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The institute, which is non-partisan, regularly criticizes governments of all stripes on issues such as high taxes. As a result, it's been the butt of many a barb. For instance, former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Clyde Wells called the institute "the intellectual wing of the KKK."

Nevertheless, Mr. Clemens shrugs off jibes and says that many of the institute's proposals have been implemented over the years.

"We're seeing improvements in almost all of the areas we actively engage: taxes, the size of government, entrepreneurship, health care, and education," Mr. Clemens says. "That's not to say we don't need more improvement. But we are moving in the right direction."

Steven Douglas, 38

Executive vice-president and CFO, Falconbridge Ltd., Toronto


As the financial point man who co-ordinated the recent massive Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Corp. merger, creating the largest base metals mining company in North America and the fifth largest in the world, Steven Douglas doesn't look like the sort who'd need much mentoring from minds better than his.

But he'd be the first to disagree.

"You can never stop self-assessing your work," he says. "You've got to be continually getting feedback from your colleagues and being brutally honest with yourself about what you need to improve."

Even the most prime athlete is never without a good coach, and Mr. Douglas relies on his teammates to keep him on track. "You can't lose yourself or hide behind titles and responsibilities," he says. "You have to have the ability to open your ears and listen."

As CFO of Brookfield Properties Corp. of Toronto, Canada's largest publicly traded real estate company, from 1996 to 2003, he saw the company's asset base grow from $4-billion to more than $12-billion. He steered the company onto the New York Stock Exchange in 1999 and saw total shareholder returns increase 30 per cent compounded annually during his tenure.

He joined Noranda Inc. in time to lead a team initiative to refinance bank credit agreements following the merger of Noranda and Falconbridge, acquiring $780-million (U.S.) in bank credit facilities to fund future growth and placing the restructured mining organization in a position to be acquired by Inco.

The key to his industry is riding out economic cycles, Mr. Douglas says. "It's vital that we not forget [economic]history in what we do. Anybody who thinks they can wave a magic wand and make business cycles disappear" probably won't be around for the next one.

What does he find most rewarding about his career?

"As corny as it sounds, it's really more fulfilling to see people around you succeed with you," he says. "Nothing you can really achieve is without support from others."

Isabelle Hudon, 39 President and CEO, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal


The largest chamber of commerce in the country hardly knew what hit it when Isabelle Hudon blew in as communications director in January, 2002, hardly three years before being handed the entire shop.

Hopscotching from communication roles in the Mulroney government to a fast series of private-sector posts, the telegenic tempest brought a new unorthodoxy to the 180-year-old Montreal Board of Trade: Montreal was as important to business as business was to Montreal.

"There is no good economic development without a good social climate," says Ms. Hudon, who reached out to academe and the arts while creating a fast makeover in the board's image, not least by lending it her image.

Separate English and French boards of trade had finally merged in Montreal in 1993, and even allophones were appearing among the roughly 7,000 members. But the contemporary-minded Ms. Hudon was far from sure the Board looked like home when it first called.

"Nothing sounded like me," she declares. "I had an image of not a very jazzy place."

Still, having snagged PR management roles at Bell Global Solutions, the Canadian Space Agency, Bombardier Aerospace and BCE Media in a period of less than three years after a brief executive assistant stint with Mila Mulroney, Ms. Hudon didn't sweat the move.

"In all the jobs I had, I reacted very quickly, love the job or not love the job. I did not ask too many questions."

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