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Canada 150: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Challenge the Status Quo


The 2017 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC), held June 2 to 16, convened some of the nation’s brightest professionals on a quest to define the role of a leader in helping to create a better tomorrow for all Canadians. WSP’s Olivier Joyal was among the 250 members who travelled to various parts of the country to research, discuss and define a leader’s role in positively shaping the future of our nation.  

Olivier Joyal and members of his Study Group at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in Northern B.C.

The selection process was rigorous. Olivier needed to be nominated by a program alumnus, and three lengthy interviews subsequently took place. But on June 1, the Montreal-based Vice President of Environment found himself on a plane to British Columbia as a successful applicant and an official 2017 member of the highly coveted Governor General’s leadership conference.

Olivier was assigned to the British Columbia Study Group to answer the Governor General’s question: What is the role of a leader in positively shaping our country? With 17 others in his Study Group—professionals and leaders of diverse disciplines and backgrounds—nine days were spent travelling to various locations in the province and holding a total of 49 stakeholder meetings.

“We met with the President of University of British Columbia, we spoke to the early childhood educators in kindergarten, we visited the safe injection site in the midst of a fentanyl crisis, and we spoke with the CEO of Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) at their LEED-certified headquarters,” Olivier said. “There are many facets to society, I always knew that by working in the Environment sector where things are assuredly intertwined, but this was an eye-opener,” he added.


More questions than answers

The nine days were filled with back-to-back meetings and discussion sessions. And when those nine days were over, the Study Group gathered in Ottawa to produce a report for the Governor General. Their 30-minute presentation took place during the Closing Plenary on June 15.

Olivier and members of his team presenting their report to the Governor General on June 15.

“Truthfully, we had more questions than answers,” admitted the VP of Environment, adding, “but those questions led to some profound reflections.” For instance, the team narrowed down their findings and framed them into three specific questions related to trust, community and innovation. “Interaction without trust is impossible,” explained Olivier referencing projects that had failed to adequately involve stakeholders, “the basis of our working together requires a certain amount of trust. Where trust is weak, opportunities to strengthen it must be identified.”

Olivier was particularly intrigued by his meeting with the MEC CEO David Labistour. “The way the company invests back into community creates a win-win situation for all,” he said. After all, communities can benefit from new bike paths, and MEC from sales of new bikes and accessories.


Finding comfort in the uncomfortable, questioning the status quo

Last but not least, the role of innovation was pertinent everywhere he looked. Questions like, “clean water today or clean energy tomorrow?” and “so much trade but who owns the coast?” kept surfacing. And in trying to answer those complex questions, the team realized that their role as leaders was to ultimately challenge the status quo.  

In their presentation to the Governor General, it was apparent that in order to positively influence the future of our nation, leaders needed to work together to think outside of the box. Working together means developing trust, and with trust is the birth of a new community.

Olivier Joyal at the Closing Plenary on June 15.

According to Olivier, the leadership conference has made him even more passionate about his work at WSP. He is particularly thrilled about the company-wide focus on innovation and community. “The two go hand-in-hand. WSP questions the status quo. That is what my team and I do every day,” he said.

For more information about GGCLC, please contact Olivier Joyal.