For the 300 governance and compliance professionals making their way to the wonderful mountain resort of Lake Louise, Alberta on August 22-25, the 12th annual Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries (CSCS) conference will be an extremely busy three and a half days. If attendees are to take full advantage of this outstanding event they need to carefully plan their sessions, roundtables, breakouts and networking events, not to mention the after-work social activities that are sure to keep all in attendance entertained, inspired and refreshed.
It might not be the easiest place in the world to get to but it could well be one of the prettiest. Lake Louise is a couple of hours by bus from Calgary; the drive through Banff National Park is truly awe-inspiring; and the imposing yet comfortable surroundings of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise provide a great way to unwind after the journey.
With an average daytime temperate of 23C (that’s 74F for all the Americans attending), conditions are perfect for hiking or canoeing on the lake. Mountain biking, horse-back riding and white-water rafting can also be arranged. For those with a relaxation objective, a gentle stroll around the lake or up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse followed by a session in the five-star spa and health club may be more to your liking.
Bonus tip: even in the height of summer it gets cool (8C or 48F) once the sun dips behind the Rockies, so bring a warm coat and hat.
CSCS always attracts some of the leading lights in the field of governance, and this year is no exception. In addition to society chairman Sylvia Groves, president and founder of Groves Governance and former governance officer at Nexen, and David Masse, assistant corporate secretary at CGI Group, other leading luminaries include: Pat Parisotto, corporate secretary at Discovery Capital Management; Laurel Savoy, vice president of trust services at CIBC Mellon Trust; David Beatty, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto; Bev Behan, founder of Board Advisor; Stephen Griggs, executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG); Carol Hansell, senior partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg; Professor Errol Mendes, University of Ottawa; and Richard LeBlanc, associate professor of law, corporate governance and ethics, York University in Ontario.
While the conference sessions kick off on Monday morning, there is plenty of reason to get in a little early. The now traditional golf tournament tees off not long after sunrise on Sunday at the Stanley Thompson-designed, 27-hole, links-style Banff Springs Golf Course. What better way to get to know fellow delegates than by chasing that little white ball around a beautiful course surrounded on three sides by the breathtaking Canadian Rockies?
For those making their first trip to a CSCS conference, there will be a first-timers reception followed by cocktails and dinner, featuring local entertainment until late into the night.
Monday night will be spent in nearby Banff – a must-see if you have never been – and Tuesday’s dinner, always a highlight, will be a western-themed barbecue. Come hungry and ready to party.
Bonus tip: brush up on your boot scooting and two-step; there will be dancing.
The business case
As with the recreational activities, the professional section of the conference has something for everyone. Professionals from private, public and not-for-profit organizations of every size will all be equally well served. In fact, the challenge will be choosing which breakouts and sessions to attend.
The conference kicks off with a discussion led by Behan about the ‘Corporate secretary’s role in achieving board excellence’, with a concurrent examination of the ‘Evolving roles, responsibilities and challenges for corporate secretaries and governance professionals’ moderated by Chris Bart, professor of strategic market leadership at the DeGroote School of Business.
After this there will be a further 19 panels, breakouts or keynotes spread across two days – so pace yourself: there is a lot of education and discussion to come. It will be almost impossible to leave without at least a handful of useful takeaways, and the networking and learning isn’t over when the conference is.
The connections made during the event could serve you well throughout your career, so make sure you also go home with a good collection of new phone numbers, and perhaps some new ideas.
What will be the most pressing problems and challenges facing Canadian firms and those responsible for guiding them through the changing governance landscape? Are you ready? And what should you be doing right now?
These are some of the questions that will be addressed during the conference. It is not possible to cover everything, but some of the issues likely to come up are corporate governance and financial accountability after the global financial crisis; advising and guiding boards and directors in a new age of governance; reform of the Canadian proxy voting system; and executive compensation and say on pay.
And don’t miss the Corporate Secretary Think Tank session, where there will be a lively debate on managing systemic risk, ethics and integrity in a post-economic/post-governance era.
And the winner is…
What would a conference be without an awards presentation? In this case it is the CCGG’s Governance Gavel Awards. Now in its sixth year, the original gavel award recognizes excellence in director disclosure. A second award, first presented in 2007, is now also presented for excellence in compensation disclosure. You won’t have to wait long to find out who will take over from last year’s winners: Canada Pacific won the director award and Cameco the compensation award in 2009, with the prizes being given out to new winners during lunch on the opening day.
If you get to Wednesday and simply don’t feel like going home – and who could blame you? – why not take advantage of special car rental rates negotiated with Avis to explore one of the 10 provincial, state or national parks within a couple of hours’ drive from the hotel. You might never forgive yourself if you go home without visiting Glacier National Park, one of the region’s true wonders.
If you have a few days, you could drive west along Highway 1 and check out Kamloops or Kelowna, famous as impressive winter ski resorts but worth a visit in summer, too. Max West Marketing, the preferred activities provider for the conference, will happily arrange a personalized tour.
If you need to get home, however, enjoy the two-hour ride back to Calgary on one of the special shuttle buses (don’t forget to pre-book). While watching the scenery roll by, you might want to start thinking about booking your spot for the 2011 event.
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