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Negotiating Our Future


Start: October 1, 2024
End: October 3, 2024

Hilton Toronto, Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada

145 Richmond Street West
M5H 2L2 Toronto ON


Marc Arsenault

Business Manager & Secretary-Treasurer
Ontario Building Trades
  • Marc Arsenault

    Marc started out his career in construction as a proud Ironworker with Local 721 and brings hard work, strategic thinking and determination to every job. Marc was elected to the position of Business Manager and Secretary-Treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario at the Council's 64th Annual Convention in October 2021.

    Prior to being elected, Marc served as the Director of Stakeholder Relations with Ontario’s Ironworkers District Council, where he used his 25 years of experience to form collaborative partnerships with purchasers of construction services, contractors, Ironworker Training Centres, and provincial and federal governments. Marc recognizes the value of strong partnerships and played a key role in the creation of the Apprenticeship Enhancement Fund (AEF) by bringing together key partners from the private sector, organized labour, diverse stakeholders, and government to help improve Union Training Centres across Ontario.

    Marc is a strong advocate of working with not-for-profit community groups and supports implementing Workforce Development Agreements at all levels of government. Marc currently provides construction subject matter expertise to provincial authorities to strengthen social procurement programs while advocating for better health and safety outcomes, as well as for strengthened apprenticeship training in Ontario's construction industry.

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Robert Bronk

Chief Executive Officer
Ontario Construction Secretariat
  • Robert Bronk

    Robert was appointed CEO for the Ontario Construction Secretariat in October of 2017. He brought with him a degree in civil engineering from Queen’s University, and an MBA from the University of Toronto.

    He has enjoyed many fond memories and relationships during his time at the OCS engaging with various industry stakeholders throughout the province.  He is proud of the events and resources his team at the OCS have created that have proven to be relevant and pragmatic to its industry partners.  With the direction and support of the OCS Board of Directors he is excited about new initiatives currently being planned that arose from the latest strategic planning session.

    Robert is an active member in his community, volunteering at a local food bank, as well as with Meals on Wheels.  Robert was born in Winnipeg and moved to Toronto in the 1980s to play for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, winning the Grey Cup in 1983.  He is a proud father of 4 children, and grandfather to three young grandkids, with one more on the way.

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Deborah Cooper

Queen's University IRC
  • Deborah Cooper

    Deborah Cooper brings a wealth of experience to the realm of labour relations from the internal grievance processes to chairing labour management committees and handling adjudication. Her proficiency extends to collective bargaining, across diverse sectors, including the federal public service, private industry, and the non-profit sector. With over a decade of instructional experience with Queen’s IRC, Deborah serves as a mediator/adjudicator, facilitator, and speaker. Previously, she was the Executive Director of a federal union representing public service employees in multiple bargaining units across Canada.

    Transitioning from private practice as an employment and labour lawyer to in-house roles with federal bargaining agents, Deborah’s career trajectory led to her appointment as General Secretary of the National Joint Council (NJC) of the Public Service of Canada in 2013. Here she oversaw directives integrated into collective agreements on topics such as travel and relocation to the healthcare and long-term disability plans.

    In subsequent roles, Deborah advocated for workers in a significant federal union and within the federally regulated aviation industry as Director of Labor Relations and General Counsel. She has worked in the non-profit industry for over 20 years as a volunteer, holding positions ranging from Secretary to President.

    Deborah also lived and worked in various roles overseas in Paris, France for several years, including at the Canadian Embassy. She holds an Honours Bachelor Degree from the University of Ottawa, a Law Degree from the University of Western Ontario, and Certificates in Labour Relations and Advanced Human Resources from Queen’s University IRC. She has been a member of the Law Society of Ontario for over 25 years.

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Wendy Cukier

Professor of Entrepeneurship and Strategy
Toronto Metropolitan University

Bill Ferreira

Executive Director
BuildForce Canada
  • Bill Ferreira

    Bill Ferreira has played a leading role in Canada's construction industry for nearly a decade.  Bill assumed the role of Executive Director at BuildForce Canada in August 2017, after serving as Vice-President, Government Relations and Public Affiars at the Canadian Construction Association since 2008.  Bill has also served as a Senior Policy Advisor in a range of portfolios at the Federal Government, including Citizenship and Immigration, Environment Canada and International Trade.  Following government, Bill joined a boutique government relations firm in Ottawa, focusing his expertise on the energy, transportation and telecommunications sectors.  Bill also played a pivotal role as Director of Government Affairs at the Forest Products Association of Canada.

    Bill was born in Toronto.  He's a graduate of Carlton University in Ottawa where he earned a degree in Political Science.

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Jason Foster

Associate Professor of Human Resources and Labour Relations
Athabasca University
  • Jason Foster

    Jason Foster is Associate Professor of Human Resources and Labour Relations at Athabasca University. He is also Director of Parkland Institute, a public interest research institute based at the University of Alberta. Jason is the author of Gigs, Hustles, & Temps (2023) and Defying Expectations: The Case of UFCW Local 401 (2018), as well as co-author of Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces (2016) and The Practice of Human Resource Management in Canada (2024). He has published dozens of articles on topics related to work and is a frequent commentator in the media. His research interests include workplace injury, union renewal, labour and employment policy, and migrant workers in Canada.

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Gary Furlong

Queen’s University IRC
  • Gary Furlong

    Gary Furlong

    Chartered Mediator (C.Med.), Master of Laws (ADR), Osgoode Hall Law School, Distinguished Fellow, International Academy of Mediators



    About Gary Furlong

    Gary Furlong has extensive experience in labour mediation, alternative dispute resolution, negotiation, and conflict resolution.  Gary is past president of the ADR Institute of Ontario, is a Chartered Mediator (C. Med.) and holds his Master of Laws (ADR) from Osgoode Hall Law School.  Gary is the author of The Conflict Resolution Toolbox, John Wiley and Sons, Second Edition 2020; the co-author of BrainFishing: A Practice Guide to Questioning Skills, FriesenPress 2018;and The Sports Playbook, Routledge, 2018.

    Gary has worked with the Queen’s University School of Industrial Relations conducting research into employment models of dispute resolution in Canadian companies. He teaches a number of labour-related courses at Queen’s University IRC, along with advanced mediation skills at York University.

    In the labour area, Gary mediates collective agreements, grievances and labour board complaints for sectors as diverse as school boards, public health care, utilities, and airlines across Canada. Gary has delivered collective bargaining negotiation skills training for both management and union bargaining teams, bringing a strong focus of effective and collaborative skills to the table. Gary specializes in leading joint bargaining training for intact negotiation teams just prior to negotiations, with a focus on helping parties maximize joint gains at the table. In addition, Gary also conducts relationship building interventions to strengthen day-to-day union-management effectiveness away from bargaining.

    Gary has worked with a wide range of organizations in the private sector, in the public sector with municipalities, provincial governments and the federal government, and with unions including Unifor, Teamsters, CUPE, ONA, OPSEU, IATSE and PSAC.

    Gary was awarded the McGowan Award of Excellence by the ADR Institute of Canada. He is a graduate of Stanford University in California.


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Akanksha Gautam

Trade Ambassador
CODC Construction Opportunities Development Council Inc.
  • Akanksha Gautam

    Akanksha Gautam is the Trade Ambassador CODC Construction Opportunities Development Council Inc. and CLR Construction Labour Relations Association of Saskatchewan Inc. With eight years of HR experience from her home country and almost four years in Canadian settlement agencies, she is a Registered Professional Recruiter, Certified Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging Specialist, and Certified Talent Management and Succession Planning Specialist.

    In her role, Akanksha promotes Saskatchewan's unionized construction and maintenance industry through trade shows, conferences, orientations, and webinars. As a Trade Ambassador, she connects unions and contractors with new talent, builds partnerships with organizations across the province, and maintains strong relationships to support the industry's growth.

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Karen Gordon

Gordon Strategy
  • Karen Gordon

    Karen Gordon is a communications strategist with over two decades’ experience answering the bell for leading law firms and their corporate clients, employers of all stripes, emergency services organizations, and sports leagues and clubs. She provides deep, strategically targeted expertise in practice areas encompassing employment and labour relations, litigation, and crisis and incident management. Widely recognized for her communications knowledge, Karen is a regular expert commentator on both radio and television.

    Since founding Gordon Strategy in 2002 (originally Squeaky Wheel Communications), Karen has developed an extensive body of work punctuated by numerous high-stakes, high-profile, and strategically complex engagements, including close to 100 rounds of collective bargaining, high-profile executive employment terminations and some of the country's highest profile legal cases.


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Brett Horan

Executive Director
Alberta Council of Turnaround Industry Maintenance Stakeholders ("ACTIMS")
  • Brett Horan

    Brett Horan is the Executive Director of ACTIMS (Alberta Council of Turnaround Industry Maintenance Stakeholders), a tripartite not-for-profit company that brings knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced tradespeople (Temporary Foreign Workers - a.k.a. TFWs) into Alberta for maintenance work.  ACTIMS was originally started to support the shutdowns and turnarounds for the oilsands facilities but has expanded geographically into the entire northern half of Alberta and now includes an owner from the fertiliser sector.

    From 1992 to 2021 (after completing a five-year apprenticeship program) Brett worked for three multinational construction companies and resultingly worked and lived in several American states as well as working in almost every province (except Manitoba, Quebec, and PEI) in industries ranging from nuclear and fossil power plants to Canada’s first LNG export facility.  While working for one of the companies Brett was responsible for labour relations at numerous facilities in both the USA and Canada.  Brett’s geographically disperse experience has also resulted in relocating residences eleven (11) times between the USA and Canada.  Brett has also been a trustee on the ACAW Trust funds (pension and H&W) since 2004.

    Brett received his B.S/B.A. from Wayne State University and his M.B.A. from the University of Windsor.  Mr. Horan is also a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR), has obtained his Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) designation, and has completed the Master of Trust Management Standards (MTMS) programme.

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Stephen McArthur

Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP
  • Stephen McArthur

    Stephen is a partner in our Toronto office. He acts as Counsel for many local and Provincial Construction Associations, individual contractors and a range of other employers. In this capacity Stephen provides advice and advocacy in collective bargaining; before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and before various adjudicative bodies and Courts throughout Ontario.

    Stephen is a co- author of several labour and employment law texts, including “Canadian Construction Labour & Employment Law” (LexisNexis Canada Inc.); Practice Guides for Occupational Health and Safety and The Purchase and Sale of a Business (Carswell). Stephen is rated as “consistently recommended” in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and is also listed by Best Lawyers in Canada as a leader in Labour and Employment Law in Canada.

    Prior to attending law school, Stephen spent six years in the automotive industry as co-founder of an engine components manufacturing company. Sandco Automotive Limited grew from a small two-person business to become a drive train parts supplier to OEM with over 200 employees in Ontario.

    Before joining Mathews Dinsdale Stephen was for 25 years the founding partner and principal of a labour and employment law firm in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Brian O’Byrne

Ontario Labour Relations Board
  • Brian O’Byrne

    Brian O’Byrne was appointed Chair of the Board commencing in February 2022. He was formerly a partner at two prominent firms practicing in the areas of labour relations, including collective bargaining, employment and workplace human rights law. Mr. O’Byrne has been recognized over the years as a leading labour law practitioner and was a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. He has acted for both public and private sector clients and appeared on their behalf in proceedings before arbitrators and tribunals, including the Board. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School.

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Sean Strickland

Executive Director
Canada's Building Trades Unions
  • Sean Strickland

    As Executive Director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions, an association of 14 international unions representing over 600,000 members, Sean Strickland is responsible for overseeing the operations of the CBTU office, including advocating for progressive public policies that benefit our membership, and securing work opportunities for unionized construction.

    Before joining CBTU, Sean worked in business development for a large general contractor and prior to that was CEO of a joint labour management organization in Ontario, the Ontario Construction Secretariat. Growing up in a construction union household, Sean was able to experience the rewards and challenges of being a construction worker and union leader.

    Sean sits on numerous boards and advisory committees including Helmets to Hardhats, SKILLPLAN, the Canadian Development corporation, (CDEV) and is Chair of Buildforce Canada.

    Sean has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Waterloo, is a graduate of the Executive Management Program at Wilfrid Laurier University, and the Leadership Development program from Harvard University. He is the proud recipient of the Canada 125 Medal for Community Service.

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Jim Vlahos

Executive Director
General Contractors' Association of Toronto

NCLRA Members

From Across Canada
NCLRA Members


A big thank you to all the sponsors of this year's conference!

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