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May 28 – 30, 2017

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Keynote and Plenary Speakers

Diana and Charles Tisdall Lecture in Communications Opening Keynote: Trust, Respect and Reconciliation

Speaker: Marie Wilson, PhD, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)


The cumulative impact of the residential school system is a legacy of unresolved trauma passed from generation to generation that has had a profound effect on Aboriginal peoples and on their relationships with other Canadians. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was a significant step on the journey toward redefining these relationships and reconciling our communities for a better, stronger Canada.

But what does this mean to the public relations profession? Dr. Marie Wilson will describe the work of the Commission, why the legacy of residential schools as a symbol of the traumatic relationship between Canada and its Aboriginal peoples matters in our day-to-day lives, and how a deeper understanding of that dark past may help light the path forward toward a mutually beneficial relationships based in trust, respect and reconciliation.


Dr. Marie Wilson (C.M., O.NWT.) Commissioner, 2009-2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Marie Wilson served as one of three Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada following decades of experience as an award-winning journalist, trainer, and senior executive manager, including many years as the Regional Director for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the CBC North region responsible for three northern territories and northern Quebec. Fluently bilingual in French and English, she has been a university professor, a high school teacher in Africa, a senior executive manager in both federal and territorial Crown Corporations, and an independent consultant in journalism, program evaluation, and project management. 

Dr. Wilson was appointed the 2016 Professor of Practice in Global Governance at the Institute for Study of International Development, McGill University, and a 2016-2017 Mentor for the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. In addition to awards for writing and journalism excellence, she is the recipient of a CBC North Award for Lifetime Achievement, Northerner of the Year, the Calgary Peace Prize, the Toronto Heart and Vision Award, and the Pepin Award for Access to Information. She has received Honorary Doctorates from St. Thomas University, the University of Manitoba and the Atlantic School of Theology, and has been awarded both the Order of the Northwest Territories and the Order of Canada.


Sunday Afternoon Engagement Plenary Panel

Moderator: Jennifer Davies, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group
Panelists: Mina Laudan, Vice President, Public Affairs, Council of Forest Industries, Chrystiane Mallaley, Director, NATIONAL Public Relations and Jeni Vlahovic, Principal, The C&E Group

Meaningful consultation and engagement have become some of the most important tools in a communicator’s toolbox over the past two decades. For organizations to deliver programs and projects with positive results, an increased commitment to inclusivity and boosted efforts to obtain community support have become an essential strategic priority. Ensuring that people have the opportunity to be informed, be engaged on their own terms, and provide feedback that contributes to decision-making processes is part of the day-to-day operations of business. How does a modern communicator use engagement to improve overall project, organizational and community outcomes? What types of engagement work best for specific audiences or specific projects? Can we do consultation by ourselves or do we need specialist help? What lessons can we learn from consultation efforts?

Our moderated panel discussion will focus on:

  • How is consultation and engagement evolving as part of a broader communications practice?
  • What skills do businesses and communications professionals need to acquire or hire to do engagement well?
  • How does engagement and consultation fit into the mix of communications tactics and tools?
  • What lessons have we learned from consultations efforts, big and small, and how can we ensure we conduct engagement effectively?


Moderator: Jennifer Davies, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group

Jennifer Davies
Jennifer Davies leads the strategic communications and digital advocacy practice in her role as Principal with Earnscliffe Strategy Group in B.C. Jennifer is a strategic communications, public affairs and public policy specialist with 20 years of progressive experience and leadership. In addition to her corporate work for private sector companies, Jennifer has worked at all levels of government across Canada providing advice on policy issues; regulatory, environmental assessment process and public consultation; community and stakeholder relations; strategic and business planning across a range of sectors and projects. She’s an active volunteer in the not-for-profit and business community.

Mina Laudan, Vice President, Public Affairs, Council of Forest Industries

Mina Laudan
 Mina joined the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) as Vice President, Public Affairs in April 2016, to lead public affairs, communications and engagement for the organizations. COFI advances the strategic interests of the BC interior forest industry, Canada’s largest lumber producing region.

Prior to joining COFI, Mina was on the leadership team of BC Hydro’s Site C Clean Energy (Site C) Project as Director of Public Affairs, Community Consultation and Properties.  In this role, she led the public and community consultation program, communications, and properties for Site C. The Site C project undertook comprehensive public consultations which were critical to seeing the project approved after a nine-year review and development process.  Prior to joining BC Hydro, Mina was Director of Communications at Partnerships British Columbia, a provincial crown corporation with the mandate to provide leadership and expertise in the procurement of complex capital projects through private sector innovation, earning value for money for taxpayers. Mina has also worked in both Victoria and Ottawa, as well as in the private sector at a leading communications agency in Vancouver.

Mina holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia, and she studied French at Laval University. She was awarded a Silver Leaf of Excellence by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for a successful communications campaign leading to the merger of two financial institutions, and frequently gives presentations on public consultation, coalition-building and crisis communications.  

Chrystiane Mallaley, Director, NATIONAL Public Relations

Chrystiane Mallalay
Chrystiane is a leader in public engagement practice with NATIONAL Public Relations, Canada’s largest communications firm. Her breadth of experience across integrated marketing communications, public relations, research, and facilitation result in innovative programs that get people talking and generate actionable insights for decision makers. Prior to joining NATIONAL, Chrystiane served in a number of progressively senior strategic communications roles in both the public and private sectors. This led to the multidisciplinary perspective that shapes the engagement strategies she creates with her clients. Chrystiane has collaborated with a variety of clients throughout Atlantic Canada to create and implement major public engagement programs, including the Government of New Brunswick, Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Port Authority, NB Power, Nova Scotia Power, as well as in the sectors of energy, forestry, social services, and real estate/ development. Clients often say that Chrystiane and the NATIONAL team help them raise the bar for their engagement efforts, by delivering robust programs that generate unprecedented levels of awareness, participation, high quality feedback, and satisfied participants.

Jeni Vlahovic, Principal, The C&E Group

 Jeni has over 20 years’ experience helping public sector clients design and implement stakeholder communications and engagement programs. She has worked for a range of organizations in Canada and the UK and offers expertise in communications, stakeholder engagement, facilitation, organizational change and change management. She is particularly adept at assembling and managing effective teams, and helping clients manage their internal processes. Jeni has worked with clients such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Nunavut Department of Health, First Nations Health Authority, Metro Vancouver, the London Metropolitan Police Service and the UK Home Office. In February 2017 Jeni started the C&E Group, bringing together local and international expertise to provide a range of communications and engagement services as well as to help clients build their own capacity and skills in these areas.


Monday Breakfast Keynote: Post-Disaster Communications: After the media goes home.

Moderator: Della Smith, Q Workshops
Panelists: Michael Bourque, President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and Paul Spring, President, Operations Manager, Phoenix Heliflight

We’ve seen many times the case studies and speakers on “how to respond to a crisis” and “how to develop a crisis communications plan”. Less often we hear about the aftermath and follow-up from major crisis situations. What happens after the media frenzy has died down and things get back to “normal”? What are the long-term impacts on a company’s or an industry’s operations and reputation, and what role does public relations play in the ongoing management of communications in the wake of a major disaster?

Our moderated panel discussion will focus on:

  • the interface between operations and communications during, immediately after and in the months and years following;

  • the impacts when crisis protocols are either not followed or fall far short of what is required, both from a communications and an operational perspective;

  • how industry can plan for and manage ongoing reputation management, the costs of communicating and implementing changes and improvements to policies, regulations and legislation.

Case Studies:

Lac Megantic rail disaster (2013)
Fort McMurray fires (2016)

Della Smith, Principal, Della's Q Workshops

Della has dedicated the last 30 years to honing her craft as a strategic communicator, trainer, moderator and facilitator.

Her business history includes her start as Director of Communications for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, moving into running the public relations divisions of Simons Advertising and Palmer Jarvis Advertising (now DDB Canada) until 1995 when she set up Quay Strategies Inc. with a partner. After 15 highly successful years of providing top-notch consulting, crisis management, training and facilitation sessions, both partners decided it was time to begin new ventures. For Della that meant concentrating on facilitating, stakeholder engagement and training workshops while carving out time to write a book. She has been writing a weekly communication blog since 2012 –

Della spent a good chunk of her career working in crisis communication for a wide range of companies. In the transportation sector she worked with companies such as Greyhound Lines of Canada, Brewers Distributor Limited, Edmonton Regional Airport Authority and Translink.   

Q Workshops primarily works with clients in the private & public sector, academia, health, regulatory organizations, member associations, not for profit and transportation.

Michael Bourque, President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC)

Michael Bourque
Michael Bourque is the President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), a post he has held since 2012. The association is the voice of the railway industry, representing Canada’s Class 1 rail companies, CN and CP; and, over 50 regional, local, commuter and tourist railway operators. The RAC also has more than 80 associate members who are suppliers and partners of its Rail members.

Michael is the Chair of the Transportation Roundtable, representing Canadian transportation interests and a current member of the Board of Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety initiative.

Michael has almost 30 years of experience in a variety of public policy roles as a political staffer, a public servant and in government relations for Bayer and the Canadian Chemical Producers Association.

During his career in government and the private sector, Michael has been involved in significant communications challenges and crises, including food and drug recalls, a national referendum, as well as chemical industry and rail incidents.

Michael is a graduate of Toronto’s York University, where he studied Public Administration and Economics.

Paul Spring, President, Operations Manager, Phoenix Heliflight

Paul Spring
Over his 40 years in aviation Paul has accumulated more than 14,000 hours of flight time in single and twin engine helicopters, also having flown fixed wing aircraft. He began his career as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer endorsed for rotary and fixed wing aircraft after attending Canadore College, later returning to Canadore to earn his commercial helicopter pilot’s license. Paul’s path in the helicopter industry included long tours in the Arctic and various postings throughout Central and Western Canada flying a wide variety of helicopter roles. He ultimately moved to Fort McMurray to begin his new role as a base manager and worked tirelessly for years to cultivate a viable operation. After a shift in his employer’s corporate focus Paul struck out on his own, flying and maintaining a single AStar by himself for 8 years. Over time and in calculated fashion Paul began to acquire additional aircraft and bring on more pilots, eventually constructing two custom hangars. With a sustained concentration on safe operations and ‘doing the right thing’ despite increased effort and higher costs Paul has grown Phoenix to be a highly respected industry member. He was an early adopter of Helicopter Flight Data Monitoring for light helicopters and his steadfast advocacy for the technology has seen him speak dozens of times in North America and Europe. Paul is an active pilot who dedicates himself to the betterment of the helicopter industry and to evolving Phoenix’s policies, procedures and equipment in order to enhance its position in a highly competitive market.


Monday Luncheon Keynote: The new PR stands for Personal Recommendation

Speaker: Peter Shankman, Founder, ShankMinds Business Masterminds

At the end of the day, the concept of PR people extolling the virtues of their clients will no longer be sufficient for media outlets anywhere in the world. Instead, as media undergoes a massive transformation, the true rising stars of the PR world will be those who are trusted, who are embraced for truthful, honest, and open communication with journalists, that are backboned by positive feedback from their clients' customers around the world. In other words, no one believes how great your clients are, if you're the one that has to tell them.



Peter Shankman is an entrepreneur, CEO, runner, skydiver, podcaster, Ironman Triathlete, and most importantly, a dad. He’s the founder of ShankMinds: Breakthrough, a private, online entrepreneur community with hundreds of members around the world. He’s perhaps best known for founding Help a Reporter Out, the world’s largest source repository in the world, which fundamentally changed how journalists source their stories. His customer service and social media clients have included American Express, NBC, Universal, E Entertainment, Sprint, the US Department of Defense, Royal Bank of Canada, Saudi Aramco, Snapple, Walt Disney World, and many others. Peter is the author of four books, including his most recent best seller, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans.  Peter also hosts the top-rated Faster Than Normal Podcast, helping people understand that ADD and ADHD is a gift, not a curse. He’s based in NYC.


Monday Afternoon Plenary Panel: Small Town, Big City: The divergence of communications strategies and tactics in the 21st Century

Moderator: Kim Blanchette, APR, FCPRS, Vice President Public Affairs, Alberta Energy Regulator
Panelists: Steve Raper, Chief Communications and External Relations, Northern Health and Bob Reid, Director of Brand Reputation, Veritas Communications

Despite today’s focus on social content, big data and the death of traditional media, there are large parts of the Canadian population experiencing radio silence in the new digital landscape. In fact, the elimination or transformation of many traditional public relations channels has meant communications professionals in less populated regions of the country are finding themselves going back to the future to reach their audiences.

This panel will consider the radical changes public relations has experienced over the last decade in two distinctly different settings: rural and urban. In large, urban settings, new tools and tactics are being developed and deployed every day, and the challenge for PR practitioners is to stay on top of the latest trends, while continuing to follow sound principles of communications. Conversely, rural practitioners are required to be creative in reacquainting themselves with oft-forgotten channels to reach their audiences in small, geographically dispersed and sparsely populated regions.

Kim Blanchette, APR, FCPRS, Vice President Public Affairs, Alberta Energy Regulator

Kim Blanchette
Kim has experience in communications and public affairs at the provincial, federal, and international level and has held positions with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice as well as the Nova Scotia Department of Energy. Kim joined the Government of Canada in 2000 performing a variety of communications roles with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, including Ministerial support, regional office liaison, Director of Corporate Advocacy Communications, senior official speech coordination and multidepartment Pan-Atlantic and International events.

Kim has served as Consul (Political and Economic Relations and Public Affairs) at the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle from 2006-2008, representing Canada in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. She then moved to Veterans Affairs Canada as Acting Associate Director General of Communications where she worked the 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War, the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, and new legislation for Allied Veterans. Kim has also served as Regional Director, Issues Management and Communications (Atlantic Region) with the Canada Revenue Agency and as the Communications Manager for the Energy Resources Conservation Board, since 2011.

A past alumnus of the United States International Visiting Leaders Program, Kim was named one of the 50 Global Women in Energy in 2005 and has received awards for her work in media relations during the Swissair Flight 111 tragedy and for energy education in Nova Scotia. Kim is currently Vice President, Public Affairs for the Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta’s single regulator for oil, oil sands, natural gas and coal development in the province.

Steve Raper, Chief Communications and External Relations, Northern Health

Steve Raper
As the Chief, Communication & External Relations and a member of the executive team, Steve is responsible for providing strategic communications counsel and planning to the president and board chair for Northern Health. Northern Health delivers health services in more than two dozen communities and hospitals across northern British Columbia.

Steve leads work in media, stakeholder and government relations, crisis and issues management communications, health promotions and marketing, employee and physician communication, web development and the employee intranet. Steve is also the Executive Lead for the Health Emergency Management program and for Patient Transportation, which includes the unique NH Connections bus system.

Steve has stewarded Northern Health through many challenges including the media response & communications during two mill explosions, he has been a leader in pioneering innovative approaches to engaging with rural and remote communities, and he has developed unique internal and external communications partnerships. As a winner of both IABC and CPRS awards, Steve has led numerous initiatives that are having a measurable impact on the health of northerners. Steve joined Northern Health in 2008, and previously worked in the chief communications role at the College of New Caledonia, as well as in leadership roles at the University of Northern BC.

Steve holds a BA and an MBA, is a father of two, and participates on a number of local, provincial, and national boards and committees.  

Bob Reid, Director of Brand Reputation, Veritas Communications

Bob Reid
A strategic communications veteran, Bob Reid has built his career on three key pillars of media, government and agency work.

Originally a broadcast journalist, Bob maintains an on-air presence as a regular commentator on media and communications matters on Bell Media’s flagship talk radio station, Newstalk 1010 in Toronto and Global TV’s national Morning Show. He is the creator and presenter of “Touchdowns & Fumbles,” a weekly feature looking at major newsmakers how they handled their time in the media spotlight.

For more than 15 years, Bob has served Veritas clients in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors with strategic communications counsel spanning proactive campaign development, issues and crisis management, message development and media coaching. Some of his best work involves the issues and stories you never got the chance to read about.

For much of the 1990s, Bob worked as a senior political communications advisor to the Premier of Ontario, helping the government get its message out while dealing day-to-day with some of the most challenging journalists in Canada.


Tuesday Morning Keynote: #AlternativePR | A Full Audience Discussion about PR in a Untrusting World

Speaker and Plenary Leader: Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS, President & CEO, Argyle Public Relationships

Mass layoffs in journalism, the rise of alt-media, unmarked advertorials, extremism, clickbait articles, echo chambers and filter bubbles leave a troubling situation for public relations practitioners to communicate within Canada.

The last year in public communications has taken an ugly turn, in a “bigly” way. Fake news permeated not only the elections of our southern neighbour, but in every western country. Factual information is now challenged as fake, major news media have been repeatedly attacked from the Oval Office as “fake news” or “dishonest,” while alternative facts have become something nearly a third of the United States population believes.

This is not a new development. It has come through decades of key moments where those in trusted positions have intentionally or by mistake, eroded the public trust. Edelman’s Trust Barometer notes an implosion of global trust. They found two-thirds of countries surveyed are now distrusters, with under 50% trust in mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs. Never has trust been this low in 17 years of data collection.

The expectation is that automation and outsourcing of jobs will further erode trust, leaving those already with low income and education in a losing position, while the growing 1% challenge capitalism’s ideals.

How is trust defined for those who are economically cut off? How will public relations function in a world which is just as likely to trust alternative facts as real ones? What can you do to communicate among deeply-entrenched positions living in echo chambers? How does your organization and leaders begin rebuilding trust, when they are perceived as untrusting?

This will be an open discussion, both within the room and across Canada, as we look to all practitioners to compile ideas on #AlternativePR.

Begin now by posting your observations, ideas and opinions for #AlternativePR to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Dan Tisch
Daniel Tisch is widely known as an international public relations professional, speaker, writer and industry leader. He is the CEO of Argyle Public Relationships, one of Canada’s largest independent PR firms, a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society, and the 2011-2013 chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the confederation of the world’s major PR and communication professional associations.

Since Daniel became president of Argyle in 2003, the firm has grown dramatically, appearing in the PROFIT 500 list of Canada’s fastest-growing companies in both 2015 and 2016. Argyle is invariably among the leaders in awards from the Canadian Public Relations Society and the International Association of Business Communicators, with almost 200 local, national and international awards during Daniel’s tenure.

Daniel has spoken at conferences on every continent, lectured on public relations at Queen’s University at Kingston (Canada) since 1996, and contributed to leading PR and marketing textbooks. He appears regularly in broadcast, print and online media, including recent comments in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, Reuters, CBC Television, Global News, PR Week and Strategy. He is a member of CPRS, the IABC and the Arthur W. Page Society.

Born in Madrid, Spain, and raised in Toronto, Daniel speaks English, French and Spanish. He holds two degrees from Queen’s University — a Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and a Master of Business Administration. Daniel is a member of the Queen’s University Board of Trustees, a leader in the international Scouting movement and a board member of Social Venture Partners International.

Tuesday Luncheon Keynote: Branding Canada 150

Speakers: Erica Tao, Region Director General, Western Region, Department of Canadian Heritage and Perry Boldt, National Manager, Business Development and Marketing, Canada 150 Federal Secretariat

This year, Canada marks its 150th anniversary of Confederation. From the outset of planning, the Government of Canada has invited Canadians to shape the celebration and drive the conversation. From online consultations and crowd-sourced brand development to grass-roots seed funding and work through community leaders on the ground, learn how the Canada 150 team’s focus on participation has sparked engagement from coast to coast to coast.

Erica Tao, Region Director General, Western Region, Department of Canadian Heritage

Erica Tao
Erica Tao has 23 years of federal public service, from both an NHQ and Regional perspective. She joined Western Region of the Department of Canadian Heritage in May 2015. Prior to that, she was the Director of Business Expertise, Integrity Services for the Western and Territories Region of Service Canada. She held several director positions at Service Canada over the course of a 10-year career there, supporting a variety of portfolios, including strategic services, communications and marketing. She also worked for 10 years at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in senior positions in the fiscal policy unit, as well as at the Federal Treaty Negotiation Office.

She holds a Masters of Law degree from the University of Toronto. She is married with two children, and in her spare time can be found playing competitive badminton, experiencing the highs and lows of raising two teenagers, and continuing to master the French language one glass of wine at a time.

Perry Boldt, National Manager, Business Development and Marketing, Canada 150 Federal Secretariat

Perry Boldt
Perry Boldt is an award-winning manager with more than 15 years of experience in communications, marketing, stakeholder relations and community engagement roles with the Government of Canada. A graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism, he began his career in Ottawa with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, working in media relations, and later as a speechwriter for the Agriculture Minister. He has held progressive leadership roles with Industry Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Canadian Heritage.
Perry has led teams and worked on issues ranging from international trade disputes, indigenous economic development, border security, the 2010 Winter Games and a range of arts and culture files including most recently, Canada 150, where he oversees a team responsible for business development and partnerships. A resident of Vancouver for more than a decade, he is an active volunteer and believes that authentic, open communication is the critical spark for human connection, citizen engagement and strong communities.

Tuesday Afternoon Plenary: Brand Journalism, are you ready?

Speaker: Mark Ragan, Publisher and CEO of Ragan Communications, Inc.


Brand journalism combines real reporting and lively storytelling (that's the journalism), with your organization's experts and experiences (that's the branding). A few organizations have figured out a new way to tell their stories, using the tried-and-true methods of journalism to engage their audiences and boost their competitive advantage.

In this session, Mark Ragan will share the principles of brand journalism and show you how you can apply them to your own organization.

You'll leave this afternoon session knowing how to:

  • Write and manage content that appeals to today's hectic reader

  • Organize your communication strategy around a standard newsroom

  • Use original and curated content to be the leading publisher in your niche

  • Create content that is so useful that people will be compelled to share it—over and over again

  • Become the #1 destination for customers and potential customers—and get this done on a tiny budget

  • Master the 10 email techniques that increase readership and brand loyalty

  • Integrate social media and content to boost your website traffic

  • Generate leads for your organization by writing must-read white papers for your customers

  • Build a subscription list of customers, the media and key influencers and keep them coming back for more

  • Measure the success of your content strategy

Mark Ragan is the Publisher and CEO of Ragan Communications, Inc., the nation's leading provider of corporate communication information and training. For 15 years, Mark covered Congress, the White House and national political campaigns for Copley News Service, States News Service, New York Newsday, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Insight Magazine.

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