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Report on Business magazine editor Dawn Calleja.Steph Martyniuk/The Globe and Mail

When economics reporter and editor-at-large Jason Kirby pitched the idea of teaming up with Nanos Research to launch a first-of-its-kind survey of Canada’s top CEOs, we knew it would be a bit of a logistical nightmare getting access en masse to executives whose endless workdays are scheduled down to the last minute. But taking the barometer of CEO sentiment in this country is a worthy endeavour—and the results of the inaugural ROB Nanos CEO Survey prove that Canada’s top leaders believe so, too.

Our anonymous poll targeted an elite group of chief executives with revenues totalling $225 billion, from industries as varied as banking, retail, oil production and mining. The results paint a somewhat gloomy picture both of what’s to come for the Canadian economy and of our reputation as a destination for investment. Fear not, though—there’s a bit of optimism among this crop of leaders, too, 90% of whom preside over companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. And we got plenty of constructive answers on how the federal government can turn things around (read more of them online at Check out the results starting on page 63—and if you’re a CEO and we come calling a few months from now to conduct the second instalment of this twice-yearly survey, please pick up.

Thankfully, not all the CEOs in this month’s issue are anonymous. Michael Medline sat down with Trevor Cole for a remarkably candid interview about his tenure at Empire Co. After a three-year run as CEO of Canadian Tire that ended…badly, Medline assumed control of Empire in 2017 to revive its ailing roster of grocery brands, including Sobeys and Safeway. Midway through the turnaround, the pandemic hit, sowing chaos. Then inflation went wild and grocery prices soared, leaving shoppers in a constant state of sticker shock. Add in the fact that Empire posted a profit of $746 million in fiscal 2022, and most CEOs would keep their heads down and their lips zipped. Not Medline. He’s always been a guy who speaks his mind, and he has plenty to say about the root causes of those high prices, plus the departure of his chief rival, Galen Weston Jr., and more (“Food for thought,” page 8).

This issue also marks the second time we’ve teamed up with Deloitte to present Canada’s Best Managed Companies, a program that has spread to 46 countries since being launched here in Canada 40 years ago. The program celebrates excellence among privately owned enterprises and welcomes 30 newcomers to a running list of more than 450 veterans. These CEOs know a lot about leadership, so it made sense to ask them to share one piece of advice they live by. We went a little deeper with Robin Lee, who leads Lee Valley Tools, the retailer his father founded in 1978. If you’ve ever set foot inside one of its stores or curled up with its catalogue, you’ll understand when Susan Krashinsky Robertson writes, “On paper, this should not work.” And yet, somehow, it does. We hope you’ll be as inspired by the secrets to his success as we were.

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