with the goal of creating a “21stcentury” document. This work will be fundamental to creating a regional economy and future that is flexible, resilient and sustainable. It is imperative that the city creates a plan that doesn’t pick industry or individual winners and losers and doesn’t tie proponents up in red tape, but rather

fosters creativity and makes the capital a more attractive destination for talent. Ottawa has already started down the path towards less restrictive zoning practices. In 2016, for example, the city changed its zoning bylaws to permit coach homes – also known as “granny flats” – in the backyards of existing houses. This seemingly small change opens the door to neighbourhoods that are more interesting, more diverse, denser and more intense – not to mention that coach homes can provide additional income for homeowners as well as create decent affordable housing in places where it is needed most.

INPUT NEEDED However, much more work still needs to be done to modernize our zoning rules and restrictions. The new planning blueprint must have buy-in from a wide spectrum of interest groups and organizations – not only local politicians, but also urban as well as rural residents, BIAs, community associations, developers, environmentalists, tenants, not-for-profits, entrepreneurs, planners and others. To that end, I urge you to offer your input on the new official plan in the following ways: Take 12 minutes or so and complete my survey at; participate in a 90-minute online session I’m hosting on May 22 from noon until 1:30 p.m. at; join a live, in-person panel discussion (time and date to be determined); or do a one-on-one online interview with me. Please note that the online session, live panel discussion and one-on-one interviews will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube so that members of the public who can’t participate can see what their fellow denizens are thinking. If you would like to attend the panel discussion or schedule an online chat, you can reach out to me at Please indicate what your top three issues are. Your insights could help shape the city’s future. It’s time to make your voice heard. Bruce M. Firestone is a co-founder of the Ottawa Senators, a broker with Century 21 Explorer Realty and a real estate investment and business coach.

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Life is beautiful in Ottawa’s Little Italy during Tulip Festival May 10-20, 2019

For the Flower Lover

Take the Tulip Legacy Walking Tour around Dow’s Lake. You’ll learn about the incredible heritage of this festival while visiting highlights such as the Queen Juliana Gift Bed, or the historic statue, The Man with Two Hats. Come to Preston Street and see our special, five-foot tulip statues. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.

Take on the challenge of our GIANT Scavenger Hunt for GIANT Tulips! Take a selfie with 5 of our giant wooden tulip statues, tag @prestonstreetbia, and you’ll be entered to win some GIANT prizes. We’ll have Giant Tulips all over Little Italy for you to discover. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.

For the best mom

For the Music Lover

For the Fireworks Fan

For art lovers

Make this Mother’s Day extra special with a slow stroll through the tulip gardens at Dow’s Lake. Pamper Mom with a trip to a few of our shops boutiques and spas, and make sure to treat the family to the best brunch ever, right here on Preston Street. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.

You can enjoy a VIP Fireworks Experience on the Dow’s Lake Boardwalk. May 19th from 7pm to 11pm celebrate in style with reserved seats on a fully licensed patio and the best view of the fireworks display. Make a short walk over to Preston Street and keep the party going, our bars and clubs are open late. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.

See live bands playing on the Tulip Boardwalk along Dow’s Lake, with a roster of different performers filling the air with music all weekend from 11AM - 5PM. Finish your day on Preston Street, where you’ll find live music every weekend. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.

Preston Square’s Art in the Tulips features local and regional artists creating gorgeous works of art among the stunning Tulip Beds of Commissioners Park. Stay inspired with a trip to Preston Street, home of Santini Gallery and the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) on Preston Street.


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CATCHING ‘FREE AGENTS’ Recruiting top talent through non-traditional employment arrangements PAGE 8 PLUS



VOLUME 22 • ISSUE 03 • MAY 2019


to the spring 2019 issue of HR Update, a joint publication of the Ottawa Business Journal and the HRPA Ottawa Chapter. This publication can also be accessed as a virtual edition at and If you have any questions about this publication, please contact us via email at

For individuals interested in contributing, articles must be submitted via email to by no later than Aug. 1, 2019 to be considered for the next edition.

HRPA OTTAWA hosted Capital HR Ideas – an interactive exchange earlier this

spring that elicited positive and innovative ideas to inspire and educate human resources professionals to become future leaders. Photos by Mark Holleron

SAVE THE DATE A selection of upcoming HRPA Ottawa events. For more information, visit




MAY 7 LET’S PLAY! STRATEGIC HR: MOVING FROM EXPERT TO TRUSTED ADVISOR (annual business meeting and dinner) Collab Space (70 Bongard Ave.) Come eat and play Lego! This dinner will feature opening remarks from HRPA chief executive Louise Taylor Green as well as insights into Lego Serious Play – a facilitated thinking and communications technique. Plus, Ad Mare Seafood and Angry Dragonz food trucks.

MAY 30 HOW TO FIRE UP YOUR CULTURE, SPARK YOUR EMPLOYEES’ PASSION AND IGNITE YOUR PURPOSE (breakfast) Brookstreet Hotel (525 Legget Dr.) Speaker Carol Ring will lead attendees in an exploration of purpose, passion and productivity.

JUNE 19 LAW WORKSHOP: CROSS-BORDER BUSINESS CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS (full day) Ottawa Conference and Event Centre (200 Coventry Rd.) A full-day workshop aimed at helping Canadian HR practitioners spot critical differences between Canadian and U.S. employment, corporate and immigration law.





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A look ahead

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We will be saying our goodbyes at the ABM to past-chair Melissa Bellocchi-Hull as well as Brenda Kirkwood (professional development/networking) and Anthony Lawley (regulatory). I would like to thank them for their time and dedication to the HRPA Ottawa Chapter. Joining the board will be incoming chair Carol Ann Samhaber as well as Sarah Eaton (professional development/networking) and Karley Bureau (regulatory). I would like to welcome these new board members. I am confident they all are going to do a terrific job. On June 19, the chapter will be holding a law workshop titled Bridging the gap: Cross-border business challenges and solutions. This is a full-day workshop that will focus on what to look for when your Canadian company is growing into or doing business in the U.S., and will cover topics including employment, immigration, corporate and tax/accounting. HPRA Ottawa members have indicated in all of our surveys that they are looking ell it looks like spring is here! It for more training opportunities. In is hard to believe that it has been response to this request, the Ottawa more than six months since we chapter, in collaboration with HRPA, will be had our annual HRPA Ottawa Chapter hosting an investigations workshop in the September kickoff. fall of 2019. This training program has been This year we had speakers who covered highly recommended by other chapters. a wide range of topics and provided us In addition to planning and hosting with great insights and practical tips to take professional development, networking back to our workplaces. and student events, the HRPA chapter Some of the highlights included our volunteers are also involved in managing health and wellness event with Dr. Raj the mentoring program, collaborating with Bhatla, chapter appreciation with comedian HRPA and other chapters on regulatory Judy Coon, gender from a case law requirements and working with HRPA perspective with Melanie Polowin and the finance to keep within our budget new Capital HR Ideas event featuring Erin guidelines. The communications team Kelly, Ian Keith, Sarah Eaton, Nancy Morris, works together to publish HR Update in Laura Mindorff and Tosha Rhodenizer. collaboration with the Ottawa Business Our student, mentoring and regulatory Journal as well as managing our social team hosted a fantastic student event media channels. featuring Julie Blaise-Comeau, who The Ottawa chapter board committees delivered a presentation on business have more than 30 volunteers who all etiquette. work behind the scenes to keep everything On May 7, we will be holding our annual running. If you are interested, we are business meeting. We have invited HRPA always looking for members to join the chief executive Louise Taylor Green to team. We have lots of fun! Plus, it’s a great bring greetings from HRPA and provide an learning environment that helps with CPLD overview of HRPA’s strategic plan. We have credit requirements. engaged Sébastien Giroux, who is a certified I know the time commitment that each Lego Serious Play trainer, to facilitate a fun one of the volunteers make, and I would learning session. Participants will play, learn personally like to thank them for all of their and experience this innovative hands-on dedication and commitment to the HRPA methodology, which has been designed Ottawa Chapter. to improve group genius. Dinner will be provided by two delicious food trucks: Ad Cheryl Banks is the chair of HRPA Ottawa Mare Seafood and Angry DragonZ. and the manager of FlexResources at PwC.


FOUNDER & CEO 613-266-7448 Email: joseelp

Insights into the best practices of the World’s Most Admired Companies and Best Companies for Leadership




Most businesses currently have four different generations in the workplace. Knowing what is important to each generation can be a daunting task. Q: How can a business train and develop such a diverse workforce? A: Remember that we all learn in different ways. Retention methods also vary. Rotate your training and development practices by hosting one-on-one sessions as well as group classes, in addition to posting material online. Q: What are some options? A: LinkedIn offers many development courses as part of its premium package. You could assign one course per month to your staff and host a lunch-and-learn debrief to assess the course and apply what is relevant to your business. If you are looking for something tailored more specifically to your business, you can hire a consultant such as myself to help create, facilitate and implement your course. Q: How can I respect different generations? A: Baby Boomers usually prefer faceto-face communication with hard copies to take home and review at a later date. Gen Z, Y and X generally prefer communication and training to be quick and easy. They also generally dislike having to carry and store paper booklets. Training and developing your teams is meant to be fun and interactive. Finding creative ways to develop your employees will keep them engaged and increase morale, turning staff into brand ambassadors for your company.


Psychological and lifestyle resilience for HR professionals A Q&A WITH THE ROYAL OTTAWA’S DR. RAJ BHATLA

There is a significant overlap in symptoms, such as difficulty focusing. There are two lessons to learn from this: You need help even if you have a lesser issue that you are combating, such as compassion fatigue; and if things are prolonged and severe, then it could be depression. The boundaries overlap.


professionals play a unique role within organizations, helping to support their colleagues and assist their peers with complex personnel issues. But sometimes, the nature of an HR professional’s work can take a toll on their own mental health. Dr. Raj Bhatla, the psychiatrist-in-chief and chief of staff at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, tackled this topic earlier this year in a seminar titled “Psychological and lifestyle resilience for HR professionals.” Following his presentation, he spoke to HRPA Ottawa’s Candace MacLachlan about the risks facing HR professionals, as well as strategies for overcoming these challenges. Q: HOW IS THE RISK OF MENTAL ILLNESS DIFFERENT FOR HR PROFESSIONALS THAN OTHER WHITE-COLLAR WORKERS? A: When I was looking at the literature and the broad category of “helping professions,” I realized that HR professionals fall into this category. This category also includes professions such as health practitioners, therapists, nurses and physicians. HR professionals deal with individuals and the wellness of an organization. There are many challenges such as terminations, downsizing and workplace harassment cases. They hear about a lot of difficult situations and are in that category of helpers. The profession is challenging because they must continually “do more with less.” This makes HR professionals especially prone to stress and burnout. Similar to

Q: HOW DOES MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS ASSIST HR PROFESSIONALS? A: More places are integrating yoga, meditation (and) walking groups into their workplaces. At The Royal, there is a knitting group – an activity that’s been proven to be very therapeutic. It’s important to create a culture where employees can make these initiatives happen as it should be the employees who facilitate it. It needs to be built from the ground up.

KEY TAKEAWAY It’s important to unburden people of the stresses in the workplace. We’re still at a stage of optimizing our use of newer technology such as email. It would be helpful to focus on small steps such as not emailing excessively, especially at night. There’s a tone set with this type of behaviour. We need to focus on helping organizations and the people within them.

HR Technology Consultant

Insights into the best practices of the World’s Most Admired Companies and Best Companies for Leadership

Drowning in spreadsheets – next steps? Many HR professionals have felt the pain of managing multiple spreadsheets. In some companies that may be all that’s available, and in other companies it may be caused by missing functionality in your current HR system. Either way, eventually you will hit a breaking point and need to mature your system. Q: How do I know I need an HR system? A: As your company grows or experiences significant change, you may find yourself spending a lot of time managing spreadsheets, keeping the data accurate, rekeying data, and responding to data requests from the business. Other signs you need an HR system include requests from managers and employees for self-service access, lost or outdated information, and limited resources to maintain accurate data. Where do I start? If you are at the point where an HR system is needed, I would start by developing a business case. Your organizational governance may/ may not require one, yet the benefits of working through the details of a business case helps you with validating your needs. Then, you are ready to investigate solutions based on your current needs that also includes approximate costs, timelines and ROI for your organization. What goes in a business case? If your company has a business case template, I would start there. If not, consider the following points: • Keep it simple • Provide an overview of the need for the new HR system • Articulate how this initiative supports corporate/departmental goals, now and in the future • Include information about current costs and estimated future costs if known • Identify the benefits for all stakeholders • Highlight key issues by staying with status quo • Clearly state the recommendation



Q: WHY ARE HR PROFESSIONALS AT A HIGHER RISK? A: There are various terms that are applicable to the HR profession such as “burnout” and “stress.” “Compassion fatigue” is another applicable term, which is seen in many nurses and social work professions. In a clinical sense, anxiety and depression share a lot of the same characteristics as these issues, and many issues such as stress can lead to clinical depression.




psychiatry, they have to deal with strict confidentiality, which can be difficult – it’s the burden of knowing things that you can’t share.

Q: HOW CAN HR PROFESSIONALS BE MORE RESILIENT IN MITIGATING THE RISK OF MENTAL ILLNESS? A: We’re growing in awareness – it’s not just about creating individual resilience. It is especially important for HR professionals to recognize resilience is responsive to a specific environment. Some situations can lead to burnout and are just too difficult. It’s important to reshape the environment you are working in. That’s one piece. HR professionals are not dissimilar to other workers in that you need to focus on three fundamentals to stay healthy: sleep, diet and exercise. There are many tools available to monitor these, such as smart watches. There are also tools to input data as it relates to nutrition, which encourages people to monitor themselves. Another important piece is psychological – communication and selfawareness. Know where you can make gains, and understand one’s personality, emotions, thoughts, motivations and behaviours. We’re very hard on ourselves. One of the propagations of this is Facebook, which in essence is a highlight reel that shows other people’s top experiences, such as going on vacation. We can become self-judgmental, which is not a good place to be as it leads to black-and-white thinking and other issues. Self-compassion is a very important remedy for this judgment. It’s important for one to accept both their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to take part in effective exercises such as yoga, which helps the individual focus on breathing effectively and encourages mental and spiritual well-being. You have to do what’s right and fits in well with your lifestyle and values.




HRPA membership and CHRP, CHRL and CHRE designations tells everyone that you are committed to the highest standards of professional HR practice — just as the HRPA is. Be part of an association that champions competent and ethical HR practice. Choose professional excellence with the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), Leader (CHRL) and Executive (CHRE) designations. HRPA offers designations for every stage of your career. Learn more at

4. SHARE YOUR SUCCESS STORIES It’s not enough to simply provide a good wage and benefits package. Indigenous peoples want to know they will be treated with respect within your workplace. Sharing your diversity and inclusion success stories helps attract and retain peoples from all under-represented groups. This includes showcasing opportunities for career advancement, training, coaching, mentoring and stretch assignments. 5. CREATE AND SUPPORT EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS Indigenous is the term An Indigenous used by the United employee resource Nations, and increasingly group (ERG) is an in Canada, to refer to incredibly powerful the descendants of the recruitment and original inhabitants of a retention tool. country. The Canadian Constitution recognizes This shows a three groups: Indians commitment (First Nations), Métis to creating a and Inuit. Each group truly inclusive of peoples has unique workplace. heritages, languages, Employers should cultural practices allow team and spiritual beliefs. members time Indigenous peoples are to participate in NOT a collective. It is an ERG during entirely appropriate to use the terms First work hours, fund Nations, Métis and the ERG and Inuit. When addressing provide a method Indigenous peoples, for requesting either as individuals or as funding for special communities, it is best to events. ERGs can use the name by which help share your they refer to themselves. levels. In a perfect organization’s If you don’t know, ask. world, all employees success stories, would receive skillsidentify systemic based training in barriers and intercultural competency. develop respectful relationships with Indigenous organizations, 3. ROOT OUT YOUR ORGANIZATION’S communities and individuals. ERGs SYSTEMIC BARRIERS can also help your organization Many employers have unintended systemic retain Indigenous team members by barriers embedded within their hiring providing networking opportunities, processes and HR policies. One example mentoring and career advice. is using online recruiting platforms. A Inclusion is a process – not an significant proportion of Indigenous event. A genuine adoption of these peoples do not have regular access to strategies that’s sustained over time broadband internet, which can make it can help make Indigenous inclusion difficult to apply for jobs online. Solutions in your workplace a reality. can include accepting applications through e-mail, fax or mail, as well as working with a partner such as Indigenous Link, Chantal Fraser is the which shares job posting information with president and founder of Indigenous communities, organizations Empowered Path Inc. and peoples through various methods.




1. LEARN ABOUT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES Learning about the people with whom

you wish to work is an important first step when striving for inclusion. There are opportunities that range from one-day awareness workshops to post-secondary Indigenous studies programs. A good (and free) place to start is by reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Several calls to action address specific professions. All employers should pay particular attention to No. 92, which focuses on businesses and reconciliation. 2. COMBAT STEREOTYPES AND DISCRIMINATION One way to combat stereotypes and discrimination is to consciously invest in skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism for your organization – especially for your HR team, supervisors and managers at all


ndigenous peoples are the fastestgrowing and youngest demographic of potential employees. We are educators, healthcare providers, entrepreneurs, legal professionals and more. We are your neighbours and your colleagues. While we are in a time of reconciliation, our shared history has created many reasons for Indigenous peoples to be wary of non-Indigenous employers. Many Indigenous people still face discrimination and stereotypes in the workplace. It takes time to build relationships based on trust and respect. In addition to working with Indigenous HR consultants, there are several practical strategies for employers to recruit and retain Indigenous workers:


Making Indigenous inclusion in the workplace a reality


Why HR needs to recognize the free agent economy’s potential APPEAL OF FREELANCE CONTRACTS GROWING AMONG MANY SKILLED WORKERS





hen music superstar Taylor Swift’s record label contract ended in 2018, she became, for a month or so, one of her industry’s rarest of commodities: a free agent at the top of her game. Swift capably wielded her newfound free agency hammer to pick and choose her label, ultimately negotiating a historic record deal with plenty of concessions from her new label. Somewhat similarly, actors in Hollywood now largely work on a free agent model – as opposed to the more rigid studio model of years past – where they are free to take assignments from multiple studios based on their talents and preferences, instead of being locked down. Most of us don’t have the leverage to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts for ourselves. But the Swift and Hollywood examples are vivid displays of the power of free agency, both for workers and organizations increasingly confronted with a growing cadre of professional talent not willing to be tied to just one entity. These workers know they can earn the same or more money while picking and choosing their assignments. And it’s projected that by 2027, most U.S. workers will be contractors – a great many of them by choice, according to a survey by freelance platform Upwork. Free agency pressure isn’t just coming from workers. In today’s turbulent and disruptive business environment, many organizations are also facing atypical business needs requiring more flexible ways of acquiring and using the right talent with the right skills at the right time.

BEYOND THE GIG ECONOMY At this point, we’ve all heard of the growing importance of the gig economy. It typically springs to mind images of lower-paid workers selling their services on digital gig platforms

such as Uber, Lyft or Fiverr. But there’s also a higher end to this economy – call it the “free agent economy” – comprised of well-qualified, specialized and experienced professionals attracted to being independents rather than a traditional employee. This free agency economy is powerful and growing. According to numbers from asset management firm T. Rowe Price, there are now twice as many free agents earning in excess of $250,000 than traditional employees. The numbers are at 50-50 for the $150,000-to$250,000 segment. This means that to engage top talent, organizations must be increasingly willing to colour outside the lines and be more open to non-traditional employment arrangements.

To engage top talent, organizations must be increasingly willing to colour outside the lines and be more open to non-traditional employment arrangements. But here’s the thing: When organizations currently engage free agents, HR is rarely involved. Free agency arrangements with many organizations typically shake out as a one-on-one arrangement between free agent and hiring manager. And when HR is involved, it’s rarely to help the hiring manager find top free agent talent – usually it’s to ensure the required paperwork gets signed off. And that’s not an accident. The current HR toolkit is almost entirely based on the concept of a predictable, plannable work environment

where work changes slowly – if at all. It’s hard to think of a single HR-based policy, process or procedure that doesn’t add rigidity to an organization. And that rigidity is anathema to the flexibility required for dealing with free agents. As free agency grows in importance both for organizations and for the overall economy, and as organizations look for the best talent for the right project at the right time, HR must begin to adapt its policies and thinking. Ottawa’s economy has always been relatively consultant-heavy, and may have a

leg up compared to other jurisdictions in this regard. Because even the federal government – not exactly known as an organization able to pivot on a dime – has begun embracing the free agent model with its Canada’s Free Agents program, launched in 2016. It gives public servants the chance to pick and choose work that suits them on an ongoing basis. And while the participants of Canada’s Free Agents make up a relatively small group compared with the 100,000-plus total public servants in this town, it shows the government is at least aware, listening and preparing for the coming shift. So why aren’t you and your organization? Jim Donnelly is a former journalist and technology company director turned content and digital marketing free agent. Tim Ragan is a long-standing free agent who wears various hats as a consultant, facilitator, coach, researcher, business owner, investor, educator and toolkit builder.

Mopify engages army of independent cleaning contractors




ith companies such as Uber and Airbnb making headlines as they navigate the tricky world of managing contractors, Ottawa-based startup Mopify is focused on finding the right balance between technology and human interaction as it begins scaling up across Canada. Alex Hébert and Patrick Leclerc founded Mopify to capture what they saw as an untapped, underserved market: independent cleaning contractors. Hébert says around 80 per cent of the house cleaning market is served by contractors, many of whom use platforms such as Kijiji or Facebook to find and

manage customers. Mopify provides a platform to connect these contractors with clients and manage their relationships, bookings and payments more securely. “At its core, it’s more of a technology company than anything else,” says Hébert, adding that the key to making Mopify work is in the balance between automation and personal customer service. It may be a technology company, but Mopify is dealing with people – something that can’t always be automated. In addition to its 15 employees, Mopify deals with more than 400 cleaning contractors across Canada. There are a lot of differences between the two, says Hébert, most notably the fact that Mopify can’t train its contractors or inspect their



automated review of their application and a background check followed by a series of interviews (with real people). With this kind of model, Hébert says the company doesn’t want every decision to be up to the software, especially since the relationship between Mopify and its contractors is essential to the success of both parties. “Being super responsive and helpful is really a key piece to maintaining that relationship,” he says. While many of the customer service communications are handled automatically – common concerns such as a contractor notifying their customer of a late arrival – other more complicated concerns are handled by people. As well, the company keeps close tabs on how its contractors are doing, and how their clients are responding to the service. “At a high level, every contractor has an internal score” that’s a combination of quality and reliability, explains Hébert. “People with higher scores get offered jobs first.” The score is for Mopify’s eyes only; customers see only comments, since “everybody we have is going to be maintaining a certain standard,” says Hébert. Clients are matched with contractors with the understanding that they will be a repeat customer until further notice. Bad reviews, complaints or dipping scores are flagged for the Mopify team, who look for trends. Anomalous reviews are often dismissed, but patterns are taken very seriously. Contractors receive a monthlyreport showing how they are doing in relation to all of Mopify’s contractors – the closest thing to an employee review a contractor can get. “We watch (the scores) like a hawk, and if there’s anything that’s actionable, we get in touch,” says Hébert. “You’re not going to work. Therefore, a lot of effort goes into the make everybody happy.” process of approving contractors to make He says one of the most important ways sure that clients are only working with Mopify can avoid customer-contractor reliable, experienced people. issues is by providing mechanisms for them “When you have independent to set expectations at the beginning. For contractors, there’s all kinds of things example, the customer can either choose to you can and can’t do because there’s have the cleaner bring supplies, or to supply this delineation between employees and their own; but if they choose the latter, independent contractors,” says Hébert. “We Mopify reminds them of what should be can’t technically train people. So that really available so that the cleaner doesn’t show up changes our approach to recruiting.” to find inadequate supplies to do their job. The process is always under review as For companies like Mopify that deal the company grows and responds to its primarily with contractors (much like Uber users, explains Hébert: “We’re constantly or Airbnb), Hébert says it’s all about finding going back and looking at data.” the balance between automation and personal service. PROVIDING FEEDBACK “You don’t want to lose that human Contractors are vetted first through an touch,” he says.


Closing the employment gap by being inclusive Local business can find the talent they need by becoming more inclusive





recently launched awareness campaign called #AbleTo is encouraging local employers to tackle one of their biggest challenges — recruiting talented staff — by becoming more inclusive. According to the Ottawa Board of Trade, 63 percent of Ottawa employers see recruitment and retention as one of the top issues facing their company.

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR INCLUSION Research from the Ontario Disability Employment Network illustrates the benefits to an organization of employing individuals with disabilities: RETENTION RATES are 72 per cent higher among people who have a disability. ATTENDANCE: 86 per cent of employees who have a disability have average or above-average attendance records. CUSTOMER ATTRACTION: 78 per cent of Canadians are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that hires people with disabilities.

As it turns out, business owners are able to find a solution by considering an untapped pool of qualified candidates — students and graduates with disabilities — of which there are over 10,000 in Ottawa alone. That’s what the #AbleTo campaign is all about — closing the employment gap between students and graduates with disabilities and their nondisabled peers, helping everyone find meaningful work while strengthening local businesses. #AbleTo comes from the David C. Onley Initiative (DCOI) for Employment and Enterprise Development, a collaboration between Algonquin College, University of Ottawa, College La Cité and led by Carleton University. “People with disabilities bring an additional set of skills,” says Tara Connolly, DCOI’s assistant director for research and development. “People with disabilities are creative problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers.” The AbleTo campaign encourages employers to consider what they are able to do to help close the employment gap, such as writing inclusive job descriptions or building accessible workplaces. The campaign also asks everyone making an effort to share their #AbleTo pledge on social media and discuss what they are able to do to close the gap.

For DCOI, one of its early efforts involved being #AbleTo help students with disabilities connect with employers through Accessible Employer Showcase events. These events feature groups of students sitting down in small groups for roundtable discussions with individual employers, avoiding the need to compete in a traditional career fair environment. At the events, companies and organizations are also encouraged to invite their existing employees with disabilities to speak about their work experience. “That way students can easily see themselves in the environment instead of thinking, ‘What do I need to do to fit into this place?’” Connolly says.

ACCESSIBLE WORKSPACES To learn how to make their workplaces more accessible and find untapped talent, employers are invited to register to attend Enable Ottawa 2019 on May 22, a one-day summit that will bring together organizations that are active in the development of innovative solutions to accessibility. It will also be an opportunity for employers to share success stories of hiring people with disabilities. “We need to make sure employers understand their own work setting,” says Connolly. “Is your workplace truly accessible?” To learn more about how your company can find untapped talent and be part of the movement, visit the #AbleTo website at

The adventures of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock WHY WE SOMETIMES ACT OUT OF CHARACTER – AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT



Partner, Stonewood Group lclare@stonewood 613.592.4145 ext. 221

Insights into the best practices of the World’s Most Admired Companies and Best Companies for Leadership

Q. When should a company use a retained executive search? A. Retained executive search is about value. Employers use us when a search is important enough to warrant the investment. Q. How do you know if the executive you need is worth the investment? A. That’s easy. Every executive is worth the investment. Our clients need winners with track records of success. Identifying good leaders takes time and effort and our clients are focused on running the business while we are focused on finding winners.


focus on how we would feel in the situation and how those feelings may influence our course of action. Acknowledging our likely emotional reaction allows us to better

This article is an excerpt from Do Good to Lead Well – The Science and Practice of Positive Leadership (ForbesBooks, 2019) by Craig Dowden, an executive coach, keynote speaker and chief leadership officer of Keynote Search.

Q. Why is culture so important? A. Cultural fit is a critical component in selecting the successful candidate. While many candidates sourced will have the requisite technical skills, the key differentiator will be the ability to integrate into the prevailing culture. Q. And why is Stonewood a leader in understanding your client’s business and culture? A. The Stonewood Partners are not career search professionals. We’ve spent decades working in similar industries and organizations to our customers gaining firsthand knowledge of key business functions, including operations, sales, marketing, finance, legal and human resources.



orient ourselves when these situations occur, making us aware of the triggers and pressures we may feel so that we can manage them accordingly. Another valuable exercise is to identify specific situations or people that may trigger our Kirk Brain. Reflecting on past experiences where we acted out of character may be invaluable to discovering this information. Do we have problems with Lisa in accounting? Are we caught offguard during our team meetings? Being aware of contextual cues that can lead us astray empowers us to better prepare for these circumstances.

Q. What should a company look for in an executive search firm? A. Firstly, finding the candidates is no longer the challenge. There are so many tools available these days that most search firms should be able to search through similar talent pools. The true value comes from working with a firm that understands your business, your industry and just as importantly, your culture.


o matter how we plan to act in any given situation – being patient when someone is angry at us, for instance, or calm in the face of chaos – we can act out of character when the actual event takes place, despite our best intentions. This occurs because of an interesting mental dichotomy that I often refer to as “Spock Brain” versus “Kirk Brain.” The Spock Brain is our more rational self. It assesses situations from a cold, analytical standpoint and states, “This is how I will behave in X situation.” However, when we are in that situation, the Kirk Brain – our emotional self – emerges and overrides that analysis, often provoking us to react on emotion rather than logic. Here’s a quick example. Say you were to observe one team member openly berating another in the break room. How would you react in this situation? When I ask audiences this question, the vast majority say something to the effect of, “I would step in and stand up for the person being yelled at.” Yet, when I ask the audience how often this actually happens, very few – if any – people can come up with an example. Even though Spock predicts we are going to behave one way, Kirk shows up and ultimately derails our noble intentions. It is also important to note that the process does not stop there. Because we have just acted out of character, we feel considerable conflict. This necessitates a different interpretation. So when we leave the situation, Spock re-emerges to rationalize the choice that we made so we can continue to think of ourselves in an idealistic way. Statements such as “There was no point in stepping in – it wouldn’t have made a difference,” or, “I’ll just talk with them later, after they’ve calmed down” provide justification to ourselves. Given this ethical blind spot, what can we do? Rather than trying to think through what we would do, we need to instead


HR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TRAINING Elevating your key HR skills has never been easier.

The workshops I have done with the Stitt Feld Handy Group are one of the best investments my employers have made in me during my HR career.” Carol Henry, Director, HR, Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc.



OTTAWA: November 26 - 29, 2019

You will learn how to use Principled Negotiation, developed at Harvard, and learn how to resolve/mediate disputes. You will develop the practical techniques to resolve workplace disputes effectively and with confidence.




• • • • • •

Reduce the number of complaints and grievances by preventing unnecessary conflicts Optimize problem-solving internally and with clients Resolve workplace conflicts quickly and effectively to maintain productivity and morale Communicate and negotiate more effectively with others Save your organization time and money by helping you to negotiate better deals Protect and strengthen key relationships with suppliers, customers, the government and employees


- 3 DAYS

OTTAWA: November 13 - 15, 2019

You will learn techniques to handle difficult conversations with confidence, deal with problem employees and improve productivity. BENEFITS

• • • • • •

Minimize loss of productivity and low morale caused by conflicts that were allowed to fester Achieve more effective interaction among employees Maintain and repair workplace relationships Deal with problem employees in new and helpful ways Help your staff to have difficult conversations more productively and confidently Help upset clients, customers and complainants feel heard and respected


Tribunal backs employer in medical marijuana case


The employee filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging discrimination on the basis that he suffered from a disability and that he was using medically prescribed marijuana at the time of his termination. The employee suffered from a degenerative disc disease that caused chronic pain in both his back and neck. As a result, he received a prescription for medical marijuana in March 2015. In June 2015, the employee was caught smoking marijuana while working on a

Cannabis in the workplace: What to include in a drug and alcohol policy •

• • •

including medically authorized cannabis; Rules stipulating how soon before reporting to work an employee may consume impairing substances and still be deemed fit to perform their duties; Consequences of noncompliance; Rules relating to return to work following a positive test result; and An accommodation procedure for employees who have a drug- or alcohol-related disability, or who require the use of a potentially impairing drug for medical reasons.

While employers will continue to be required to abide by their obligations under human rights legislation, companies are not expected to tolerate impaired employees – especially when dealing with safety. Larissa Volinets Schieven and Lauren Jamieson are associates at Emond Harnden LLP.

Employers should scrutinize prescriptions that are provided by employees for medical marijuana. Reasonable inquiries about the scope and impact of marijuana use on the employee’s ability to perform their duties in a safe manner may be necessary. A prescription for medical marijuana does not provide an employee with an absolute right to use marijuana in the workplace, especially if health and safety is compromised.

ground on the exterior of a building). The doctor admitted that he assumed that by “painter,” the employee was an interior house painter. When confronted on cross-examination about the employee’s work, the doctor said he would never have authorized the applicant to medicate while at work in those circumstances. Russell MacCrimmon is a partner at Ottawa law firm Bird Richard.

Transitioning staff out of your organization? Clariti Group offers employee transition and outplacement services, including on-site support during day of termination, as well as affordable, customized, one-on-one career transition coaching programs. Awesome coaches. Several locations across Ottawa. Support also available Canada-wide. 613.656.2010


Some employers believe recreational cannabis can be handled in the same way that drinking is treated under existing drug and alcohol policies. While this is true to a certain extent, the legitimate medicinal properties of cannabis – as well as the limits of current testing devices – put recreational cannabis into its own category. An effective drug and alcohol policy should generally include the following: • Definitions, including which positions (if any) are considered safety-sensitive; • The duties of the company, management, supervisors and employees with respect to ensuring compliance; • Prohibitions on reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs; • The circumstances in which an employee may be required to submit to a drug or alcohol test; • The duty to report the use of medically-authorized drugs that have the potential to impair the employee,



he Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has provided employers with guidance regarding zero-tolerance policies concerning workplace drug use and medically prescribed marijuana. The case, Aitchison v L&L Painting and Decorating Ltd., involved a commercial subcontractor that restored high-rise buildings. The employee had been employed as a painter for four seasons before he was terminated for smoking marijuana at work in contravention of a zero-tolerance policy.

swing stage suspended on the exterior of the building, 37 storeys above the ground. The employee admitted that he was smoking marijuana at work. When confronted by the employer before the termination, the employee stated that it was his right to smoke medical marijuana at work because he had a prescription. The tribunal rejected the employee’s claims that he had been discriminated against. Ultimately, the employee was terminated because of the health and safety risk that he created when he intentionally disregarded a zero-tolerance policy. The tribunal held that the termination had nothing to do with his disability and that the termination was not discriminatory. An interesting aspect of the case is the testimony provided by the doctor who prescribed the marijuana. The doctor testified that he had a standard conversation with the employee that he was not to operate heavy machinery or be involved in any activity that required quick reaction time while he was consuming the marijuana. The evidence revealed that there was no discussion between the doctor and employee about whether the marijuana could be used at work or about the true nature of the work that the employee was engaged in (namely, working in a dangerous position 37 storeys above the

Stop focusing on employee engagement





re you struggling to move the needle on your employee engagement numbers? Well, just stop. Yes, that’s right – I’m telling you to stop focusing on employee engagement. That work is passé. Working on employee engagement is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. The only thing engagement is telling us is that our employees have run out of steam. Many of us are familiar with the research that indicates only 30 per cent of our people are passionate partners in our workplace. In the middle, there’s the 40 per cent that are just passively going through the motions. Then we have the culture vultures – the remaining 30 per cent who disrupt and interrupt our productivity. As partners to other leaders in our organizations, HR professionals have a unique opportunity to forge new ways of working to energize our people and improve business results.

Here are three tips to energize your organization: REPLACE ENGAGEMENT SURVEYS WITH CULTURE ASSESSMENTS There are several tools that can measure culture and demystify what’s really going on in your organization. My favourites are the globally recognized culture assessment tools offered by the Barrett Values Centre. They were created by Richard Barrett, author of Liberating the Corporate Soul. Getting a benchmark on where you are today is invaluable when putting together an action plan to transform your culture. Uncovering barriers that prevent your people from doing their very best work ensures you’re addressing the root causes of your productivity pipeline leaks. Leaders look to their HR partners to present strategies to keep their organization competitive. Culture is becoming a company’s greatest asset – or liability.

SUBSTITUTE YOUR MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS WITH A DECLARATION OF PURPOSE One of the most powerful exercises I ever went through during a strategic planning session involved defining the purpose of our telecommunications business unit. We drilled down over and over again, asking ourselves why our particular organization existed. In the end we came up with, “We open the windows to the world.” Those windows could be telephone conversations, television programming or global access via the internet. Another good example comes from the Kellogg food company: “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.” Writing in Fast Company, Sherry Hakimi – the CEO of Sparktures, an organizational development firm – argues: “An organization without purpose manages people and resources, while an organization with purpose mobilizes people and resources.” HR leaders can influence their organizations to grow past the standard mission and vision and embrace a heartfelt purpose. If you have to, start with the purpose of your own business unit.

If she works for you …we should too!

RAISE YOUR LEADERSHIP CAPABILITIES TO NEW HEIGHTS Leadership has become a technical skill. Scan a bookshelf of business books and you may see titles such as: • • •

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership; Leadership: the Top 100 Ways to be a Great Leader; and Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose

This demand for this knowledge is an acknowledgment that command-andcontrol leadership styles have long lost their effectiveness. Leaders are moving to a motivational leadership model. The definition of “motivate” is to provide a motive and to induce, initiate or influence. It’s about lighting a fire underneath our people. Here are two questions to ask yourself: What will it take to raise your personal consciousness to become an inspirational leader? And what can you do to help others grow into this new management style that will increase our employees’ passion for their work? Carol Ring is the president and founder of The Culture Connection.

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Labour Arbitration Skills (4 Days) May 26-30, 2019: Kingston - Last call!

Labour Relations Foundations (5 Days) Sep. 22-27, 2019: Kingston

Change Management (3 Days) Oct. 1-3, 2019: Toronto

Strategic Workforce Planning (2 Days) May 28-29, 2019: Toronto - Last call!

Organization Development Foundations (4 Days) Sep. 24-27, 2019: Toronto

HR Metrics and Analytics (3 Days) Oct. 1-3, 2019: Ottawa

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Hundreds of organizations are investing in their people to meet the challenges of today’s changing business culture. At Queen’s University IRC, our 1 to 5-day open-enrollment and custom programs in human resources, labour relations and organizational development give HR professionals the skills they need to lead change in an evolving global economy.



THE LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT LAW EXPERTS Emond Harnden is trusted, not simply as advisors, but as an integrated member of our clients’ HR departments and senior management teams. We are devoted exclusively to advising management on labour relations and employment matters. It’s a forward-thinking approach to labour law.



As a boutique labour and employment law firm, Emond Harnden has represented the interests of management in both official languages since 1987.

Emond Harnden est un cabinet d'avocats en droit du travail et de l’emploi qui représente exclusivement les intérêts des employeurs, dans les deux langues officielles, depuis 1987.





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