Dare to Lead: A Night of Visionary Leadership and Bold Actions

March 1, 2024

From the Toronto Region Board of Trade website’s News section

Toronto Region Board of Trade’s 134th Annual Dinner features influencers, innovators and visionary leaders for a celebration of our region’s business.

Within the vibrant heart of our city, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre became the nexus for our 134th Annual Dinner: Dare to Lead, a gathering that brought together the luminaries of thought and innovation.  The evening kicked off with a surprise performance by the Toronto cast of Jersey Boys, infusing the room with energy and timeless melodies that set the perfect tone.

Our call to action was ignited by Toronto Region Board of Trade’s President and CEO, Giles Gherson, “We are at a pivotal moment to amplify our competitive edge and foster unprecedented productivity. The year 2024 presents us with a unique opportunity to lead, to lean in, and to mold our region into the powerhouse we envision.”

The event was a vivid testament to our shared dedication to traverse today’s complexities with vision, integrity, and a drive for advancement. Yung Wu, the Board’s Chair, encapsulated this sentiment by telling the sold-out event of nearly 1,100 people, “The recent years have irrevocably transformed our landscape, crystallizing the notion that we cannot dwell in the past. Our goal is not to revert but to redefine and innovate for the future.”

Featured Event

A table of attendees from 2024's Annual Dinner

Annual Dinner 2025

We can’t wait to see you at our 135th Annual Dinner on February 27th, 2025.

Business Leaders Who Dare to Lead

We welcomed three visionaries to the stage to lead our very first Toronto Talks. Each of our speakers was part influencer, part innovator, and 100% sure to leave our guests inspired by their individual take on the evening’s theme.

Claudette McGowan shared her pioneering work in the realm of cybersecurity, emphasizing the collective challenge we face in securing our digital future. “In our interconnected world, half of us are exposed to cyber threats.” McGowan is daring to lead in this space by underscoring the collective action needed to enhancing online safety. She encouraged guests to turn to look at the person to their right and said, “One of you is in deep cyber trouble today. And the other will be in deeper cyber trouble in the near future.” McGowan highlighted the courage to confront and act on critical issues, charting a course toward a digitally secure landscape for businesses and individuals alike.

Michael McCain, Executive Chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, called for a paradigm shift in how businesses define success. He challenged the traditional metrics of corporate achievement, advocating for a capitalism that equally values societal and environmental progress. “We’re at a critical juncture,” McCain emphasized, urging a departure from profit-centric models to ones that prioritize stewardship of societal progress and sustainability. “As business leaders, our voice and impact should not just be reduced to a financial statement. Our stakeholders and our people demand more. This burning platform – a very real one – demands that we dare to lead, to step up together.” 

Christian Weedbrook illuminated the transformative potential of quantum computing, positioning Toronto as the crucible of this technological revolution. His discussion connected quantum innovation with Ontario’s burgeoning status as a hub for electric vehicles and sustainable energy, “Quantum computing will revolutionize our approach to the world’s most complex challenges, it is going to change our lives, and it’s going to be because of the work we’re doing right here.” 

A Vision for the Future

Premier Doug Ford captured the ‘dare to lead’ spirit as he detailed a compelling blueprint for Ontario’s economic future. The Premier highlighted pivotal strategies aimed at cutting through bureaucratic hurdles and nurturing a fertile ground for innovation and growth. “By eliminating superfluous regulations and securing competitive costs for operations, we are laying the groundwork for an economic revival in Ontario,” Ford asserted, sketching a tangible roadmap towards transforming Ontario into a powerhouse of business vitality and pioneering innovation.

The news of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s passing served as a powerful homage for the evening. With many speakers paying tribute to Mr. Mulroney, Premier Ford put it well: “The former Prime Minister saw Ontario not just as a participant but as a global economic vanguard.” It served as a meaningful recognition of daring leadership and Mr. Mulroney’s legacy.

Honouring a Trailblazer

 Janet Bannister’s recognition with the Toronto Region Builder Award was a moment of profound inspiration. Her journey, from launching Kijiji.ca to shaping Canada’s tech landscape, exemplifies the impact of visionary leadership fused with decisive action. CPA Ontario President & CEO Carol Wilding celebrated Bannister and her work saying, “Janet’s leadership is laying the foundation for our future prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship. And her authenticity has made Janet one of the most admired business icons in the country.”

Dare Not Just to Lead, but to Act

In the spirit of Dare to Lead, Gherson, highlighted the Board’s mission to elevate Toronto as a global hub of prosperity and announced the Business Council of Toronto (BCT) as a catalyst for continuing the momentum of this movement. The BCT initiative is designed to drive competitiveness and innovation by uniting the region’s leaders around high-impact projects, because business belongs at the table.

Gherson’s message is clear: it’s time to transcend past accomplishments and dare to shape an even brighter future for Toronto. “We need to fire-up our competitiveness and reignite our productivity,” he urged.

Celebrating Partnerships

For 24 years, the Annual Dinner has been made possible thanks to the invaluable support of presenting partners Odgers Berndtson. So many other incredible partners made the evening a success including CPA Ontario, our Toronto Region Builder Award partner; LiUNA and Fengate, our VIP Reception partner; the Los Cabos Tourism Board, our welcoming reception partner; Premier Partners Destination Toronto and Uber; and Excellence Partners, Air Canada, Hydro One, and RBC; and our Host Partners.

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