Right on track

Patricia Jasmin, CFO of VIA Rail, on the challenges of working for a Crown corporation and balancing government interests with the public’s expectations.

Q. How has your role evolved since you joined VIA as corporate comptroller in 2007?
A. At the beginning, my role was more traditional in terms of governance and conformity. But over the years we’ve developed more of a business partnership approach and created a team of advisers who work with managers in different departments within the organization. It has helped us become more efficient and proactive; now we’re closer to the everyday reality of our managers and our customers.

Q: What are some of the issues you face working for a business that is both a Crown corporation and a commercial company?

A. This duality isn’t always easy. We have to look at everything from both sides of the business and weigh our responsibilities in governance and compliance to the law with meeting our clients’ needs. One of VIA’s main strengths is its team, which is fully committed to answering those needs while ensuring that public funds are managed responsibly.

Q: Since you were appointed CFO in January, has your leadership style changed?
A. It has evolved. I’ve always considered my leadership approach to be that of a coach, but in the past year it has evolved into more of a mentoring approach. Now that I have senior managers reporting to me, I’m not as involved in the day-to-day details, but I work with them on their development and give advice where needed.

Q: What excites you most about future developments at VIA?

A. Since the beginning of the year, the environment at VIA changed as a new management team was put in place. Since then we have reviewed our commercial practices and long-term strategies. For example, our LRC cars have been refurbished, we’ve made improvements to Wi-Fi onboard and enhanced our services by adding new departures and launching our VIA Rail mobile app. Now we’re working on a dedicated rail project in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle that will solve problems associated with sharing the tracks with freight trains.

Patricia Jasmin worked with Costco, Loblaw Ltd., Rogers and Téléglobe before joining VIA Rail in 2007 as corporate comptroller.