The challenges, possibilities and implications
Originally aired Wednesday, June 21, 2023
With under two weeks to election day and over 100 candidates on the ballot, the Toronto mayoral race has sparked debate about the city’s future. Our Earnscliffe experts, with special guests, former Toronto City Councillors, Karen Stintz and Josh Colle, had an in-depth discussion of the dynamics that have shaped the race, the issues that matter to voters and the implications for Toronto going forward.
Principal, Earnscliffe Strategies
Melissa Bruno is a Government Relations Principal at Earnscliffe Strategies. Melissa specializes in government relations, crisis management, and advocacy campaigns within public and private spheres in Canada.
Melissa brings a deep understanding of how to create and execute a vision. She tackles every problem with creative solutions and manages projects from start to finish. With over a decade of experience in municipal, provincial, and federal politics, Melissa developed a reputation as one of Canada’s leading strategists in innovating, mobilizing and executing strategic issue-based campaigns that have organized communities and shaped public policy across a variety of progressive issues. Melissa leverages her demonstrated success in connecting people with the best tools to navigate political decision-making and public processes.
Prior to joining Earnscliffe, Melissa worked for Shad Canada, a Canadian charity and STEAM program, developing their community engagement and partnership growth strategy. Melissa’s career in progressive politics includes serving several elected officials and two federal NDP Leaders; Jack Layton and Jagmeet Singh. During her time as Executive Director for Canada’s New Democrats, Melissa modernized the organization by undertaking a financial restructure, enhancing data-driven community and voter mobilization, and building one of the most equity inclusive slate of candidates representing a major political party in Canadian history.
Melissa is a founding member of Canada’s first professional association for working mothers (Moms at Work) and a Partnerships Co-Chair with the Public Affairs Association of Canada (PAAC). Melissa is an avid volunteer for a number of foundations, charities and not-for-profits, including the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative. Melissa served as a Political Management Program Fellow at Carleton University, is a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Public Relations Program and earned an Honours degree in Social Work at York University.
President and CEO, Variety – The Children’s Charity of Ontario
As President and CEO, Karen leads our mission to give all children living with disabilities in Ontario a chance to achieve their personal bests. She believes in the power of sport to inspire children to dream beyond what they once thought was possible. Once they know what they can achieve, nothing is beyond reach.
Since joining Variety Ontario in 2015, Karen spearheaded the partnership initiative with local leaders across the province to bring Variety trained staff and programming to children waiting for access to sport and fitness in their communities.
Previously, Karen served as a City of Toronto Councillor and Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, and worked with the Ministry and Health and Long Term Care, managing and delivering multi-million-dollar programs to expand the number of long-term care beds available in the system.
Throughout her 25 year career, Karen has led organizations in both the public and private sector, particularly those undergoing transformational change. She entered the not-for-profit sector as it faces its own transformational challenges – engaging a new generation of donors to support charities and their work.
Senior Vice-President, EY
Josh Colle is a leader in EY’s Government and Public Sector practice and advises clients and supports them in finding public transit, infrastructure, and service delivery solutions. This work has seen Josh working with public sector clients across North America with their efforts to review and improve services, find efficiencies and save costs, enhance operating and governance models, and navigate complex issues and stakeholder environments. Much of this work has been focused on supporting municipalities and transit agencies. Josh sits on the Board of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and previously served as Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and as a Toronto City Councillor.
Josh works with senior leaders at municipalities and transit providers in Canada and the US to address their most pressing challenges and opportunities. Over the course of his career in the transportation and infrastructure industry he has spoken regularly to public audiences and the media. Josh has spoken on public transit issues across North America at American Association of Public Transit (APTA), Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), Urban Transit Infrastructure, Railway Age, and many other events and sessions.
Josh received a B.A. from McGill University in Montreal and is a holder of the Institute of Corporate Directors Director designation and currently serves as the Vice Chair of Integrated Mobility on the Board of CUTA.
Senior Consultant, Earnscliffe Strategies
Mélanie Richer is a Strategic Communications Senior Consultant at Earnscliffe Strategies. With eight years of experience in federal and provincial politics, Mélanie specializes in strategic communications, crisis management, media relations and training.
Prior to joining Earnscliffe, Mélanie worked as the director of communications and media for a federal opposition party and leader. She led communication and media relations strategies, worked with the leader and spokespeople to persuasively communicate with media, and acted as the primary crisis management lead. She has served as the communications and media lead on tour for political leaders in federal and provincial elections.
Mélanie leverages her experience in understanding communication and media challenges by working on a solution that is tailored for each client, to help them better communicate and quickly solve problems. Mélanie earned an Honours Bachelor of Communications – Public Relations from the University of Ottawa and is a graduate of the Public Relations program at Algonquin College.
Senior Consultant, Earnscliffe Strategies
Nicko Vavassis is a Senior Consultant who understands how to build relationships, find consensus and deliver results in high stakes political environments. He built his knowledge of government relations, public affairs, and issues management working in the Ontario Government for the past 5 years.
Prior to joining Earnscliffe, Nicko worked as a senior advisor to two Cabinet Ministers in the Government of Ontario. Most recently, he served as Director of Policy to Ontario’s Attorney General, where he navigated politically sensitive legal affairs files and led a policy agenda undertaking a significant modernization of Ontario’s justice system. Nicko has also delivered on complex policy files in highly regulated markets, including leading the launch of Canada’s first open online gambling market, amending alcohol sales regulations, and the rollout of Ontario’s new cannabis framework.
In addition to his experience as a senior political advisor in stakeholder management, communications, and policy making, Nicko has worked in Ontario’s civil service. He uses this deep expertise to ensure clients’ voices are heard by the right people in the complex government decision making process. Nicko holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University. Originally a product of Gananoque, Ontario, Nicko now delivers for clients out of Earnscliffe’s Toronto office.