Former Ontario lottery corporation CEO Rod Phillips will take over as chair of the city-building organization CivicAction, filling the seat left vacant by mayoral candidate John Tory.
For the past 12 years, the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance (formerly the Toronto City Summit Alliance) has worked with civic leaders and executives from different sectors to address some of the region’s biggest social, economic and environmental challenges; most recently it tackled transit with its “Your 32” campaign.
Mr. Phillips was appointed chairman at Postmedia Network Canada Corp. in February, where he was reunited with his close friend Paul Godfrey, Postmedia’s chief executive officer. At CivicAction, he follows Mr. Tory, who left earlier this year to run for mayor of Toronto.
Mr. Phillips was involved with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s modernization plan, but he stepped down after 21/2 years at the helm in January, several months after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne fired Mr. Godfrey.
The driving force behind CivicAction was David Pecaut, who died in 2009 at the age of 54.
Mr. Pecaut was revered by many as the best mayor Toronto never had, and is remembered for pioneering a unique form of civic engagement in which he built networks of interested parties, private and public, that took action to get things done.
John Stapleton of St. Christopher House worked closely with CivicAction during the Pecaut era and said the organization needs to be revitalized.
“It might need a different model, because David created the model that he had and he was the best at it,” he said.
Mr. Stapleton added that the organization should try to get involved with a new generation of civic leaders.
As the new head of CivicAction, one the first issues Mr. Phillips said he plans to address is youth unemployment.
“We’ve got a conversation going on with employers saying they can’t find people with the right skills to do the jobs they need to do, and we’ve got a bunch of young people saying we want to do work,” he said. “It’s an area that’s crying out for some better answers.”
Reducing youth unemployment in Toronto dovetails with Mr. Tory’s campaign promises to get youth working again, and it was also an initiative of his while CivicAction chair.
Mr. Phillips said he is looking toward CivicAction’s next summit in 2015, which will define its future agenda.