People on the move: Former Mitel exec Amy MacLeod feeling shipshape in new gig

MacLeod
Amy MacLeod is the new vice-president of corporate affairs and external communications at Seaspan Shipyards. File photo

Shipbuilding might not be the first industry that comes to mind as the logical next step for one of Kanata North’s best-known executives.

But for Amy MacLeod, it’s a move that made perfect sense. After two decades as a leading voice of Canada’s largest tech park, MacLeod pulled up stakes in late September and headed downtown to join the new Ottawa office of Vancouver-based Seaspan Shipyards.

MacLeod’s most recent gig was at telecom powerhouse Mitel, where she spent eight years and eventually rose to the position of vice-president of strategic communications. In her new role as Seaspan’s VP of corporate affairs and external communications, MacLeod will act as a liaison between the shipbuilder and its various federal government customers.

“We’re at a point where we really feel like we are ready to start to tell people what we’ve been working on to build those relationships and that national brand and wanting to do that from Ottawa,” she says.

Seaspan’s biggest clients include the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy, for whom it is building ships and non-combatant supply vessels as part of a multibillion-dollar contract awarded under the feds’ National Shipbuilding Program. 

“I’m a little bit in awe of what they do and very much humbled by the fact that what we’re building will outlive me but serve Canada throughout my lifetime continuously,” adds MacLeod. “There’s something really wonderful to be able to contribute to that in whatever small way I can.”

For MacLeod, who began her career in Ottawa more than 30 years ago as an assistant to former Liberal MP John Nunziata, it feels like her new job is bringing her “full circle.” She believes her experience on Parliament Hill and at various firms in Kanata North gives her unique insights into the worlds of both corporate and public policy that will be invaluable in her new role.

“Rarely do government and business operate in concert,” says the 53-year-old, who earned a degree in political science from the University of Waterloo and spent the first eight years of her career as an aide to Nunziata, the controversial member of the “Rat Pack” that also included fellow Grit MPs Sheila Copps and Brian Tobin. 

“If you’re in the business sector, I think that government sometimes is a faraway and foreign kind of organization and not driven by business objectives. I know from my time on the Hill that business often doesn’t know how government works. I’m hopefully able to understand the perspective of both sides and the objectives of both and use that experience and that perspective to meet the needs of both and speak about what’s important to both.”

Shipbuilding and telecom tech might seem oceans apart as far as industries go. But MacLeod, whose term as chair of the Kanata North Business Association ends in November, says the skills she learned in the trenches on the Hill and in the boardrooms of high-profile companies such as Mitel, Newbridge Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and General Dynamics are tailor-made for her latest gig.

“I have always been passionate about policy,” she says. “I can marry big, sophisticated, complex business with a political and a policy-oriented program. I couldn’t dream of a better job.” 

As much as she’s looking forward to establishing herself at Seaspan, she says she’ll continue to be one of her former employer’s ​– and consequently the Kanata tech park’s ​– biggest cheerleaders.

“Mitel is and always will be in my blood and in my heart,” says MacLeod, who lives in Stittsville with her husband Greg Vanclief, the managing director of global investments at Wesley Clover, and their daughter Arwen, 14. 

“It’s just part of who I am now. It was incredibly exciting to be part of that journey over the last eight years. It is a great Canadian brand, and they are doing great things in Canada. I may be downtown, but part of me will always live in Kanata North and at Mitel.”

People on the move

John Manley has joined law firm Bennett Jones as a senior business adviser. Manley, a former deputy prime minister who also held the portfolios of foreign affairs, finance and industry at various times, previously served as president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada from 2010-18, representing CEOs of leading Canadian corporations. Manley will join Bennett Jones’ public policy group.

Paul Wood has been named president and chief operating officer of Giant Tiger. Wood joined Giant Tiger in 2003 from Collins Barrow Ottawa LLP. He moved into increasingly senior roles on the accounting team and most recently served as executive vice-president and chief financial officer, overseeing finance, real estate, warehousing and distribution, supply chain and merchandise planning. He succeeds Thomas Haig, who has retired.

Minto Apartment REIT has appointed George Van Noten chief operating officer and named Glen MacMullin chief investment officer. Van Noten most recently served as the REIT’s senior vice-president of operations, while MacMullin has spent the last decade with Minto Properties, where he led the firm’s asset management and investment management functions.

Anne McGrath has joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Ottawa office as an associate with the public affairs team. McGrath was most recently principal secretary to former Alberta premier Rachel Notley and was previously the NDP’s national director and served as chief of staff to former NDP leader Jack Layton.

Stayci Keetch is the new director of communications at the CHEO Research Institute. Keetch, a 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient, is also the owner of her own communications and marketing company, On Brand by Stayci Keetch.

Daniel Sullivan has been appointed senior vice-president, Ottawa Central of Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group. Sullivan will lead the daily business of the Ottawa Central location as well as continue to work closely with his clients throughout Ottawa as a senior group benefits and retirement consultant.