Skip to main content
Honouring our Hidden Heroes

Earlier in the year, The Honourable Lieutenant General Elizabeth Dowdeswell released an article to members of Applaud featuring insightful conversations with members of Ontario’s public service. Applaud was inspired to continue to showcase these stories and lift the curtain to highlight these public servants whose efforts often go unnoticed. Thus, ‘The Hidden Heroes of Public Service’ virtual panel was born. The event welcomed over 320+ live attendees and the conversation proved to be extremely fruitful.

The webinar was moderated by TVO’s Steve Paikin and welcomed members of Ontario’s public service including Barb Simmons, Ron Kelusky, Christopher Gonsalves, Emily Tamfo and Spencer Daniels and special guest, The Honourable Lieutenant General Elizabeth Dowdeswell. From the work that was done to create the COVID-19 self assessment app to how this pandemic has affected women and immigrants in our communities, no topic was left untouched. 

As the pandemic rages on, public servants have been asked to redefine their roles and adjust quickly and seamlessly to a situation that is constantly changing. The stories of our panelists are just some of many stories. We believe the stories are worth telling and want to hear from you. Send us an email on

Interested in reading our features on ‘Hidden Heroes of The Public Service’ so far? Click here to read about the Times Change Women’s Employment Centre and click here to learn about the Fleet, Supply and Weapon Services Bureau at the Ontario Provincial Police.

Watch the Webinar

The ‘Hidden Heroes’ virtual panel allowed for a deeper dive into the efforts being made by Ontario’s public service and how they have had to adapt to this new climate.

Watch a recording of the webinar to hear all the panelists’ stories:

Senior Product Manager, TBS, Spencer Daniels and his team are the masterminds behind the COVID-19 self assessment app and other tools to help Ontarians. 

“For the last month, my team has been hard at work building that gets people where they need to go to get vaccinated, whether that’s a local health centre or a mass vaccination clinic. We’ve had 10 million eligibility checks performed in just the last 10 days, so it’s been nonstop for us since last March”

Working in tandem with Daniels and his team, was Emily Tamfo, former Senior Product Manager for The Ontario Cabinet Office, who along with her team, was the visionairy behind

“We have built a variety of features that have been accessed over 60 million times across Ontario, one of our most popular features is our data visualization where you can see really easy to use graphs and tables of COVID-19 data” 

Director of Strategy and Delivery, Ministry of Consumer Services, Christopher Gonsalves and his team, along with cross government teams, had to pivot from the work that they were doing and establish a brand new centralized coordinated function that had to plan, procure, warehouse and distribute PPE to support workers performing critical services across Ontario.

“We did this at a time when the global market was very disrupted and when there were thousands of organizations across Ontario competing with each other and with the rest of the world for the same supplies. We were very dependant on foreign sources of supply. In the past year we have built something that has acquired over a billion dollars worth of PPE and distributed over 400 million pieces of PPE to tens of thousands of locations across the province to help keep the health sector, education workers, and other critical sector workers safe to perform their essential functions.”

Director, Policy, Citizenship and Immigration Division & Office of Women’s Issues, Barb Simmons and her team have had a full plate when it comes to adapting to the age of the pandemic.

“What we’ve been focused on for immigration is working very closely with the federal government to implement border restrictions and fundamentally shut down immigration into Canada for the duration of the emergency. Then we had to swiftly work on rule changes to allow people who are already here, and people who must come in, like temporary foreign works or for agricultural purposes, to allow them to come in safely and work safely and change the rules of immigration and work permits to enable that. And then on women’s issues, we are working on the economic recovery from the she-session, which really reflects the disproportionate economic impact on women from the pandemic. Also I’ve been working closely with a number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit organizations to develop Ontario’s response to the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. We’ve had a very front row seat on the impact that the pandemic has had on our First Nations partners as well.”

Chief Prevention Officer, ADM, Labour, Training and Skills Development, Ron Kelusky and his team normally help manage the health and safety of workers in Ontario. Due to COVID-19, they have had to quickly adjust to a new health and safety concern. 

“In Covid times, we became what I would characterize as the ‘translator of information’ for essential businesses on what their responsibilities are to keep their workers safe while they remained open as an essential business, as a business that was reopening after the first phase, through the period of colour coding, now into the third wave. We have produced probably 250 or more guidance documents, videos on infectious prevention and control, tip sheets, safety plans. You name it, we’ve produced it.”