Most Powerful People

How we measure power in the boardrooms of the nation

We looked at annual reports, board memberships, media clippings and more to find the leaders of Canada’s public companies with real clout

The Power List 2017: Canada’s Most Powerful Business People

You arrive for work on a Monday morning and there are two messages waiting. One is from Loblaw’s Galen G. Weston; the other comes from TD Bank’s Bharat Masrani. Who do you call back first, and why? It’s a far-fetched scenario, but one that illustrates the nebulous nature of power. It’s not just about who can get calls returned. It’s not just about the return Prem Watsa at Fairfax Financial offers to shareholders. And it’s not just about how often CPR’s Hunter Harrison gets mentioned in the press. All of those qualities are important, but to really have influence, individuals need to be noteworthy in multiple respects. They have to manage large and complex organizations with skill, deliver value to stakeholders and leverage relationships to influence events. It’s almost impossible to quantify power—but we decided to try anyway.

To build our ranking of Canada’s Most Powerful Business People, we studied Canada’s largest and best-known public companies to evaluate their leaders. We pored over their financial records, corporate documents and analyst reports; compared their performance to their peers’; and crunched public data to generate quantitative scores. We distilled all this data into three broad categories: impact, performance and reputation.

Impact measures a company’s influence on Canada’s economy and population. Among the benchmarks considered are assets, employees and revenues.

Performance assesses criteria such as return on capital and shareholder return to determine which leaders are generating the best financial results.

Reputation compares individual length of service, performance for pay and visibility in the news, among other categories, to understand the profile of an individual.

We focused our assessment on executive managers at public companies. That means Magna International CEO Donald Walker is on our list, but not company founder Frank Stronach. We targeted current leaders, since they exert direct, measurable sway beyond their own boardrooms as they steer their companies to respond to big-picture external conditions: the economy, politics, technology, markets and customers.

Public companies also offer the necessary transparency and access to a broad range and quality of information to evaluate. That means we decided to exclude politicians, as well as the heads of some of Canada’s largest privately owned firms. You won’t, for instance, find Alberta’s Daryl Katz, who amassed billions building a pharmacy empire and owns the Edmonton Oilers, or David Thomson, current Lord Thomson of Fleet and the world’s 25th richest man. And there are regrettably few women on the list—a reflection of how few female CEOs lead major public companies in Canada.

For those we couldn’t rank using this methodology, we created a list of 10 Canadians who wield their clout in other ways.