17th Annual Municipal Communications Conference

Courtyard Marriott Downtown Toronto

27 - 30

17th Annual Municipal Communications Conference

For over a decade, SummersDirect Conference & Events have been bringing together municipal communications professionals from across Canada. The agenda consists of two days of sessions where award-winning experts share case studies from municipalities across the country with a third day of two optional  intensive workshops.

We are  back in person with an online option too!

Register for ONLINE or IN PERSON

For the hotel conference rate ($225 CAD per night) reservations at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Toronto visit here.

Thank you to our presenting sponsor!

Thank you to our sponsors

Day 1

Register for ONLINE or IN PERSON

Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

All times in Eastern.

8:45 – 9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks from The Chair
Brian Lambie, Redbrick Communications &
Media Contact, Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO)

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Surviving Snowmageddon: Communicating during a State of Emergency
Susan Bonnell, Manager of Communications and Office Services
City of St. John’s, NL
Kelly Maguire, Public Relations and Communications Officer
City of St. John’s, NL

On Friday, January 17, 2020, St . John’s was hit by the worst snow storm in decades, forcing the capital city into a week-long State of Emergency. The record-breaking snowstorm brought the entire region to a halt as over 90 cm of snow fell, on top of nearly 100 cm already on the ground. Communicating during this crisis proved to be a significant challenge for the City’s small communications team.

In this session, you will learn how we managed various issues and changed our approach to crisis communications. Key points include:

  • Knowing when to ‘stay in your lane’
  • Navigating pressures, internal and external
  • The importance of a physical presence during a crisis
  • The importance of contingencies for contingency plans

10:00 – 10:15 a.m.

10:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Encampments in Municipal Parks: Finding a Balance
Marie Litalien, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, City of Greater Sudbury
Sacha Novack, Communications Advisor, City of Greater Sudbury

You won’t always get it right the first time, but by recognizing and learning from your mistakes, and listening and seeking advice, you can do better the next time. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the many individuals struggling with mental health and addictions in our communities and as services shuttered, our people experiencing homelessness sought a sense of community through encampments.

The City of Greater Sudbury faced many criticisms in communicating decisions related to a large encampment in a visible downtown memorial park. We pivoted, planned and stuck to the message with a successful outcome for all, where numerous people found help and our residents better understand our choices.

During this session, participants will learn:

  • The importance of having the right people at the table
  • The value of business partnerships between communications and service areas
  • The benefit of proactive media
  • The benefit of the RIGHT spokesperson (and not shying away from the tough questions)

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Combatting Disinformation In Canada: What Can Municipal Communicators Do To Rebuild Trust
Dr. Terence (Terry) Flynn, APR, FCPRS
Associate Professor & Graduate Director
Master of Communications Management Program
McMaster University

12:15  – 1:15 p.m.

1:15 – 2:15p.m.
Building Connections through Crisis
Patti McKague, Director, Strategic Communications and Government Relations
City of London

When a crisis hits, municipal communications professionals are called to help ensure their key stakeholders – especially residents – are well informed about what’s happening. Beyond simply providing information, communications during a crisis can also play a role in bringing people together and uniting communities. At the City of London, the Strategic Communications team has worked through emergencies that include everything from the explosion on Woodman Avenue and the collapse of the building on Teeple Terrace to the horrific terrorist attack on the Afzaal family and the collision involving girl guides, where they worked in collaboration with partner agencies to communicate about these unthinkable events.

During this presentation, Patti will talk about how her team supported some of the most difficult events in London over the past few years, and about the way that the team, in partnership with other public sector agencies, was not only ready to respond, but has built connections through crisis.

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.
What Happens After You Flush? Engaging an Apathic Community
Ruth Sulentich, Economic Development & Public Engagement Specialist, District of Lake Country
Karen Miller, Communications Officer, District of Lake Country

Community engagement and public participation is essential to all initiatives lead and facilitated by local government. The challenge all communities face is apathetic or disengaged citizens.  Regardless of the topic, citizens are busy and often don’t feel it’s worth the time to participate in local government processes. Many feel the call for community engagement is insincere and that feedback provided will fall on deaf ears around the decision-making Council table. Often community members don’t understand the extent of an issue and how it impacts their quality of life in the neighbourhood.

Find out why the local government team took a holistic view of a major Liquid Waste Management Plan project; and instead of deploying the usual traditional tactics they recognized that before any solutions could be analyzed or presented, considerable time and effort had to be taken to accomplish:

  • Getting the community’s attention – using social media and other available channels.
  • Educating the community on the issues – in a fun and creative way.
  • Soliciting feedback and assuring those taking the time to provide input that they were being heard.
  • Presenting community feedback to Council – prior to any detailed solutions being proposed.

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Building Accessibility into the Fabric of Your Municipal Website
Suzanne Dergacheva, Co-founder and Digital Strategist, Evolving Web

Web accessibility is a term we hear more and more often and is all about making sure that content and services are available to the largest possible audience. We look for technologies that help us comply with web accessibility standards. But accessibility goes beyond a technical checklist, when we provide services online, we’re creating different experiences for different types of users, and as much as possible we want these experiences to be positive and coherent and successful. We want residents to find the services they’re looking for, and we want them to come away with a clear impression of a transparent and functional government.

Building a culture of thinking about accessibility and user experience in all your digital communications will help you meet those accessibility guidelines in a more sustainable and meaningful way.

In this session, we’ll talk through a set of techniques for building these practices into your work.

You’ll learn:

  • How to create a toolkit of resources to guide the user experience and the content on your website
  • Building tools and processes into your web publishing workflow so that creating accessible content is easy for content editors and administrators
  • Developing a web governance plan to constantly improve accessibility and user experience

Conference Concludes for Day

Day 2

Register for ONLINE or IN PERSON

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

All times in Eastern.

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Registration & Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Empowering local neighbourhoods through strategic communications and engagement

Carmen Mallia, Communications Specialist, City of London
Sabrina Sater, Supervisor, Neighbourhood Development & Support, City of London

Neighbourhood Decision Making is an annual City of London program that offers residents of all ages the opportunity to decide how to spend a portion of the municipal budget in their neighbourhoods. What is so unique about the program is its heavy reliance on communications and grassroots engagement.

A thorough analysis of communications is conducted using detailed analytics to strengthen the reach of the program annually. In addition, the City’s Community Connectors play an important role in engaging with neighbourhoods. They speak different languages and engage with residents from diverse backgrounds and different ethnocultural communities.

In this session, attendees will learn about the importance of detailed communications evaluation and analysis and fostering inclusive engagement through Community Connectors.

10:00 – 10:15 a.m. Networking Break

10:15 – 11:15 a.m.
EDI through a Communications Lens
Meeta Gandhi, Director of Communications, Customer Service, and EDI at the Town of East Gwillimbury & Associate, Redbrick Communications

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion teams and leadership roles are emerging in many municipalities…and it’s about time. How can we, as communicators incorporate EDI in our practice. How can we support initiatives that elevate EDI – both internally and within our communities? In this session, Meeta will share her experiences with EDI, particularly in a smaller municipality – and how we all have role to play in incorporating EDI in our municipal communications practice.

11:15 – 12:15 p.m.

Working Collaboratively with Indigenous Communities
Cynthia Lockrey, Change maker, communications expert

Our Indigenous leaders and communities are key partners in municipal government. We need to respect and honour their wisdom to work collaboratively.

Cynthia will share some key personal learnings through her work supporting communications for Indigenous led projects that have changed how she will approach her work as a communications professional. These include the importance of taking time for authentic relationship building, active listening, providing space for reflection, and storytelling.

12:15 – 1:15 p.m.   


1:15 – 2:15 p.m.

Moving from tactical order taker to strategic business partner: A strategic communications planning overview
Julia Harvie-Shemko, APR, CEC
Founder and CEO, Red Thread Connections 

As communications professionals we are all too often pigeonholed into tactical work rather than seen as strategic business partners. Once you are pigeonholed as ‘order takers’, it can be difficult to find your way to strategic communications.

Strategic communications planning is one way to showcase your ability to see the bigger picture and help the organization achieve its goals. Learn how the RACE formula – Research, Analysis, Communication, Evaluation – provides structure for your communications planning and a basis for shared understanding of the outcomes of your communications work.

In this session you will:

  • Understand why planning strategically for your communications is important.
  • Learn about the components of the RACE formula.
  • Understand how a communications plan can and should be connected to organizational or project goals.
  • Understand the critical connections between the components of a communications plan.

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Successful Strategies for Social Media Moderating
Brian Lambie, President
Redbrick Communications

Becoming a successful social media moderator takes skill and planning. You have to tend the garden well before an issue, large or small, becomes the focus of Facebook group discussions. False claims and misinformation sprout like weeds and take over the story.

Drawn from decades of municipal communications experience, this session will offer practical advice on how to manage social media to maintain a positive reputation and come out ahead.. Participants will learn how to anticipate what may blow up on social media and plan, including ways to cultivate allies, bust myths and tell your story.

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Driving Digital Democracy: Innovating Municipal Elections
Michael Blackburn, Sr. Advisor, Marketing & Communications
Corporate Communications, City of Markham
Marco Perri, Sr. Advisor, Digital, Corporate Communications, City of Markham

4:30 p.m.


Register for IN PERSON

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 

Note: Workshops are only available in person.

All times in Eastern.

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
WORKSHOP A: How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan
Cynthia Lockrey, Change maker, communications expert

COVID has changed how we communicate and has given many of us more experience in crisis communications. As such, it’s important all municipal governments have an up-to-date crisis communications plan that reflects lessons learned from COVID. In this workshop, participants will learn – the importance of gathering input prior to developing the plan – key elements to include in the plan – how to make the plan a reality. Cynthia will use real life examples of how a plan helped an organization respond quickly in a crisis, as well as how the lack of a plan resulted in missteps.

Presenter Details: Cynthia Lockrey

Cynthia shifts people, teams, organizations and cultures to go from overwhelmed to clear and activated. She does this through her writing, speaking, training and coaching. Having worked as a communications manager for 3 local governments, in 2 provinces, she understands the unique challenges and opportunities for municipalities. Drawing upon her 20+ years of working in public relations, Cynthia is able to break down communications skills and techniques into bite size and easy to understand pieces.

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Crafting crispy goals and objectives that bring real results
Julia Harvie-Shemko, APR, CEC, Founder and CEO, Red Thread Connections

Developing ‘crispy’ or strong goals and objectives ensures you are delivering a communications strategy that helps the organization or project manager meet their objectives. It helps focus your work, ensures that your energy during implementation is directed to the right tactics and allows you the flexibility to shift as needed. In this workshop, you will develop goals and objectives for real life communications projects and issues (make sure to come prepared with your own communications issues). At the end of this workshop, you will feel more confident in developing goals and objectives, the toughest part of a communications plan for many.


  • Create goals that connect to business goals, address issues from research and are future focused.
  • Create measureable objectives by starting with what you want your audiences to think, do, believe or understand.
  • Learn how goals and objectives drive the rest of your communications plan development.

Presenter Details: Julia Harvie-Shemko

Julia is on a mission to help communicators do better and be better. With her company Red Thread Connections, she focuses on moving the communications function towards strategic partnership with clients. With her more than 20 years in communication and 30 in leadership, she knows how to bring clarity, focus and strategy to the communications function.



Register for ONLINE or IN PERSON

Day 1 Agenda.

Day 2 Agenda.

Early bird (Until Oct. 7, 2022)* Regular
(Oct. 7, 2022 & later)*
Early Bird
(Until Oct. 7, 2022)
(Oct. 7, 2022 & later)*
Best Value! Conference +2 Workshops (Nov.28, 29 & 30, 2022)   $1499 $1699 N/A** N/A**
Conference + 1 Workshop (Nov. 28, 29  & half day on the 30th, 2022)   $1299 $1399 N/A** N/A**
Conference – Both Days (Nov. 28 & 29, 2022)    $999 $1099 750 825
Conference – One Day Only (Nov. 28 or Nov. 29, 2022)   $499 $599 375 450
One Workshop only (Nov. 30, 2022)   $349  $399 N/A** N/A**
* Prices do not include taxes.
**Workshops are only available in person.

Cancellation & Refund Policy

Substitution of delegates is permissible without prior notification. Refunds will be given for cancellations received in writing no later than 10 days prior to the conference date subject to an administration fee of $200 plus $26 for HST. After this time, you are liable for the full registration fee even if you do not attend the conference. If you register during this 10 day period, you are also liable for the full fee. SummersDirect Inc. reserves the right to change program date, meeting place or content without further notice and assumes no liability for these changes.

SummersDirect is a conference planning company that sets itself apart from the rest with a focus on customer service and value. We are fresh and we’re creative. We have the expertise and knowhow but most importantly,we offer you a quality product for a cost that fits within your budget.

We listen to you. You want quality speakers. You want tools and techniques that you can take away and use. You want case studies that you can relate to and learn from. You want engaging speakers and topics to motivate you! You want value. And that’s what we give you!

You are important to us. We don’t want you as a one-time delegate. We want to build a relationship. We want you to come back again next year. Let us know what you think. We want to hear from you. Contact us today!