Diversity, talent, and the Markham Mix were themes at Mayor Frank Scarpitti’s sold out business address last Thursday. The largest business networking event in the city, co-hosted by the Board of Trade, did not know what was coming when Premier Doug Ford took the stage (pictured above with MPP Billy Pang).

The first surprise was seeing Scarpitti impersonating Ford, near flawlessly, in a pre-recorded video that ended with the hilarious phrase, “What an amazing city, Markham has great companies like Veoneer and, thanks to me, you can now buy a buck-a-beer!”

What came next was the biggest surprise of all when Premier Ford himself all but confronted the Mayor in the most comical and pre-planned manner, of course.

After sharing a few laughs with the crowd, the Premier went straight into talk of the $15 billion deficit Ontario has apparently inherited. He went on to say the Ministry of Debt aka Ontario’s Financing Authority (OFA) is the fourth largest department under the province.

Whether this was in response to the recent cuts to education and healthcare the province has made, or to do with job growth is unknown but he delved further into the latter.

Creating environments for companies to thrive was on the mantle along with 123k private sector jobs that have been created under his government. He also claimed that the previous Liberal government lost 300k manufacturing jobs.


The main priority for local professionals and industry is “bringing transit up to Markham from Richmond Hill” to which the Premier was greeted with roaring applause.

Mayor Frank Scarpitti included an image of his (tongue-in-cheek) vision for the the next Ontario License plate.

Bringing transit into a regional transit system is the logical next step towards our evolution as a connected city, according to the Mayor who highlighted our changing license plates:

“Yours to Discover”

“A Place to Grow”

“Open for Business”

He went on to highlight that “Markham is on the move, moving up and moving fast. Our mission is to connect you to the talent to grow your business. A conversation leads to a network.”

With more than 26 billion connected devices worldwide, leading and not just evolving in step with the digital economy is the key. This is where
the motto of diversity, talent, and innovation come in as Markham is now also hailed an automotive innovation hub.

General Motors is expected to hire 1000 engineers right here in the city, with Travis Hester (pictured), President and Managing Director, GM Canada at the forefront.

As one of three speakers on the roster, Hester discussed various innovations like Triple Zero, “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

He also covered autonomous driving and increasing food insecurity to be addressed with indoor vertical farming under Emerson Grow.

In the crowd were grade 12 students from St. Brother Andre Catholic School, Vincent Servinis and Samuel Luff, who were featured as the best automotive education students in North America at the New York International Auto Show.

Scarpitti then brought up the ‘Markham Mix’ – a perfect mix of diversity, talent, and innovation as our biggest success – and traffic congestion as one of our biggest challenges.

Kristin Vajda, Director of Research and Development at Estee Lauder then took to the stage. She delivered a slew of interesting company facts during her one-on-one interview with the Mayor, such as:

  • they represent over 25 brands
  • they exist in 150 different companies
  • developed a cosmetic science post-graduate program with Seneca College

Estee Lauder has also been manufacturing MAC products for over 30 years and has a dedicated research and development facility.

Keith Wallace of Collision Conference followed as did honourable mentions of TD Bank, who furnished the stage with their branded green couches. Other companies noted in the Mayor’s address include Leo Pharma who have set up their Canadian innovation lab here in Markham.

Bell, IBM, and Venture Lab at YSpace who have supported over 500 companies to scale up and even go global were also featured. As was Markham Movieland – First Studio City that will have the world’s largest single-purpose-built sound stage.

With more than 1,500 high-tech and life sciences companies housing 37,000 jobs, Markham is a promoting itself as a key player in taking innovation to the next level for Canada.

Photo credits: Martin Kwok