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General facts

Population: 34.9 million

Capital: Ottawa

Official Languages: English and French

Currency: Canadian dollar

Religions: Christian

Key industries

Aerospace Industry

Canada has a large aerospace industry, which is present in every province and some of the main production centres can be found in Toronto and Montréal. In 2017, there were approximately 700 aerospace companies and in 2018 the industry as a whole accounted for over 213,000 jobs and $25 billion in GDP.

Service Industry

Accounting for approximately 75% of jobs in Canada and 70% of the total GDP, this industry includes sectors such as retail, tourism, healthcare and communication. Retail is a key sector within the service industry and it currently employs just over 10% of Canadians. Tourism is also a large contributor to the economy with over 18 million visitors contributing $80 billion to the economy per year.

Energy Industry

Canada is one of the global leaders in energy production and produces energy from its vast oil and gas reserves. More recently though, companies have turned their attention to the so-called ‘clean energy’ industry. This term encompasses production of hydro-electric power, the use of electric cars and the employment of workers to make buildings more energy efficient. In total, this industry was estimated to have employed 300,000 Canadians in 2017 and approximately 60 percent of Canada’s electricity is now generated using hydroelectricity.

Fishing Industry

With a coastline of 202,080 km, the longest in the world, and more lakes than the rest of the world combined, Canada has a big fishing industry. From the coast of Nova Scotia to the lakes in British Columbia, fishing is present across all provinces and this along with fishing related activities has created over 72, 000 jobs for Canadians and $2.2 billion in GDP in 2018. Lobster is the most valuable species to export and was worth $2 billion in 2016.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Canada has two official languages, French and English. It is therefore a legal requirement to have product labels translated into both languages. It would also be a good idea to present your business cards in both languages.
  • In Quebec, French is the primary language which is worth keeping in mind if doing business with a company in Quebec as correspondence in French will be necessary. You may require an interpreter to be present at a meeting if you don’t speak French.
  • Some key cities in Canada include: Vancouver which is one of the most important cities for industries such as film production, software development and mining, Ottawa which is a hub for the high-tech industry and Montréal which is known for the aerospace and pharmaceuticals industries.
  • At the heart of Canadian culture is equality, therefore everyone should be treated equally and with respect in business. Women are also starting to occupy more and more high-ranking positions.
  • According to Forbes, in 2018 Canada was ranked the second best place to do business and it is known for having a very welcoming business environment.

Dos and Don’ts in a business meeting

Do…

  • …learn about hockey as this is a popular topic of conversation during business and social events.
  • … greet people with a handshake and address them with their title followed by their surname. You will likely be invited to address them by their first name once the initial introductions are over.
  • … be confident and knowledgeable if delivering a presentation about your business but do not be over the top or exaggerate as this might be perceived as bragging.
  • … keep in mind that business is often conducted in a conservative manner in Canada. Whilst you should be friendly, extravagant gestures and loud conversation will not be well received.

Don’t…

  • … compare Canada to the USA as this shows a lack of cultural awareness. Be aware that states in the USA are provinces in Canada and whilst the US is run by the president, Canada has a prime minister.
  • …be late as punctuality is highly valued in Canada. You should aim to arrive 5 or 10 minutes before a meeting is due to start.
  • …use aggressive techniques to influence negotiation. You should put emphasis on how you and the person/people in the meeting can mutually benefit from a collaboration.
  • …talk over people or make loud interjections during meetings as this will be considered rude.

Key company facts…

Air Canada

This is the largest airline in Canada and was recognised as one of Canada’s top employers in 2019.

  • Turnover in 2017: $18 billion (Canadian dollars)
  • Number of employees: 30,000

Bell Helicopter Canada

This company specialises in airframe design, product development, flight testing and manufacturing parts for helicopters.

  • Annual revenue : $3.5 billion
  • Number of employees : 8,800

Canadian Solar

In terms of revenue, this is one of the top three solar energy companies in the world. It also works with Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo by donating solar panels to power security lights which help to protect the animals from poachers.

  • Turnover in 2018: $3.74 billion
  • Number of employees: 12,442

Alimentation Couche-Tard

One of the largest retail companies in Canada, Alimentation Couche-Tard runs a large amount of convenience stores across Canada, Europe and the US and is based in Quebec.

  • Turnover in 2018: $59.2 billion
  • Number of employees: 120,000