Wood Buffalo Disaster Recovery Program

- Program completed -

Fort McMurray, Alberta experienced the shock of an extraordinary disaster in the spring of 2016, when wildfires devastated the area. A massive evacuation and the subsequent month-long re-entry of more than 88,000 individuals occurred.

CMC-Alberta members (Keleigh Cormier, Cheryl Lockhart, Pierre Cormier) saw the heavy burden and jumped to the challenge of helping the region’s business community.  Their intent was to help those in need, meanwhile discussions quickly shifted to program development as a budget was introduced by the municipality resulting with the Back to Business Coaching Program (BBCP). The program was funded by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo through an emergency grant from the Government of Alberta.

The objective of the program was to help local business owners define urgent issues, set priorities and establish an action plan that could be implemented immediately during their business recovery efforts.  The business owners were still in shock and feeling overwhelmed.

After an Invitation to Participate notice was sent to all members of CMC-Alberta, a roster of qualified CMCs was developed to optimize a matching process to meet the specific needs of each business owner.  The CMC roster provided capabilities in all functional areas of business including strategy, marketing and business development, financial analysis, operations and human resources, all big challenges for business owners after the wildfire disaster.  The program ended in the spring of 2017  

Alberta CMC’s involved:

  • Coaches: (14) Angela Pedrini, Barry Huybens, Cheryl Lockhart, Eugene Van Den Berg, Ivor Bernatsky, Jane Grant, Julianne McKinnon, Kevin Sheppard, Marty Rybiak, Maurice Enabu, Michael Watson, Pauline Patenaude, Sheila Carruthers, Stefan Bucatau
  • Matchmakers: (7) Brenda Crompton, Chris Harper, Claudia Verburgh, Keleigh Cormier, Rick McDonald, Tiz Benvenuto, Pierre Cormier
  • Program Administrator:  Pierre Cormier

Program Highlights

  • A total of 66 businesses fully participated during the 1-year program.
  • Qualified businesses receive a minimum of 12 hours of support from a CMC within a 6-8 week period.
  • Business owners were matched with a CMC with expertise that aligned with the immediate needs of the client. Together, they developed a practical and effective action plan.
  • Meetings were done over the telephone or video conference. 
  • CMCs worked at a significantly reduced rate to ensure the program reached as many businesses as possible requesting professional assistance.  Free for eligible businesses.

The project’s success was recognized through winning CMC-Canada and CMC-Global (Constantinus) awards in 2018. Read case study: https://www.cmc-canada.ca/back-to-business-coaching-wood-buffalo-alberta

In 2018 the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) created a partnership with CMC-Alberta (ICMCA) to continue helping SME’s with management advisory services in the Wood Buffalo region.  The Canadian Red Cross Society provided funding for the 2nd round of the business coaching program and ran until summer 2020 with an additional 32 company projects completed in the region.

Alberta CMC’s involved:

  • Coaches: (12) Pauline Patenaude, Jane Grant, Coralie Banks, Ann McTaggart, Adrian Sakundiak, Julianne McKinnon, Maurice Enabu, Stefan Bucataru, Calvin Hughes, Ivor Bernatsky, Danielle Doll, and Maggie Chen.
  • Match makers: (5) Tiz Benvenuto, Jeff Griffith, Keleigh Cormier, Cheryl Lockhart, Pierre Cormier
  • Program administrators: (4) Cheryl Lockhart, Pierre Cormier, Coralie Banks, Patrick Binns

Through an evaluation by the municipality, the Back to Business Coaching Program proved to be one of RMWB’s most successful recovery programs to date. Results from RMWB's client survey:

  • Overall effectiveness to clients’ needs was rated 4.2 out of 5
  • Quality of Advice was rated 4.2 out of 5; and
  • Professionalism was rated 4.4 out of 5;

Client Testimonial: "As a result of the program, I gained more focus and a clearer understanding as a business leader from working with my coach. I would highly recommend the BBCP and working with a CMC. It has truly been a life changing experience for my business."

Other impacts of the project beyond the primary goal included fundamental business concepts taught to business owners that would help these owners become more successful in the long-term. The CMC-Coaches helped steer change with participating businesses as they were advised on new options and strategies in addition to sorting out recovery specific tasks to get back on track.

Client Testimonial: “I cannot express enough thanks to you for your guidance and support. I believe your input has been invaluable and something I will carry with me throughout the business and life as well. I look forward to the day when I can actually meet you.”


ICMCA will continue look for future opportunities to work with municipalities, economic development agencies and provincial or federal government departments to help organizations in our Alberta communities to more effectively start-up, grow and advance.