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Gordon Thompson (1946-2021), first CFLA President.

Marcel Buerkler - May 14, 2021 - Featured Content Area

We were sad to learn of the death of Gordon Thompson on May 4, 2021.  Gord was one of the founders of CFLA.  He was instrumental in putting the asset-based finance and leasing industry on the political map.

In 1993, Gord was the association’s first President after the merger of the Equipment Leasing Association of Canada (ELAC) and the Canadian Automotive Leasing Association (CALA).

As recounted in the book Unstoppable, the story of asset-based finance and leasing in Canada, Steve Hudson, then head of the Newcourt Credit Group, first contacted Gord Thompson, President of the large and successful Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“Hudson and others he had talked with in the industry felt the relevancy of ELAC was diminishing,” Thompson said, reflecting on the two men’s first conversations. “Neither ELAC or CALA had an effective voice in Ottawa or at the provincial level. And there was a feeling that if you don’t have an effective voice, if you really don’t represent the industry, no one is going to take you seriously.”

Thompson spent much the CFLA’s first year recruiting new members and trying to raise the industry’s profile in Ottawa and the provincial capitals. He had his work cut out for him. Two contentious government proposals required immediate attention: a move to introduce photo radar on Ontario roads, and issues stemming from the introduction of the new federal goods and services tax in 1991.

Lessors were skeptical of photo radar because, as the registered owners of leased vehicles, they might be held liable for speeding offences by lessee drivers. The problem with the GST was that anyone leasing a car would pay the tax twice—on their monthly payments and on the residual amount at the end of the lease term.

Thompson and CFLA’s first Chair Hugo Sørensen mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign on both fronts. To plead its case on the GST, they travelled to Ottawa to meet with then–finance minister Michael Wilson and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. On photo radar, the association lost no opportunity to remind both the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) government and, after 1995, the incoming provincial Conservatives of the impracticalities of the system.

The lobbying efforts were rewarded on both counts. Ontario scrapped photo radar as one of the new government’s first orders of business and the federal government revised the Excise Tax Act to ensure that vehicle leasing would not take a double tax hit. Sørensen was thrilled with the result. He recalled that of the hundreds of lobbying groups that made submissions on the GST, the CFLA was one of only a handful whose voices were heard.

These early victories enhanced the association’s credibility and helped spur its drive for new members. “We got people to join by fighting these issues,” recalled Thompson. “We told the members what we were doing. Next thing, they’d get out there and tell their friends. Soon they were saying: ‘Hey, these guys are out there trying to protect our industry and trying to change it—not just having an annual meeting where everyone gets a free drink and a sandwich.’”

Within a year of its formation, the new association had mushroomed from 20 corporate members to almost 100. As of early 2014, the membership totalled almost 250 firms or corporations.

Thompson remained for two years, leaving in the summer of 1995 to join Newcourt Credit Group as senior vice-president of corporate development.”

He was succeeded as CFLA President by David Powell.

Gord stayed very active in CFLA chairing the association’s Government Relations Committee for many years.

Gordon Thompson Obituary, The Globe and Mail

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