Cape Breton con­tent on new Canada-U.S. coun­cil

North Syd­ney na­tive on Canada side, Judique-born wo­man on U.S. side

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JEREMY FRASER

A former North Syd­ney wo­man will be part of a new Canada U.S. coun­cil to help ad­vance women en­trepreneurs.

An­nette Ver­schuren will join 10 busi­ness­women, five from Canada and five from the United States, to form the Canada United States Coun­cil for Ad­vance­ment of Women En­trepreneurs and Busi­ness Lead­ers. Ver­schuren was in Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day for a round­table dis­cus­sion with fe­male busi­ness lead­ers at the White House with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, where the new coun­cil was launched.

“I think it’s a very smart idea to an­nounce this,” said Ver­schuren. “

“We need a com­mon ground to talk, and we had a good com­bi­na­tion of talk­ing about the bar­ri­ers women have, but also talk­ing about our busi­nesses.”

Ver­schuren said the meet­ing last about 35 min­utes. The top­ics of the meet­ing in­cluded what the bar­ri­ers are and how to over­come them to get more women into the work­force as well as get­ting more young girls in­ter­ested in science and math and get­ting them into that area of busi­ness.

“It all re­lated to grow­ing the econ­omy and busi­ness,” said Ver­schuren. “Peo­ple ask me why I do this — the re­la­tion­ship we have be­tween our two coun­tries, if we don’t main­tain that, the econ­omy is go­ing to be hurt bad in Canada.

“Al­though I may not agree with some of the per­sonal per­spec­tives and things that Mr. Trump does, I be­lieve our coun­try needs to re­ally get se­ri­ous about pro­tect­ing this re­la­tion­ship and strengthen this re­la­tion­ship,” she said “We came out of these meet­ings very pos­i­tive. I think it was a home run for the prime min­is­ter and the pres­i­dent.”

Ver­schuren be­gan her busi­ness ca­reer as a de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer with the Cape Breton De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion be­fore mov­ing to Toronto at age 30.

Over her ca­reer, she has part­nered with Michael’s craft stores and was suc­cess­ful in work­ing with them in open­ing 17 stores across the coun­try, act­ing as the com­pany’s co-owner and pres­i­dent from 1993 to 1996.

Ver­schuren also served as pres­i­dent of The Home De­pot Canada for 15 years, be­fore be­com­ing the pres­i­dent of The Home De­pot Asian branch in 2006.

Over a 10-year pe­riod with The Home De­pot, Ver­schuren grew the com­pany’s sales from $600 mil­lion a year to $6 bil­lion a year in Canada.

She turned her at­ten­tion to NRS­tor, an en­ergy stor­age so­lu­tions com­pany she founded in 2012.

Ver­schuren said the idea for the coun­cil came from Katie Telford, the chief of staff to Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau, and Ivanka Trump, daugh­ter of Pres­i­dent Trump.

“They were look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to bring an is­sue to the world,” she said.

“I think this is what the pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter un­der­stood and that is the en­hance­ment of women will only make our coun­tries bet­ter, will only im­prove the econ­omy, will only cre­ate jobs, and will only al­low us to use our re­sources more ef­fec­tively.”

Ver­schuren isn’t the only Cape Bre­toner on the coun­cil. Deborah Gil­lis, orig­i­nally of Judique, is the pres­i­dent and CEO of Cat­a­lyst, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in the United States that pro­motes in­clu­sive work­places for women.

She will be among the five U.S. women par­tic­i­pat­ing in the coun­cil.

Join­ing Ver­schuren on the coun­cil and rep­re­sent­ing Canada are Tran­sAlta Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell, Li­na­mar Corp. CEO Linda Hasen­fratz, T&T Su­per­mar­ket Inc.’s Tina Lee, and Monique Ler­oux, chair of the board of directors for In­vestisse­ment Que­bec.

Ver­schuren thinks the meet­ing made an im­pres­sion on Pres­i­dent Trump.

“The pres­i­dent asked smart ques­tions and he was in­ter­ested, and it’s ob­vi­ous he has a great deal of re­spect for his daugh­ter, you can see that,” said Ver­schuren.

“I was re­ally happy leav­ing that meet­ing, I left with the feel­ing we can re­ally do some­thing for our coun­tries to­gether and have a com­mon plat­form and this is the time we need this.”

Ver­schuren said she was proud to be part of Mon­day’s meet­ing.

“I re­ally felt that I rep­re­sented our coun­try and I’m hop­ing that’s a bit of my legacy,” she said.

“I’m a per­son that loves to give back, and I think that if I can help get more women ad­vanced in our coun­try, more busi­ness lead­ers in se­nior po­si­tion, this coun­try is go­ing to be­come bet­ter than it is.”

Ver­schuren

Gil­lis

PHOTO/DON­ALD TRUMP TWIT­TER

An­nette Ver­schuren, third from the right, is pic­tured with fel­low busi­ness­women as well as U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. Ver­schuren, orig­i­nally from North Syd­ney, was in Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day for a round­table dis­cus­sion and the launch of a new Canada-U.S. coun­cil to help ad­vance women en­trepreneurs.

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