Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on December 28, 2017

December 28th, 2017

Toronto, Ontario: We are pleased to announce our new Toronto Community and Latest Activity page at Check it out, contribute and enjoy!

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on December 23, 2017

Over the last four centuries, Canada’s entrepreneurs have helped to drive our economy forward, but how many of us can actually name who these individuals are or what they did?

In a new book, Canada’s Entrepreneurs: From the Fur Trade to the 1929 Stock Market Crash, editors J. Andrew Ross and Andrew D. Smith, provide a stimulating overview on the history of Canadian entrepreneurship. We talk to postdoctoral fellow at the University of Guelph, J. Andrew Ross, about some of the characters that have shaped Canadian business.

What inspired you to produce a book about Canadian entrepreneurs?
Canada’s Entrepreneurs was born from a desire by my co-editor (Andrew D. Smith) and I to highlight the stories of individual entrepreneurs that are contained in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. After much debate, we eventually decided to include 61 entrepreneurs in the book. Their stories highlight the immense risks taken, the importance of networks among entrepreneurs, and also the international connections that have allowed Canadians (and their predecessor peoples) to create and innovate.  We hope that readers will appreciate that while entrepreneurs have experienced historically-specific challenges in doing business in North America, many of the challenges remain the same: overcoming distance, lack of capital and communication hurdles, to name just a few.

What sparked the rise of entrepreneurialism in Canada?
Entrepreneurs have been important in Canada long before there was a Canada in the modern sense. First Nations, the French and British traded and pursued new markets and began exploiting natural resources like furs and fish, and developed transportation and communication networks that eventually laid the groundwork for Canada to become a world-leading industrial economy.

How well does Toronto produce successful entrepreneurs? Can you give us examples of some noteworthy entrepreneurs to come out of Toronto?
Many of the entrepreneurs featured in the book are from Toronto, particularly from the last half of the nineteenth century, when the city began to challenge Montreal’s dominance over the Canadian economy. In this era, we see the creation of businesses that would dominate the Canadian business landscape, like Timothy Eaton’s department stores, Peter Larkin’s Salada Tea Company and George Cox’ Canada Life Insurance, to name only a few. The Dictionarycarries many more articles on Toronto entrepreneurs, and if we had moved beyond 1929 we could have included others like George Gooderham, whose legacy stretches into the 21stcentury — through his mansion at Bloor and St George that houses the York Club, and through his business, which is gone but is the foundation for the 21st century revitalization of the Distillery District.

In the book, you mention the conspicuous role that the government played in Canadian entrepreneurial activity. Can you expand on this point and perhaps provide an example?
Government and the state have always been important to Canadian business. Under the French regime, individual entrepreneurs were actually discouraged in favour of state-sponsored monopolies. The English followed the same model, giving the Hudson Bay Company exclusive rights to trade furs in Rupert’s Land (much of what became northern and western Canada). This became a point of friction with those individuals who tried to operate independently. As the British North American colonies became more independent, their governments saw the importance of spurring economic development to compete with the United States, they rewarded entrepreneurial endeavor with subsidies and state support, especially to build transportation infrastructure like railways and canals.

Canadian governments were also in the forefront of using arm’s length agencies like crown corporations to achieve social and economic goals. One of the best examples was Ontario Hydro, which we see as a wonderful example of so-called “public” entrepreneurship by Sir Adam Beck, who promoted a public ownership business model for wider social gain, and not just personal or corporate profit.

Do you think the story of Canadian entrepreneurship is a story of success, particularly when compared to other countries?
Yes, we do. Canadians evince the insecurities of the small nation and feel that we are not innovative enough, but there has been no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit. And we are of course small in comparison to the largest economy the world has ever seen, right next door. Creating a global top-ten economy required a lot of enterprise, and is nothing to feel insecure about! That said, there have been persistent issues that Canadians have been right to pay attention to, including our dependence on natural resources, the extensive international ownership of our businesses and our lack of national champions. These are issues we have to keep foremost in mind in continuing innovation into the 21st century.

Which Canadian entrepreneur do you admire most and why?
It’s hard to pick any one person, of course, and there is much to admire (and also to dislike!) about many entrepreneurs, but the kind of person we were keen to include was not just the household names, like the Labatts or Eatons, but also some of the smaller entrepreneurs and those who had special challenges: men like Chang Toy, a Chinese immigrant who started as a contract labourer but eventually ran a successful wholesale business in Vancouver in an era in which anti-Chinese sentiment was rampant; or women like Ellen Cashman (“Irish Nellie”), who had a serious case of mining fever and traveled the continent from Tombstone, Arizona, to the Klondike setting up all manner of businesses — boarding houses, restaurants, a grocery, a boot and shoe store — to give her the resources to pan for gold. Her energy extended beyond business, and she helped establish hospitals, churches and schools in every town she did business in. Aside from their enterprise, this concern for community and country was quite typical of Canadian entrepreneurs and shows how Canadian entrepreneurship was not just about profits, but also about people.

Join J. Andrew Ross in a discussion about his book “Canada’s Entrepreneurs: From the Fur Trade to the 1929 Stock Market Crash” on Thursday, 26th January from 5 -7p.m. at the Rotman School of Management on 105 St. George Street.

Síle Cleary writes about architecture for the Toronto Standard.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on December 23, 2017


The Toronto Entrepreneurs Conference & Tradeshow (#TECONF) has been designed to provide Toronto Area Entrepreneurs, whether budding or experienced, with the opportunity to expand their professional network, hear from experienced and successful entrepreneurs on tips and opportunities and learn what it takes to become successful and stay thriving.


Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on December 22, 2017

The program supports low-income women who are seeking to start their own business by providing financial literacy training, entrepreneurial mentoring and skills development and life skills support. These skills will ensure women’s success in starting and growing their businesses.

Women who become business ready within these programs will be eligible to receive small loans (microloans) to start their businesses. Through the Microlending for Women in Ontario program, over 800 low-income women will receive business readiness supports and financial skills training to help them on a successful path as entrepreneurs.

Current Programs:

Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office of Toronto: Toronto
Thorncliffe is expanding its existing microlending program for newcomer women in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park and surrounding areas to help grow or start their home-based businesses.

Catherine McNeely
Manager, Settlement, Language and Employment Programs

Welland Heritage Council: Niagara Region
The Welland Heritage Council is delivering a new microlending program for immigrant and Francophone women in the Niagara Region.

Lori Webster
Program Manager
905-732-5337 ext.128

Women’s Centre of York Region: York Region
The Women’s Centre of York Region is delivering a new microlending program in York Region by providing graduates of their business training program with microloans in a business start-up environment.

Karen McConvey
Microlending Program
905-853-9270 ext.221

YWCA Hamilton: Hamilton and area
YWCA of Hamilton is delivering a new microlending program that will allow women in the Hamilton region to access start-up investments.

Medora Uppal
Director of Operations, YWCA Hamilton

The Business Centre Nipissing Parry Sound: Thunder Bay and area
The Business Centre Nipissing Parry Sound Inc. is delivering a new microlending program that will allow diverse women to access startup investments in the North Bay-Parry Sound Area.

Denise Sherritt
705-474-0626 x 2425

Connect Legal: Toronto
Connect Legal is providing women in microlending programs with tailored workshops to address important legal issues related to microenterprises.

Janice Wiggins
Director of Programs

Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund: Northern Ontario
Business training and microloans to assist low-income Aboriginal women, on and off reserve, to start a small business in Northern Ontario and to establish or rebuild credit.

Kimberley Bird
Loans Manager

Oasis Centre des femmes : Toronto
Oasis centre des femmes will establish a new microlending program for Francophone women entrepreneurs in the Greater Toronto Area.

Dada Gasirabo
Directrice générale
416-591-6565, ext. 223

PARO: Northeastern Ontario
PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise is establishing its existing microlending program into remote communities in northeastern Ontario for Aboriginal, Francophone and rural women.

Maria Talarico
Program Developer

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on December 13, 2017



The City of Toronto has received a Greater Toronto’s Top Employers award for the fourth year in a row for offering an exceptional place to work, as announced today.

“It is an honour to once again receive this award in addition to our Canada’s Top 100 Employer recognition last month,” said City Manager Peter Wallace. “Creating a positive workplace culture and fostering innovation is important to staying competitive in the job market and attracting and retaining the best talent.”

The 12th annual Greater Toronto’s Top Employers competition is organized by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. Employers are compared to other organizations in their field to determine employers whose workplace operations and human resources practices offer the most progressive and forward-thinking programs and create the best work environment.

The areas of evaluation for Greater Toronto Employers are physical workplace; work atmosphere and social; health, financial and family benefits; vacation and time off; employee communications; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on November 29, 2017

Ontario’s One Cylinder Economy: Housing in Toronto and Weak Business Investment

Economic growth in Ontario has lagged Canada since 2003, reducing the province to ‘have-not’ status within Confederation. One theme that runs throughout the paper’s analysis is the persistent weakness of Ontario’s manufacturing sector, where output has fallen in absolute terms since the recession that began nearly a decade ago. Given that manufacturing is still Ontario’s third largest industry, it is critical that its health be restored if the Ontario economy is to fully recover and prosper.

Manufacturing has recovered in other provinces in Canada, notably Quebec despite the well-documented woes of Bombardier. Manufacturing has become a larger share of Quebec’s economy than of Ontario’s, partly a reflection of how manufacturing has shrunk from 21.7% of Ontario’s economy in 2002 to 12.1% in 2015. This suggests manufacturing’s problems in Ontario cannot be blamed on global factors such as US export demand or the exchange rate, but are something specific to Ontario. The paper finds that the high cost of doing business in Ontario is the main drag on growth. These costs include everything from high electricity rates, the rising cost of labour and high income taxes to the indirect cost of a heavy regulatory burden. In particular, energy-intensive manufacturing has fared much better in Quebec than in Ontario in recent years, helped by Quebec’s much lower electricity prices. As a result of the high costs in Ontario, the temporary weakness that inevitably accompanied the 2008/09 recession has become chronically weak growth. Sluggish growth has erased Ontario’s historically lower unemployment rate than in neighbouring Quebec, a province long known for extensive government intervention in the economy and large government debts.

More broadly, business investment in manufacturing and elsewhere has languished during the recovery. Overall, investment plans are for $50.9 billion in 2017, compared with their pre-recession peak of $53.8 billion. Most of this reluctance to invest originates in the manufacturing industry. This reflects a number of factors. While the automobile industry has retooled its existing plants, no new plants have opened since 2009 while existing capacity continues to be shuttered, with another line scheduled to close this summer. Investment has fallen even more in other industries ranging from petroleum refining to lumber, computers and electronics, and rubber and plastics.

Chronically weak growth in manufacturing has left Ontario increasingly dependent on housing, which has contributed over 29% of its income growth in the past year, even before a spike in housing starts and prices early in 2016. Besides a sharp increase in housing starts in Toronto, there has also been a marked shift from the building of single-family homes to multiple-unit dwellings, mostly apartment and condominium buildings. The squeeze on the supply of single-family homes, partly the result of land use regulations, helped fuel the surge in their prices. At the same time, the increased supply of multiple units is threatened by the extension of rent controls by the provincial government.

With a growing chorus of analysts and the federal government warning that a possible bubble in Toronto’s housing market risks deflating, this leaves Ontario precariously dependent on a potentially unstable and unsustainable source of growth. A correction in the Toronto housing market would leave both Ontario’s economy and government fiscal projections vulnerable to a downward revision.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on November 21, 2017

michael hyatt

A law firm founded in 1856 may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about tech innovation, but Toronto-born Blakes wants to change that perception.

It’s why Blakes decided to bring on Michael Hyatt as its first-ever entrepreneur-in-residence, which will be a credibility boost to the firm that launched its Nitro program for startups in June.

The Nitro program — which currently has 21 startups — earmarks $1 million in legal services from senior lawyers, which is key for startups that are often overwhelmed by building their products.

“To build a company takes a village; there’s not one thing that works. There’s still a gap in knowledge in what to do to optimize traction.”

“I think founders find when they’re three to five years into the company, they wish they would have done certain things from a very early time. They wish they had the right cap table. They wish they had the right share structure and shareholder agreement,” Hyatt said. “Startups are running so fast they ignore all that, and five years in they’re running into some trouble because they’re not documenting the right things, or they gave away equity poorly to founders not even in the company.”

With two exits behind him — his most recent being his $400 million sale of BlueCat — Hyatt will be able to add an extra layer of mentorship to the program. He’ll also act as an advisor to Blakes on running the Nitro program effectively.

For Blakes, Nitro is an opportunity to stay ahead of emerging technologies and business models as they unfold; Nitro program founder and Blakes partner Christine Ing identifies blockchain as a particular area of interest because of inroads with smart contracts. At the same time, working closely with startups enables the firm to see where they can improve their own operational inefficiencies using tech like AI.

“In terms of practice of law, AI tools will be the ones that we will need to look at in-depth.”

“These areas will certainly require changes to the law as regulatory changes will be required, and it just means a lot of new thinking, and new paradigms to consider. In terms of practice of law, AI tools will be the ones that we will need to look at in-depth early and adopt into our own practice,” said Ing.

Ulula, one of the first startups to join the program, recently closed a $1 million seed round and suggests that the program is set up to keep up with the fast pace of startup growth. “As a startup, nimbleness is a critical advantage. Even though Blakes is not a startup like Ulula, my co-founder and I could still find the agility we need from the Nitro program because it’s built for startups and run by people who have lived startup experience,” said Manu Kabahizi, co-founder and CTO of Ulula.

While the program is currently only open to startups in Toronto and Waterloo, the firm plans to expand to another market, though Ing declined to share specifics. Moving forward, both Ing and Hyatt express optimism for a program that fills an underserved gap in a startup’s journey.

“To build a company takes a village; there’s not one thing that works. Legal is part of it, and entrepreneurs that have been there and done that is part of it,” said Hyatt. “It’s never been a better time to start a company and it’s never been more inexpensive, but there’s still a gap in knowledge in what to do to optimize traction. You hear people raising money all the time, and then they spend it badly or don’t do the right thing and then they end up doing a down round. But we’re trying to shape these companies so they can grow.”

Photo via Speakers Spotlight, Story Jessica Galang

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on November 19, 2017

There’s an entrepreneur in Toronto who’s really into underwear, and its paid off nicely for her.

Joanne Griffiths is the CEO of KnixWear, a company that has created a line of women’s underwear that’s “comfortable as can be, beautiful to behold, and technologically state-of-the-art.”

The underwear absorbs any kind of moisture that the body can come up with, prevents odors,  “keeping you feeling fresh and dry all day long – without the feeling that you’re wearing anything other than your most comfortable pair of undies.”

KnixWear developed its own patented technology, “FreshFix,” which is moisture-wicking, anti-odor, absorbent, moisture-resistant and features moisture-locking sides. “We’re taking a very basic product that hasn’t changed very much over the past 50 years and infused it with technology to give women something new and different,” Griffiths told BetaKit. “The idea is that we give women functional benefits with their underwear without asking them to sacrifice on the fit or the fashion side.”


Griffiths came from a PR and marketing background having worked for Universal Music, the Toronto International Film Festival and CBC before getting her MBA in France in 2011. The born-and-raised Torontonian told BetaKit “that’s when I really started getting the entrepreneurial bug: I’m one of the accidental entrepreneurs. I didn’t really think I’d ever do this and I became obsessed with the idea.”

She started Knixwear when she returned to Toronto in July 2012 and in the last few years has experienced a few nice wins. The first one came when Hudson’s Bay company elected to pick up her first line of underwear after the first of two Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns. Over 18 stores started selling the product, which Griffiths said was the first time something like that had happened based on a crowdfunding campaign.

12310245856_5dd44fe050_mThe momentum from the first Indiegogo campaign saw the company receive significant media exposure in the U.S, leading to a popular athletic spandex company approaching Griffiths to co-produce a new line of absorbent underwear geared towards athletes. Together with LYCRA the pair of brands developed the FitKnix line.

“We did our second indiegogo campaign through that and then again we had a retailer buy our line through the campaign, this time a US retailer called, the biggest online etailor for women’s fashion in the US,” said Griffiths.

I asked her if there has ever been any reaction of pride on the part of women, who might say they don’t need a product like this to function every day at work and such, but Griffiths said the response after the first crowdfunding campaign was “overwhelming”. “If you look at athletic apparel in general, they all use high performance moisture wicking and anti-odor fabrics, so we’re just taking that and applying it to underwear,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any shame associated with that.”

She recently wrapped up a filming on the CBC show Dragons’ Den and she won’t find out for a while whether the segment will go on tv.

By the end of June KnixWear will be sold in 140 retail stores. I also wondered aloud if her product might appeal to the guys.

“Men are an interesting beast and I’d love to make a product for men because I think you can have a sense of humour,” said Griffiths. “With women its all about confidence, beauty and feeling fresh, and guys have a bit more of a light-hearted attitude towards all these things. I do get asked all the time when we’re going to make a men’s line and I think there’s a definite need for it.”

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on November 5, 2017

By BlogTo

Toronto businesses that closed in October encompassed both longtime fixtures in the city (that will hopefully live on as different incarnations of themselves) and slightly less established places that will still be missed.

Here are the most notable Toronto businesses that closed in October.

House of Lords

Despite promises of property tax relief for small businesses along Yonge St., the longstanding Yonge St. hair salon packed up shop in early October.

Ashdale Brunch and Espresso

Having opened a little over two years ago in brunch-heavy Leslieville, this Queen East cafe closed with no warning or explanation.

Belmonte Raw

Another Leslieville spot – a shop specializing in cold-pressed juices –also shuttered last month (along with its second location in the Financial District’s PATH), after nine years in business.

The Green Room

This beloved hidden hangout in the Annex has lived many lives, and it lives on again where Crown and Tiger once was on College St. in Little Italy, but the funky back-alley space it once occupied deserves its own proper RIP.


The one highlight of the depressing subterranean Shops at Aura at Yonge & Gerrard closed at the end of October. But there’s still hope for fans of this popular mom-and-pop fast-food stall’s made-from-scratch Japanese curry – it’s currently looking for a new location.

Milestones (John & Richmond)

After 18 years in the Entertainment District, this chain restaurant at John & Richmond shut its doors so as not to compete with its sibling location at Yonge & Dundas.

The Rectory Cafe

A classic place to drink and dine on Toronto Island, the Rectory boasted a lovely lakeside patio. Its owners decided not to renew their lease and had their final day of service on October 15. The business was put up for sale, so there’s still a good chance it will be reincarnated in some form next year.

The Steady

This Miami-inspired, queer-friendly bar and vegan brunch joint in Bloorcourt opened in 2013 and closed on Halloween. The space has since been sold to an unknown buyer.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on October 30, 2017

Toronto led the pack of North American cities in The Economist’s 2017 Safe Cities index, which evaluates and ranks 60 global cities across four categories of security: digital, health, infrastructure and personal. While the Safe Cities Index measures relative rather than absolute safety, there does not appear to have been a vast improvement in overall levels of safety since the 2015 report. However, Toronto’s ranking jumped from 8th in 2015 to 4th in 2017, highlighting how the Canadian city has provided some stability in a rapidly changing world.

The report also touched upon how developments in smart city and green technology help cities address infrastructure safety concerns such as climate change and natural disasters. For example, a simulation study in Toronto predicted that if half the city’s roof surfaces were green, irrigated roofs, it would reduce temperatures across the entire city by 1-2 degrees Celsius.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on October 29, 2017

Anne Kingston Anne Kingston

In late September, Barack Obama spoke in Toronto at a brilliantly produced event offering the perfect forum for his uplifting “Yes, we still can” message. The occasion also provided a triumphant, brand-burnishing moment for its organizer, Canada 2020, the Ottawa-based enterprise that bills itself as “Canada’s leading, independent, progressive think tank.”

Canada 2020’s scarlet-and-white logo was plastered throughout the Metro Toronto Convention Centre—over the stage, on the T-shirts worn by helpful young volunteers. Screens overhead displayed logos of the event’s many sponsors (among them Shell, Bell, Facebook and Canada Goose) as well as images from past power schmoozes for which Canada 2020 is known—conferences, panels and summits attended by “thought leaders,” politicians, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, journalists and academics who discuss Big Ideas—from inclusive prosperity to digital democracy. Images of Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson and Larry Summers, former U.S. treasury secretary, flashed by on the screen, as did a parade of big-L Liberals, prominently Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Two of those ministers, Bill Morneau and Navdeep Bains*, sat in the audience, as did Wynne.

President Barack Obama at the Canada2020 event. (Lisa Zarzeczny)President Barack Obama at the Canada2020 event. (Lisa Zarzeczny)
When Canada 2020 co-founder Susan Smith took the stage to introduce Canada Goose CEO Dani Reiss, who had the plum gig of introducing Obama, Smith called the not-for-profit a place where “public policy and cool collide.” She referred to ties between Canada 2020, the Liberal Party and the Obama Democrats. Trudeau’s first official trip to Washington in 2016 saw the “handing of the progressive torch from Barack Obama to Justin Trudeau,” Smith said, noting Canada 2020 was there: back then, they had “thought it would be cool to launch a policy lunch with the Prime Minister” and threw a “kick-ass” party. The Obama event in Toronto was the largest Canada 2020 had thrown, Smith told the crowd of some 3,000.

As such, it represented a milestone for the organization, founded in 2006 amid the ashes of federal Liberal defeat. Post-2015 Liberal sweep, Canada 2020’s symbiotic relationship with the Liberal Party and the Trudeau government has put it under the microscope, with closer scrutiny being paid to connections ranging from the party renting space from Canada 2020 during the last election to its president, Tom Pitfield, vacationing in 2016 with Trudeau on an island owned by the Aga Khan—a trip now being investigated by the ethics commissioner.

Canada 2020 President Thomas Pitfield and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are shown in a handout photo. Canada 2020 recently introduced a new donor agreement that must be signed by any company or group that gives it money, making it clear that the donation won’t buy access to the prime minister, his cabinet ministers or anyone else who attends the organization’s events. (Canada 2020/CP)Canada 2020 President Thomas Pitfield and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are shown in a handout photo.

Tom Mulcair, then NDP leader, likely thought he was delivering a blow late last year when he called out Canada 2020 as “simply a wing of the Liberal Party of Canada.” But the descriptor doesn’t begin to capture the power nexus the organization has come to represent—it’s less the Liberal Party’s wing and more its spine. The enterprise has been instrumental in shaping the current governing party, from its policies to its leader. It’s an incubator of—and showcase for—bright, rising Liberal talent. A year and a half before running for Bob Rae’s vacated seat, Chrystia Freeland appeared on a January 2012 Canada 2020 panel, “The Canada We Want in 2020: Income Disparity and Polarization.” In the wake of the federal “cash for access” scandal, Canada 2020 has been accused of acting as a gatekeeper to power via its events, which see industry leaders and lobbyists rub elbows with cabinet ministers and senior government officials.
To study Canada 2020, it’s useful to have some grid paper to better map its myriad interconnections, many which reveal the two degrees of separation that define Canadian politics. Three of its co-founders—Smith, Tim Barber and Eugene Lang, all well-connected Liberals—were also principals in the Ottawa-based Bluesky Strategy Group, a firm whose services include lobbying and media relations (Lang left Bluesky and Canada 2020 in 2013). Pitfield, the fourth named co-founder, has impeccable Liberal bona fides: the son of Senator Michael Pitfield, clerk of the Privy Council when Pierre Trudeau was PM; a lifelong friend of Justin Trudeau, helping him write the stirring 2000 eulogy to his father that paved his way to political office. Pitfield, who also worked for the Canada China Business Council founded by billionaire Paul ­Desmarais, is married to Anna Gainey, elected president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2014; he ran digital strategy for Trudeau’s leadership bid and also for the 2015 federal Liberal campaign.
Connections between Canada 2020, the Liberal Party and Bluesky can look like a Venn diagram on steroids. Bluesky and Canada 2020 are based at 35 O’Connor St., where the party rented space for a temporary “volunteer hub” during the election. Pitfield intersects with the Liberals professionally via his company Data Sciences Inc., which has an exclusive agreement to manage the party’s digital engagement; two Data Sciences staffers sit on the Liberal Party’s board of directors.

FROM 2015: Inside the making of a Prime Minister: Trudeau’s epic journey
Where there is Liberal news, there’s often a Canada 2020 connection. Take the recent controversy over Rana Sarkar, named Canada’s consul general to San Francisco at a salary twice the listed compensation. Media focused on his friendship with Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s senior adviser. But Sarkar has deep Canada 2020 links, too: he was named to its advisory board in 2015, is the author of a chapter in one of its “policy road maps,” and has participated in its speaker series. The bottom line: to understand this big-L Liberal moment in Canadian politics, you have to understand Canada 2020.
Canada 2020 event at the National Gallery in Ottawa on June 2nd, 2014.(Jake Wright)Canada 2020 event at the National Gallery in Ottawa on June 2nd, 2014.(Jake Wright)
When asked about the organization’s genesis, co-founder Tim Barber points to an Oct. 2003 New York Times Magazine story, “Notion Building,” about the Center for American Progress (CAP), which had recently been founded by John Podesta. Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff (and later an Obama adviser) wanted to take on the right with an enterprise that could book liberal thinkers on cable TV, create an “edgy’’ website, and recruit scholars to research and promote new progressive policy ideas. CAP wasn’t an organ of the Democratic Party, Podesta insisted, though history points to it being just that.
Podesta hates the term “think tank,” Barber says. “I do too. It’s way too passive and conjures days gone by. His view was that there’s an opportunity for organizations to put as much time into marketing and communicating big ideas as coming up with those big ideas.”
Canada 2020’s first conference, “Progressive Policies, Practical Solutions,” set the stage in June 2006, attracting some 150 people from government, business and academia to Mont Tremblant, Que. Most were Liberals, eager to refocus a party riven by infighting and lack of focus. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore gave the keynote. Barber wryly dismisses media reports that Gore charged US$80,000: “It was more like $100,000.” (When asked what Obama charged, Barber won’t say, offering only: “It was competitive.”)
The party’s old guard (Bill Graham) mingled with new (Butts). John Manley, Jean Chrétien’s right hand, and Anne McLellan, right hand to Paul Martin, co-chaired. Revitalizing the party was certainly the objective of some, McLellan tells Maclean’s: “It was picking ourselves up off of the mat and saying ‘Let’s do better next time.’ ”
Justin Trudeau also was on the scene, in sandals and T-shirt. The 34-year-old, then working on a master’s in environmental geography, was on Canada 2020’s first advisory board, as was Butts. Pierre Trudeau’s eldest son was then emerging as the party’s new, yet familiar face. He’d co-hosted a tribute to Jean Chrétien at the 2003 leadership convention and was named chair of Liberal “Youth Renewal” in 2006. The Liberals are “doing a lot of soul-searching right now,’’ Trudeau told the Globe and Mail, calling the event ‘‘a chance to actually start thinking long-term again.” Eight months later, he announced his run for the Liberal nomination in Montreal’s Papineau riding. Five years after winning the seat, he was Liberal leader.
Trudeau’s rise would be abetted by the machinery that helped Obama win the presidency in 2008, forged via connections between Canada 2020, the Liberals and Global Progress Initiative, an international network also founded by Podesta; Canada 2020 became its Canadian hub. Matt Browne, a senior fellow at CAP, sits on 2020’s impressively diverse advisory board. In 2011, the Liberals licensed the Democrats’ VoteBuilder database, modified it and repackaged it as “Liberalist.” Trudeau’s team, including Butts and Katie Telford (now the PM’s chief of staff), attended a 2012 CAP event on lessons from the Obama campaign. Precision Strategies, run by former Obama strategists, had provided “Team Trudeau” with advice since 2013, Politico reported in 2016. CAP’s Global Progress Initiative held international events attended by the “Trudeau Liberals and the guys from Canada 2020,” Browne told the Globe and Mail in 2016. Policies from CAP’s Inclusive Prosperity Commission—pledging to address income inequality and dispensing with a zero-deficit target—found their way into the Liberal platform.

READ: Why some businesses might be OK with a populist Trudeau budget
Once party leader, Trudeau was given a big-thinker platform at Canada 2020 events. In 2014, he delivered the keynote at its first annual conference, where he infamously remarked during a Q & A that Canada should consider a humanitarian mission in Iraq rather than “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are.”
Pitfield incorporated Data Sciences in 2014; he was named Canada 2020’s president in 2015. As one Ottawa insider puts it: “Tom was put in the window to demonstrate affinity with a party that would play with them.” The Liberals’ sweep to power, and the excitement accompanying it, heightened Canada 2020’s profile; Trudeau and his ministers were draws at Canada 2020 events. (Not everyone was thrilled; one observer notes the oxygen Canada 2020 took up diverted attention from long-standing “progressive” think tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Broadbent Institute). The PM appeared at a 2020 after-party following the June 2016 North American Leaders’ Summit with Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto; it saw ministers mingling over drinks with those who lobby them. Trudeau is also front and centre at the annual Global Progress Summit in Montreal, a gathering of global movers and shakers co-hosted by Canada 2020 and CAP; in 2016, he conducted an “armchair discussion” with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Trudeau’s cabinet also headlines frequently. In 2015, Catherine McKenna, newly named minister of environment and climate change, gave the keynote at Canada 2020’s annual conference. In June 2017, Harjit Sajjan, Bill Morneau, Kathleen Wynne and Ontario MP Liz Sandals all appeared. At the time, Bluesky was lobbying Sajjan’s department on a replacement for CF-18s and the PMO on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a Canada 2020 sponsor.
Defence MinisterHarjit Sajjan speaks at the Canada 2020 conference in Ottawa, Friday June 16, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/CP)Defence MinisterHarjit Sajjan speaks at the Canada 2020 conference in Ottawa, Friday June 16, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/CP)
Canada 2020’s sponsorship list grew with time, but it was tough going in the early days, McLellan says. “We didn’t know we would make it.” CAP began with a multi-million-dollar budget, thanks in part to donations from financier George Soros, and now has a staff of hundreds. No Soros-like figure bankrolled Canada 2020, which has a full-time staff of three, says Barber. There was a “Founders Circle” but he doesn’t talk about it: “That ship has sailed. Now we have ‘sustaining partners’—basically people that like what we do.” That list includes more than 30 of the country’s biggest corporations, among them TD Bank, Amgen, Manulife, Suncor, Enbridge, Via Rail, RioTinto, Telus and Rogers (the parent company of Maclean’s).
Barber waves off a minor furor in the House over the federal government paying $15,000 to Canada 2020 for an innovation conference at which Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi spoke. “Oh my god!” Barber says mockingly. “Yeah, but it cost $600,000 to put on.” During the Harper years, they’d also received small funding amounts, he says.
As a not-for-profit, Canada 2020 isn’t required to make financial statements public. Nor will it say how much sponsors donate, only that sponsorship is renewed annually and that everyone receives equal ranking, no matter what they donate. Sponsorship is vital, says Barber; they try to make as many events as possible free.
To retain not-for-profit status with the Canada Revenue Agency, a group must be non-partisan, says Donald Abelson, a political science professor at Western University and author of Northern Lights: Exploring Canada’s Think Tank Landscape. “Non-partisan doesn’t mean being non-ideological,” he adds. “It means a think tank can’t oppose a candidate or endorse a candidate or give money. They can say, ‘We’ve written a paper on UI and endorse the direction of the government.’ ”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau takes part in a discussion at the fourth annual Canada 2020 Conference in Ottawa Thursday June 15, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/CP)Finance Minister Bill Morneau takes part in a discussion at the fourth annual Canada 2020 Conference in Ottawa Thursday June 15, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/CP)
Barber rejects any suggestion Canada 2020 is a big-L think tank, noting that conservatives like Brian Mulroney and former cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and John Baird have also appeared at events. “I prefer ‘progressive,’ ” he says.
Still, there’s no question Canada 2020’s priorities dovetail with the federal agenda. This year, economist Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at the Ivey Business School (and a former Maclean’s contributor), was named the federal government’s “chief innovation fellow.” He’d been a senior associate at Canada 2020, who received funding for a volume on innovation published this year.
Canada 2020 events have also fed Liberal Party fundraising, a fact laid bare in a 2016 WikiLeaks hack of the email account of John Podesta, then Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman (the ironies here abound). An email from Clinton aide Huma Abedin stated “Trudeau’s team” had been told Clinton was displeased that her 2014 speech at a Canada 2020 event was used to fundraise ( invited donors to join a draw to win a return trip to Ottawa, breakfast with the PM and to hear Clinton speak). “This was supposed to be a completely apolitical event,” Abedin wrote. A similar contest was held before Trudeau’s trip to Washington. The prize: a trip for two to D.C. and participation in “exclusive events” with Trudeau organized by Canada 2020 and CAP.
Concern about Canada 2020’s influence and tight ties with the federal government has already become an academic sub-genre. In his new book, Doctors in Denial: Why Big Pharma and the Canadian Medical Profession Are Too Close for Comfort, Joel Lexchin cites a two-day “health summit” sponsored by Canada 2020 and the Canadian Medical Association in September 2016 as running contrary to public health interests. The event, “A New Health Accord for All Canadians,” attracted a who’s-who of the health insurance and pharmaceutical sectors, including representatives of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the largest U.S. pharmaceutical lobby group. Jane Philpott, then the health minister, attended with senior Health Canada officials, with Philpott speaking of the importance of improving Canadian accessibility to pharmaceuticals. Alliances between government, industry and the medical profession run contrary to public health interests, Lexchin, a professor emeritus at York University, tells Maclean’s. “Drug companies have a long history of actions damaging public health,” he says, “either in the prices they set or the facts the drugs they are interested in are the ones that generate the largest revenue, not those that meet highest public health need.”

READ: Q&A: Jane Philpott and Carolyn Bennett on their biggest challenges
In December 2016, Canada 2020 staged its “Second Annual Health Innovation Conference,” also attended by Philpott and senior departmental officials. The conference was chaired by two Canada 2020 advisers who lobby for the pharmaceutical industry: Shannon MacDonald, who works for Johnson & Johnson, and Kim Furlong, of Amgen.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, finds the in-plain-sight commingling of industry, government and lobbyists at Canada 2020 events confounding: “It blows my mind, it’s so blatant,” he says. “Canada 2020 has set up a structure that is non-criminal in terms of influence being peddled, but that is unethical and a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.”
Neither Canada 2020 nor Bluesky are lobbying the government directly, the professor of politics and law at the University of Ottawa says. “But all big lobbyists who can afford it know that, if you want to influence Trudeau, you become a Canada 2020 sponsor; that will help you with your lobbying of the federal government. I don’t know how they believe there is this grey area.”
In November 2016, after the “cash for access” controversy that saw the government introduce new transparency rules, Canada 2020 rewrote its donor agreement, found on its website, to state donations are not “a means to gain access to, or obtain an audience with, any speaker, attendee or any other person at or connected with any program or event hosted or arranged by or on behalf of Canada 2020.” Conacher is skeptical: “They can say that. But you can’t claim that when factually it’s not true. If you do sponsor an event, you will get access to senior decision-makers in the government.”
The mandate letters Trudeau wrote to cabinet ministers and made public were useful to lobbyists, Joe Jordan, a former Liberal MP and now a Bluesky senior associate, told the Hill Times earlier this year: they “made it easier than in the past for lobbyists to see what the government wants to achieve and find common threads.”
Access is influence, says Conacher, who points to rule seven of the Conflict of Interest Act, which states no public office holder can give “preferential treatment to any person or organization.” And the government helped Canada 2020 hold numerous events, including one during Trudeau’s Washington visit, Conacher says. “I don’t think the Trudeau PMO and cabinet could prove that they have not given preferential treatment to Canada 2020.”

Susan Smith. (Jake Wright)Susan Smith. (Jake Wright)
When these concerns were put to the PMO, press secretary Eleanore Catenaro noted that the “Prime Minister regularly meets with different organizations both in Canada and around the world, and is accessible to Canadians across the country,” in an email that provided a checklist of other organizations and events Trudeau has engaged with, including WE Day, the Atlantic Council, HeForShe and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

Conacher is calling for the ethics commissioner to investigate how one organization is suddenly able to hold events ministers attend. “Each of those ministers would have to show that other organizations have invited us and we have shown up at the same rate.”
He’s not optimistic. Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, on her third six-month, interim contract, appears beholden to the government, he says. In July, Democracy Watch filed a Federal Court case challenging the renewed appointments of the ethics commissioner and the lobbying commissioner. “We believe [Dawson] is in conflict of interest—she’s serving at the pleasure of the PM and will not be reappointed unless she pleases Trudeau.”

Conacher views Canada 2020 as the latest iteration of a federal tradition, likening it to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy during the Harper years and the Canada Policy Research Networks for the Chrétien and Martin Liberals: “the favoured think tank” that helps produce reports and hold events “that the government wants produced and held.”
Abelson, who studies think tanks, believes Canada 2020’s strength is self-promotion. “Has 2020 made its presence felt? Yes—in terms of media, events, workshops; it’s cited in Parliament,” he says. But its influence on policy is more difficult to determine at this stage. “They’ve focused on marketing and promotion. That’s only sustainable if you produce interesting, important studies that engage a number of stakeholder groups. You can’t rely on conferences and ties to high-profile people.”
For now, though, Canada 2020 is directing the conversation through its peerless command of imagery and visual cues—a mastery it shares with the Liberal Party. At the recent Obama event, Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada appointed by Obama, conducted a Q & A in which the former president praised “Justin” as a young leader representing “traditional values of democracy.” Heyman name-checked Canada 2020, once asking the former president: “What can Canada 2020 and the people in the room do for you?” referring to the Obama Foundation. Obama said he’d just asked 2020 organizers the same thing: “I asked them, ‘How can I help you? How can I help networks around the world?’ ”

Canada 2020 event in April 2014 with Brian Mulroney as the special guest speaker at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. The city’s who’s who showed up, including left to right: Susan Smith, Vicki Simons, Bruce Heyman, Nathalie Gauthier, and Tim Barber. (Jake Wright)Canada 2020 event in April 2014 with Brian Mulroney as the special guest speaker at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. The city’s who’s who showed up, including left to right: Susan Smith, Vicki Simons, Bruce Heyman, Nathalie Gauthier, and Tim Barber. (Jake Wright)
Heyman’s presence offered yet another 2020 synchronicity: as a major Obama donor, he supported a president whose lessons informed Team Trudeau. Now he’s a Canada 2020 “special adviser,” working on a voluntary basis to, as 2020’s website puts it, “help think through our organization’s vision, mission, and yes, even branding (2020 is fast approaching, after all).” And lest we forget, so too is the next federal election.

Written by: Classii Toronto Classifieds on October 29, 2017

Fans of former Girls frontman Christopher Owens were left puzzled on Thursday, October 12, when a headlining show at the Garrison was cancelled just hours before show time.

None more so, perhaps, than Owens himself, who was in San Francisco when he noticed a tweet indicating that he was due onstage in Toronto in a manner of hours.

“What?” he tweeted in response to a tweet about that night’s show. “Nuts!… I feel for the people that bought tickets, I’m finding out like this!”

“Toronto is very strange,” Owens says when I get him on the phone the next week. The story he tells me is deeper than your run-of-the-mill cancelled show.

Even when it was announced that Owens was due to perform solo, the timing seemed odd. He didn’t have a new album to promote and had just formed a new group, Curls. However a cursory glance at Owens’s unofficial tour pages showed stops across the continent, including Brooklyn and Austin.

By the time of the Toronto show, all of the other tour stops had been cancelled, leaving the Garrison as the one outlier even as Curls announced tour dates across California with Cults and Deerhunter this month.

One Toronto fan, Spencer MacEachern, noticed Owens’s tweet of confusion, but the news came too late for many ticket-holders, who arrived at the venue to find a hand-scrawled note on the door informing them that the Californian singer/songwriter wouldn’t playing and that tickets would be refunded at the point of purchase.


Acting as an amateur sleuth, MacEachern reached out to Owens’s long-time booker, Matt Hickey at High Road, who responded that “Christopher had some fan book a few shows, and these shows were never really happening.”

Ticket-holders were given refunds and there were no hard feelings, but the confusion and lack of details has exposed a sad and revealing story about both Owens and the indie music business.

The story begins in May of this year. Though Girls’ sophomore release had made it to number 37 on the Billboard Hot 200 in 2011, six years later, its mastermind, through an unspecified “a lot of things I don’t want to go into,” found himself homeless on the streets of San Francisco. (He had hinted at this on Twitter, but no one grasped its sincerity.)

“I was staying up all night wandering the streets, sleeping during the daytime in a park and busking all the time,” Owens recalls.

At some point, a fan recognized the critically acclaimed musician and took pity on him. “I think this guy was really just worried about me.”

Owens says the pair had a conversation that ended with the well-intentioned fan offering to book him some shows to get him back on his feet. He assumed he meant in San Francisco. “So when I first saw these announcements on Twitter, that was the first I knew of it,” he says.

According to Owens, the fan reached out to a friend of his “who used to book TLC,” asking if he could help the former Girls singer out. A few months later, Owens started getting notifications of shows, first in Arizona and Austin, then across the country.

“He didn’t get in touch with me and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve booked, is that cool?’ I want to hope he didn’t know what he was doing, but then again it just seems all so silly,” Owens says. “This person had my phone number. Surely he should have called.”

At the time, Owens says none of his contacts from his Girls days would take his calls, except Hickey. So he reached out, and Hickey set up calls with all of the venues they could find that the fan had booked. Owens says the Garrison should have been on that list but wants to give the promoters the benefit of the doubt.

“The Garrison and the Baby G host 600-plus shows annually,” writes the venue’s owner, Shaun Bowring, in an email to NOW. “Occasionally some of those shows get cancelled due to a multitude of reasons. I’m sure you understand working relationships of business deals and the privacy that our working partners expect in relation to those deals. The Christopher Owens show was booked and ultimately cancelled with those ideals in place.”

Even had he known about the show, Owens says it would have been impossible due to commitments with his new group, adding that he hopes to make it to Toronto with Curls, whose initial release Vante is due November 7 on Urban Scandal.

“The guys I’m playing with are exactly what I’ve looked for for years now. They live here in the city. They don’t live in L.A. or New York, which is what happened with Girls and even my solo project,” Owens says, with noticeable pride in his voice. “We play together twice a week, regardless if we’re playing a show or not. These guys are really great musicians and I’d love to be able to show them off.”

As for the fan who booked the shows, Owens says there are no hard feelings. “I don’t know,” he demurs. “Maybe he felt like he got caught with his pants down?”