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The best of our people to watch in past years
January 01, 2011 | Oakland Ross | Toronto Star
"They are Canadians to be proud of — citizens of the true north who are making signal differences to the lives of others, in their city and country, and around the world.

They come from all sorts of professional backgrounds — the arts, social activism, fashion, sports, medicine and more.

The common denominator among them is simply this: one way or another, they have not only met but exceeded the lofty personal and professional goals they themselves have set, contributing in myriad ways to strengthening and enlivening the social fabric that unites us all.

Each year for the past eight years, the Star has selected a group of 10 outstanding citizens, people of extraordinary accomplishment who were poised to make an even bigger impression and an even greater difference in the near future.

And so they have.

Now, from that impressive cast, the Star presents a decagon (plus one) of truly distinguished Canadians — men and women to be proud of, grateful to and thankful for.

Marianne McKenna (Jan. 1, 2004)

Who’s afraid of Rob Ford?

Not Marianne McKenna. She believes the newly minted mayor of Canada’s largest city — a man better known as a penny-pincher than a social visionary — could become a force for good, not because she likes his policies, but because she doesn’t.

“Contrary notions sometimes challenge you to think harder about what you’re saying,” she says.

As for the future of Canada’s cities: “I’m very optimistic about it.”

McKenna, 60, is the “M” in Toronto architectural firm KPMB, and she’s responsible for some of the most compelling new designs in Toronto, Montreal and beyond, including the Telus Centre, that airy marriage of tradition and modernity that now houses the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor St. W.

In Montreal, she was instrumental in the creation of the newly opened Concordia University complex overlooking Rue Guy. McKenna, recently named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women in 2010, is now in charge of a project to build a quantum-nanotechnology centre at the University of Waterloo.

“I’m most involved in cultural, academic, community-based work,” she says, “work that stimulates a community to think about itself.”

Does that process include the mayor?

In McKenna’s view, it does.

“Bring on Rob Ford,” she says. “Let’s talk to him.”

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