The Influentials 2023
Our annual ranking of the people whose courage, smarts and clout are changing the world as we know it
Look at 2023 from just about any angle and a pattern emerges (it’s the economy, stupid). Across Toronto, renters fought to cap rent increases, workers fought for pay hikes, and politicians fought to keep the cost of living from pushing everyone and everything beyond the brink. After a dozen years of right-leaning leadership, voters elected Olivia Chow, an inveterate progressive and Toronto’s first non-white mayor, who has inherited a city in financial shambles. She may be the year’s most prominent big hire, but she’s not the only one: a sports team, a provincial court and a paper of record all got new bosses eager to overhaul the status quo.
Related: Toronto’s 25 Rising Stars of 2023
Some of the most important people of 2023 are familiar—hometown hype man Drake dominated the charts (with a new album) and the conversation (with a diamond pendant that’s truly over the top, even for him), and chef Matty Matheson was everywhere, from The Bear to the Super Bowl to grocery-store shelves. Fresh faces wielded influence too, whether in the pool, the classroom or the movie theatre. But no one else had the paradigm-shifting impact of the person standing in our number-one spot: a giant of artificial intelligence who changed his mind about AI—and now urgently wants to change everyone else’s.
On May 2, 2023, Geoffrey Hinton appeared on the front page of the New York Times announcing that he was stepping down from his job at Google and warning the world about the existential threat of artificial intelligence. Was he the first to prophecy the AI apocalypse? No. But most doomsayers (including Elon Musk) have been dismissed as alarmist scaremongers.
Hinton, on the other hand, is the world’s leading authority on AI and the so-called godfather of the technology. When he speaks, everyone pays attention. Two months after Hinton’s pronouncement, Justin Trudeau invited him to dinner to discuss what Canada should do. Hinton fielded calls from 10 Downing Street, the White House, Bernie Sanders and the aforementioned Musk, who prattled on for so long that Hinton had to beg off. Since then, he’s received more than a thousand interview requests and become something of a doomsaying celebrity, appearing on CNN, PBS, CBC, BBC and 60 Minutes. Even Snoop Dogg evoked him: “I heard the old dude that created AI saying, ‘This is not safe,’ ’cause the AI’s got their own minds, and these motherfuckers gonna start doing their own shit.’”
The old dude in question responded with typical dry wit: “They probably didn’t have mothers.” Hinton may be having a bit of fun, but he’s dead serious about the future, AI’s role in it and the part we have to play.✽ Read our long-form feature profile of Geoffrey Hinton ✽
Governor, Bank of Canada
The country’s most prominent banker has spent the year beating back inflation and the threat of a recession using stubbornly aggressive interest hikes: the key rate now sits at five per cent, up from a measly 0.25 just a few years ago. That’s had a painful ripple effect for cash-strapped shoppers, homeowners, motorists and anyone with debt (so, basically everyone). But there’s a method to the madness, and—despite pointed criticism from all shades on the political spectrum—Macklem insists that it’s working. And he seems to be right: since last summer, the inflation rate dropped from 8.1 per cent to just under four, closer to Macklem’s goal of two per cent. His typically understated response to this apparent vindication? “We’re not forecasting a serious recession.”
Photo by CP Images
It is customary for a new mayor to book off some personal time between winning the election and assuming office. Both John Tory and Rob Ford had two months; David Miller had three. But Chow barely took a coffee break after inheriting a city in financial freefall. Her top priority: affordable housing, including a plan to build 25,000 rent-controlled apartments on city land. She has also hiked the vacant-homes sales tax and increased shelter support for asylum seekers. The biggest hurdle she cleared was finding common ground with Doug Ford, first during a secret lunch meeting and then at an official rendezvous at Queen’s Park. He admitted that Toronto deserved funding from the province (something he’d long denied) and agreed to a so-called new deal.
Photo by Lucy Lu
Co-founder and chief scientist, OpenAI
If Geoffrey Hinton is the godfather of AI, then Sutskever, his former student, is its hip uncle. After turning the world upside down with the release of OpenAI’s GPT-4, Sutskever is now focused on ensuring that artificial intelligence acts in the interests of humanity, not against us. AI systems will become much smarter than us, he said in September, and it’s “critical that the imprinting is very strong, so they feel toward us the way we feel toward our babies.”
Photo by Getty Images
Chef, entrepreneur and streaming star
The city’s coolest chef now has six hotspots to his name, including Rizzo’s House of Parm, which opened in Crystal Beach last November, and Toronto fave Prime Seafood Palace. But it’s his non-restaurant ventures that had everyone buzzing this year.
The pop culture kudos
Season one of The Bear is up for a whackload of Emmys. And season two had even more Matty, who stars as the tender-hearted Neil Fak and serves as one of the show’s executive producers.
The grocery-store product line
Matheson Food Company’s collection of barbecue sauces is now available at Longo’s, Cheese Boutique, Farm Boy and Indigo.
The jock cred
Nothing says “having a moment” like starring in a Super Bowl ad, which Matheson did in February for DoorDash alongside the Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon.
The farm-to-table loop
What’s a bigger flex than running some of the city’s best restaurants? Owning the farm—Blue Goose, which Matheson launched with former Bar Raval chef Keenan McVey—that supplies their fresh ingredients.
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Deputy prime minister and minister of finance
Freeland’s personal approach to tackling inflation—cancelling her Disney-Plus subscription as an example of how to deal with rising costs—may have been out-of-touch, but the most powerful politician in Canada not named Trudeau is following up on her pledge to employ “all of the tools” at her disposal to help bring down interest rates and cost of living. That included a call on banks to cut fees for Canadians struggling with mortgage payments; the recent Bill C-56 (the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act), which waives GST on rental housing development and revamps competition laws in the grocery industry; and a new $15-billion federal spending review that redirects funds to economic stimulus initiatives.
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello
Byrne is the federal Conservatives’ Olivia Pope figure and the Liberals’ worst nightmare. A lifelong right-winger, the CEO of PR firm Jenni Byrne and Associates burnished her populist bona fides under Stephen Harper and Doug Ford, earning a reputation as a no-BS political operative who isn’t afraid to be ruthless—like when she turned on her buddy Erin O’Toole, whose centrist message wasn’t playing to the base. Byrne’s woman-of-the-people fingerprints are all over Poilievre’s leadership campaign, which has (mostly) steered clear of identity politics to focus on cost-of-living issues. The result is an unlikely coalition of fiscally motivated centrists, hardcore social conservatives and Trudeau-weary millennials who seem poised to take Byrne’s guy all the way.
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Former auditor general of Ontario
Ontario’s auditor general finished her 10-year tenure with the mother of all mic drops: a 93-page report on Doug Ford’s Greenbelt dealings that detailed secret handoffs, non-disclosure agreements and a significant amount of province-developer back-scratching. Lysyk’s document was followed swiftly by a similarly scathing report from Ontario’s integrity commissioner and a mounting list of resignations from the premier’s inner circle: to date, housing minister Steve Clark and his chief of staff Ryan Amato; director of housing policy Jae Truesdell; and Kaleed Rasheed, the minister of public and business service delivery who got a massage in Vegas with one of the land developers. It also prompted an investigation by the RCMP and, most crucially, provided the evidence that forced Ford to walk back his plan to carve up the Greenbelt.
Photo by Yasin Osman
Liu didn’t just appear in Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s box-office-busting ode to Mattel’s famous blonde bombshell; he back-flipped his way through the best scene in the movie of the summer, facing off against Ryan Gosling in an epic battle of the Kens. As if starring in a $1-billion-grossing film weren’t enough, this year Liu also hosted the Junos, dropped a pop single (and video), and delivered a blisteringly funny caricature of himself on the final season of the cult comedy The Other Two—all while waiting to suit up for his next outing as Shang-Chi, the Marvel martial-arts master.
Photo by Evaan Kheraj
It’s been a no good, very bad year for the premier, who suddenly seems made of tissue paper instead of Teflon. His majority government has been plagued by scandals so damning that they make leading the province through a pandemic seem like the easy part. Most significantly, the Greenbelt land swap fiasco (and the RCMP investigation that ensued) have plunged Ford’s approval numbers into the toilet. Still, the initiatives he pushed for—the privatization of health care, the Ontario Place mega-spa, the expansion of nuclear power—will continue to shape the city, whether we like them (and whether he remains in office to see the results) or not.
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CEO, Live Nation Entertainment
Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, had indisputable control over the entertainment industry this year, making Rapino the puppet master of live music. The widespread anger over Ticketmaster’s customer service and prices—especially around Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour—may have turned Rapino into concert-goers’ corporate enemy number one, but tickets to big shows go for even more at resale, proving that the demand is definitely there. In July, Live Nation, which opened History two years ago, acquired the Opera House and extended Rapino’s hold over Toronto. And now that Swift’s tour is closing here with six shows at the Rogers Centre, the city at large stands to profit too.
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Since taking the city’s top planning position five years ago, Lintern has been a tireless champion of multiplex housing, arguing that duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are the solution (or at least a solution) to a housing crisis that will only grow more dire as Toronto’s population balloons by 700,000 over the next three decades. Council voted 18–7 in favour of Lintern’s recommendations this past spring, approving a plan to rezone the so-called Yellowbelt—70 per cent of the city’s residential land, which had previously allowed only single-family detached homes—and clearing the way for gentle density and greater housing equality. Cue the predictable pearl-clutching, but Lintern is too focused on providing shelter for desperate Torontonians to pay much attention to NIMBYs.
President of the Treasury Board
At first, the decision to move Anand off the defence portfolio in July’s cabinet shuffle and onto the Treasury Board looked like a demotion—maybe even a slap on the wrist for holding her ground on military spending. But it wasn’t: in her new position, she’s like the country’s CFO. One of her first moves was to cut $15 billion in federal spending. She wasted no time in firing off a letter to her cabinet colleagues, setting a firm October deadline for their proposed budget cuts. At a time when the economy and the cost of living top the list of key voting issues, she’s made it clear that belt-tightening is now everyone’s priority.
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Filmmaker and author
Polley’s third feature film, Women Talking—an adaptation of Miriam Toews’s powerful novel—was more than a story about the aftermath of sexual assault in a Mennonite colony. Polley took the trauma, rage, heartbreak and hope in the book and expanded it into a sweeping studio movie that ignited global conversations about abuse, justice and forgiveness. It also won her an Oscar—her first—for best adapted screenplay. And if you weren’t already kvelling when Polley jumped up to accept the award in front of 18 million TV viewers, her unabashed delight in having the little gold dude as a party date did the trick.
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Rapper and hometown hype man
When Drake announced back-to-back fall shows at Scotiabank Arena, fans were furious over the ticket prices (nosebleeds started at $300). But the venue sold out anyway, even temporarily renaming itself “October’s Very Own Arena” as a tribute to Mr. Graham. And while it’s true that Drake’s latest outing, For All the Dogs, got panned by critics, it landed at the top of the Billboard charts—his 13th number-one debut. (Only the Beatles and Jay-Z have bested that record.) With Drake, artistic excellence has always run alongside his other job as a civic booster. This year’s prime example, his custom-designed “Jewel of Toronto” pendant, features a milk carton–size diamond CN Tower, a ruby-encrusted Raptor, and a blue diamond–encrusted Blue Jay and Maple Leaf. In a gesture almost as colossal as the bling itself, he’s promised it (for an off-season) to the next Toronto team to clinch a championship.
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CEO, Penguin Random House Canada
As the head of the country’s largest publishing house, Cochrane oversees roughly 500 original releases a year, 19 imprints and one online magazine. Under her leadership, Penguin Random House Canada sets the literary agenda, amplifying historically under-represented voices—a new children’s imprint dedicated to publishing Indigenous writers and illustrators is set to launch in 2024, for example—and supporting bold-faced names. (Occasionally, Cochrane also works closely with certain authors, such as John Irving.) Here, some of PRHC’s splashiest 2023 releases.
Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood
The doyenne of CanLit took a break from Handmaid’s Tale world-building to release her first short-story collection in almost a decade. The 15 tales cover subjects that include marriage, aging and (why not?) extraterrestrials.
Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune
Fortune’s sophomore romance landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list the week it was released. It also debuted at number one on three of the Globe and Mail’s lists: paperback fiction, Canadian fiction and romance/erotica.
The Defector by Chris Hadfield
The former astronaut wrote what he knew in 2021’s The Apollo Murders, a thriller about the Cold War and the space race. Its recently released sequel, which shot to the top of national bestseller lists, follows the same narrative trajectory.
Spare by Prince Harry
The Duke of Sussex’s scathing memoir about ditching royal life raked in the largest first-day sales for any non-fiction release ever published by Penguin Random House. In Canada alone, it sold 215,000 copies in its first week.
Photo by the Scotiabank Giller Prize
This summer, it looked like Bailey’s 2023 was going to be defined by an ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike that turned the prospect of attracting the usual high-voltage celebrities into a giant looming question mark. But that was quickly overshadowed by the news that Bell, TIFF’s lead sponsor for nearly three decades, would be pulling out after this edition. As Bailey wryly put it, to face such festival-shaking WTF moments simultaneously was “…interesting.” The success of this year’s event—audience numbers were up, and red carpets (albeit muted and more populated with big-name directors than with actors) prevailed—is a testament to the CEO’s charisma, agility, clout and connections. Bailey also oversaw the revitalization of the Bell Lightbox’s third floor and launched Varda, a new lounge named in honour of ground-breaking French filmmaker Agnès Varda.
Photo by Tony Morra
In 2016, Beyan immigrated to Toronto from Saudi Arabia with his parents in search of safety, community and a chance to build a new life. He found that life in Thorncliffe Park, an East York neighbourhood that is home to many low-income and immigrant communities. Now he and hundreds of fellow tenants are fighting to save it. Beyan was part of a small group of ringleaders who launched a rent strike in May, protesting an above-guideline rent increase of 10 per cent over two years—a spike that would force out many long-time renters. Since then, the Thorncliffe Park tenants have staged protests, travelled to Ottawa to confront their landlord and garnered support by tapping into broader housing-affordability issues. They have also inspired similar rent strikes across the city, leading a wave of civil disobedience that may be too loud (and too costly) to ignore.
Photo by Joshua Best
National president, Unifor
The head of Canada’s largest private-sector union, Payne was a major player in the summer of strikes, initiating a domino effect of labour victories across the GTA and beyond. As Payne warned automakers in August, “This is the moment we’re in—and no one, no one, should underestimate it.” They shouldn’t underestimate Payne, either. In her first year on the job, she has transformed Unifor into a negotiations powerhouse. In June, Pearson workers successfully ratified a new agreement. In July, workers at 27 Metro stores hit the picket line and secured an immediate wage hike of $1.50 an hour. In September, Unifor signed a new three-year contract with Ford. In October, 4,300 workers at General Motors and 8,200 workers at auto-manufacturing giant Stellantis went on brief strikes before their companies caved, agreeing to boost wages by up to 25 per cent.
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Budget chief of the City of Toronto
When Carroll stepped back into the role of budget chief in August, she inherited the unenviable job of balancing Toronto’s books. The city is staring down a deficit that could balloon to $46.5 billion unless major moves are made. In addition to creating new revenue tools, Carroll has to squeeze more money out of Ford and Trudeau and potentially reduce services like transit, long-term care and housing. But Chow hand-picked her for a reason: when she was budget chief under David Miller, Carroll gave the city its first-ever balanced budget—and then delivered three more. That she’s willing to pull the city back from the precipice yet again is a testament to her steely resolve.
The new queen of dreamy, steamy dock reads turned from journalism to fiction two years ago, releasing the Barry’s Bay–set Every Summer After. The romance promptly landed on the New York Times bestseller list, where it spent 13 weeks. This past May, her second book, Meet Me at the Lake, debuted at number one. Combined, the books have sold more than a million copies worldwide, introducing Ontario’s cottage country and aughts-era Toronto to the masses and making Fortune a household name. She’s also gained some famous fans: in August, Archewell Productions—owned by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—and Netflix purchased the rights to adapt Meet Me at the Lake for the screen.
Photo by Jenna Marie Wakani
CEO, Dream Unlimited
Toronto’s partnership with Google’s Sidewalk Labs may have gone up in smoke, but the plan to use the same site for a tech-forward sustainable neighbourhood of the future is still very much on—and very much relying on Cooper. The 12-acre Quayside Impact project—billed as Canada’s largest all-electric, zero-carbon, car-free community, with 4,300 new residential units and a ton of green space—is just one arrow in Cooper’s quiver of post-pandemic projects. He’s bullish on the future of the Financial District, where Dream has 17 buildings. And nothing says “return to the core” quite like opening a massive high-end restaurant at the corner of Richmond and Bay: Cooper and his wife, Krystal Koo, launched Daphne in partnership with Charles Khabouth this past June.
Chief nursing officer
When the feds tapped Chapman to be Canada’s chief nursing officer in the summer of 2022, care providers heaved a sigh of relief. Chapman has a PhD from U of T’s nursing faculty; she’s the co-founder of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society; and she’s determined to heal a critically underpaid, overextended workforce faced with severe labour shortages (Ontario alone needs 24,000 new nurses).
What’s the biggest factor contributing to the nursing shortage?
Nurses are constantly confronting organizational and structural barriers that make them feel like it’s impossible to provide the care they want to provide. They’re not able to do what they’ve been trained to do, what their experience tells them they should do. So it’s causing moral distress. It’s also creating pathology—it’s making them sick.
How are you fixing that?
There are three priorities. One is accelerating the integration of internationally educated nurses. The second is advancing labour mobility—for example, nurses who were evacuating with patients during the wildfires in the Northwest Territories had to be licensed in Alberta and BC. The last item involves better data, so we can track where our nurses are licensed and working. But I am also prioritizing retention, because we can’t recruit our way out of this shortage.
Have you been handed too tall an order?
Nurses take great pride in our publicly funded system, and we’re attuned to the effects that lack of access to care and services can have. I want to amplify nurses’ voices so they feel represented in policy, in decision making. My goal is for nursing to be a profession of choice.
Photo by Geoff George
Tara Woodbury and Danielle Woodrow
Co-directors of content, Netflix
These days, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos doesn’t choose most of what makes it onto his megalithic streaming service. At Netflix Canada—which got a flashy new Toronto HQ in April—the people who do are Woodbury and Woodrow. This spring, after a months-long cross-country CanCon walkabout, they green-lit Tall Pines, a teen thriller from Mae Martin; a Nunavut-set comedy co-created by Stacey Aglok MacDonald and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (APTN and the CBC are also involved); and a three-year deal with Just for Laughs.
Photo by Calvin Thomas and George Pimentel
Executive chef, Mimi Chinese and Sunnys Chinese
In just three years, Schwartz’s name has become synonymous with expertly executed regional Chinese cuisine. The owner and executive chef at Kensington Market destination Sunnys Chinese (which got a dreamy new back patio this year) and its upscale sister spot Mimi Chinese (culinary icon Éric Ripert is a big fan) is easily one of the city’s top chefs. The tastemakers at Michelin agree: in September, Sunnys received a Bib Gourmand distinction and Schwartz was awarded the coveted Toronto Young Chef Award.
Photo by Kayla Rocca
Ronnen Harary, Anton Rabie and Ben Varadi
Co-founders, Spin Master
The toy-and-joy behemoth Spin Master—best known for brands like PAW Patrol, Gund and Hatchimals—has been dealing in top toy properties for more than 25 years. This October, the company made an especially big move when it announced that it was buying American wooden-toy company Melissa and Doug for a mind-bending $950 million (US), the latest in a string of 2023 successes.
More and more toys
Spin Master took over Hasbro’s classic Barrel of Monkeys and signed a new global licensing deal involving famed kid explorer Dora.
More box-office coin
PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie sent its box-office competition to the pound in September by pulling in $23 million, making it the largest North American opening for a Canadian movie in a decade.
More puppy TV
The PAW Patrol TV series was renewed for an 11th season, and its Rubble & Crew spin-off included an episode featuring River, a non-binary character—an Adventure Bay first.
More wish-list candidates
Four Spin Master products were named to Walmart’s 2023 Top Toy List, including a new digital pet named Bitzee and Monkey See, Monkey Poo, a board game about, well, you know.
When Gilgeous-Alexander netted 11 points in the final two minutes of his World Cup game against Spain, the point guard effectively supercharged Canada’s basketball rep. That moment clinched the national team a spot at Paris 2024 (ending a 24-year Olympic drought) and set them up for a win against the US that resulted in a first-ever World Cup medal (bronze, but still). Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points per game, only slightly below his impressive 31-point NBA average with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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CEO, Universal Music Canada
In April, a TikToker named Ghostwriter shook the music industry when he released an AI-generated rap song using the voices of Drake and the Weeknd. Universal, which holds the rights to both artists’ catalogues, promptly got the song pulled from multiple platforms and tartly asked streaming giants which side of history they wanted to be on. Remedios’s ultimate revenge came in October, when the company released (the real) Drake’s latest, For All the Dogs, and the album immediately claimed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts. Remedios is also the talent spotter behind this year’s breakthrough Canadian artists Josh Ross, Preston Pablo and Banx & Ranx. He even got Nickelback—one of the bestselling bands of all time, haters be damned—to play a free concert at TIFF, where he chairs the board.
Photo by Kayla Rocca
Minister of infrastructure
She’s low profile, but her portfolio is decidedly not. Surma—who is responsible for some very contentious files, including the perennially delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT—is an unapologetic cheerleader for her government’s redevelopment plans. She’s spent this year navigating the fallout over proposals for a revamped Ontario Place that include a relocation of the Ontario Science Centre and new infrastructure (the massive Therme spa, a giant parking lot). Determined to push her vision through despite the cacophony of dissent, she submitted a revised application to the city, this time with more public space and a smaller spa.
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Doctor, author, ER wellness director
If Toronto’s critical care infrastructure were a human body, it would be in a state of multi-organ failure—but Maskalyk has a plan. In January, the MD became the wellness director of nine of the city’s emergency departments. To boost morale and retain staff, he’s focused on peer support by creating a network of “wellness leads” that extends across 19 ERs in the GTA. Pushing back against the idea that care providers should be stoic, he’s fighting to make mindfulness part of medical training and to ensure staff have ample opportunities to debrief following both trauma and triumph.
Photo by Eduardo Lima
Hedge fund manager
A couple of years ago, Anson Funds was named one of the top-performing hedge funds in the world. Now, the firm that Kassam co-founded and brought to Toronto in 2007 manages $1.5 billion (US) in assets. Kassam could sit on his proverbial pile of gold, but he and his wife, Marissa, are among the one-percenters who consistently give back. They have funnelled millions through their eponymous foundation, which focuses on equity-geared initiatives like health care (they support Michael Garron and Mount Sinai hospitals). This past April, the Kassams helped the Toronto Public Library haul in $1 million at Biblio Bash. In September, the couple’s $1-million donation to the Canadian Olympic Foundation established the Level the Playing Field initiative, directing resources to grassroots youth sports programs in marginalized communities.
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Chef and owner of Alo Food Group
Most celebrated chefs avoid brunch at all costs, but most brunches aren’t like the new weekend offering at Alder in the Ace Hotel—the menu features brown-butter waffles, Hokkaido scallop crudo and pork belly with shishito peppers. It’s the kind of culinary wizardry that has made Kriss, the owner of Alo Food Group, the city’s most innovative chef. He also holds the record for the most Michelin-endorsed restaurants in Toronto: Alo and Alobar Yorkville each have a star, and Alder and Aloette have both earned recommendations. Not one to rest easy, Kriss (along with his business partner, Zane Pearl) opened a fourth Alo location this past spring, Alobar Downtown. Kriss’s take on a steakhouse, it achieved immediate Insta-fame for a $26 twice-baked potato that’s worth risking a heart attack.
Since 2022, Jilesen has been broadly recognized as the person who separated the Freedom Convoy from millions of dollars. She argued successfully for a rare but potent injunction that froze $20 million in convoy cash and crypto assets—the latter a precedent-setting victory in the battle to regulate Bitcoin and its ilk. The verdict was listed among Lexpert magazine’s top decisions of the year and played a key role in earning Jilesen, who became managing partner of Lenczner Slaght in January, litigator of the year at the 2023 Canadian Law Awards.
Before taking the stage at the NBA All-Star Game this past February, Black had stopped singing the national anthem altogether. Following the discovery of unmarked mass graves near former residential school sites, the singer was unwilling to extol Canada’s virtues in song. But then the NBA called, and Black saw a chance to make a big difference with a tiny preposition. By changing the opening line to “our home on native land” rather than “and,” Black stood up for our country’s original inhabitants without missing a beat.
We’re about to see a whole lot of Hariri and his firm, Hariri Pontarini Architects. The man behind Stratford’s recently reimagined and rave-worthy Tom Patterson Theatre is also working on exciting but hush-hush projects for the ROM and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. For now, here are four ongoing projects he is allowed to talk about.
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
Hariri Pontarini is collaborating with four other firms in a $400-million overhaul of the Front Street stalwart. Plans for the zero-carbon performance space include a glass façade, Indigenous-inspired design features, upgraded accessibility and a public plaza.
The Regent Theatre
The reinvigorated landmark will include third-storey additions to the front and back of the building, making more room for audience members, staff and rehearsals. The Mount Pleasant façade will get a facelift and flashy new signage.
The Art Gallery of York University
York’s art gallery will finally get a space of its own with a stand-alone building on the edge of the school’s common. Drought-resistant landscaping and a sculpture garden will beautify the outdoor space; inside, four new galleries will house exhibitions.
Pickering Museum Village
The first new community centre in Pickering in almost two decades, it will be part museum, gallery, library and archive. Materials being used, such as weathered wood and field stone, complement both the nearby ravine and the area’s heritage buildings.
Photo by Ramon Vasconcelos
Founder of DisinfoWatch
As the head of DisinfoWatch, a platform that monitors and debunks foreign disinformation, Kolga has been very busy. In March, his team released a study exposing the extent to which pro-Russian social media accounts have weakened Canadians’ support for Ukraine with an insidious narrative that characterizes certain groups as Nazis (propaganda that can lead to genocide, according to the UN special adviser on the subject). Kolga has received death threats as a result of his work, but he keeps on posting, a current of truth amid the ocean of lies.
Photo by Vonny Lord
The countdown to Paris 2024 is on, and Canada’s highest medal hopes rest on the shoulders of this 17-year-old swimming phenom. McIntosh exploded into the national consciousness in June with three epic finishes at the Canadian swim trials—two of them world records (400-metre individual and 400-metre freestyle). Her showing was proof that Swim Canada’s renewed focus on identifying and developing the best swimmers on the planet is paying off. Even though she’s still in high school, McIntosh is the new star of the pool.
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Pastor at Revivaltime Tabernacle
When the city announced that it could no longer afford to take in asylum seekers, James opened the doors to her North York church—and inspired other Black churches and community centres to provide free shelter too. Here, she recalls how Revivaltime Tabernacle became a haven for more than 1,000 people in need.
“In mid-July, I saw a video of a group of Black people trying to put together a tent. They were asylum seekers, mostly from Africa, who had been sleeping outside the city’s shelter intake centre. I kept thinking about how they’d fled their home countries to escape trauma only to experience new indignity in Canada. They had nowhere to go because our levels of government were arguing over who should take responsibility.
On the morning of July 17, my friend Donald McLeod, an Ontario court justice, and I came up with a plan: Revivaltime Tabernacle would shelter them. I got approval from the church’s board, we rented a bus and at 7 p.m. we started driving people over. By midnight, there were 190 people inside the church.
We set up a sleeping area in the main auditorium, where we host weddings and events. That first week, we had just two showers for everyone. I spent a lot of time as a project manager, corralling resources like cots, food, medical care and mental-health services. What I really loved was talking to our new guests and praying with them, making them feel heard and valued. There was a woman whose spouse had been shot in front of her, people who had fled because their sexuality or gender identity had put them in danger, people whose homes had been bombed, people who had been forced to leave their children behind. Because we didn’t want them to be defined by the terrible things they had experienced, we organized game nights and physical activities, and one night we held a dance under the stars.
Over five weeks, Revivaltime Tabernacle housed more than 1,000 people. In early September, after a lot of pressure from us, the city finally found them housing at hotels and shelters. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye, though. I had been sleeping at the church every night. We became a community and, in the end, a family—many of the asylum seekers called me mom. It’s hard to express my frustration over how Toronto, which is so proud of its reputation as a sanctuary city, abandoned these people to the point that our churches and organizations had no choice but to intervene.”
CEO, Daily Bread Food Bank
The Daily Bread Food Bank has historically appealed to human decency and charity to feed the city’s hungry. That changed in March, when the organization tracked a record 270,000 monthly visits (up from 180,000 last year), which included 12,000 first-time users. For Hetherington, who has led Daily Bread since 2018, it was the tipping point that compelled him to gather together Ontario’s food-bank operators. These Avengers of food insecurity went on the offensive, calling on all three levels of government to take action. Ottawa has since introduced legislation to increase disability benefits in the 2024 budget (14 per cent of people who use food banks are living with disabilities). Hetherington and his team also successfully lobbied the feds to provide Canadians eligible for the GST credit with an additional grocery rebate and to get grocery chains to promise to reduce prices.
When the writer-director’s debut feature, Past Lives, premiered in January, critics praised it as 2023’s first great film. That’s a precarious title to nab if you’re hoping to maintain momentum, but the longevity of Song’s Oscar buzz—her film remains a favourite for best original screenplay, with an outside shot at best picture is a testament to how appealing a subtle, well-crafted indie can be in a world overrun by superheroes and action figures. In the second week of its limited theatrical release in the US, Past Lives beat the per-theatre takes of both Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
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CEO, Project 8
Canada is one of just two competing nations in the Women’s World Cup without a national professional league. Now there’s one launching in 2025, and footie fans can thank Matheson. The former Team Canada midfielder is the co-founder and CEO of Project 8 Sports—the group building the league—and she’s the person keeping the proverbial ball moving down the field. Here’s what she’s accomplished so far.
Signed three teams: the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Calgary Foothills and AFC Toronto City. The franchise fee is $1 million, with an additional $8 million to $10 million in total invested capital needed over the first five seasons as well as further spending on infrastructure.
Brought on CIBC, Air Canada and Canadian Tire as founding sponsors. DoorDash Canada has thrown its weight behind AFC Toronto specifically.
The big name
Enlisted her former teammate and good friend Christine Sinclair—one of the greatest players to ever put cleat to ball—to serve as the league’s adviser and brand ambassador. Sinclair retired from international soccer in October but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of lacing up for the new league.
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In the tech world, earlier is often better. But, by doggedly building on innovation in the self-driving sector, Urtasun is pulling ahead. In 2021, the former chief scientist of Uber’s self-driving division founded Waabi Innovation Inc., an autonomous-driving start-up focused on hub-to-hub trucking. In January, after putting its first fleet on the road in the US (accompanied by human drivers who can take over if something goes wrong), Waabi scored a major vote of confidence—and cash flow—from Volvo’s venture capital arm.
Photo by Polina Teif/University of Toronto
In February, the TDSB voted in favour of transforming its Grade 11 English curriculum—a selection of mostly Western classics—to make room for Indigenous authors. The mastermind behind the move was Isaiah Shafqat, an Indigenous student trustee. His goal wasn’t to get rid of Shakespeare and co.—who will continue to be taught in grades 9, 10 and 12—but to fuel informed conversations about truth and reconciliation. Now, an elective called English: Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit Voices will be mandatory across all 110 TDSB secondary schools.
Photo by Joshua Best
Model and entrepreneur
This past April, Lauren Chan became the first queer plus-size model to be named a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie, further shifting attitudes about who can and should be the face—and body—of fashion.
What does it mean to make Sports Illustrated history in the way that you have?
It means we’re ready to celebrate intersectionality: I’m a plus-size, queer, immigrant, Asian, Middle Eastern person, and I can be all of those things.
So you view getting selected as a chance to “be the change”?
Right. Throughout my career—whether as a model, a fashion editor, or the founder and designer of my own fashion line—I’ve always had the same north star: to make people excluded by fashion, and by our culture in general, feel powerful.
You’ve talked about how, when you were launching your label, Henning, you kept hearing that plus-size people aren’t willing to spend money on clothes.
There are so many inaccurate stereotypes: that plus-size people don’t want to participate in fashion, that the clothing is too expensive to make—all of it is based in fatphobia. I started Henning to prove that a plus-size fashion label is a viable business.
It obviously is: Henning was acquired by the American mega-brand Universal Standard this spring. So what was the bigger deal: selling your business or landing the Sports Illustrated shoot?
I’ll say this: I went to look at the monitor during the shoot and actually started welling up. I have fought hard to become the person I am. To see that in full form with a Sports Illustrated logo? I had to step away—I didn’t want to ruin my mascara.
Seven months ago, Stoynoff took the stand in a New York courthouse and gave history-shifting testimony. After moving from Toronto to the US in the late ’90s to work at People, she was assigned to the Trump beat. While covering Donald and Melania’s wedding anniversary in 2005, Stoynoff faced aggressive and unwanted sexual advances—an experience she described as a witness in E. Jean Carroll’s battery and defamation suit against Trump. The jury found the former POTUS liable for sexual abuse and defamation—his first guilty verdict of this kind—and awarded Carroll $5 million. The victory was technically Carroll’s, but many legal analysts agreed that Stoynoff’s clear-headed corroboration was critical to the win.
Photo by Ashley Fraser
When Roher pitched Alexei Navalny on a bio-doc by promising to keep his name in the global consciousness if he was jailed, the leader of the Russian opposition agreed. Navalny’s big wins during this year’s awards season—including best documentary at the Oscars and the BAFTAs—were bittersweet. As Roher pointed out in his Oscars speech, his subject (who was indeed arrested) remained in solitary confinement.
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Actor and activist
At 73 years old, Cardinal has spent more than half of her life in front of the camera—and just as long pushing for Indigenous representation in mainstream film and television. It looks like the industry is finally catching up. Last year, Cardinal stole scenes in Three Pines, the Amazon Prime series that retooled Louise Penny’s blockbuster mysteries to include key storylines about residential schools. This fall, she starred in Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s film about the Osage Nation murders, playing the mother of main character Mollie Burkhart. At its Cannes premiere in May, the movie received a nine-minute standing ovation and kick-started talk of awards-season dominance.
Photo by HAUI
Seligman’s first film, 2020’s Shiva Baby, was made for $200,000. Her second, this summer’s Bottoms, had a comparatively astronomical budget of $11 million. The sleeper hit about horny teen lesbians and their high school fight club landed the Northern Secondary School grad and her leads (Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) on the cover of New York magazine and in theatres across North America. We found out more.
Favourite movie:When Harry Met Sally.
Movie you wish you’d directed:Aftersun, but a Jewish version.
Toronto actor you want to work with: Sarah Gadon.
What you miss about Toronto since moving to New York: Oh my god, I have photos of Toronto all over my apartment. I’d say the people—they’re the nicest.
Biggest misconception about your job: People think I know what I’m doing.
Most memorable fan interaction: At a Q&A for Bottoms, one person introduced themselves by saying, “Hi, I’m Abby, and I’m a lesbian.” It sounded like they were in AA. But then they talked about how important the movie was for them. It was very sweet.
Something you splurge on: Serums.
Embarrassing fact about yourself: I can’t drive, ride a bike or skate.
Photo by Hunter Abrams
When it came out in May, BlackBerry was met with an avalanche of accolades: a 98 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, number three on the Globe and Mail’s list of greatest Canadian comedies ever and comparisons to David Fincher’s Facebook biopic, The Social Network. Known for scrappy indies like The Dirties, Johnson isn’t interested in competing with American blockbusters; in fact, he’s fiercely lobbied Telefilm Canada to get more money for first-time filmmakers. BlackBerry is by far his most commercial outing to date, but it’s still arty enough to generate awards-season buzz.
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Entrepreneur and philanthropist
In the early days of video, Bachir parlayed a VHS trade magazine into a media empire, eventually presiding over Famous Players and Cineplex. But, for all his business acumen, Bachir’s twin passions are culture and community. He’s spent 40 years bringing the two spheres together through a philanthropic legacy that encompasses art, LGBTQ activism and health care. His new memoir, First to Leave the Party, is part gossip column and part sales pitch: via Hollywood-heavy anecdotes about his decades of fundraising, Bachir reminds everyone why St. Joseph’s Health Centre, the 519 and other Toronto institutions that have benefited from his largesse deserve everyone’s support.