The Power 50
Who has the influence, the connections and the cash to get their way in the world of business? We pull back the curtain on the financiers, scions, politicians and CEOs—plus a few bureaucrats and even one hip-hop star—who wield true power in Canada
1. Paul & André Desmarais | Co-CEOs, Power Corp.
If there is a key to the Desmarais family's formidable wealth and influence, it is this: entree. Paul Desmarais Sr. possessed astonishing business acumen. But it was his ability to cultivate the crème de la crème in politics and finance that elevated him to the highest levels in North America, Europe and China. He met with Deng Xiaoping in Beijing; invited Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to his estate in Charlevoix, Quebec; and received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.
Most importantly, Desmarais, who died in 2013, meticulously groomed his sons, Paul Jr. and André, for succession. In 1996, he named "the boys"—now in their early 60s—co-CEOs of Power Corp. Since then, Power has quintupled in value. How have they done it? As magnate Peter Munk said in 2008: "The boys got introduced to his contacts. They were educated well, they married well and they've behaved."
Power sits atop a vast collection of assets. Like Warren Buffett, Desmarais built a core of holdings in insurance, then branched out. Power controls asset management firm IGM Financial, as well as Great-West Lifeco, which owns Canada Life, London Life, Irish Life and Putnam Investments. In Europe, through a 50-50 partnership with the family of Belgian billionaire Albert Frère, the Desmaraises have investments in mining, cement, French oil giant Total, Adidas, and spirits maker Pernod Ricard. In China, they have billions invested in infrastructure and manufacturing.
Like their father, Paul Jr. and André network as assiduously as they invest. Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien have all worked for the family. Pierre Trudeau opened the doors to China's top leadership for the Desmaraises in 1978. When Justin Trudeau mused about negotiating a free trade deal with Beijing last year, he consulted the Desmaraises.
Paul Jr.'s formative assignment was to work with Frère in Paris in the early 1990s. There, he forged personal bonds at the highest levels. When the daughter of France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, married Italian wine heir Alessandro Gancia in 2005, Paul Jr. and his wife were the only Canadians invited.
The brothers were always determined to avoid the rivalry that has split other dynasties, and have complementary strengths. Paul Jr. is the finance guy, while André is more socially and politically outgoing. But both inherited their father's caution. They steered clear of the dot-com bubble in the 1990s and, in the early 2000s, investments in ersatz derivatives that rocked other insurers. Nor would they ever bet the family farm on one fad business (hello, Edgar Bronfman Jr.).
Succession is the ultimate test. Paul Jr. and André are preparing their respective sons, Paul III and Olivier, both in their early 30s. They, too, are somewhat different. Paul III has concentrated on Europe and fintech. Olivier is the China guy, and has worked in Power's media and oil operations.
If anything, the second generation has been even more discreet than the first. Paul Sr. didn't talk much about business, but he was a staunch Canadian federalist who proudly said so. Paul Jr. and André rarely talk to the media about anything. They don't have to.
2. Galen Weston Jr. | Chairman and CEO, George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Cos. Ltd.
The most powerful man in Canadian retail is standing near a farmer's fence, dressed in an open-collared gingham shirt, the cameras rolling as he chats about the virtues of antibiotic-free pork. This is the face of Galen G. Weston the public knows: earnest, clean-cut and telling you why a President's Choice sausage or organic baby food is better than the other thing you could buy instead.
Galen the Pitchman burst into the public consciousness about a decade ago, when he first started doing the television spots. Galen the Businessman remains more of a mystery. But he has steadily accumulated power in the Weston empire. Today he is not only in charge of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., the country's largest supermarket chain; in the past year, he has ascended to the chairman and chief executive roles of its parent company, George Weston Ltd. At the age of 44, G2 has now fully stepped into the shoes of G1—his father, W. Galen Weston.
That puts him firmly in control of a set of companies that stretches far beyond the ubiquitous Loblaws and No-Frills chains. "The way to think about Loblaw is, it's not a supermarket distribution company any more, the way that it was," Weston says. "We have a big real estate business…We've got a bank that has been an incredible growth story for us over the last 10 years and is now a really meaningful part of
what we do. And then, of course, we've added Shoppers Drug Mart."
If the Desmarais family's power comes from their global connections, the Westons' is based on the sheer economic might of their consumer brands. But the $12.4-billion megadeal for Shoppers, which closed in 2014, did more than tighten their formidable grip on Canadians' wallets. It helped to change the narrative that Loblaw had run out of growth ideas. After years of drift, Loblaw shares have taken off; the family's fortune was recently estimated at more than $13 billion.
It was not preordained that Galen Jr. would be the next Weston to manage all of this. In early adulthood, "I had other aspirations…striking out on my own, finding a way to build my own business—establishing some degree of independent identity from the family." After university, he accepted an assignment to work on President's Choice Financial, then a start-up with little connection to the grocery business that he learned about at his father's knee. By 33, he became Loblaw's executive chairman, and one-third of a triumvirate of executives tasked with fixing a business beset by supply-chain problems that led to empty shelves and unhappy consumers. "It was a little bit early, I would say, in terms of the development of my career, but the time was right. We spent a lot of time trying to re-engineer the Loblaw organization, almost from the ground up." And he has.
3. David Thomson | Chairman, Woodbridge Co. and Thomson Reuters Corp.
The leading figure in Canada's wealthiest family—and grandson of patriarch Roy Thomson—typically sidesteps the spotlight. But the soft-spoken scion's occasional public remarks reveal deeply felt passions and carry huge sway in areas such as business innovation, media (Woodbridge owns The Globe and Mail) and even education. The $17.2-billion (U.S.) takeover of Reuters in 2007, the crown jewel in a series of acquisitions that moulded Thomson Reuters Corp., exposed the news and information powerhouse to hard times. A wrenching economic slowdown squeezed key clients in banking, law and business. But a streamlined Thomson Reuters is picking up steam, helping firms manage global uncertainty, and its share price is climbing—Forbes now estimates the family's net worth at $26.3 billion.
Thomson Reuters' centre of gravity is now shifting away from the northeastern United States, and back to Thomson's hometown. It has opened a new technology hub in Toronto, promising to create 400 new jobs. The company's CEO, Jim Smith, has followed and even bought a home there.
4. Justin Trudeau | Prime Minister of Canada
Halfway through his mandate, the Prime Minister's political star has dimmed a bit in the face of the uneven economy, rising budget deficit and mixed record on his centre-left agenda. He's struck a free trade deal with Europe, but a pending NAFTA renegotiation and U.S. protectionist threats could derail Canada's export-dependent economy. Further moves to tackle income inequality are on hold as Trudeau awaits the outcome of U.S. tax reform efforts. Bay Street is leery of his rhetoric on taxing the rich and hints of intervention to drive business innovation. But Trudeau has enhanced Canada's international cred among social democrats with his immigration, climate change and gender policies. Bonus: Despite challenges at home, he's still a bona fide celebrity abroad.
5. George Cope | CEO, BCE Inc.
It's difficult to remember what the country's biggest communications and media player looked like before Cope. A skilled telecom operator with roots in the early days of wireless services, he is credited with turning around BCE Inc. following its failed 2008 bid to go private. Cope built its crucial mobile business into a powerhouse and used Bell's Fibe TV to attack cable competitors and win Internet customers. A series of successful acquisitions—from CTV to Astral Media to Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.—have bolstered the company's growth. Firmly entrenched at the top of this deal-making machine, Cope, who also sits on the Bank of Montreal's board, is a mainstay on Bay Street. BCE's 37.5% stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment also makes Cope arguably the most powerful force in Canada's sports business (the 6-foot-7-inch basketball fan is often courtside at Toronto Raptors games). Bonus: Bell's "Let's Talk" mental health initiative, spurred by Cope, has been a huge corporate social responsibility win.
About 20 million Canadians have one thing in common: They're counting on the new guy in charge of the CPPIB to keep their retirement money growing. The country's largest pension fund has been making increasingly far-reaching investments in infrastructure, private equity and real estate, and Machin (who took over in June, 2016) is well-qualified to oversee them: He spent two decades at Goldman Sachs, where he built up the bank's Asian operations. Those connections should prove useful as the fund expands its investments overseas, notably in China. The former medical doctor also isn't afraid to take on new challenges, and CPPIB is facing one now as it tailors its approach to investment risk amid an unsteady geopolitical climate. Bonus: Machin has thrown himself—and his wife and two young daughters—into the Canadian experience: This winter, the family travelled to the northern territories for ice fishing, snowshoeing and a dogsled ride.
7. Bruce Flatt | CEO, Brookfield Asset Management Inc.
During his 15 years as CEO, Flatt has built an investment juggernaut with $250 billion (U.S.) in assets—in the same league as Canada's largest pension funds. By essentially living on an airplane for more than a decade, the indefatigable Flatt has built an unparalleled network of international contacts that help Brookfield get a first look at assets for sale around the globe. And he has assembled a team of financiers capable of the same under-stated negotiating, with deal-hunters in more than 30 countries. Their pillars of expertise span commercial property, renewable energy and infrastructure, as well as private equity. Brookfield's own board is stacked with international tycoons, including real estate expert Seek Ngee Huat, General Electric Canada head Elyse Allan, and past U.S. ambassador of Canada Frank McKenna. Bonus: Flatt is too discreet to boast about which investment heavyweights he has on speed dial.
8. Murray Edwards | Chairman, Canadian Natural Resources
Murray Edwards the environmentalist? It's a confounding label for an oil tycoon—especially one who over more than two decades transformed Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. from a penny stock into a $50-billion company with operations stretching from West Africa to the North Sea to Alberta's oil sands. CNRL started as a sharp critic of Alberta's rookie NDP government, so it was more than a little surprising when Edwards suddenly embraced taxing carbon-dioxide emissions in hopes of winning over pipeline critics. But the billionaire financier is no ideologue. He wields influence quietly, and has an uncanny knack for zigging precisely when others zag. With a trio of major pipeline projects recently winning key approvals, Edwards has doubled down in the oil sands just as others flee for the exits. Demerit: Edwards relocated to London, England, just as Alberta's economy tanked.
9. Rachel Notley | Premier of Alberta
On May 5, 2015, Rachel Notley went from a long shot to a big shot. Her stunning ascent to the top job in Alberta politics humbled a Progressive Conservative dynasty and ended the triumphant return of the late Jim Prentice to public life. The surprise victory of the onetime union lawyer vaulted her onto the national stage as an unlikely defender of the oil sands and pipelines. In short order, she kneecapped rivals, banning corporate and union donations to political parties. She also cultivated allies at the country's biggest energy companies—connections that provided ample political cover as the government rolled out a carbon tax and other measures designed to mollify pipeline critics. Bonus: Notley's willingness to stoke populist anger in defence of her green crusade has transformed a perennial also-ran party into a central player in Ottawa's push for a pan-Canadian climate-change strategy.
10. Ed Clark | Consultant and former CEO, TD Bank
Clark is successfully parlaying his status as one of Canada's most successful CEOs into serious policy clout. After leading TD Bank for 12 years (during which he transformed it into Canada's second-largest bank), he has advised the Ontario government on its privatization of Hydro One, a massive deal designed to back the province's ambitious infrastructure plans and help it pay down debt. In the formal role as business adviser to Premier Kathleen Wynne ("wonderful Ed," the Premier calls him), he has pushed for beer sales in Ontario supermarkets and started to examine health services and business regulations. In March, there he was again—this time as chair of the new Vector Institute in artificial intelligence research, which he helped get off the ground with provincial funding. The position adds technology and academia connections to a Rolodex already stuffed with government and financial contacts. Demerit: Kathleen Wynne's days as Ontario premier may be numbered—as of late March, her approval rating was an abysmal 12%.
11. The Irving Clan | New Brunswick oil barons
Debunking the old "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" adage, the fifth incarnation of the New Brunswick oligarchs is helping to run their immensely rich, endlessly diversified empire. With hundreds of companies and thousands of employees, the family's already long shadow across Atlantic Canada lengthened when its Halifax shipyard won the $26-billion contract to replace Canada's frigate fleet. The clan's influence is set to swell again if the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East Pipeline ever carries Alberta crude to Saint John (the site of Irving's huge refinery and shipping facilities) for export. Though the pipeline's future is anything but secure, last year Irving Oil bought Ireland's sole oil refinery, just in case. Demerit: Hiring foreign workers for the Halifax shipyard was a PR disaster for an empire that had won billions of dollars in Canadian naval work.
Think of Morneau as Justin Trudeau's ambassador to Corporate Canada. As one of the few Liberals elected in 2015 with Bay Street experience, the former executive chairman of an international pension and benefits business was the obvious and reassuring candidate to become minister of finance. In his first year on the job, the pensions specialist hammered out a federal-provincial-territorial deal to expand the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan that had long eluded other governments.
In his role, Morneau has to fund the Liberals' lofty promises while maintaining business confidence. He delivered a 2017 budget that walked the line between
fiscal moderation, higher spending on programs meant to spur innovation, and holding the line on taxes, including Ottawa's treatment of capital gains. Demerit: The soft-spoken minister lacks the high profile of predecessors like Jim Flaherty or Paul Martin, and his communication skills are modest at best.
13. David McKay | CEO, Royal Bank of Canada
There are big banks, and then there is the biggest: Royal Bank of Canada crossed the $10-billion annual profit threshold in 2015, making it easily Canada's most profitable company. Its heft reflects the fact that RBC has connections to just about every corner of the Canadian economy and enjoys a profound leadership in capital markets activity. Now, McKay is extending those connections. He recently bolted on City National, a Los Angeles-based bank with ties to Hollywood, to deepen RBC's presence in the U.S.—and, hey, striking up conversations with the well-heeled celebrities that came with the deal can't hurt, right? Bonus: RBC announced the City National deal two years before U.S. regional banks turned pricey following a 60% post-election rally.
14. Dominic Barton | Global managing partner, McKinsey & Co.
Barton chaired Finance Minister Bill Morneau's Advisory Council on Economic Growth; its recommendations were liberally sprinkled throughout the budget, which provided federal support for the development of artificial intelligence, superclusters and clean technology. The Canadian-born Rhodes scholar leads McKinsey & Co., a consultancy that advises prime ministers, princes and corporate potentates. His power derives from his vast network and the pedigree of those willing to act on his advice. Barton is Justin Trudeau's economic guru, one who preaches the importance of a skilled workforce and public-private partnerships in innovation. Demerit: Barton is an uber-consultant, a breed that has a tendency to push faddish economic policies.
15. Jeremy Rudin | Superintendent of Financial Institutions
Canada's big banks have several masters, but the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is their ultimate boss. As the country's top financial regulator, Rudin ensures that federally regulated institutions aren't taking risks that could bring the system to its knees—and that means maintaining close scrutiny over their operations. Rudin, a soft-spoken former deputy finance minister, is about three years into his seven-year term at OSFI, and has reasons for concern: Canada's bubbly housing market is raising questions about mortgage underwriting practices, while low interest rates are contributing to big consumer debt loads. "When house prices have been rising for several years and interest rates have remained at all-time lows, complacency can set in," he warned last year. Strong regulation is widely credited with keeping Canadian banks strong during the financial crisis. It's Rudin's job to make sure they sail through the next crisis, too. Bonus: He has a PhD in economics from Stanford.
16. Stephen Poloz | Governor, Bank of Canada
The Governor of the Bank of Canada is perhaps the single most powerful economic decision-maker in the country. Poloz, an aw-shucks everyman economist, may lack the charismatic swagger of his predecessor, Mark Carney, but he commands the attention of the markets—especially since early 2015, when his surprise rate cut heralded a new sheriff in town who wasn't afraid to pull out his six-shooters. He has injected new blood into the central bank's senior management, increased transparency, and brought a new emphasis on risk management to the policy-setting process. He has also entrenched the phrase "serial disappointment" in Canada's lexicon as the economy suffered several false starts. Demerit: In a job where the message is everything, the markets struggle with Poloz's occasional vagueness.
17. Geoffrey Hinton | Artificial Intelligence guru
Some call him the godfather of AI, others its elder statesman. Artificial intelligence is the hottest technology emerging today, and Hinton—professor emeritus at University of Toronto and engineering fellow at Google—is its biggest star. Google snapped him up (part-time, so he could stay with U of T) a few years ago to work on image recognition, translation and the program AlphaGo, which recently defeated a champion player of the strategy game Go.
But AI, which mimics the neurons of a human brain, promises to do far more than win board games or pick out cats in photos. As computers get better at pattern recognition, they could deliver significant advances in everything from self-driving cars to medical diagnoses. After decades on the academic fringes, AI is now front and centre for companies, universities and governments, which are trying to lure rare talent and big research money.
Hinton, uncommonly accessible for a scientist and with infectious enthusiasm, was born and educated in the U.K., with degrees from Cambridge and Edinburgh University. But he was unable to attract funding at home, and he refused to accept military money in the United States. So he came to Canada in 1987, backed by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
His influence runs deep in the digital economy. Ilya Sutskever, research director at Elon Musk-funded OpenAI, is a former student; so is Ruslan Salakhutdinov, AI research head at Apple. Yann LeCun, director of AI at Facebook, did post-doctoral work under Hinton in the 1980s. In 2004, Hinton founded an annual gathering of international scientists to accelerate gains in AI that later inspired research by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Baidu.
Hinton is now the chief scientific adviser for the newly created Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence at U of T, which has attracted $170 million from corporations, and the governments of Canada and Ontario. It seems that any strategy designed to keep AI expertise in Canada starts with Hinton.
When Justin Trudeau wanted advice on renegotiating NAFTA and dealing with Donald Trump, he turned to the former Conservative PM, a long-time friend of the U.S. President. Indeed, Mulroney, Trump and their wives recently shared a table at a cancer fundraiser at Trump's Florida resort. Mulroney is two years shy of 80 and nearly a quarter-century out of power, but he remains an éminence grise in Canada and beyond. The Norton Rose Fulbright senior partner is still a player in Quebec's tight-knit business community as chairman of media giant Quebecor. Demerit: His friendship with Trump could also be a liability.
19. Gerry Butts & Katie Telford | Trudeau's dream team
Justin Trudeau's chief of staff and principal secretary, respectively, function like his co-chief operating officers. Telford, the architect of Trudeau's election win, prefers to work behind the scenes running the PMO and pushing gender issues. Butts, Trudeau's friend from McGill University, shapes his identity and public persona. His fingerprints were all over last year's climate accord with the provinces. Bonus: Telford curried favour with Donald and Ivanka Trump by pushing for the U.S.-Canada Council for the Advancement Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
20. Bharat Masrani | CEO, TD Bank
Masrani leads a retail banking powerhouse in two countries. In Canada, it ranks No. 2, and is in the top 10 banks in the U.S. in terms of assets. Masrani, who was a key architect of TD's U.S. expansion more than a decade ago, before succeeding Ed Clark in 2014, wants TD to get even bigger, making him a deal-maker to watch. He recently struck a $1.3-billion (U.S.) deal for the bank operations of Scottrade Financial Services, and is keen to lend more to U.S. businesses and extend investment banking services to American customers. Word has it, he's also prowling for wealth management assets in Canada. Demerit: While sharp and personable, he's been quiet on the national stage.
21. Chrystia Freeland | Minister of Foreign Affairs
Freeland faces a herculean task: protecting Canadian interests from the protectionist tendencies of Donald Trump. In January, she was appointed Canada's top diplomat with special responsibility for Canada-U.S. economic relations. As trade minister, Freeland undertook a high-profile mission to salvage the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which concluded last October. A key element of the deal remains in doubt, however, as the Belgian region of Wallonia opposes CETA's dispute settlement mechanism. Freeland faces a tougher challenge in parrying Trump's protectionism, and blunting a push by congressional Republicans for a border levy on Canadian exports. Bonus: She has deep connections in corporate America from her years as a business journalist in New York.
If you have to name one person who sits at the intersection of power in Corporate Canada, pick Katie Taylor. She not only chairs Canada's largest company by market value, but is also a director of Canada's largest institutional money manager, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which has almost $300 billion in assets invested around the world. Together, the two roles give her a front-row seat for many of Canada's biggest corporate deals. Taylor is known as a chair who elicits the best work from others by recognizing that the smartest person in any room is often not the one who speaks first or loudest—an art form not always found at the top of the Type A business pile. Bonus: A sought-after director, she heads the board of the SickKids Foundation, one of Toronto's elite charitable organizations.
Canada's most international bank naturally has one of Canada's most internationally connected CEOs. But Porter also keeps a close eye on home base, where he has become a vocal leader, calling for political co-operation to build the infrastructure necessary to get Canadian energy to global markets. He was the first bank CEO to dub Vancouver's and Toronto's housing markets "frothy" and demand action from Ottawa. And in April, he used his address at the bank's AGM to give a passionate defence of free trade, now that a NAFTA tweaker occupies the White House. Bonus: Scotia operates in 52 markets, which means forging links with foreign governments and central bankers.
"Drill, baby, drill" is not a strategy the Suncor CEO subscribes to. Williams may have assiduously lowered costs and boosted profits while plowing billions into Suncor's sprawling Fort Hills complex, but he also openly advocates leaving a portion of Alberta's bitumen-soaked sands in the ground. It's not just because the stuff is obscenely expensive to scrape and steam out; Williams has emerged as the de facto leader in a campaign to clean up the sector's battered image. He has forged ties with environmentalists and was a key architect of the NDP government's policy to cap greenhouse gases from the oil sands. Bonus: Williams lived and worked in gritty Fort McMurray before moving into the CEO's chair.
25. Frank McKenna | Deputy Chairman, TD Bank
Twenty years after he left the premier's office, McKenna doesn't influence policy in New Brunswick like he once did—witness how his public plea to resume the fracking of shale gas in his old province fell flat. But his lustre in the region is such that four years ago, when a Halifax newspaper imagined a single united maritime province, McKenna was the choice to lead it. Few Canadians straddle the worlds of business and politics quite like the ex-Canadian ambassador to the United States-turned-TD Bank deputy chair. He helped forge a deal for the proposed Energy East Pipeline and has sat on a long list of corporate boards, as well as on Justin Trudeau's pre-election Economic Council of Advisors. A measure of McKenna's influence is his annual golf tournament at Nova Scotia's Fox Harb'r Resort, which draws such luminaries as Tony Blair, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Bonus: He made his name as a young New Brunswick lawyer defending boxing great Yvon Durelle on murder charges. (Durelle was acquitted.)
26. Drake | Entertainer and "6 God"
With all due respect to John Tory, Drake is, for a certain portion of the population at home and abroad, the unofficial mayor of Toronto. The city's international cred has grown along with Drake's popularity. His fourth studio album, Views, was the most-listened-to record in Canada and the U.S. in 2016. More Life, his album-length streaming project released in March, broke the record for song streams in the first week—nearly 385 million, according to Billboard (the previous record-holder: Views).
Even as he grew globally, Drake didn't leave Toronto behind. He propagated "the 6" as a civic sobriquet (6 being the bridge between the city's 416 and 647 area codes). He built a studio in the city and is the Raptors' global ambassador. His annual OVO Fest draws celebrities from the world over, and he has ties to Toronto's cultural elite through the restaurant Fring's.
Careful partnerships are at the core of Drake's brand. He was the first face of Apple Music streaming, with a deal reportedly worth $19 million (U.S.). He has endorsement deals with Sprite and Nike, and according to Forbes, he made close to $40 million (U.S.) last year. Bonus: The 30-year-old is building a Versailles-esque mansion in the Bridle Path, close to Conrad Black and real estate mogul Milton Winberg.
Downe is a Bay Street veteran, and it shows. With 34 years at the bank, a decade of that at the helm, he's seen ups and downs—and last year's collapse in crude oil prices was just one of them. While many observers were fretting over the impact on Canadian energy firms and the banks that had loaned billions to them, Downe patiently explained the energy sector wasn't disappearing and banks weren't floundering. "I think the credibility with respect to Canadian banks should be high," Downe told us. Demerit: The 65-year-old is stepping down in October, to be replaced by COO Darryl White.
28. Navdeep Bains | Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
When Industry Canada got an upgrade to Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Bains embraced the challenge. The Hill Times dubbed the affable Bains the "minister of everything," noting he's one of the most lobbied ministers in Ottawa. He's also the guy in charge of federal aid for Bombardier and BCE Inc.'s takeover of MTS Inc. With the March budget, it became clear that Bains—a diehard Trudeau loyalist—is something of a golden boy: He got pretty much everything he asked for, including $400 million for venture capital investments (plus $125 million earmarked for artificial intelligence); a promise to boost federal procurement from start-ups; and $950 million to support so-called superclusters. Bonus: He's only 39.
29. Jim Boucher | Fort McKay Chief
No one knows oil sands country like the long-serving chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, north of Fort McMurray. Some of Boucher's earliest memories include stumbling across one of the early bitumen projects as he collected snares along his trapline.
In the past five decades, oil sands mines and upgraders have encircled his small Cree and Dene community. Early on, the First Nation opposed development in the area. While Boucher continues to battle projects near the remaining undisturbed parts of his reserve and traditional territory, he now stands apart from many Indigenous leaders in advocating in favour of pipelines and the oil and gas sector.
The fact that Fort McKay derives almost all its revenues—tens of millions of dollars annually, even in a downturn—from servicing oil sands producers might have something to do with the First Nation's support for the industry. Boucher also has been one of the highest-paid chiefs in Canada. With oil prices down and less service and supply work available, the band is trying to keep revenues up and its members employed through new ventures and partnerships.
This year, the province will be watching as Fort McKay proceeds with one of the biggest bond issues by an aboriginal group, which it will use to purchase a $350-million stake in Suncor Energy's East Tank Farm.
30. Michael Sabia | CEO, Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec
As protectionism and geopolitical risk bear down on investors, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is sticking with the guy who brought stability back to the organization. Sabia's mandate was renewed earlier this year until 2021, putting him on track to become the longest-serving Caisse chief executive in the institution's 52-year history. In a sweeping strategic shift, the former head of BCE Inc. increased the Caisse's international investments and heightened its exposure to infrastructure and real estate. He has deftly guided the pension fund's tricky relationship to the provincial government and, as part of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's Advisory Council on Economic Growth, is a strong voice on federal policy. Before his term is up, Sabia will try to get Montreal's $6-billion light-rail transit project up and running. If he succeeds, he'll have proven that you need not be a francophone Quebecker to protect the interests of the province's most powerful financial institution. Demerit: His logical, multipronged public utterances tend to put everyone to sleep.
He's helmed Vancouver's Telus Corp. since 2000, with a brief stint as executive chairman when the company made Joe Natale CEO in 2014. During Entwistle's reign, Telus evolved from a regional operator to one of the three national wireless carriers, following his $6.6-billion bet on mobile start-up Clearnet Communications 17 years ago. Entwistle likes to point out that people doubted his strategy at that time—especially when he's questioned about his current spending spree on fibre-to-the-home upgrades. The famously intense leader is both respected and feared. Bonus: As Natale prepares to take over at Rogers Communications this summer, and with George Cope—the former CEO of Clearnet—firmly ensconced at BCE Inc., Entwistle surely revels in the fact that both of his biggest competitors were once on his payroll.
32. Victor Dodig | CEO, CIBC
Since taking the chief executive role at CIBC three years ago, Dodig has been transforming the banking laggard into a more customer- and investor-friendly institution. He is also one of the most vocal proponents of the Canadian Business Growth Fund, which officially launched in March. More than a dozen financial institutions are pooling $500 million—along with expertise—to help develop capital-hungry companies. Dodig has been the fund's champion from the start, arguing that providing more resources will help keep Canadian ventures in Canada. Bonus: He peppers official commentary with anecdotes about his mom. He even performed in a charity stand-up hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. He was gold, Jerry!
33. John Ruffolo | CEO, OMERS Ventures
Ruffolo is building on his status as a pillar of the Canadian tech renaissance, after OMERS emerged as the first Bay Street institution to recommit to funding the shattered sector as it took off this decade. Now, OMERS also manages venture capital for outside institutions, and Ruffolo is building investing platforms for the Ontario pension giant in energy and distressed assets. In his spare time, Ruffolo likes to build ecosystems: He and Jim Balsillie co-founded the Council of Canadian Innovators, which got key concessions from Ottawa to improve conditions for fast-growing tech companies. Bonus: Ruffolo sits on the boards of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Century Initiative, which calls for Canada to "responsibly and thoughtfully" grow to 100 million people by 2100.
His nearly five years at the helm of Enbridge have been pivotal ones for the pipeline industry, and for the company. The good: Enbridge's $37-billion takeover of Spectra Energy Corp., the mammoth deal that created North America's largest energy-infrastructure firm. The not-so-good: Ottawa's rejection of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline last fall. The country's largest pipeline company nevertheless moves about 60% of crude exported from Canada to U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries. Bonus: Monaco added his voice to the sector's growing support for a lower-carbon future.
Rovinescu took over as CEO on April 1, 2009, and the challenge he faced was no joke: nothing short of saving the cash-strapped national carrier from oblivion. For someone originally seen as merely a short-term leader, Rovinescu has surprised industry observers by serving as Air Canada's CEO for more than eight years and counting. While a flurry of fees continues to irritate travellers, Rovinescu has led the recently rebranded airline to financial stability. His legal training came in handy when he helped guide the carrier's 2003-2004 restructuring, which involved an army of lawyers. After steering it through its 2009 close call, Rovinescu—for whom a healthy Air Canada reflects a strong Canadian economy— has helped the airline thrive internationally. Bonus: Rovinescu is proud of Air Canada's diverse workforce (60 languages; one-fifth of staff are visible minorities).
36. Jennifer Maki | CEO, Vale Canada
Maki has quietly risen to become one of the most powerful Canadians in global mining. The native of Kitchener, Ontario, oversees base metals for Vale SA, the Brazilian resources giant. Her empire pulls in more than $6 billion (U.S.) a year in revenue, and spans the former Inco nickel mines in Sudbury and Indonesia, refineries in Europe, copper mines in Brazil, as well as numerous other operations. Since being appointed chief executive of Vale in Canada in 2014, she has overseen the development of a nickel mine in New Caledonia and the opening of a refinery and smelter in Long Harbour, Newfoundland. Based in Toronto, she is only beginning to build a public profile, but if nickel prices rise and Vale follows through on its long-mulled plan to spin off a chunk of its base-metals operation, she will find herself thrust into the spotlight very quickly. Maki, the first Canadian to head Vale's Canadian operations since Vale took over Inco in 2006, has also achieved an unusually long period of union peace in Sudbury, a site of bitter management-labour battles in decades past.
37. Linda Hasenfratz | CEO, Linamar Corp.
After 15 years as CEO of Linamar, Hasenfratz long ago won over any doubters who suggested she got the top job because her dad is founder Frank. She started on the shop floor in 1990, learning the auto parts business from the ground up. Under her leadership as CEO, the Guelph, Ontario-based company has grown into a global manufacturing giant, with 25,000 employees in 58 plants around the world. Sales have expanded from $1.3 billion in 2002 to $6 billion. Hasenfratz sits on CIBC's board and is chair of the Business Council of Canada (formerly the Canadian Council of Chief Executives), giving her access to Canada's most senior business execs. Bonus: She is on the advisory board of the women's advocacy group Catalyst Canada, and champions an array of women's causes, including encouraging more young women to study science and engineering.
Everyone wants more women on corporate boards in Canada. Or, at least, they say they do. But while a growing number of CEOs are saying all the right things about gender diversity, they aren't necessarily making changes in their own boardrooms. Only 10% of TSX-listed companies added at least one woman to their boards in 2016, a decline from 15% the year before. Jensen has her eye on that frustrating gap, and this year, she wants it closed. In 2015, then executive director of the OSC, she introduced rules that required all companies to report on whether they have policies to boost diversity in their senior ranks. Now, as CEO and chair, she's pushing for tangible change, especially among the 45% of public companies that still have no women on their boards. Corporations that don't comply could face stiffer rules in the future: The OSC pledged to review its diversity initiative after three years and toughen it if necessary. Bonus: Last year, Jensen stated that she had stopped buying Tim Hortons coffee because its parent company, Restaurant Brands International, had no women on its board. (RBI now has one.)
The old saying, "He who cannot, teaches," does not apply to Agrawal. The award-winning Rotman School of Management professor is a key contributor to Toronto's emergence as a world-class technology ecosystem. He co-founded the Next 36 to help promising undergrads become entrepreneurs, and set up the Creative Destruction Lab, a formidable machine for cultivating top-flight start-ups. The lab boasts some of Canada's top entrepreneurs as mentors and regularly attracts Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Agrawal's annual machine-learning conference has become an essential gathering for the world's artificial intelligence experts, and his ideas on the economics of AI have been published in Harvard Business Review. Bonus: Agrawal co-founded smart-robot company Kindred with quantum-computing pioneer Geordie Rose.
Watsa is often called Canada's Warren Buffett, and like the Sage of Omaha, he isn't just respected by value investors—he is revered by them. This allows him to play the long game. Watsa founded property and casualty insurer Fairfax Financial in 1985. It soared for a decade, then sagged under attacks by short sellers in the early 2000s. Undaunted, Watsa invested in complex derivatives to protect Fairfax from a stock market crash, and scored huge profits on them during the financial crisis. Since then, the company has kept growing in North America and overseas. Like Buffett, Watsa now has access to so much cash, he is a go-to source of liquidity for beaten-up companies. He has bought controlling stakes in more than a dozen of them in recent years. Some, like Cara, have produced quick wins. Others, like BlackBerry, are works in progress. Watsa is proceeding patiently. He always has. Bonus: The Fairfax boss is media-shy, but he loves greeting shareholders at the company's annual meeting/invest-o-palooza.
41. Ron Mock | CEO, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan
Mock has steadily broadened Teachers' portfolio since joining the fund in 2001 as director of alternative investments. Some of those asset classes—infrastructure, in particular—have become beacons for high returns. Mock was among a small circle of leaders whose counsel Ottawa sought in planning the formation of the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to court institutional money globally. At the same time, large pension funds regularly seek out Teachers' guidance on how to broaden their investment specialties, build internal teams and forge relationships with investment partners. Mock has championed Canadian pension funds' reputation for independent governance and long-term investing. Bonus: The onetime electrical engineer knows how to make a comeback—he rose to head Teachers after a hedge fund he managed collapsed.
42. Walied Soliman | Chairman, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada
In recent years, U.S. shareholder activists such as Carl Icahn have shaken up several underperforming Canadian companies. Guiding some of these raiders behind the scenes was Soliman, a Toronto-based partner at Norton Rose Fulbright. The 39-year-old, who was recently named Canadian chairman of the global law firm, negotiates with no holds barred. He's won an impressive string of battles by deploying a legal SWAT team to back clients attempting the toughest of corporate deals: hostile takeovers, proxy fights and complex restructurings. Not averse to switching sides, he's helped some of the country's largest businesses, including Agrium and Talisman Energy, fight off activist attacks. Bonus: Passionately political, Soliman guided Patrick Brown's successful quest for leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and helped a dissident group of Ontario doctors overthrow the leadership of their association.
43. Jim Balsillie | Co-founder and Chairman, Council of Canadian Innovators
The sharp-minded, sharp-elbowed entrepreneur is having a strong second act post-BlackBerry, helping to shape the country's innovation agenda. Years of pushing Ottawa to overhaul its tired and ineffective approach to innovation have borne fruit, as the Trudeau government has made a series of moves in the past 18 months that address some of Balsillie's criticisms, including the promised development of an intellectual property strategy for the digital era. Much of the lobbying has happened through the Council of Canadian Innovators, which he co-created and chairs. Balsillie also chairs the federal green-tech funding agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Bonus: He underwrote the successful search for Franklin's sunken ships in the Arctic.
44. Stewart Butterfield, Founder and CEO, Slack Technologies
Butterfield created his first massive disruption as a side hustle. Twice, he'd tried and failed to build a multiplayer online game. Amid the dross of those efforts, in 2004, he spun off some gold in the form of Flickr, the photo-sharing service. When it was sold to Yahoo in 2012, Butterfield began work on a chatty interoffice collaboration tool called Slack. At worst, Slack is an e-mail killer. At best, it becomes the indispensable platform for business. Since 2014, San Francisco-based Slack has raised $522 million (U.S.), giving it a conservative valuation of $4 billion (U.S.).
In the past year, Slack's core product has added video calls and new chat features for its 1.5 million paid users, as it prepares for a challenge from Microsoft's Teams enterprise chat service. It also has the advantage of 900 third-party apps that work with Slack, with 7.5 million downloads so far.
Butterfield (who remains a part-time Vancouver resident) is a loud voice urging Silicon Valley and tech in general to embrace diversity (Slack is only slightly better than the average tech company on racial diversity, but significantly better at making women managers). He's also a long-time supporter of Immigrant Services Society of B.C., and joined with 800 Slack employees across seven offices to sponsor two Syrian refugee families who resettled in Canada. Perhaps it's not that surprising for a guy who was christened Dharma Jeremy Butterfield, and raised on a B.C. commune.
45. Michael McCain | CEO, Maple Leaf Foods
No one batted an eye in 2016 when a man who spent his formative years in a hick town dropped nearly $10 million on one of Toronto's most distinctive homes. McCain, after all, is a scion of the fractious, fabulously rich New Brunswick McCains. Yet, he's never traded on his surname. As CEO of Maple Leaf, he masterminded a $1-billion overhaul of Canada's biggest food processor and is a moral beacon for the business world: When a fatal listeriosis outbreak was linked to Maple Leaf cold cuts in 2008, he personally accepted blame. Last year, McCain announced his company would spend
$10 million to back the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security, calling the problem "a national shame." Demerit: In McCain's juicy 2013 divorce, a judge struck down a marriage contract said to have been imposed by his late father, Wallace.
If you live in the suburbs, few people have had more of an impact on your habitat than Gilgan, the studious accountant who founded Canada's largest home builder. For four decades, Gilgan has set trends: If land is expensive, reduce lot size and build the house closer to the sidewalk. A laundry room is handier on the second floor than in the basement. And why not combine the kitchen and family room, where people actually spend time? Because most of Canada's biggest home builders are privately owned, banks and other large lenders are comfortable letting the principals pursue their visions—especially someone as prescient as Gilgan. Bonus: He's a prolific charitable fundraiser and donor.
Bellegarde is working to ensure Ottawa's commitment to reconciliation actually improves the lives of Canada's most impoverished people. A member of the Cree Nation from Saskatchewan, he represents 860,000 First Nations people on 634 reserves, and in cities across the country. Armed with guarantees based on treaty rights and the Constitution, and experienced in business pragmatism, he wields considerable influence as Indigenous people seek full participation in the country's economic development. Demerit: The AFN is known to undermine leaders who accept too much compromise in the name of deal-making.
Péladeau's influence over Quebecor's media and telecommunications empire was always a matter of debate during his four-year foray into provincial politics. That question can now be put to rest, with the scion back at the helm of his family-controlled company after his resignation as leader of the Parti Québécois. Péladeau has indicated he doesn't plan to make major changes at Quebecor, which is nurturing a growing wireless business. But no one doubts PKP will have his say over any major moves. Aside from fundamental business concerns—such as eventually eliminating the holding-company structure and selling unused licences for wireless airwaves—Quebeckers and hockey fans across the country will keep an eye on his ambition to land an NHL team for Quebec City. Demerit: Péladeau's personal life can be, ahem, volatile.
His leadership role on the panel that set Alberta's ambitious climate plan in motion has thrust the economics professor into the limelight. A prolific tweeter and commentator on climate policy, Leach is out front in the social media battle over the province's controversial carbon tax. He's attracted the ire of Alberta PC party Leader
Jason Kenney and irked some energy producers struggling with low crude prices by telling The New York Times that for much of the industry, "the carbon price is really a rounding error." Bonus: Aside from Premier Rachel Notley, no one has spent more time evangelizing the end of coal-fired power or defending the carbon levy.
This list was compiled by a panel of The Globe and Mail and Report on Business magazine's most experienced writers and editors.
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