Past Event: Halifax Benefits Summit

September 26, 2017
Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel

The 2017 Halifax Benefits Summit

Growing Pains

Atlantic Canada’s population is growing at a slower rate compared to other parts of Canada. As the Nova Scotia workforce ages, how are health trends impacting the workforce? How can employers make their workplaces more appealing to young employees and what’s the role of benefits offerings in attracting and retaining them?

The Benefits Canada first-ever Halifax Benefits Summit will showcase informative presentations that will look at health benefits trends in Atlantic Canada.

This is a half-day conference. The Halifax Benefits Summit will cost $49.00 plus tax.

Who Should Attend?

All employers responsible for benefits plans, as well as brokers, benefits consultants and group insurers, are welcome to attend.



Francesca Allman

Sara Ametrano
Joanne Boccia

Join the conversation! @BenCanMag #HBS17


Halifax Summit

September 26, 2017
Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel

7:30 - 8:25 a.m.
Breakfast and registration

8:25 - 8:30 a.m.
Opening remarks

8:30 - 9:00 a.m.
Session one
Young workers in Atlantic Canada: Understanding the numbers and the narratives
This session will provide an overview of the demographic makeup of the labour market in the four Atlantic Provinces, with an in-depth focus on age and related issues (youth outmigration, education and career mobility). It will then drill down into sociological research findings on what young workers (i.e., aged 25-34) are looking for in a job and career, challenging the popular notion that young employees are overly “entitled,” and providing evidence-based recommendations on strategies and practices that seem to work for employers and young employees alike. The “numbers” of official demographic statistics and the “narratives” of young people’s aspirations and feelings about work will be knitted together to help attendees make sense of young workers in Atlantic Canada.

[Download the Presentation]

Karen Foster, associate professor and Canada research chair in sustainable rural futures for Atlantic Canada, Dalhousie University

9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
Session two
What's trending in health plan spending?
We all know that data is king in our industry. It informs our business strategy and decision making. This session will expand on this concept to make a strong and compelling case to use top-level data to design benefit plans for today – and tomorrow. The presentation will leverage big data analytics to share current and emerging trends that reflect the health of Atlantic Canadians, the benefits that plan members are claiming most and the approach Medavie Blue Cross is taking to address these trends.

Derek Weir, manager of group benefit solutions, Medavie Blue Cross

[Download the Presentation]

9:30 - 10:00 a.m.

Session three
Sleep disorders: Why they should be keeping plan sponsors up at night
Over 40% of adults suffer from sleep issues, and many go undiagnosed. The cost in lost productivity is astronomical for businesses. How can managers address this problem in their workplaces? This session will whisk you through some hard-to-believe and even frightening facts about sleep disorders. It will present do-it-yourself preventive programs, as well as a new intervention program. This presentation will also reveal the results of a sleep health pilot project that took place earlier this year.

Ron Cashin, account executive, Desjardins Insurance
Bradley Smith, president and founder, HALEO Preventive Health Solutions Inc.

[Download the Presentation]

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Networking break

10:30 - 11:00 a.m.

Session four
Cardiovascular disease and its impact on the workplace
Improvements in cardiovascular disease management have significantly reduced the n umber of heart attacks and related complications due to cholesterol lowering medications. However, some high-risk patients cannot control their cholesterol levels using current therapies, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Increasing economic burden imposed by this disease includes growing hospitalization costs and loss of productivity and potential lifelong disability.  This session will explore this chronic disease and highlight new advancements in treating cardiovascular disease that will ultimately allow for a more productive working environment.

Dr. Milan Gupta, cardiologist, Osler Cardiology

(This session has been made possible by Amgen)

[Download the Presentation]

11:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Session five
Improving health outcomes while managing costs: How pharmacy can help!

As the prevalence of chronic disease in the workforce increases, the need to improve health outcomes while managing drug plan costs has never been more important. This session will discuss how pharmacy has the opportunity to be a part of the solution, and subsequently free up room for employers to invest in preventative health and wellness solutions.

Mark Rolnick, vice-president, payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation, Shoppers Drug Mart

[Download the Presentation]

11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Session six
Diabetes...The cost and burden: Emerging solutions
Over the past decade, there has been a 70% increase in diagnosed diabetes. This session will highlight the significant impact the disease has had on the Canadian economy, the burden it has put on patients and their families, and what this all means for the workplace.

Irene Higgins-Bowser, diabetes educator

(This session has been made possible by Novo Nordisk)

[Download the Presentation]

12:00 p.m.
Closing remarks

HBS Speakers





Karen Foster

Karen Foster is an associate professor of sociology and the Canada research chair in sustainable rural futures for Atlantic Canada at Dalhousie University. Her research and writing spans the sociology of work, political economy and historical sociology, and emphasizes how government policy and everyday life intersect. She studies economic issues from a sociological perspective, with her research projects ranging from the history of productivity as a statistic and a concept, to the potential for "import replacement" in rural Atlantic Canada, to generational divisions at work, to young peoples' experiences on social assistance. In addition to her scholarly work, she has also written about these topics for print media, such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and The Tyee. Her recent (2016) book, Productivity and Prosperity: A Historical Sociology of Productivist Thought (University of Toronto Press), explores how the notion that higher productivity yields greater prosperity for ordinary people persists, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Other Conference Speakers


Mark Rolnick


Ron Cashin is an account executive and a member of Desjardins Insurance’s team in Atlantic Canada. He has over 25 years of experience in business development and an extensive background in employee benefits, group plan design and pricing. Cashin has worked in partnership with plan sponsors of all sizes across Atlantic Canada. Along with a master’s in business administration, he has obtained the certified employee benefits specialist (CEBS) designation. In the 11 years he has worked with Desjardins Insurance, his responsiveness and commitment to service have been widely recognized and lauded by his clients. Cashin is an active member of the Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute (CPBI) and is currently co-chair of this year’s Atlantic Region’s annual conference.



Dr. Milan Gupta


Dr. Milan Gupta is a cardiologist who has been in practice for over 20 years. He is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both internal medicine and adult cardiology. He has also been certified by the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Gupta received his doctor of medicine from the University of Toronto, where he then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in cardiology. He runs a busy clinical practice in Brampton, Ontario, called Osler Cardiology. He is an associate clinical professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. In addition, he holds the positions of adjunct scientist in the division of cardiovascular surgery and affiliate scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Gupta is actively engaged in clinical research, physician education and professional advocacy. He holds a number of research grants and has published over 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts. He also serves on numerous professional advisory boards and guidelines writing committees. He is the medical director of the Canadian Cardiovascular Research Network, and is past treasurer and executive member of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. He is co-founder and past chair of the Greater Toronto Area Community Cardiologists (GTACC), and past board member of the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario. He also chairs the board of directors of South Asian Network Supporting Awareness and Research (SANSAR), a national charity whose mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in South Asians. Dr. Gupta lectures widely on a variety of topics, and has a strong interest in developing innovative continuing medical education initiatives. His research interests include ethnicity and heart disease, acute coronary syndromes, atrial fibrillation and emerging risk factors in vascular disease. He is a recipient of the Dr. Harold Segal Award of Merit (2008) from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and in 2014 he received the Colin Woolf Award for Excellence in Course Coordination from the University of Toronto.



Mark Rolnick


Mark Rolnick is the vice-president of payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation for Shoppers Drug Mart. He is responsible for leading the strategy and development of innovative sustainable solutions to help employers manage their drug plans and improve the health and wellness of their employees. Rolnick and his team work in partnership with insurance carriers, benefits consultants and advisors to implement and execute these initiatives. Prior joining Shoppers Drug Mart, Rolnick spent over five years at Sun Life Financial in leadership roles in the group benefits product development area with a portfolio that included pharmaceuticals, disability and health and wellness. He also spent over 11 years at AstraZeneca, holding a number of roles with increasing responsibility, including market access, sales, marketing, strategic planning and business development. Rolnick practiced pharmacy for many years, and also has a master of science in health economics and a master of business administration.



Bradley Smith


Bradley Smith worked for over 10 years in Canada and in France as a marketing director for leading pharmaceutical and cosmetics brands before launching a new venture in Montreal in 2015 to develop innovative and accessible preventive health solutions. His company, HALEO Preventive Health Solutions Inc., helps employers improve organizational health and performance by increasing employee access to treatment for sleep disorders. In partnership with Desjardins Insurance and the Sleep Health Institute of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, HALEO recently launched its innovative Healthy Sleep Program, which has already helped hundreds of employees to screen, diagnose and treat insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. Smith also holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.



Derek Weir


Derek Weir leads the team responsible for the development and management of all non-pharmacy products for Medavie Blue Cross’s group business. He holds a master of science degree in kinesiology, and he has worked in the areas of organizational health and disability management for over 15 years. Before joining Medavie Blue Cross seven years ago, Weir managed a private multi-disciplinary health centre that offered a diverse range of services to insurers, employers and the general public.


For information on the speakers, please contact Sara Ametrano, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada

Event Details

Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
1919 Upper Water Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
With an unparalled downtown location, the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel sits right on the harbour, providing the perfect setting for its guests. The luxurious hotel rooms and suites boast beautiful scenic views, pillowtop mattresses and marble bathrooms with premium bath products, as well as free Wi-Fi access. Whether you're in town on business or holiday, get your day started at the Starbucks®, conveniently located in the hotel lobby. Take advantage of the perks included with your stay, such as the 24-hour fitness facility and the indoor pool and whirlpool. After you've worked up an appetite, head to the hotel's restaurant, the Harbourstone Sea Grill & Pour House, or unwind with a treatment at the on-site spa. Get the most out of your visit and take in the beauty of Nova Scotia's capital when you enjoy a relaxing stay at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel.

Calgary Marriott

Driving directions:

  • Take Highway 102 South to Highway 118 South
  • Take Highway 118 South to Highway 111 North and across the Mackay Bridge
  • Take the Barrington Street exit and follow Barrington Street to Hollis Street
  • The hotel will be on the left


  • On-site parking, fee: 4 CAD hourly, 25 CAD daily
  • Off-site parking, fee: 3.50 CAD hourly
  • Valet parking, fee: 30 CAD daily
  • Limited parking for oversized vehicles-valet service only. Offsite parking available


Francesca Allman

Sara Ametrano
Joanne Boccia