2021 Ontario Budget Highlights

2021 Ontario Budget Highlights

On March 24, 2021, the Government of Ontario released its 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy. Budget 2021 contains measures to protect against the immediate impacts of the pandemic on the hardest-hit sectors and communities while laying the groundwork for an inclusive economic recovery, bringing Ontario’s COVID-19 action plan to $51 billion in total support over four years. The following is a summary of highlights from the perspective of Ontario’s business community.

Read the OCC’s response here.


The Province is investing in new programs to support Ontario’s tourism industry: The Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant ($100 million) will provide one-time payments between $10,000 and $20,000 for small tourism businesses that have experienced a minimum decline in revenue of 20 percent. Examples include hotels, travel agencies, amusement and water parks, and camps. Additionally, the Tourism Recovery Program ($100 million) will help historically successful tourism operators, anchor businesses, and attractions that have helped to drive employment and visitation in their regions by assisting with costs related to restructuring, safe reopening, recalibrated marketing activities, and partnership development.

OCC analysis: Tourism is vital to regional economies across Ontario. Businesses and workers in the sector were among those most impacted by the pandemic. This new funding – combined with the tourism tax credit announced in the 2020 Budget – will support organizations that have not been eligible for other supports and help facilitate the industry’s revival post-pandemic.


Budget 2021 builds on many of the programs announced in 2020. The Province is doubling its investment in the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, for a total investment of $3.4 billion to support approximately 120,000 small businesses. Eligible businesses will receive an automatic top-up for this second round. Additionally, Ontario is investing another $10 million towards its Digital Main Street program.

OCC analysis: Small businesses are facing unprecedented cash flow challenges, forcing many to close and others to restructure. The OCC is pleased to see an expansion of successful grant programs. These measures will help thousands of small employers confront the health crisis and keep their workers employed. Using an automatic top-up will provide immediate relief and minimize the administrative burden on both businesses and government.


Budget 2021 commits an additional $1.8 billion to the hospital sector in 2021-2022, as well as an additional $175 million in 2021-2022 to support mental health and addiction services.

OCC analysis: The OCC welcomes these significant investments to support Ontarians and patients. As discussed in the OCC’s report, Realizing the Full Potential of Virtual Care, the pandemic coupled with the public health measures that were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus (e.g., physical distancing), significantly impacted mental health, prompting advocates to warn of a potential “echo pandemic” of mental health problems in the future. This summer, the OCC will release a Mental Wellness in the Workplace Toolkit, which will include recent data and resources Ontario businesses and employers can use to support mental wellness in their workplaces.


In Budget 2021, the province will extend funding to 2022-2023 for several critical programs, specifically the VQA Wine Support Program (an additional $7.5 million) and the Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program (for a total of $2.6 million).

OCC analysis: Ontario’s beverage alcohol industry has been acutely impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, many local wineries and cideries across the province depend on local, international, and agri-food tourism. These local producers help support regional economies, adjacent sectors, and local jobs. While these supports are much welcome, the OCC encourages the Province to consider other recommendations outlined in our report, Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario.


Budget 2021 commits $10 million in 2021-2022 for a one-year expansion to the Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program, which aims to help farm businesses implement occupational health and safety measures to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.

OCC analysis: The OCC welcomes the expansion of this program to help farm businesses with increased costs associated with the introduction of critical safety measures during the pandemic. On April 12, the OCC will be releasing a policy brief entitled Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain in Ontario. The brief examines the impact COVID-19 has had on Ontario’s food supply chain, specifically farmers and local producers, and steps the province can take to ensure the agri-food sector is better positioned to handle future disruptions.


The Minister of Finance and the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues will establish a task force on inclusive economic growth to inform recovery efforts. To support parents, the government is proposing a 20 percent top-up of the CARE tax credit for 2021, which would increase the average amount from $1,250 to $1,500 per family, at a cost of approximately $75 million. Ontario is also providing a third round of payments through the Ontario COVID‐19 Child Benefit, doubling payments to $400 per child for this round and $500 for each child with special needs. Finally, the Budget invests an additional $2.1 million over three years to assist survivors of domestic violence and other heinous crimes like human trafficking.

OCC analysis: The OCC appreciates these new measures, as women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Investing in child care, advancing inclusive economic growth, and fighting gender-based violence are important steps to women’s economic empowerment. Budget 2021 delivers many of the measures we called for in our recent report, The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario.


Ontario is investing an additional $2.8 billion to expand broadband access, bringing the Province’s total investment to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning in 2019–20. An additional $61 million is being allocated to the Regional Opportunities Tax Credit and another $50 million to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Further, the government is further extending the pause on property tax reassessments for municipalities.

OCC analysis: The OCC is encouraged by the new measures to support local communities in Budget 2021, particularly as the pandemic has widened regional disparities. The need for reliable broadband access has only become more essential to the well-being and competitiveness of communities. Additional resources towards the Regional Opportunities Tax Credit and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation will enable rural and northern communities to invest in projects that create local jobs and economic growth. Pausing the property tax reassessment gives municipalities and businesses more capacity and time to adjust to the economic uncertainty and challenges caused by the pandemic.


Budget 2021 proposes a new temporary Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit which would provide support for 50 percent of eligible expenses (up to $2,000) in 2021 for a total projected cost of $260 million over two years. Similar to the Canada Training Credit, eligible expenses include fees for occupational skills courses, trade or professional exams, and postsecondary education courses.

OCC analysis: Amidst rapidly shifting labour market conditions, the OCC has underscored the importance of demand-driven skills programs that help Ontarians get the skills and training they need. Reskilling will be essential to the rapid re-employment of workers that have been displaced throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The government’s proposed tax credit is estimated to help approximately 230,000 Ontarians adapt to a quickly changing labour market.


Budget 2021 contains several other measures to help lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery. The Province is supporting the Invest Ontario Fund ($400 million over four years) to encourage business spending in the key sectors of advanced manufacturing, technology, and life sciences. Ontario is also investing $56.4 million over the next four years to create the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN). OVIN will build on successful elements of the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) to accelerate the development of next-generation electric, connected, and autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies. Finally, the government is expanding the Ontario Together Fund with an additional $50 million in 2021-22 to help manufacturers retool their operations to produce personal protective equipment and develop technology‐driven solutions and services for business to reopen safely.

OCC analysis: Programs that build on Ontario’s competitive advantages in high-growth sectors will help position our economy for long-term growth and job creation. In addition to the OVIN initiative, the OCC encourages the Province to consider the recommendations outlined in our report, Moving Forward Towards a Strategic Approach for Ontario’s Transportation Needs, to ensure Ontario maintains its leadership in AV technology.


Given the provincial government’s continued spending on healthcare and grants as a means for surviving the pandemic, Budget 2021 includes a number of time-limited COVID-19 spending amounting to more than $100 billion in new debt and deficits. Overall, the province is projecting to see a slight decline in the deficit from $38.5 billion in 2020-21 to $33.1 billion in 2021-22. This includes a decline in overall spending by around $4 billion relative to last year. Although the deficit is expected to gradually decline in the medium to long term, a surplus is not anticipated until at least 2029-30 under a medium-growth scenario and a return to the pre-pandemic deficit of around $10 billion is not expected until 2027-28.

OCC analysis: Given the record level deficit, it is important for the province to have a debt management plan in place and a path to fiscal balance. The continued challenges of COVID-19 have necessitated significant government spending in order to support businesses and individuals across sectors and regions. While support for those in hardest-hit sectors should remain a priority, policies to improve the cost-efficiency of Ontario’s public sector should be explored. The OCC encourages the government to adopt value-based procurement reforms and alternative service delivery, digitize government, reduce administrative burdens, pursue lost revenue from untaxed economic activity, and adopt a formal policy on asset recycling. These measures will improve value for public spending, encourage innovation, and support small businesses.


As outlined above, the 2021 Ontario Budget includes a number of major commitments and funding for the hardest-hit sectors and communities, as well as much needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic. However, given the government has recognized modernization of government services and regulatory innovation as priorities, there are certain measures well within the government’s purview that could help further improve the economic backdrop at little to no cost. These include:

  • Being bold on interprovincial trade. Ontario should act swiftly to eliminate major interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility. The Government of Ontario should also continue supporting the work of the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table established under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement.
  • Using regulatory modernization to support economic recovery. Temporary regulatory improvements introduced during the pandemic should be made permanent to support economic growth. For example, legal cannabis retailers have been temporarily allowed to engage in e-commerce and offer delivery and curbside pickup options while under lockdown. The Government of Ontario should support the growth of this emerging sector by making online delivery and curbside pick-up options permanent for privately-owned legal cannabis retailers.

For more details please refer to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s pre-budget submission


Read the Ontario Budget here.

City of Burlington and Team Burlington calling for increased supports for restaurants and hospitality industry

City of Burlington and Team Burlington calling for increased supports for restaurants and hospitality industry

Burlington, Ont. – March 19, 2021 – On March 3rd, 2021, the City of Burlington City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Federal and Provincial government to support the survival of restaurants and the hospitality industry through the introduction of new measures and supports. It has been recognized over the course of the pandemic that the impacts and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic vary greatly by economic sector.

The hospitality industry, including restaurants, continues to suffer the greatest negative impacts from the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and will face the most significant barriers for long-term recovery. The latest data from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) shows that the hospitality industry will take 8+ years to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and businesses in this sector require specific short and long-term supports to remain viable.

During the stay-at-home order that began on December 26, 2020, all restaurants in Ontario were required to close in-person dining. In Burlington, this closure lasted seven weeks until Halton and Burlington were moved to the Red/Control Level Restrictions under the Provincial COVID-19 Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. Under the Red/Control Level, restaurants are restricted to a hard cap of 10 dine-in customers regardless of square footage. In Burlington, the feedback from the community continues to be that a hard cap does not make opening their business viable for most restaurants.

The resolution was passed, in partnership with the Burlington Economic Recovery Network (BERN) and Team Burlington, with the support and feedback of the Burlington Restaurant Association (BRA) calling on the Federal and Provincial governments to:

  • Address the key fixed costs facing the restaurant industry while they face steep revenue declines including the following actions:
  • Expand small business relief measures including the Small Business Relief Grant and Property Tax and Energy Cost Rebates to the hardest hit sectors, including restaurants, beyond the period when they are placed under grey/lockdown level.
  • Provide wholesale pricing from the LCBO to restaurants to help increase margins on alcohol sales.
  • Investigate and potentially legislate for the significant increases that restaurants and other businesses have seen in insurance premiums (up to 30%) despite no significant changes to the risks that are being insured.
  • Provide clear evidence and actions as to why restaurants need hard caps and closures when other consumer facing business types are able to remain open with caps based on building capacity.
  • Provide supports and guidance to the restaurant industry and the public to increase consumer confidence and make it clear what is permitted/safe to do for residents and consumers to support the local restaurant industry while ensuring we stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Develop a long-term strategy of a minimum of three (3) and up to five+ (5+) years that outlines what recovery is expected to look like for the Hospitality industry and long-term supports of one+ (1+) years that will be available to the industry to support their long-term survival and recovery.

The resolution was developed in partnership with the Burlington Economic Recovery Network (BERN) and Team Burlington, which includes representatives from Tourism Burlington, Burlington Economic Development, Burlington Chamber of Commerce and two business improvement areas – Aldershot Village BIA and the Burlington Downtown Business Association. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith sit on the BERN.

The Burlington Restaurant Association was formed in 2010 as a membership-based organization with a goal to be the coordinated voice of restaurants and bars in the City of Burlington. The organization maintains a reputation as a respected advocacy group for the industry and continue to advocate on their behalf.

The Chair of BERN Randall Smallbone and Mayor Meed Ward co-signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford including a copy of this resolution calling for the introduction of critical supports for the hospitality industry.

A similar resolution was also brought forward by Mayor Meed Ward at the Ontario Big City Mayor’s (OBCM) caucus meeting on March 19, 2021. The OBCM resolution echoed the supports called for in the Burlington resolution and was passed, therefore strengthening the call to the Provincial and Federal governments to do more to support restaurants and the hospitality industry.

Formerly known as the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario, the OBCM includes mayors of 29 single and lower-tier cities with a population of 100,000 or more, who collectively represent nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s population. OBCM advocates for issues and policies important to Ontario’s largest cities.

The City of Burlington’s fundamental priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect the health and safety of Burlington residents, employers and employees, and support our business community to survive the economic impacts of COVID-19 public health measures.

Team Burlington and BERN continue to listen to the business community to ensure the Burlington business community is receiving the appropriate support to navigate the pandemic and prepare for long-term economic recovery. To learn more about Team Burlington programming, resources and support, as well as previous advocacy work led by the Burlington Economic Recovery Network, visit http://investburlington.ca/covid19.


Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

“Partnership has been the key word with our local hospitality sector during this pandemic. Burlington City Council has heard their feedback and, working alongside BERN and Team Burlington, united our voices to call for additional restaurant and hospitality supports from our upper levels of government. We’ve seen how crucial funding has been in ensuring the local spots we love and that make our community what it is, will be there for us when this pandemic subsides. I continue to thank BERN for its exceptional work in advocacy and support of our local hospitality businesses.”

Randall Smallbone, Chair of the Burlington Economic Recovery Network

“The service sector and especially the restaurant industry has been the hardest hit during this Pandemic period. The 10 person per establishment just does not make sense for most restaurant establishments. I have supported several restaurants since the stay at home has been lifted. The majority that I have visited have enough square footage to allow the safe enjoyment of a meal. Many restaurant employees work at lower wage scales and depend on tips to make ends meet. In addition, there are a lot of restaurants owned by families, chefs with creative passion and entrepreneurs. Let us do what we can to help these people.”

Craig Kowalchuk, President of the Burlington Restaurant Association

“We would like to thank BERN for its continued leadership and resources for the businesses and the hospitality community in our city. BERN’s recent resolutions have amplified the voice of the hospitality sector but we must continue the work to turn these resolutions into actionable results that will support the survival and recovery of our industry. We need to be looking at a 36-month plan for proper recovery as many of the supports so far are deferrals.”


Claire Green
Manager, Marketing and Attraction
Burlington Economic Development

We’re Hiring! Manager, Membership Development

We’re Hiring! Manager, Membership Development

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce (BCC) provides value to its members through active advocacy, connecting leaders and creating opportunity. The Chamber is the voice of business in Burlington and advocates at the local, regional, provincial and federal levels on behalf of 900 companies representing 30,000 employees.

For more than 70 years, the BCC has been the trusted advocate and tireless champion for local businesses. With a long-standing reputation for excellence and leadership, BCC continually generates opportunities to connect people by bringing life to business. Doing so provides a vehicle for success for its members and the future of Burlington’s business community. The Burlington Chamber of Commerce seeks an experienced individual for the position of Manager, Membership Development.

Preferred candidates will have demonstrated experience in developing business solutions, revenue generating strategy, managing client accounts, leading value-added customer experiences and relationship building.

The selected candidate will work with our highly dedicated, professional staff and volunteer base and have a strong business acumen, excellent communication skills and an engaging interpersonal style in order to carry out the strategic objectives of the BCC.

Review the Manager, Membership Development position.

Expressions of interest including resumes and covering letters will be accepted until March 19, 2021, at 11:59 p.m., and should be sent confidentially to info@burlingtonchamber.com.

Information provided by or about candidates for these positions will be used only for candidate selection. We thank each applicant for taking the time and effort to respond; however only candidates to be interviewed will be contacted.

City of Burlington and Team Burlington calling for renewed funding to support future proofing and digital adoption for local business

City of Burlington and Team Burlington calling for renewed funding to support future proofing and digital adoption for local business

Burlington, Ont. — Feb. 22, 2021 — On February 3, 2021 Burlington City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Federal government to renew funding for the Digital Main Street (DMS) Future Proof program. Current funding for the DMS Future Proof program ends in February 2021. Burlington’s small business community continues to face barriers to technology adoption and a lack of resources to implement necessary technologies to remain competitive given the impacts of COVID-19.

Burlington welcomed the development of the DMS Future Proof Program in 2020 to support local businesses as they transformed their business model in light of the impacts of the pandemic and the acceleration of digital sales and servicing.  The need for digital transformation of business models is not just in local retail and main street business sectors but also in manufacturing and more traditional industries.  The expansion of the Digital Main Street (DMS) program in 2020 to include the DMS Future Proof components DMS Labs, Transformation Teams and Community Collaboration projects administered through the Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) has been a critical support in helping businesses adopt new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution was developed in partnership with the Burlington Economic Recovery Network (BERN) and Team Burlington, which includes representatives from Tourism Burlington, Burlington Economic Development, Burlington Chamber of Commerce and two business improvement areas – Aldershot Village BIA and the Burlington Downtown Business Association. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith sit on the BERN. Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith and Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna have both being longtime business owners in Burlington and Councillor Bentivegna also has a long history in the hospitality industry.

Haltech Regional Innovation Centre provides entrepreneurial education, advisory services and strategic connections to technology start-up and scale-up companies in Halton Region. Since its inception, Haltech has worked with over 800 technology and innovation companies. In its last fiscal year, clients of Haltech generated over $63 million dollars of revenue, created 428 jobs, and raised $21.5M in capital.

The Chair of BERN Randall Smallbone, Chair of Haltech Regional Innovation Centre Jamie Barron and Mayor Meed Ward co-signed a letter to Federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly including a copy of the resolution calling for this critical DMS Future Proof program funding during COVID-19.

The Burlington and Halton Region business community have been leaders in the DMS Future Proof program including:

The City of Burlington’s fundamental priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect the health and safety of Burlington residents, employers and employees, and support our business community to survive the economic impacts of COVID-19 public health measures.

Burlington is ranked as Canada’s best community and best place to raise a family. It is a City where people, nature and businesses thrive. As residents continue to rediscover many of their favourite spaces and activities in the city, City services may look different as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19. The City’s commitment to providing the community with essential services remains a priority. Sign up to learn more about Burlington at Burlington.ca/Enews and download the free City of Burlington app. For more information about the Burlington Economic Recovery Network, visit https://www.burlingtonchamber.com/bern/.


Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

“We’ve seen firsthand how critical the Digital Main Street program has been in helping our businesses go digital and adopt new technologies to stay afloat through the COVID-19 storm. Our small business community still faces ongoing barriers to adapting new technology coupled with a lack of resources. Federal and provincial government funding is crucial to keep and expand this important support program. I also want to thank BERN for their exceptional advocacy work on behalf of our local small businesses throughout this pandemic and this latest push for the expansion of the Digital Main Street program.”

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith

“Extending the Digital Main Street Future Proof funding can enable organizations that assist local businesses in their recovery efforts as the economy begins to open again.  These supports are extremely important at this time and into the coming year as many businesses are discovering new ways of doing business through digital technologies.  Assisting businesses through digital transformation of revenue streams can certainly help future proof them from further lockdowns and restrictions from the ongoing pandemic.”

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

“I thank my Council colleagues, Burlington Economic Recovery network (BERN), Team Burlington and Haltech for their continued support of small business. The continuation of this Digital Main Street Future Proof program is vital for small local businesses to survive during these difficult and uncertain times. This program will add a higher level of digital expertise that could be available to businesses in achieving next generation technology.  These new digital techniques will support local businesses during lockdowns and restrictions as well as improve the transformation of their e-commerce, and websites for post Covid.”

Randall Smallbone, Chair of the Burlington Economic Recovery Network

“Now more than ever we need the Federal government to continue to fund the DMS Future Proof program, so that local businesses can have some hope of continuing into the future.  The pandemic is not ending anytime soon and will in all likelihood impact businesses into 2022.”

Jamie Barron, Chair of Haltech Regional Innovation Centre

“Small business is the backbone of the economy and with reopening just starting, our main street businesses need the advantages of technology and the support to reap it’s benefits now more than ever. With extended funding, our local businesses will be in a position to fully embrace the DMS Future Proof opportunities to overcome the barriers to technology adoption and accelerate recovery.”


BERN resolution to Burlington City Council

BERN letter to Federal government

COVID-19 Links and Resources

Media Contact

Suzanne Vukosavljevic
Manager of Communications
Office: 905-335-7600, ext. 7841


Wonder Women Conference 2.0

Wonder Women Conference 2.0

Thursday, March 11, 2021 | 8:30 am – 2:00 pm

After a very successful and sold-out event in 2020, we are thrilled to share that we will be hosting the virtual Wonder Wonder Women Conference 2.0 presented by RBC! This year, we are featuring Wonder Women who will share insights on leading through disruption, resilience and rising, how great organizations empower women and information about the SHE-Covery movement. 

This is an important personal and professional development opportunity not to be missed! We encourage Wonder Women across all industries and the Super Heroes who support them to join us for this powerful and informative conference.

Wonder Women 2.0 Emcee

Carla Y. Nell

President & CEO, Burlington Chamber of Commerce

Carla Y. Nell has more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and is widely known for her transformational and collaborative leadership style. 

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Prior to taking on her role with the Chamber in July of 2019, she recently served as the Vice-President, Municipal and Stakeholder Relations at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). Throughout her career, she has also gained extensive experience as principal of a professional services consulting firm, has served as a trusted strategic advisor on complex issues to a diverse range of clients, stakeholders and organizations, and was previously a part-time professor at Seneca College in the Faculty of Business. She holds numerous degrees and professional designations and is a sought after contributor and speaker by organizations and associations serving both the private and public sectors with provincial, national and international profile. Carla is a highly regarded thought leader whose commitment to customers and partnerships is a signature of her leadership.

Keynote Speaker

In this inspiring, engaging and at times deeply personal presentation celebrating International Women’s Day, Dr. Samantha Nutt – medical doctor, best-selling author and Founder of War Child Canada – will reflect on the progress women have made in the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and why investing in women’s leadership remains a critical global priority.

Dr. Samantha Nutt, MD, MSc, CCFP, FRCPC, C.M.

Founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA

Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author and acclaimed public speaker.  A medical doctor and the founder of the renowned humanitarian organizations War Child Canada and War Child USA.

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 Dr. Nutt has worked with children and their families at the frontline of many of the world’s major crises – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan. A leading authority on current affairs, war, international aid and foreign policy, Dr Nutt is one of the most intrepid and recognized voices in the humanitarian arena, and is a highly sought-after public speaker in North America.  With a career that has spanned more than two decades and dozens of conflict zones, her international work has benefited millions of war-affected children globally.

Dr. Nutt is a respected authority for many of North America’s leading media outlets.  She is a regular foreign affairs panelist on the acclaimed news program, CBC TV NEWS “The National”, as well as a regular contributor to Now This News.   Nutt’s written work has been published by TED Ideas,  The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The National Post, Maclean’s Magazine, Reuters, The Ottawa Citizen and The Huffington Post, amongst others, and she has appeared in Town & Country Magazine, Time Magazine, Epoch Times (New York), Chatelaine Magazine,  More Magazine and on NBC Nightly News, BBC World News Service,  America’s Radio News Network, CTV Power Play, NPR, CTV National News, Global TV News,  and CBC Radio, to name just a few. In November 2015, Dr. Nutt spoke at the Ted Talks Live “War & Peace” event at The Town Hall Theater in New York City, which aired on PBS the following year. Dr. Nutt’s TED Talk on the complex issues surrounding conflict and the deadly impact of small arms, which garnered over one million views in just six months, can be viewed on TED.com

Dr. Nutt’s critically-acclaimed debut book, entitled Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid, was released by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. (a division of Random House) in October 2011 and was a #1 national bestseller in both hardcover and paperback.  Lewis Lapham declared it a “brave and necessary book”, while the Literary Review of Canada called it a “brilliant polemic.”  Damned Nations is a bracing and uncompromising account of Dr. Nutt’s work in some of the most devastated regions of the world. A new edition of Damned Nations was released on November 6, 2018 in Canada and the USA and includes a new 6000 word introduction covering recent events,  as well as statistical updates throughout the core text.

Dr. Nutt was named one of Canada’s 25 Transformational Canadians by The Globe and Mail, and has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.  Time Magazine has featured her as one of Canada’s Five Leading Activists.   In July 2011, Dr. Nutt was appointed to the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, for her contributions to improving the plight of young people in the world’s worst conflict zones.

Samantha Nutt graduated summa cum laude from McMaster University, earned an M.Sc in Public Health with distinction from the University of London and holds a Fellowship in Community Medicine (FRCPC) from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.  She is further certified by the College of Family Practice and completed a sub specialization in women’s health through the University of Toronto as a Women’s Health Scholar.  Dr. Nutt is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and the U.S.A.

Dr. Nutt is a staff physician at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto.  She is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto and is on the board of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Panel: Blazing the Trail… Women Who Lead

Meet the inspiring women of our trailblazer panel who are leading the way for others to follow. Learn about their successes and be inspired by their courage to break new ground for women in business. Get up close and personal with these leaders celebrating their wins and learning about the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced throughout their careers.

Kenna Danyliw

Burlington Chamber of Commerce 2020 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award Winner
President & CEO and Founding Partner, Danyliw & Mann Professional Corporation

Kenna is the President / CEO and founding partner of Danyliw & Mann, a boutique firm that specializes in providing business management and tax and accounting services to the music industry. 

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 The business started 15 years ago in the spare bedroom of her family’s home while she had two young daughters, a stepson and one very supportive husband. 

Danyliw & Mann has grown out of that bedroom and into one of the leading Canadian firms in the industry and represents several Juno and Grammy award-winning or nominated artists across Canada, the United States and beyond.  Kenna is a CPA, CA who started her career with Coopers & Lybrand and also worked with Laidlaw and Pricewaterhouse Coopers before founding Danyliw & Mann. Kenna and her family are Burlington residents who have lived in the community for 20 years.  Kenna is the Treasurer on the Sarah McLachlan Foundation board, is the former Vice-Chair of the Art Gallery of Burlington Board of Directors, is a new member of the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Women4Change group, is a member of the JR Digs Acoustic Christmas organizing committee, volunteers services for The Avril Lavigne Foundation and was on the board of the Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute and Planned Parenthood Hamilton.

Karen Roche

Fire Chief, The Burlington Fire Department

Karen Roche is the Fire Chief for the City of Burlington Fire Department.  With over 25 years of experience in the fire service, Chief Roche has served in a variety of progressive ranks in two very distinct fire and emergency services (Burlington Fire and Hamilton Fire). 

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This has afforded Karen a thorough understanding of the challenges of managing modern fire services during times of economic, demographic and community risk-based issues, including her role in the Emergency Control Group (ECG) as the alternate Community Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Burlington.

Chief Roche has found success as a fire service leader by demonstrating skills and experiences in Disaster Response and Recovery, Fire Management, Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and Intensive Care Nursing.   This broad and unique background has afforded Chief Roche the ability to be successful in managing a wide range of complex challenges in uncertain environments.

More recently, Chief Roche is representing the Canadian Asscociation of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) on the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Bullying Prevention Task Force that will explore the causes and consequences of bullying, identify promising practices that will reduce incidences of bullying, and craft training opportunities for the fire service to effectively address bullying.

Noting that the City of Burlington is already at the forefront of promoting access, equality, diversity and human rights through innovative policy, programs and services.  Karen is committed to contribute in a meaningful way due to her appointments to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC); International Diversity Executive Leadership Program (iDELP) whereby diversity, inclusion and equity is a significant priority that will significantly improve culture and acceptance within the fire service.

Karen is married to her partner of 20 plus years and is the mother of three (3) adopted siblings (brothers) since they came into their care in 2012.

Maude Léger

Founder, Sold Right Away Inc.

Maude Léger, Founder of Sold Right Away Inc., has been working hard for over 13 years to pursue her passions and help others achieve success.

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 Sold Right Away started with nothing, no capital investment, no help, just Maude and her passion for business growth and marketing. Maude’s passion and care to truly help Realtors grow their business are what made Sold Right Away successful. 

Determined to constantly service Realtors’ needs and being proud to see them grow their business, Realtors become long term clients of Sold Right Away. 

Sold Right Away has grown tremendously in the past few years. From one Realtor client to over 500 today and showing a steady growth from 2008 to 2021. With consistency, we have proven that we have stable procedures and systems in place to sustain growth. We also have the creative minds to adapt to ever changing markets, trends and demands, from the 2008 recession to market growth and expansion and as well during the pandemic.

Maude Leger is heavily involved in the Burlington Chamber of Commerce and has built relationships with numerous entrepreneurs, business owners and city stakeholders over the past 13 years. Maude is also contributing as Chair on the Board of Directors for 2020-2021.

Award winner as the Small Business of the Year in 2011 and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 from The Burlington Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards recognizing overall success and excellence of local area businesses.

Melissa Pollard

Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters

Melissa recently accepted the challenge of leading one of the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in the country – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Halton and Hamilton.

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With a background in Business and Economics, Melissa has over 13 years of experience working progressively in both the private and public sector. Her most recent experience includes working for a waste and commodity start-up and six years with Activa, where she led the business analysis and strategic project team. Before, joining Big Brothers Big Sisters of Halton and Hamilton, Melissa spent 2 years as the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grand Erie.

Melissa is highly regarded for her passion for innovation, technology and the ability to constantly move forward and embrace change. Her vision for strategic alliances will serve her well as Melissa reintroduces Big Brothers Big Sisters to the community with a collaborative and inclusive direction. Building on the agency’s 100-year-old history of mentoring, Melissa approaches Big Brothers Big Sisters with fresh ideas to better prepare our community’s children for future success. Melissa knows firsthand, the transformative power of mentoring, not only as a leader within the Big Brothers Big Sisters, former Board member but also as a mentor of Mitchell for 10 years.

Panel: How Great Organizations Empower Women

A recent KPMG study found that 67% of women reported they had learned the most important lessons about leadership from other women, and 91% of working women indicated that it is important to them to be a positive role model for younger female colleagues in the workplace. In this interactive panel discussion, you’ll hear from the women in business who are building and advancing the careers of women in their organizations. Take note of how they have fostered an inclusive culture, and how you can apply their learnings to your role and organization.

Salima Tajani

Community Manager, Oakville North & Halton, RBC

Salima Tajani has been with RBC for more than 30 years where she has held various roles across the organization including retail branch management, regional coaching and sales effectiveness.

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Salima is currently Community Manager for RBC’s Oakville North & Halton markets where she leads a team of high-performing managers and advisors. Salima holds a Financial Management Diploma from Niagara College.

Salima and her husband, Aniz, live in Burlington with their two sons. In her spare time, Salima enjoys gardening, painting and playing chess.

Chantel Broten

President & CEO, Jan Kelley

Chantel Broten leads Jan Kelley, an award-winning creative digital agency dedicated to helping businesses grow. The company philosophy brings together the power of technology and the brilliance of humanity to spark ideas, generate momentum and drive lasting results.

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 A career marketer, Chantel has spearheaded the development of brand and marketing programs for over 200 B2B, B2C and Not-For-Profit organizations – including GO Transit, riterate.ca, Sobeys, Canadian Blood Services, Export Development Canada (EDC), Petro-Canada, Rockwool and Reliance Home Comfort to name a few.  She believes that brands are built from the inside out – and it all starts with purpose, vision, values and culture. Chantel and her leadership team are dedicated to building a company culture that attracts and retains top talent, and drives company performance.  This includes taking a ‘whole person approach’ to talent development.  In 2018, Jan Kelley was proud to be named one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures.

Julie Cole

Co-Founder & Senior Director of Public Affairs, Mabel’s Labels

Julie Cole is a recovered lawyer, mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless awards.

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 Cole is a passionate entrepreneur, published author, and sought after speaker. Julie is no stranger to the media, having appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, HLN’s Raising America, Breakfast Television, The Marilyn Denis Show, CP24, among many others. As a blogger and writer, her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, Profit Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, Chicken Soup For the Soul – Power Moms and numerous websites.

When she’s not juggling her busy family and professional life, Julie is an engaged community member serving on boards and volunteering. She is passionate about women’s issues, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and social justice.

Michael Capron

Director of Human Resources, Bosch Rexroth Canada

Michael Capron is the Director of HR for Robert Bosch Canada. Robert Bosch is a Global organization with over 300,000 associates worldwide.  In his current capacity, he provides both HR Governance and Leadership across a wide spectrum of Bosch Business Groups.

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 Bosch organizations in Canada include appliances, power tools, automotive, research and development in addition to the Drive and Control entity, Bosch Rexroth, located in Burlington.

Michael brings 35 years of Human Resources experience in addition to participation on varied local boards including Habitat for Humanity in Niagara. In addition to his HR background Michael held the role of General Manager Canada for Red D Arc Welder Rentals.

Michael remains a champion for Diversity and Inclusion within the Bosch Organization in Canada.



Carolyn Swora

Workplace Culture Architect, Author, Speaker

Carolyn is on a mission to shift our workplaces from transactional jobs to places where people can grow, transform and thrive while feeling energized, inspired and motivated to do their best work.

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She designed Purposeful Workplace Experiences (PWE) to empower individuals and teams to transform workplace culture by becoming change agents and driving culture from the bottom up.

As a Workplace Culture Architect, Carolyn works with business leaders who place their people at the core of business success to create organizational systems and practices that are people-centred, forward-thinking and prepared for demanding and challenging business climates.

Carolyn is the owner of Pinnacle Culture and has a 25-year track record helping organizations enhance the employee experience and evolve their workplace culture. She has worked with clients across various industries, ranging from small businesses to large corporations, and as a Senior Business Leader in the pharmaceutical industry leading teams through significant change.Her real-life experience is bolstered by her love of learning. She has a Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Adler University in Chicago, a Human Resource Management Diploma from Sheridan College, a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Kinesiology from McMaster. She is also proud to be part of a global team of independent Certified Dare to Lead Facilitators who are trained and certified to bring the Dare to Lead™ research by Brené Brown to organizations.

Her podcast PWE & ME, now in its fourth season, is designed to inspire people at all organizational levels to create purposeful workplace experiences and close the gap between what people say should happen to transform the workplace and what is actually happening. She is also the author of Amazon best-seller Rules of Engagement: Building a workplace culture to thrive in an uncertain world.

Lunch Break & Resiliency Speaker

Take a wellness break with Dr. Taslim Alani-Verjee who will share tested strategies to build resiliency and our inner Wonder Woman strength.

Dr. Taslim Alani-Verjee

Founder, Silm Centre for Mental Health

Dr. Taslim Alani-Verjee is a Clinical Psychologist living and working in Toronto, Canada. She is the Founder and Director of Silm Centre for Mental Health, a community-based and social justice-oriented practice

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 that seeks to make mental health awareness and services more accessible to the communities with whom she and her team work.

Dr. Taslim has offered many trainings and workshops related to well-being, including self-care and burnout, noticing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and diversity, inclusion and anti-oppression training. She also teaches regularly at Lakehead University, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, and Adler Graduate Professional School.

Dr. Taslim has her PhD and Masters in Clinical Psychology from Lakehead University, and her Masters in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University.


Panel: The SHE-Covery Movement

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) reports that the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been immediate, acute, and disproportionately borne by women. Several economists have accordingly dubbed the crisis a “she-cession”. In fact, a recent RBC study found that the women’s labour force participation rate has fallen to its lowest level in thirty years. For the OCC and its members such as the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, the business case is simple: Diversity and inclusion are a precondition to Ontario’s recovery and economic prosperity. Meet the author of the report published by the OCC, The SHE-COVERY PROJECT Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19  and then discuss its findings with a superstar line-up of speakers and learn the issues confronting us as a community and what we need to do to turn the tides.

The Honourable Karina Gould

Member of Parliament Burlington, Minister of International Development

The Honourable Karina Gould was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015. A graduate of McGill University and the University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about public service and international development. 

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 Before her election as the Member of Parliament for Burlington, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto, a consultant for the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., and spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.

Minister Gould has deep roots in her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and is an active member of the community and an advocate for women’s issues and affordable housing. She has volunteered with and actively supports the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, the Burlington chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Mississauga Furniture Bank, Halton Women’s Place, and other local organizations.

Minister Gould lives in Burlington with her husband Alberto and son Oliver.

With the birth of Oliver, Minister Gould became the first federal cabinet minister to have a baby while holding office. She is passionate about breaking down barriers for women, youth, and underrepresented groups.

Rocco Rossi

President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

A successful entrepreneur and business executive, champion fundraiser, and dedicated public servant, Rocco Rossi joined the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in 2018 as President and CEO.

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Prior to joining the OCC, Rossi most recently served as President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada where he helped to advance the research, advocacy, education and awareness of the most common cancer in men.

Mr. Rossi also served as CEO of Heart and Stroke Foundation – one of Canada’s largest non-profit organizations – overseeing consecutive years of record fundraising combining for over $600 million in total and launching many new, life-saving initiatives.

His passion for public policy has led him to stand for election both for the position of Mayor of Toronto and for MPP.

Mr. Rossi has held senior positions at the Boston Consulting Group, TORSTAR, Labatt/Interbrew and MGI Software. He is a graduate of McGill and Princeton.

Rossi currently serves as a member of the Board and Audit Committee of TerraVest Industries. A past board member of United Way of Greater Toronto and other charities, Mr. Rossi has been an active community builder. In fact, in 2012 he was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for his Philanthropic and Community service.

A dedicated adventurer, Rocco has walked the legendary Camino de Santiago several times, cycled the 1900 km length of Yonge Street from Rainy River to Toronto, kayaked the 500 km from Toronto to Ottawa, and climbed to Everest Base Camp.

Mr. Rossi has a BA (Hons) in political science from McGill University and a Masters of Arts in politics from Princeton University. He is married to his wife of 30-years, Rhonnie, and they have a 28-year-old son, Domenic John, who is a teacher.

Claudia Dessanti

Senior Policy Advisor, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Claudia Dessanti is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), where she founded and co-chairs the Energy Policy Council and supports businesses with policy issues related to environment, energy, regional economic development, data, housing, and more. 

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Prior to joining the OCC in 2018, Claudia researched mortgage markets for National Bank Financial and measured social impact for Charity Intelligence. She has a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford and a BA from the University of Toronto.

Denise Christopherson

Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Hamilton

Denise Christopherson is a skilled and respected advocate whose passion for social justice, equity and inclusion have greatly contributed to the goal of equality for women and girls in our community and beyond.

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 Denise’s commitment to marginalized and vulnerable women and their families is evidenced by all she does.  As the CEO of YWCA Hamilton, Denise is a dynamic leader who builds relationships within the non-profit sector and the broader community.

Denise is an active volunteer in the Hamilton and Halton community.  Her lifelong commitment to women’s equality and gender equity has earned her a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Agnes Macphail Award. Denise has also been recognized by Mohawk College as a Distinguished Fellow, representing the highest honour that Mohawk College bestows on individuals in their field.

Endnote: The Candy (Palmater) Show

Get ready to close out your conference experience with a profoundly powerful and rare presentation from comedian, recovered lawyer and broadcaster, Candy Palmater. Candy tells her personal story of love, kindness and acceptance through humor and reflection. Laugh and cry in this presentation and let Candy leave you with a different perspective of our world, and a feeling of empowerment as to how you can change the workplace and the world.

Candy Palmater

Creator and Star of The Candy Show

Candy is a recovered lawyer turned feminist comic. She is an, actor, writer, columnist, international speaker, activist, comedian and multiple award-winning TV and radio personality, and has executive produced three films on Mi’kmaw culture. 

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Candy is the creator and star of her own national, multiple award-winning TV series, The Candy Show (APTN).  She has a role on the Trailer Park Boys S10 (NETFLIX), appeared in Call Me Fitz (HBO Canada) and Sex and Violence (OutTV), and received a Screen Nova Scotia nomination for her role on Forgive Me (Superchannel). She’s a Broadcaster with CBC Radio One where Candy has hosted: The Candy Palmater Show, Q, DNTO and appears on Because News and The Next Chapter. You can hear Candy’s voice as the Narrator of CBC TV series True North Calling, and was a Panelist on Canada Reads 2017.

Candy has written and hosted many broadcasts including Ab Day Live, the Indspire Awards, and the imagineNATIVE Film Fest Awards Show.

Candy was valedictorian of her class at Dalhousie Law School and went on to practice Labour and Aboriginal law in a large corporate firm until show biz came knocking.

Before pursuing entertainment full time, Candy directed First Nations education for the Nova Scotia Department of Education for a decade.  She is currently working on a Masters of Education at St. Francis Xavier University and has taught in the Transition Year program at Dalhousie University.

Candy spends most of her time in airports and airplanes as she travels the globe speaking to audiences, large and small, about the power of love, kindness and self-acceptance.  Candy believes we are more alike than different and that you can NEVER have too much Candy.

Candy first book, a memoir, will be published by Harper Collins in the fall of 2021.

Wonder Women Conference 2.0

Sponsorship Opportunities are available! Please contact ashlee@ourforte.ca to become a sponsor and help us celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 and the incredible women within our community.

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