Kristen is the President and Founder of Spitfire Strategies, a strategic communication firm that partners with nonprofits and foundations to harness the growing power of communication to make the world a better place. As head of Spitfire, she believes she has the best job in the world: hire the smartest people she can find, unleash them on clients doing essential work to advance racial and social justice, and roll up her sleeves and join in. She has created narratives that stick, messages that motivate, theories of influence that shape new laws of the land, campaign, and communication strategies that drive momentum for movements and field-building resources that share tricks of the trade so fellow progressive changemakers can do smarter, more impactful work. Over her 30 years doing public interest communication and campaigns, she has worked for clients across issues and across the world. She is a go-to counselor for organizations and leaders embarking on organizational change. Whether supporting the first woman president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation as she took the helm, working with the UN environment and development agencies to craft a climate change platform for the Secretary General, or working with Greenville, South Carolina, leaders to create the political climate for more ambitious public transit, Kristen provides counsel that leads to measurable impact.
Cordelia Abankwa is an executive leader and relationship builder with 30 years of experience in municipal and provincial public service where she has led innovation in complex, multidimensional environments. She has extensive experience in change management, policy development, program design, strategic planning, and operational service delivery. As General Manager of Social Services for The Regional Municipality of York, she leads day to day operations as well as the transformation and modernization of Regional Ontario Works, Children‘s Services and Homelessness Prevention programs. Immediately prior to this position, Cordelia was Managing Director responsible for strategic analysis and program development for the Region‘s Community and Health Services Department. While in this role she also directed program communications, and managed Regional community investment programs. As well, she led the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in York Region, the Region-wide Human Services Strategy and in partnership with the Federal Government, York Region‘s Immigration Strategy. Cordelia has a BA Honours in Political Science and Sociology from Queen‘s University, a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, and a Masters Certificate in Leadership Innovation from the Schulich School of Business. She has been a Board Director for The United Way of York Region, and OMSSA, and represents the Region on a variety of Provincial committees. Before joining York Region, Ms. Abankwa worked for the Ontario Public Service in a variety of senior management positions in several Ministries.
Keith Palmer is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Operational Support Division with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, a position he recently started on November 30, 2020. This role involves leading seven branches in the area of Correctional Services. Prior to this, he was the interim Assistant Deputy Minister of the Social Assistance Operations Division responsible for delivery, support and oversight of social assistance services in Ontario. In this role, he continued to drive the importance of collaboration and partnerships with municipal service managers through cross-functional teams to deliver an integrated and customized approach to client service delivery. Joining the provincial government in 2018 as Director of the Social Assistance Central Service Delivery Branch, Keith brought extensive experience in the administration and delivery of human services in the municipal sector through his role as Director of Community Services for the County of Dufferin, Policy and Training for the County of Wellington. Keith’s educational background is in Sociology, Criminology and Adult/Continuing Education. Keith is a fervent champion of equity and inclusion, service improvement and staff development. During his time at the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, his commitment and passion to enhancing workplace culture and employee engagement culminated in the development of the Culture Enhancement and SAOne Strategies aimed at cultivating optimism, continuous improvement, and a client-centric focus to service. Keith is a leader in the anti-oppression and anti-Black racism work in the ministry. His leadership launched the division’s first staff led Anti-Black Racism Working Group to achieve its vision of creating a work environment that is free of racism and oppression, where all staff are able to thrive in a psychologically safe workplace and where stronger client relationships are formed with individuals of racialized backgrounds.
Waheeda Rahman White is the Director, Equity, Diversity and Human Rights with the City of Toronto, where she provides leadership and strategic advice to the Toronto Public Service (TPS) to ensure that City programs, policies, and practices are responsive to the needs of Toronto's diverse communities. Waheeda’s team administers human rights processes on behalf of members of the TPS, members of Council, and the public; and they develop innovative programs and services to meet the organizational equity goals to reflect and effectively serve the City’s diverse population. Prior to working with the City of Toronto, Waheeda was the Director of Organizational Development, Diversity and Inclusion at the Scarborough Health Network (SHN). As Director, she led and supported organizational effectiveness and transformational change through coaching, learning and leadership development, performance and succession management, employee engagement, change management and the hospital’s diversity and inclusion strategy. Waheeda has nearly 20 years of leadership expertise in both the private and public sectors, including manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and government. She has served on a number of boards, including the Board of Governors at Centennial College, and she is currently on the board of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, as well as a volunteer advisor on Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO). Waheeda is a frequent guest speaker, leadership coach, and mentor, and is certified in both coaching and change management. She holds a Masters from Ryerson University, graduate education in Organization Development through the Schulich School of Business, and she is a graduate of the Rotman School of Management’s Executive Leadership program.
Dr. Lisa Richardson is a mixed blood Anishinaabe physician who practices general internal medicine at the University Health Network. She holds numerous local, provincial and national leadership roles to advance Indigenous health equity. She is an Associate Professor and is Vice-Chair, Culture and Inclusion, Department of Medicine. She is also the Strategic Lead in Indigenous Health for both Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Women's College Hospital. Dr. Richardson's scholarly work focuses on the inclusion of critical and Indigenous perspectives from the social sciences and humanities into medical education.
Daniele Zanotti serves as President & CEO of United Way Greater Toronto. He continues to drive transformational change, from mergers and historic multi-year gifts to innovative cross-sectoral collaborations and digital product offerings, all with the core belief that a connectedness to community is key. Daniele holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor’s Degree from York University, and sits on advisory committees and boards accross the region. In his over 20 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors, Daniele's work is guided by one core value - to work in and with communities across all sectors to create positive change.
Najma Kahiye is a Registered Nurse (RN) and policy professional at the City of Toronto. Prior to joining the City of Toronto, Najma held various roles within the City of Kitchener, the Region of Waterloo, and the Government of Ontario, where she held progressively senior policy roles in the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Ministry of Education. During her tenure with the Ontario Public Service, Najma led many policy initiatives including the streamlining of health related benefits for persons with disabilities; the creation of the Portable Housing Benefit Framework; and the Healthy Growth Initiative. In addition to her broad public policy experience, Najma has extensive frontline experience; she has worked in various roles – as a caseworker, a counsellor and nurse – to support individuals and families seeking housing assistance, income support, and counselling and addiction services in Ontario. She has also served and supported many of Toronto's most vulnerable communities while working at Moss Park's Consumption and Treatment Service (CTS) and serving as the President of the Board of Directors for Jessie's Centre and Jessie's Homes. Most recently, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Najma led and managed a team of Communicable Disease Investigators at Toronto Public Health. She is passionate about social policy issues and has a strong understanding of the various intersections between the health and human services sectors.
John Riches is a Deputy Chief with the Region of Durham Paramedic Services which is a division of the Durham Region Health Department. His portfolio includes Regulatory Compliance, Professional Standards, and Community Program Initiatives. In addition to acting as the lead Regional representative for OHT engagement, John leads the Paramedic Service‘s Mobile COVID-19 Testing Program, The Primary Care Outreach Program partnership with Social Services – Family Services Durham, and a new Community Paramedic Program Pilot. A 25 year Paramedic Services veteran, John brings a passion for collaboration and integration across health and social service sectors to ensure patients and residents receive the right care and support from the right providers via the right care pathways. Paramedic Services continues to collaborate with the Social Services Department and this includes John acting as a Co-Chair (with Social Services and CMHA-Durham) for the recently formed Health Homelessness and Housing Committee that works to coordinate the health and social services response to the vulnerable homeless population during the pandemic.
Erin Valant is the Manager of Affordable Housing and Homelessness Initiatives at the Region of Durham. Her commitment to affordable housing and homelessness issues is demonstrated through both her professional and academic endeavors. Since joining the homelessness portfolio, she has worked with the community to move towards system coordination and housing-focused, outcome-based program planning. She has completed a Master‘s degree in Public Policy, Administration and Law and uses this knowledge to implement evidence-based best practices in homelessness system planning.
Dr. Fareen Karachiwalla is a Public Health & Preventive Medicine physician working as an Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Regional Municipality of York. Fareen primarily works in the area of communicable disease control (including case and outbreak management, TB, and vaccine preventable diseases) and has helped lead the COVID-19 case and outbreak management response as well as the COVID-19 health equity group. Previous to joining York Region, she worked as an Associate Medical Officer of Health at KFL&A Public Health in Kingston Ontario where her main portfolios included: Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention, Primary Care engagement, Health Equity, and Social Determinants of Health. Her main interests include health equity, healthy public policy, and working across sectors to address the Social Determinants of Health. Fareen completed her Public Health & Preventive Medicine residency program at the University of Toronto, her Master's in Public Health degree (with a focus on health systems and policy) at Johns Hopkins University, as well as Family Medicine training at St. Michael's Hospital. Throughout her career, she has maintained a part time clinical role primarily serving the general health needs of vulnerable populations including the homeless and under-housed. Fareen currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Inner City Health Association (ICHA) serving the health needs of the homeless in Toronto and recently co-authored the 6th edition of Shah‘s Public Health & Preventive Health Care in Canada – a leading Canadian public health textbook.
Michael is currently the Chief Executive Officer for the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Service Administration Board. He is responsible for Ontario Works, Social Housing and Early Years and Paramedic Services. He has 20 years’ experience in both First Nation and municipal social service delivery systems. Prior to joining the DSSAB Michael was the Executive Director for the Ontario Native Welfare Administrators’ Association for 12 years. Michael and his spouse (Kim) resided in Sault Ste. Marie for 19 years and have three children; Caelen age 20, Kristen age 15 and, Tyler age 10. Michael’s post-secondary studies include Correctional Services at Cambrian College, Law and Justice at Algoma University and a Master of Business Administration; with a concentration on Community Economic Development through Cape Breton University. Michael has extensive knowledge regarding income assistance programs, policy and best practices. He has personally visited 87 First Nations in Ontario and is a strong advocate for First Nation community and social development. He is a current Governor for Algoma University and is been on numerous provincial working groups and expert panels.
John Michael McGrath is a writer and reporter for TVO.org, the website for Ontario’s public broadcaster. Prior to coming to TVO, he worked for Queen’s Park Briefing and his writing has also been published in the National Post, the Globe and Mail and Spacing Magazine. His writing focuses on how policy affects the everyday lives of Ontario residents, as long as MPPs aren’t misbehaving.
Mitchell is the Executive Director of Strategy Corp Institute of Public Policy and Economy, a new venture designed to contribute to thought leadership on important public policy issues in Ontario and Canada. He is a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center‘s Canada Institute and was a member of the Taskforce for a Resilient Recovery that recommended a set of policies to help the federal government create an environmentally friendly economic recovery plan. Mitchell brings a unique cross-section of public policy experience and political expertise from his nearly six years at Queen‘s Park, culminating as Executive Director of Policy to the Premier of Ontario. In government, Mitchell served as the government‘s lead policy architect, including responsibility for the 2019 Budget and 2018 Fall Economic Statement. Prior to that, Mitchell was the policy lead and co-author of both recent Ontario PC Party Platforms – The Plan for the People and The People‘s Guarantee. Mitchell hails from the small town of Oro-Medonte, Ontario and holds a Bachelor‘s Degree and a Masters of Arts in political science from the University of Western Ontario.
Armine is a leading voice on Canada‘s economic scene. Recently serving as senior economic policy advisor to the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, Armine was senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives‘ Inequality Project from 2008 to 2017. Armine has contributed economics columns for the Globe and Mail‘s Economy Lab from 2010 to 2013, and from 2012 to mid-2018 she provided weekly business commentary for CBC Radio‘s Metro Morning and CBC TV‘s premier business show On The Money (formerly the Lang and O‘Leary Exchange). She is also a frequent contributor to CBC Radio, TVO‘s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, BNN‘s Bloomberg Markets. You can read her in the Toronto Star and Maclean‘s Magazine.
Nelson Loureiro is currently the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Social Assistance Policy, Planning and Innovation Division -- responsible for leading policy development, program design, and service delivery modernization that drive transformation in Ontario‘s Social Assistance system to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness, and outcomes for clients. The Division works horizontally to build strong partnerships with other ministries, municipal and First Nations delivery partners, federal departments and client groups to bring multiple perspectives to complex issues. Prior to this appointment, Nelson held multiple positions in the social assistance system, beginning as an Ontario Works caseworker for the City of Toronto and taking on successively senior program, policy, and service delivery roles. Nelson has led the planning and implementation of major technology and service modernization initiatives, including the roll-out of the new provincial case management system, as well as a comprehensive Social Assistance Modernization agenda, including the development and rollout of a province-wide online benefits portal, reloadable payment cards, and paperless document management across all local Ontario Disability Support Program offices. Nelson is passionate about understanding the challenges faced by Ontario‘s most vulnerable populations and working to improve program, benefits, and systems to deliver the services that can help to improve people‘s lives. He believes in being bold and setting ambitious goals and working collaboratively with partners in different levels and parts of government towards achieving these.
Santina Macri serves as a Senior Manager of Employment Services, Delivery Support within the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Santina works with teams within the ministry and across government to lead to implementation and continuous improvement of a suite of services delivered through Employment Ontario. Santina holds a Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Simon Fraser University. With over eight years of experience working on provincial employment and training programs, Santina’s work is guided by a public service ethic which seeks to drive continuous improvement and better outcomes for Ontarians.
Alissa Savage is the Senior Manager for Employment Services Transformation for MCCSS. In this role she is responsible for the coordination, co-design and rollout of EST for Ontario Works and ODSP. She works closely with MLTSD as well as the the local ODSP offices and municipalities within the EST prototype catchment areas. Alissa has been with MCCSS for over 10 years, having held previous roles in supporting the SAMS technology as well as an ODSP caseworker.
Polly Smith has served the Municipality of Chatham-Kent for 29 years in social services, most recently as Director. Polly has a passion for equity, income security and housing for all.
Jeff Degagne is the Manager of Income Support and Stability with the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board. Jeff manages the Ontario Works program and Child Care Service Management for the District of Parry Sound. Previously, he was the Supervisor of the Ontario Works East program. He has been with the DSSAB for the past 6 years. Jeff also has over 15 years’ experience in the Mental Health sector working in a variety of settings including Children’s Mental Health, Consumer/Survivor community based programming and hospital based programs. Jeff led the team and the design of the Risk Based Intake model prototype in partnership with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. This prototype has helped inform the Ministry’s direction with the Social Assistance Digital Application and Centralized Intake. Jeff has been invited to speak about this work at various Ministry engagement groups over the past several years. Through his work, Jeff has been focused on ensuring people receive the necessary supports to move towards self-sustainability in a system that is trust based, supportive, streamlined and efficient.
Erica Brimley is an Ontario Works Human Services Manager with the City of Hamilton, where she manages a portfolio that includes the Assessment Center teams, an ongoing case management team and the Special Supports Program. Erica has worked in social services since 1994 holding several roles including Case Manager, Trainer, Recovery Officer, Program Review Officer and has been a manager for the past 10 years. Erica works with a dynamic leadership team that continually looks at improvement through a result based accountability lens.
Margo has worked in Ontario Works with the County of Renfrew Social Services Department for the last 23 years. Over the course of her career she has held numerous frontline positions including Ontario Works Agent, Family Support Worker, Eligibility Review Officer, and Assessment Worker and has amassed a wealth of experience in the delivery of social services. Margo brings her comprehensive understanding of social assistance and the needs of vulnerable individuals to her current position as Ontario Works Supervisor. With social assistance modernization underway, and the County of Renfrew moving into human services integration, Margo looks forward to being a part of positive change and making essential supports and services easier to access in our communities.
Lance Arnold has been with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) since 2007 and has spent his career working primarily in the delivery of affordable housing programs offered by the federal government both in the Multi-Unit and Indigenous and Northern Housing sectors. Additionally, he has spent a number of years working in various policy positions in the Mortgage Loan Insurance sector. Most recently, Lance has been part of the leadership team tasked with the design and operationalization of the Rapid Housing Initiative.
Abi Bond is the Executive Director of the Housing Secretariat at the City of Toronto. She started out in the community housing sector in the UK and moved to Canada in 2007. She has worked on affordable housing policy and delivery for both the City of Calgary and the City of Vancouver. She took up her current position early in 2020 and leads the City's new HousingTO 2020-2030 plan, which includes a range of projects, programs and policies, delivered in partnership with private and community housing partners. She believes that having a home is essential to our health and well-being, and that housing has an important part to play in our COVID-19 recovery, and also in addressing long-standing inequities in her City.
Luisa Artuso has been the Director of the Children’s Early Years Division for the past 12 years. She has a great passion for children, families and the child care workforce and thrives on creating collaborative and innovative strategies to strengthen high quality child care and early years services. Luisa is currently serving her second term as an OMSSA Board Member and has chaired the Children’s Services Network for the past 5 years.
Catherine is an Associate Professor at the Economics Department at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), one of the largest departments in Canada, with active research in all areas of economics. She is an invited researcher at the Quebec Inter-University Centre for Social Statistics, a research fellow at the CIRANO Research Centre and an affiliated researcher for the Education Policy Research Initiative. Catherine‘s research focuses on the human capital development of children and youth. She has written about universal child care, prenatal nutrition programs, parental leave reforms, school reforms, class sizes and the taxation of sweet beverages. Her work on children was featured in several media outlets and government reports. She has two children who are a source of inspiration and motivation for her work.
Marie-Claude has over 15 years of experience in strategic communications and public affairs. She’s also a lawyer, member of Quebec Bar Association, and a former journalist. She’s worked for the AQCPE (Quebec’s Association of publicly funded daycares) for 6 years, where she works on a daily basis to enhance the work of educators and staff of CPEs / BCs. A graduate of Concordia in journalism, she had previously worked as a journalist for CBC and Radio-Canada, as well as a senior advisor at the Société générale de financement du Québec.
Janet Menard was appointed Deputy Minister responsible for Children, Community and Social Services in June 2018. Previous Deputy Minister responsibilities have included Women‘s Issues, Community and Social Services and Poverty Reduction. This follows 40 years of experience in the field of human services in Peel and Halton Regions and the City of Toronto. Janet was named the Commissioner of Human Services at Peel in 2009 following leadership roles in Social Services and Housing. There, she led the integration of human services and child care transformation to align with full-day kindergarten. Janet has participated on numerous community boards, including mental health, supportive housing, legal clinics and community planning, as well as the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. In 2018, Janet was recognized as a Distinguished Alumna of Renison University College (University of Waterloo) and received the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association‘s Champion of Human Services Award. Janet‘s academic credentials include both human services and broader management studies at the Universities of Waterloo, York, Queen‘s and Ryerson, as well as Centennial College.
Kate Manson-Smith was appointed Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in December 2019. Since joining the Ontario Public Service in 1998, Kate has held a number of executive roles. Most recently, Kate served as the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Local Government and Planning Policy Division at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (2014-2019) and prior to this, was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health Promotion of the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (2011-2014). She has also held executive roles at Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Kate holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in History and Masters in Pubic Administration, both from Queen‘s University.
Nancy Naylor has served as the Deputy Minister of Education since August 2018. She has held a range of executive positions in the Ontario government, most recently as an Associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). As Associate Deputy Minister, Nancy led a number of transformative initiatives in the home and community care and hospital sector to support the delivery of quality patient care. As a committed member of the Ontario Public Service her results-oriented leadership has supportive various ministries including Ministry of Finance and the former Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Richard Steele was appointed Deputy Minister of Long-Term Care in March 2020. Richard‘s career has focused on the pursuit of innovation and excellence in the delivery of public services, and he brings a track record of building teams and partnerships to deliver practical results for Ontarians and government. As Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Social Assistance Programs Division at the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), Richard worked with partners across the Public Service and across the Province to transform how both the people we serve and the people who work in the system experience social assistance in Ontario. Prior to joining MCCSS in 2013, Richard was ADM of Business Improvement and Business Development for ServiceOntario and led the design and implementation of a range of service improvement and service integration initiatives, including the launch of integrated retail offices and the launch of money back service guarantees for a number of digital services. Richard also held increasingly responsible positions at the Ministry of Economic Development, Management Board Secretariat and Consumer and Business Services since joining the Ontario Public Service in 1992. Richard was recently awarded the 2019 Heintzman Leadership Award for leadership of transformational change in public sector service delivery. Richard holds a degree in History from the University of York, England, and an MBA from the Manchester Business School.