November 16, 2021
Tony DiGiovanniThis is my 32nd report as Landscape Ontario Executive Director. (One more to go!). In that time, there have been many changes in our profession and association. However, some things have stayed the same. When I started in 1989, the top priority was attracting people to our profession. It is still the top priority. The labour situation has gotten worse at the same time that demand for our services and products has hit an all-time high. The shortage of employees has become the limiting factor in our growth. I know a number of companies that have exited the profession because they did not have the resources to do the work.

Landscape Ontario is actively and directly dealing with this issue in many ways. The Human Resource Development report outlines the many projects and initiatives related to narrowing the labour gap. We have a multi-dimensional plan. We are devoting extensive resources. The plan includes long-term awareness activities in the elementary and secondary schools as well as programs designed to recruit, train and provide employees to our members. I am confident we are doing more to deal with this issue than any other similar organization in the world. The problem is large, complex and won’t be easily solved. However, I am convinced one of the best ways to deal with the labour gap is for individual members to embrace responsibility and ensure they are providing the absolute best experience possible for their employees.

Here is a brief summary of our industry advancement activities over the past fiscal year:

Insurance crisis

The insurance sector is experiencing one of the hardest markets in their history. Insurance payouts due to COVID, severe weather events and increased slip and fall litigation (fueled by ubiquitous advertisements from contingency lawyers) has caused many insurance companies to exit our sector — especially the snow business. Many members are experiencing increases of up to 600 per cent. In some cases, insurance is not available at any price. Even our endorsed program with Marsh Canada with over $10 million in collective premiums had difficulty finding an insurance company to underwrite the risk. Thankfully, Zurich Insurance decided to participate.

Landscape Ontario is dealing with this issue the following ways:

We (you) successfully supported MPP Norm Miller’s Private Members’ Bill 118 which reduced the Statute of Limitations from two years to 60 days. This is a huge win and will eliminate many frivolous slip and fall claims. It already has had a positive impact. It will take a number of years to really show results. The Bill also ensures that claims are timely. Private Members’ Bills rarely become law. MPP Miller told us that this one was successful because our members actively supported the Bill at the local level. Grass roots politics and activism is important.

Contractor Accreditation (The New Hampshire Model)
In New Hampshire, contractors with Green Snow Pro Accreditation enjoy liability protection. We are asking the government to adopt this idea. I am pleased to say we are making progress. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has agreed to the formation of a working group that includes the Fresh Water Alliance, environmental groups, Building Owners and Managers Association, Landscape Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Stay tuned.

CSA Standard
We are supporting the efforts of a group of members trying to initiate a CSA Standard for snow and ice operations. Once a standard is established, liability protection naturally occurs for contractors who can prove they follow the standard. Our hope is to link the Standard to the Accreditation criteria for Certified Contractors.

LO COVID-19 Taskforce

As of this writing, the LO COVID-19 Task Force has met 156 times. It has directed the member communications helping members deal with the pandemic. At the beginning of COVID in March of 2020, it provided the energy that resulted in having our profession declared “essential.” Since then, the Task Force initiated the “Don’t Let Your Guard Down” campaign, the Garden Makeover Program for Frontline Workers, the COVID Task Force Resource Website and many popular Town Hall-style virtual meetings. Thankfully, meetings are now held every second week. Hopefully, the Task Force will be able to dissolve in the near future as the situation normalizes. The Task Force has gone way beyond the call of duty and will probably always hold the record for meetings held in a volunteer capacity. Thank you to: Alan White (Chair), Jeff Olsen, Jon Durzi, Dave Wright, Peter Guinane, Margot Byers, Terry Childs, Lindsey Ross, James Riddell. You have excelled!
don't let your guard down

Garden Makeover Program

As part of the COVID Task Force, Peter Guinane conceived the idea to provide garden makeovers to frontline workers. The public was asked to nominate exemplary frontline workers. We received thousands of entries. 10 projects were chosen — one for each chapter, plus a provincial winner. Please see for a list of the winners and projects. Although the makeovers were supposed to be valued at $5,000, typical of our members’ generosity, most projects were worth many multiples of that amount.
contest graphic

Building update

Many of you have visited the home office. It is a brand new, state-of-the-art space, complete with offices and training rooms. Although COVID forced us to close the building down for almost two years, we are pleased to report that face-to-face meetings are being held again. We have also developed an amazing Master Plan which will be realized in stages. Here is a link to the Master Plan. Plans are underway to complete the first phase in the spring of 2022. In the meantime, the Trial Gardens have never looked better, thanks to Rodger Tschanz of the University of Guelph and David Turnbull our indefatigable property manager. We are also investigating the possibility of placing a large digital sign on the property facing Highway 401. This will allow us to provide positive messages to the 300,000 people who drive by daily, and generate income.

Green Infrastructure Coalition and Economic Impact Study

Landscape Ontario is a founding member of the Green Infrastructure Coalition (GIO). The coalition includes: Conservation Ontario, Forests Ontario, Greenbelt Foundation, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Lake Simcoe and Region Conservation Authority, Landscape Ontario, LEAF, Ontario Association of Landscape Architects, Ontario Parks Association and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. GIO was formed to advocate for the benefits of living green infrastructure at the government level. GIO has been very successful. One of the most important documents produced is the Economic Impact Study of Green Infrastructure.

You will be surprised and impressed by the size of our sector.

Highway of Heroes Living Tribute Tree Campaign

This wonderful project has reached its goal of raising $10 million to pay for the planting of two million trees to honour members of the Canadian Armed Forces. By Remembrance Day 2022, it is anticipated that all two million trees will be in the ground.

GM stepped forward this year and donated the use of a GM vehicle.

Canadian Trees For Life

With the success of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute the board, under the inspirational leadership of Mark Cullen, decided to use the experience, relationships and goodwill associated with the HOH project to create a new national foundation called Canadian Trees for Life. The goal is to work with community tree organizations, local and regional governments and local businesses across Canada to realize the federal government’s 2 Billion Tree program. We look forward to promoting urban tree cover across the country.

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC)

Landscape Ontario has long supported the mandate of VRIC. We sponsored a permanent Horticulture Research Chair position. It was one of the best things we have ever done. Our small investment has been leveraged many times over. Dr. Darby McGrath is dedicated to enhancing the success of our sector.

Program focus:
  • Enhance the evidence of horticultural products as natural solutions through active experimentation, testing and demonstration.
  • Utilize new technologies and techniques across crops to create production efficiencies.
  • Develop new practices for circular economy in horticulture by utilizing waste streams on the farm or transforming into value-added products.
Dr. McGrath’s newest initiative is called Greening the Landscape Research Consortium. Landscape Ontario is proud to be a charter member. The consortium includes many partners focused on building the collective capacity of the urban tree value chain. Research priorities are based on the issues faced by members. The work will ensure that trees in the urban landscape are provided with optimum conditions for growth.

Canada Blooms

For over 25 years, the Canada Blooms Flower and Garden Festival has inspired millions of people. It has also elevated the entire profession. The pandemic forced the show to take a break, however, we continued to keep the brand alive through the publication of a 25th anniversary magazine.

The magazine captures the history and excitement of the show which was always meant to bring together and celebrate all those with a passion for plants, horticulture, landscapes and green spaces. We also produced 10 video vignettes with the assistance of Unilock.

Plans are now underway to bring back the festival in the spring of 2023.

Maple Leaves Forever

Landscape Ontario is involved with a great organization called Maple Leaves Forever. It’s founder, Ken Jewett, initiated the organization to promote the return of native maple trees. Ken’s organization has put together a network of nurseries that propagate native maples and provides a subsidy to any group that plants native maples sourced from certified nurseries.

Undocumented workers

It came to our attention that there were many undocumented workers in our industry. This situation arose because of the labour shortage. Landscape Ontario worked with the Canadian Border Services Agency, Service Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help members understand how to ensure compliance. We also supported a federal government initiative to fast track efforts to assist foreign workers with landed immigrant status.

Related to this issue we understand that part of the solution for the labour challenges will have to be immigration. Landscape Ontario is exploring various pilots to assist members go through the process to bring in workers from other countries.

Labour Assessment Nurseries

With the help of an OMAFRA and LO grower consultant, Jeanine West, a number of resources were made available to growers related to alleviating the labour challenge. The resources can be found online at and at

The resources are excellent. If you are a nursery grower please log-in.

Box tree moth

Over the last number of years, Landscape Ontario has been trying to control a local outbreak of this serious pest of boxwood in the southern Etobicoke area. There was an extensive program of scouting, door-to-door awareness activities and free spraying. Unfortunately, the pest has spread beyond Etobicoke and into the Niagara Area. This resulted in the shut down of all exports to the U.S. Growers have lost millions of dollars. Landscape Ontario is now working with CNLA, growers across Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to develop control programs that would allow exports to continue. Here is some information about the moth.

Congress Connect

In 2021, we were not able to host Congress due to the pandemic. Our trade show staff, under the leadership of Heather MacRae, quickly shifted into hosting an online trade show and conference. We discovered that virtual conferences can be very successful because they are easier to access, however, virtual trade shows are challenging because attendees will not sit for hours moving from one virtual booth to another. In response, we opened the virtual trade show year round. Congress Connect is a great resource for products and services, and it is open until December 31, 2021..
We are happy to report that Congress 2022 will be a live event, although the conference and awards ceremony will remain virtual for another year.

Neil Vanderkruk Innovation and Scholarship Fund

Neil Vanderkruk passed away in November 2020. Neil has a special place in my heart because his phone call to me in 1989 changed my life direction from a teacher and coordinator of the Landscape Program at Humber College to Executive Director of Landscape Ontario. Neil was one of the pioneers of Landscape Ontario and was a lifetime contributor. He was also a mentor. Neil’s legacy will be recognized in a number of ways. A new award has been developed in his name and a new scholarship has also been created. Consider donating to his scholarship fund.

Staff team

I am very proud of our staff team. They are the best in the association world. They are passionate about serving the membership and they embrace the mission of Landscape Ontario. Please see for a list of the staff.

In 2020-2021 Lee Ann Knudsen, long-time publisher of Landscape Trades and Landscape Ontario magazines, decided to retire to her native United States. Darryl Bond, our sales specialist for Congress — and one of the best sales professionals I ever met, also decided to retire. I would like to recognize the amazing contributions of both individuals.

Communications department

The LO Communications department, under the leadership of Scott Barber, continues to embrace all forms of communications in telling the stories of our members, events, programs and issues. Communication builds community. The department reflects our character and our values as a profession.

Landscape Trades magazine continues to be Canada’s premier landscape publication. A recent redesign is aesthetically-pleasing and has increased the size, making it easier to read. The social media efforts are second to none. Useful and interesting content is added daily to the websites and a number of digital products like e-news, Landscape Trades Essentials, partner posts and direct emails have ensured we offer content in a way that is relevant to our readers.

Workforce development

Landscape Ontario has been very fortunate to receive a number of grants aimed at finding solutions to our labour shortage. The grants were managed by the very capable Sally Harvey, Director of Workforce Development. Information on the programs will appear in the Human Resources Development report, but I will take the opportunity to summarize them here.
GROW program
The GROW program is made up of three activities designed to help businesses recruit and retain employees. Although it is only offered in the Greater Toronto, Hamilton and Muskoka regions, our goal is to expand it across Ontario. Presently, it is being piloted in these three locations.

New Entrant Training
The program attracts new people to our profession. It provides six weeks of free, basic training before participants are available to employers. Over the last two years, we trained over 160 individuals.

Supervisory and Crew Leader Training
This program is focused on developing outstanding employees into crew leaders and supervisors. Many studies have shown that training and a career path are excellent retention tools. Knowledge builds enthusiasm. 85 individuals completed the Supervisory and Crew Leader Training

Employer of Choice
The third part of the GROW program is the Employer of Choice Program. 71 members attended the Employer of Choice program.

Apprenticeship Program

To me, the Apprenticeship Program is a gift to the profession. In my view, every member of Landscape Ontario should enrol their staff in the Apprenticeship Program. The program will elevate the skills of your staff team at no cost to you if you use the government incentives. There are incentives for both you and your employees. I have personally observed lives change for the better. Employees have been awakened to the breadth of the profession based on this program. Employers have become better organizations because of the changed skills and attitudes of their team members. We are fortunate to be authorized by the government to register apprentices.

One Bench One Tree

Landscape Ontario is proud to support the One Bench One Tree project.

This project was conceived by the Landscape Architecture Masters Students at the University of Guelph. Their mission is well stated on their website:

“We aim to give back to frontline heroes by offering a moment of rest in nature. With the support of Canadian organizations and companies, our goal is to add at least one bench and one tree to the landscape of hospitals across Canada. Because heroes need healing too.”

Already, members of our profession have jumped on board with this project and are contributing time and products. Consider reaching out to your local hospital and giving a “gift of rest” to our frontline healthcare workers. This is another way to reflect what we do and who we are as caring landscape professionals.

Record membership numbers

We are pleased to report that Landscape Ontario has enjoyed a record year of new membership applications. This is for a number of reasons, including the CNLA affinity programs, difficulty in obtaining insurance (except through membership), an appreciation for the work done to declare the industry essential and able to work during the pandemic. We look forward to welcoming these new members into the LO family.

Dave Wright President

2001 marks the second term of LO President David Wright. Dave’s theme for his presidency was “Legacy.” Dave encouraged all members and staff to leave a positive legacy of benefit by focusing our efforts on enhancing lives, bringing people together, improving the landscape and developing relationships. Dave has demonstrated calm and wise visionary leadership amidst huge challenges with respect to COVID, the labour shortage and the insurance crisis. His legacy is assured.

The future

In many ways, the COVID pandemic has brought our profession into the spotlight. People are rediscovering the value of nature, parks, gardens, landscapes and green spaces. Our profession has been elevated.

There has been a steady and increasing awareness of the economic, environmental, aesthetic, lifestyle, therapeutic, social, recreational, spiritual and legacy benefits of gardens, landscapes and green spaces. There are few professions that provide so many life-enhancing benefits. The future is bright.
Respectfully submitted,
Tony DiGiovanni
Executive Director 2020-2021