Rocco Rossi

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Rocco Rossi
Rocco Rossi PCC.jpg
Born (1962-02-06) February 6, 1962 (age 55)
Toronto, Ontario
Residence Toronto
Occupation President & CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada
Spouse(s) Rhonnie
Children 1

Rocco Rossi (born February 6, 1962) is the President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, the leading national foundation dedicated to the elimination of prostate cancer in men through research, advocacy, education, support and awareness. From 2004 to 2009 he was the CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. During 2009 he served as the national director of the Liberal Party of Canada. His political career included a bid for Toronto's mayor in the 2010 municipal election[1] and a run with the Progressive Conservative Party (Eglinton—Lawrence) in the 2011 Ontario provincial election.


Rossi was born at Grace Hospital in downtown Toronto and was raised in Scarborough and East York. He is the eldest of five children and the son of Domenico and Domenica Rossi—Italian immigrants who emigrated from Anzano di Puglia, Italy in the 1950s. He grew up in a multi-generational household with family who raised chickens in the backyard and spoke mostly Italian. Rossi is outspoken on how language barriers affect newly immigrated families, describing his mother like a “prisoner in her own home" until one day offered free English classes from the United Way in Toronto.

Earning scholarships of merit, Rossi attended prestigious schools in Canada and the United States. He first won a scholarship to attend Upper Canada College (UCC), an independent elementary and secondary school in midtown Toronto. After graduating from UCC, Rossi studied on scholarship at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He later earned a scholarship to Princeton University in New Jersey, where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Politics.

Rossi is currently a resident of midtown Toronto and has been married for 29 years to his wife Rhonnie.


After graduating from Princeton, Rossi returned to Toronto to pursue a career in the private sector with roles at Advanced Material Resources (now NeoMaterials), The Boston Consulting Group, 'Torstar', Labatt/Interbrew and MGI Software.[2] Rossi's role at Torstar included launching Toronto's local internet portal— He was recruited from Torstar by Interbew and became president of, which launched at the peak of the dot-com boom.[3]

Rossi has sat on numerous private, public and charitable boards including the United Way of Greater Toronto, AMR, the Ivey Foundation, the Internet Advertising Bureau of Canada, Toronto’s 2008 Olympic Bid and the Empire Club of Canada. He is also a supporter of Rotary International, Presidents of Enterprising Organizations and the Young Presidents' Organization.

The sudden death of a colleague and close friend from overwork influenced Rossi to leave working in the private sector and pursue career opportunities in the not for profit sector, eventually leading him to join the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario in 2004 as CEO.

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario[edit]

From November 2004 until January 2009, Rossi was chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, one of the largest non-profit organizations in Canada.[4] As CEO, Rossi was instrumental in raising funds for cardiovascular health and research, and for the purchase of automated heart defibrillators (AED’s) for placement in public spaces across Ontario. The defibrillator program has so far led to 30 lives saved and Rossi’s efforts have been honoured with his name appearing on plaques installed in various TTC stations around Toronto.

In addition to partaking in annual HSFO fundraising events such as the Ride for Heart, Rossi raised funds and awareness for heart and stroke research through the accomplishment of several athletic feats. He has kayaked 490 km solo from Toronto to Ottawa, cycled the entire 1,900 km length of Yonge Street from Rainy River, Ontario to Toronto and twice climbed Toronto’s seven tallest office towers over three days to equal the height of Mount Everest.[5][6]

Under Rossi's leadership the Heart and Stroke Foundation built a $130-million reserve of tax-receipted funds. While some have criticized saving instead of spending, Rossi has remarked, "It's a criticism I will bear with honour... I'm proud that we built a healthy, long-term balance sheet".[7]


Rossi was a national director of the federal Liberal Party of Canada, managed John Tory's campaign for Mayor of Toronto in the 2003 Toronto municipal election, ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010 and was a candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in the 2011 General Election.


In 2011, Rossi was the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party candidate for the riding of Eglinton—Lawrence in the Ontario provincial election, losing to the incumbent Mike Colle by 8,005 votes. Prior to the election, he wrote an op-ed in the National Post explaining his decision to switch his party affiliation from the Liberals to the Progressive Conservatives.[8]

2010 Toronto Mayoral Election[edit]

Rossi announced his intention to run for Mayor of Toronto outside of Toronto City Hall on December 14, 2009. Prior to his official campaign launch, Rossi came under fire for using his Liberal Party of Canada email account to ask for support prior to entering the race. Rossi's perceived wrongdoing was largely due to possible violation of the Municipal Elections Act, which prohibits federal political involvement in the city election. The party suspended his account calling it an "inappropriate use of party resources".[9]

Rossi made his first major campaign address to the Empire Club of Canada on January 21, 2010, where 600 supporters heard him speak about his key priorities: reducing city debt, improving public transit, reducing congestion on city streets and creating jobs by attracting new investment. These priorities became pillars of the campaign, leading to the release of Rossi’s platform and economic plan on October 5, 2010. Entitled Together We Can Bring Change to City Hall, the plan focused on fixing city finances by curbing spending, getting city costs under control, and reducing debt to allow for investment and development in infrastructure. In addition to fiscal reform, Rossi advocated for democratic reforms at City Hall such as imposing term limits for the mayor and city councillors, introducing internet voting to increase citizen access to the democratic process, and recall legislation that would give citizens the power to recall underperforming or irresponsible politicians.

Rossi's campaign was quickly derailed by a series of announcements on gridlock. The first announcement in Parkdale focusing on bridge replacement technologies and the following day at the end of the Allen Road announcing his plan to tunnel the Spadina Expressway to the Gardiner Expressway, complete with a subterranean bike lane to an undisclosed neighbourhood.[10]

In response to his performance in recent polls, Rossi announced on October 13, 2010 that he was leaving the mayoral race.[11] Despite his withdrawal, he received 5,012 votes,[12] more than any other candidate apart from the remaining "big three".


In 2012, Rossi was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal for his extensive community contributions and philanthropic work. The Toronto Sun called him "The Richard Branson of philanthropy" for his innovative fundraising adventures. Over a 4 year period from 2006-2009, Rossi, then-CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, took on a major personal fundraising initiative, raising a combined total of more than $2.6 million. Heart and Stroke isn't the only beneficiary of Rocco's fundraising efforts. True Patriot Love, a foundation dedicated to honouring and supporting the brave members of Canada's military and their families, has also been a focus. Most recently in October 2012, he co-chaired an expedition of 12 wounded Canadian veterans and a group of 10 corporate leaders on a challenging trek to Everest Base Camp and the Summit of Island Peak to raise much-needed funds and awareness for injured soldiers and their families. It is the subject of a CBC documentary entitled "March to the Top" which airs in February 2013.


  1. ^ "Biography: Rocco Rossi"
  2. ^ "Rossi's mayoral bid surprises observers", Toronto Star, December 12, 2009
  3. ^ Ann Perry (October 13, 1999). "Belly up to the Web bar for new taste of ; Interbrew site aims to satisfy online thirst". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 23, 2010. 
  4. ^ Rossi rises to the occasion Toronto Sun Dec.15,2009
  5. ^ Tom Godfrey. Every step a lifesaver. Toronto Sun, February 23, 2009.
  6. ^ Mariella Policheni. Biking along Yonge Street Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Rocco Rossi on newest effort. Tandem Magazine. May 20, 2007.
  7. ^ Existential crises and a rage to save the Liberals. Toronto Star, February 1, 2009.
  8. ^ Rossi, Rocco (7 February 2011). "Rocco Rossi: Proudly a Progressive Conservative". National Post. 
  9. ^ "Emails send wrong message for Rocco Rossi". Toronto Star, December 16, 2009.
  10. ^ "The return of the Spadina Expressway?". Toronto Star, September 14, 2010.
  11. ^ "Rocco Rossi's not done yet: Levy". Toronto Sun, October 27, 2010.
  12. ^ Declaration of Results of Voting. City of Toronto.