Saad Rafi - CEO, Toronto 2015 Share PDF Print E-mail
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SaadRafi_Toronto2015In January 2014, Saäd Rafi joined the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) as Chief Executive Officer.

He has a wealth of experience in delivering large-scale transformation, change management and project management to Ontario’s public and private sectors. Rafi served most recently as deputy minister of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Between 2010 and 2014, he administered an annual budget of $49 billion — the largest health budget in Canada — and oversaw one of the most significant system transformations in Ontario’s health-care sector.

Rafi also served as Ontario’s deputy minister of energy and infrastructure, transportation and community safety, and held senior government positions in the Cabinet Office, Ontario SuperBuild Corporation, economic development and trade.

During his 25-year career, he also built a successful advisory practice in infrastructure and project finance and was a partner with Deloitte and Touche, LLP. Rafi was a director of both Canada Health Infoway, Inc. and the Greater Toronto Transit Authority. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from Carleton University.

By Ismail Uddin

This is the first position where you have been in charge of a major sporting event. How have you used your previous experience such as being Ontario Ministry of Health to help you in your Toronto 2015 role?

I’ve had a couple of additional roles to the ones you have mentioned which has brought more experience to this role. One of those roles, which was my first deputy minister post, was to have responsibility over emergency management, policing and fire and forensics. The second was transportation for all the transportation resources in the province of Ontario. The third was energy and infrastructure and most recently health and long term care. Those areas infrastructure, policing, transportation and to a large extent health and long term care are components of putting on a successful games. In addition to that I’ve also implemented large transformation and change management and had responsibilities for staff sizes in excess of 7,500 staff in one department, 3,500 in Health so I have been around large staff and large budgets and lots of change in operation complexity so I believe I have the business acumen and I am a keen sports fan.

You gained the position in January after Ian Troop was fired, did you feel it was a daunting task ahead considering what happened to your predecessor?

I was considered for this job four and a half years ago. The premier of the province had the approval of the CEO, board Chair and the Finance board chair. The premier at the time had asked me, almost coincidentally, to take on the role in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, one doesn’t refuse ones Premier (Prime Minister). When this opportunity rose again I thought it was too good to pass up and secondly I felt that I had been observing and participating in Committee work in Ontario with Toronto 2015 sporadically over those four years and I felt that the organisation was in relatively good shape from a preparation point of view. I had followed the infrastructure build up and had a good sense where that progress is. I would say that gave me the confidence to know that this could be something that could be successful.

Since coming on board, what have been your main duties?

One of the things I thought was important to learn where we are with our evolution, development, budget and progress. I spent time over the Christmas holidays here going through material I asked to be prepared for me by the senior leadership so before I started I wanted to immerse myself as much as I could in the time that I had and then getting the word out about the games. I've done well over 35 speeches to thousands of people to let them know what's coming in 2015. Also I've been building relationships with our funders, City of Ontario, province of Ontario and the federal government but also our corporate sponsors and getting to learn their priorities and interests and helping drive additional corporate sponsors while also getting to know where we are on the venue and field of play planning and implementation readiness.

PACHI_TO2015How are preparations for the games going?

We are in the midst of having NOCs (National Olympic Committees) and POCs (Paralympic Olympic Committees) country visits to ensure they are satisfied with our preparation. We have coordination commission meeting just before our one year countdown to update them on our progress. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and American Paralympic Committee representatives have finished an extensive week here again assessing our readiness in preparation and we have received nothing but glowing responses and thumbs up assessment on our readiness for venues and for the field of play.

Will you continue to stay within your $1.44 billion budget? What have been the major challenges to this?

So far we have very much stayed within that budget. Our funders have been very clear with us in terms of their expectations. One indication is that we are $50 million ahead of our capital spend and that doesn't include the fact that we may not spend or require to access the contingency on each of the projects. While we may have received a couple of market responses for small projects, meaning $1.5 or $2.5 million projects, that might be slightly higher than anticipated. For the large projects our budget is under budget and that's the other aspect of what we're going to be and are currently proud of which is the infrastructure progress we have on 10 new facilities and 15 upgraded facilities.

Toronto 2015 has a number of sponsors on board including CBC, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola and DB Schenker. Is your sponsorship strategy tailored towards more local sponsors or global?

I would say it's both. One of the reason's is that Canada is quite lucky to have a very strong branch plant economy of multinational subsidiaries from predominantly four countries including the US, England, Germany and Japan if I'm not mistaken going back to my investment marketing days.

We also have strong companies that have been involved with Olympics and amateur sport for decades. For example Coca-Cola has been funding the Olympics since 1928 and they are a strong presence here in Canada. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, one of the largest banks in the country, is involved with the Canadian Paralympic team as a funder and a supporter and they have been on board here for the Toronto 2015 Games since 2011 and they are a lead partner. Cisco, a well known brand, is a premier partner. Chevrolet, you eluded to, was involved with the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 who are very keen to be involved with these Games and Cirque du Soleil is in involved with us in our opening ceremony and they are an international brand. But we also have smaller companies like logistics company DB Schenker, Scalar that is in IT security and ATOS which is a billion dollar company so we have nice mix of local firms as well as international firms and we are not finished yet. We will be announcing maybe a dozen more sponsorships over the ensuing weeks.

Have you secured the number of partners you expected to and wanted to?

I am a person not easily satisfied so I would like more of corporate Canada to see the value of the games and that continues to happen. When we add the next dozen that we are about to add than I think we will have about 25+ sponsors, I'm not sure how I define enough, we have a lot of interest yet to tap.

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