BD&P invests in a better city

John Brussa spends a lot of time in boardrooms talking with captains of industry, but the Vice Chair and Partner at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP — and one of the most influential tax lawyers in Canada — also gets a lot from the breakfast conversations he has with homeless people at a downtown shelter.

“We live in such a rarified environment in downtown Calgary,” he says. “But when you put a face to homelessness — some of them with drug and mental health issues — there are a lot of people who are just struggling.”

Brussa, a member of the RESOLVE Cabinet, was more than happy to throw BD&P’s support behind the Campaign. “The firm is very deeply rooted in Calgary,” explains Brussa. “This is not only our head office, it’s our only office. Our corporate culture is based on having a social conscience.”

BD&P is the first law firm in Calgary to donate to the RESOLVE Campaign to build affordable housing, leading the way with a gift at the Champion level. Brussa is topping that up with a significant personal donation. That builds on the firm’s nearly $1 million commitment in donations and pro bono work toward ending homelessness in Calgary over the last decade or so.

The firm has hosted two recent breakfasts for lawyers from other corporate firms to encourage them to become a part of this unique collaboration. They saw significant buy-in at the breakfasts and have had very good follow-up meetings with six firms that are in various stages in their commitment. “In no way is this ‘an exclusive’ for our firm. We think it’s really incumbent on law firms to step up and join us in the Campaign.”

Not only is there “an emotional pull” to help end homelessness, there’s a sound business case behind RESOLVE. Providing supported, affordable housing for one person can reduce public system costs by more than $34,000 a year.

For his part, Brussa is also encouraging other lawyers and business leaders in Calgary to contribute to the Campaign. “I am trying to talk to folks and give them the pitch for why this makes sense not only from a social perspective but from a business point of view,” he says. “It’s a good investment in a better city.”

It’s also a very personal issue for Brussa. His late sister was periodically a street person, and was in and out of the welfare and mental health systems. By lending his and BD&P’s considerable influence to RESOLVE’s efforts to end homelessness in Calgary, he’s also honouring her.