2007 Alumni

Woman of the Decade

Louise Paquette
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Louise PaquetteIf we all work together, we can make a difference.

No one understands this philosophy more than FedNor’s director general Louise Paquette, a woman passionate about Northern Ontario. Born and educated in Sudbury, simply put, Paquette loves the North. This is evident in her many accomplishments throughout her 11 years at FedNor and the countless volunteer hours she has contributed to organizations throughout the region. Thus, she has been recognized as Woman of the Decade by the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Award’s program.

Described by many as entrepreneurial with a pioneering Northern spirit, as well as an advocate, motivator, and mentor, Paquette modestly responds: “I have been blessed with so many wonderful people. I consider myself very fortunate.”

Paquette’s diverse career eventually brought her back to the North, after spending 10 years with Gulf Canada in Toronto. There she advanced to manager of public affairs and began her family. Upon her return to Sudbury, she worked as executive director for the Laurentian Hospital Foundation where $9 million was raised during the Cancer Care Community Campaign.

“I thought it would be a good way to get back into the community,” she says, “because the community you live in growing up and the services you use as a graduate are very different from the services you require when you come back at 32-years-of-age.”

Seeing the city and Northern Ontario through more experienced eyes, Paquette’s original ambition to work for government was quelled when she began working for Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in 1991 and then with FedNor in ’96.

Her dedication to Northern Ontario has led to what has been described as “extraordinary leadership,” where she has demonstrated a commitment to the communities of the North.

This is evident in her advocacy work to secure the expansion of FedNor funding for economic development programs from $29 million to $66 million annually, as well as securing growth in the grants and contributions funds from $21 million to $55 million.

She has also assisted in FedNor becoming a leading partner in mi-
ning technology development with
the Northern Centre for Advan-ced Technology (NORCAT), and
NORTH Network telemedicine program, now known as the On-tario Telemedicine Network.

Some other initiatives are the three Northern Ontario Hospices focused on providing palliative care for Northerners; the PARO program that has helped close to 600 women start and expand local businesses over the last decade; the Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) at 40 Northern hospitals, allowing patients to access tele-radiology and digital imaging at remote locations; the investments advocated in northwestern Ontario’s Genesis Genomics and the Cancer Research Centre, which have brought new jobs, research and a “think-tank” environment to the Thunder Bay economy; the K-Net project, which has brought FedNor investments for communications technology for remote and isolated Aboriginal communities; and the development of research capacity for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Paquette attributes these successes to the FedNor officers and the organizations involved.

Equating Northern Ontario to a puzzle, she believes everyone is an important piece.

“Some are big, some are little, some occupy more critical positions than others. Some are great leaders and some are great followers. Sometimes followers have to be leaders. You’ve got to know when to shift.”

Stressing the importance of striving toward the same goal, she says a management team can only be great if all of the players are mutually supportive.

Paquette’s fresh, positive approach and honest belief in people have promoted an atmosphere of open conversations, bringing diverse perspectives to the table. Not only is she able to see the potential in individuals, she carries that view to all the communities within the North, enabling people to develop the best product or service.

“It is (about) believing in Northerners,” she says. “The people of Northern Ontario deserve to be heard. I have a part to play as do so many others.”

One shining example is the growing presence of Northern Ontario’s agricultural sector at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. The idea came to Paquette after visiting the fair, when she was disappointed at seeing little or no agricultural representation from Northern Ontario. Once the idea was investigated, FedNor funded the rental of space at the Royal, allowing businesses a place to hang their hat.

The first year began with 18 businesses and now, six years later, has grown to 40. It has not only put Northern Ontario’s agricultural sector on the southern Ontario map, it has enhanced networking opportunities for the smaller Northern businesses that may not have had the exposure otherwise. It was also a way FedNor could help the small agricultural businesses that get overshadowed by mining and forestry enterprises.

Paquette is encouraged by the success stories that have resulted from the Royal Winter Fair and credits all the FedNor officers and partners who helped bring it to fruition.

“It took FedNor and its officers, community partners, business, and tourist tools to explain to people where Northern Ontario is.” she says.

Also, the communication staff had to work with the officers on the project to achieve a successful presentation.

Understanding her role as a valued partner, she acknowledges the people around her and the relationships established, whether business or personal.

“It starts with the person and the relationships,” she says. “Life is about relationships and what you make of it, because they will define you at the end of the day.”