Canada’s 50 Most Powerful Business People 2014: #1–10

Meet the dealmakers, string-pullers and master manipulators who call the shots in 2014

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#1 John Ruffolo

CEO, Omers VenturesAims to kickstart Silicon Valley North

When Canada’s tech sector produces its next giant-killer, you can bet John Ruffolo will have had a hand in it. As the chief executive officer of OMERS Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Ontario municipal workers’ pension fund, Ruffolo presides over a $200-million fund that’s offering big money to startups that just might become megaplayers with the scale and global reach of BlackBerry.
Read the full profile of John Ruffolo »

Black and white portrait of OMERS Ventures CEO John Ruffolo

(Raina + Wilson)

#2 Jason Kenney

Federal Minister of EmploymentPlans to overhaul our labour market

It was the public policy equivalent of a mic drop. On an otherwise quiet afternoon in April, Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced a moratorium on the Government of Canada’s scandal-plagued temporary foreign worker program in restaurants, putting into serious doubt the very initiative he’d spent years developing as immigration minister. In the weeks that followed, he doubled down, placing heavy restrictions—financial and otherwise—on those companies technically still eligible to use the program to recruit workers from abroad to fill (mostly) low-skilled positions. The surprise move silenced critics of the program (at least temporarily), incensed the legions of businesses who’d come to rely on it and, perhaps most importantly, told the world that Kenney—who’s only been helming the prestigious jobs portfolio since July 2013—is a man capable of enacting changes that have a massive effect on the 1.1 million employers under his jurisdiction. And what’s more, he’s not one to dither. He’s one of Stephen Harper’s most trusted allies (despite rumours that he’s after the PM’s job), a darling in the international community and, now, the mastermind behind what promises to be a dramatic overhaul of Canada’s labour market. Love him or loathe him, there aren’t many Canadians who still underestimate Jason Kenney.

READ: A simple way to fix Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers program »

#3 Bill Ackman

CEO, Pershing Square CapitalGrabs hold of companies and shakes

Sure, Bill Ackman is a born-and-bred New Yorker, but he’s frequently altered the fate of Canadian corporations like Canadian Pacific from his perch on Wall Street. He’s a throwback to the corporate raiders of yore, striking fear into the hearts of Canadian boardrooms. This time, he’s working with a Canadian firm, rather than against it—and he could change the landscape for corporate takeovers in the process. Ackman is pairing up with Valeant Pharmaceuticals to buy Allergan, an unusual move for an activist investor who typically flies solo. But Valeant brings industry expertise to the table, while Ackman can engage in the aggressive boardroom and public relations tactics necessary to win. If it pays off, Ackman’s creative gambit will inspire similar takeover partnerships.

READ: How to invest like Bill Ackman »

#4 Mark Wiseman

President & CEO, CPP Investment BoardCould make your retirement even sweeter

Mark Wiseman holds your pension in his hands. As head of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), the ultra-savvy investor manages $219 billion in contributions, with impressive results: CPPIB earned a 16.5% annual return over the last financial year. So if he buys up a chunk of your company, take it as a mark of confidence: The sale of CPPIB’s stake in auto parts manufacturer Gates Corp. for $1.5 billion and its $128-million purchase of 115,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland are just two recent examples that show no deal is too big or small for the CCPIB head honcho.

READ: The Power 50 2013: Mark Wiseman »

#5 Bruce Flatt

CEO, Brookfield Asset ManagementWields one massive portfolio

Brookfield Asset Management doesn’t make waves. It’s a low-profile company led by the unassuming Bruce Flatt. But beneath the bland exterior are a gargantuan conglomerate and a supremely well-connected CEO. Brookfield counts luminaries such as Jimmy Pattison and Frank McKenna on its board, both of whom have their own diverse connections. The network allows Flatt to keep tabs on assets as they come up for sale—and maybe add them to Brookfield’s $175-billion portfolio. It already includes 180 office buildings around the world, 153 million square feet of retail space, transmission lines, pipelines and timberlands. If an asset is on the market, Flatt is among the first to know.

READ: Brookfield Asset Management: Offshore strategy keeps taxes at bay »

#6 Prem Watsa

CEO, Fairfax Financial HoldingsHas investors scrutinizing his every move

Prem Watsa is one of the country’s savviest investors. It’s now a cliché to call him Canada’s Warren Buffett, but there’s truth to it. Like Buffett, Watsa has fans who track his investments, discuss his letters to shareholders online, and make the pilgrimage to Fairfax Financial’s annual meeting, where they put on a dinner to talk investing. Watsa is a down-to-earth master of the universe, and he often attends. There is good reason for the devotion to Watsa, as he continues to rack up wins on counterintuitive bets. Through Fairfax, he tripled his money earlier this year after selling part of his stake in the Bank of Ireland. It’s no surprise that when Watsa speaks, the market listens.

READ: Prem Watsa is the man with noting to lose »

#7 Galen G. Weston

President, Loblaw Cos.Commands a growing retail empire

Like all young scions, Galen G. Weston faced questions about whether he was ready for the job when he joined the family business at 34. Nearly 10 years later, he’s proven to be more than capable of running the country’s largest grocery-store chain. He’s even expanded his empire through the $12.4-billion acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart, which closed this year. In a recent management shakeup, he assumed the role of president, meaning he will play a more hands-on role in the business. Weston has unparalleled influence over how we shop for groceries, pharmaceuticals and other household items. You can bet we’ll all be buying more President’s Choice products in the near future.

READ: After the fall, the rise »

#8 John Chen

CEO, BlackBerryHas us cheering for Canada’s tech darling once again

The nation’s hopes of reclaiming its place as a global technology powerhouse rest with BlackBerry CEO John Chen. The country has plenty of other successful tech firms, of course, but none as exciting, influential or groundbreaking as BlackBerry once was. The company is the symbolic (if arrhythmia-stricken) heart of the country’s tech sector, and Chen is galvanizing support for it again. He’s put BlackBerry on track to serve a small but potentially lucrative niche of business clients and brought more focus to the company than it’s had in years. If he keeps it up, Chen could allow us to regain our bragging rights as an innovation hot spot.

READ: Why Blackberry’s future looks brighter than it has in years »

#9 Stephen Poloz

Governor, Bank of CanadaMoves markets with his words

The power wielded by the Bank of Canada governor must be somewhat strangulating. Poloz has so much influence over markets, investment, and consumer and business expectations that nearly every word he says has to be meticulously thought out. Poloz has strenuously avoided saying much about the Canadian dollar lest he send it careening in one direction or another. He’ll really start to affect the lives of Canadians when he raises interest rates—a move that will finally put a damper on spending habits.

READ: Poloz the “Cheshire Cat” of bank governors, but for how long? »

#10 Jean-Pierre Blais

Chair, CRTCOversees a $100-billion industry in unprecedented upheaval

Name a burning issue in the Canadian telecom business—wireless data rates, cable unbundling, media competition, foreign ownership—and Jean-Pierre Blais is probably involved. As chair of the CRTC, he wields enormous influence over the regulations that govern a more than $100-billion industry in the midst of unprecedented digital upheaval. He’s credited with bringing a bit of swagger to a traditionally dry regulatory regime, but he doesn’t need to shout: Some of the biggest companies in the country parse his every statement for clues to their fate. That’s clout.

READ: Pick-and-pay TV would change television as we know it »


Continue to #11–20 »

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