The saying goes, “The only things in life you can rely on are death and taxes.” That might be true but between tax time and the time of any individual’s eventual demise, a lot of change is bound to take place. This is such a time. Social, political, and economic forces have merged in a perfect storm of a toxic soup to make a steady but still shaky recovery feel more volatile than any other period in many people’s living memories. Great change is upon us, but what does that mean for Canadian businesses?
This might seem counter-intuitive but great change often creates great conditions for business to thrive in. Nature abhors a vacuum and when several things shift, the forces of nature move to fill in gaps and close all seams. Businesses ready to take advantage of changing circumstances and conditions can find niches to thrive in while businesses that are unable or unwilling to evolve might find themselves on the wrong end of receivership. Here are three quick examples of great change that could be catalysts for Canadian business.
A seismic shift was the election of the highly controversial US President, Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump is, politely put, extremely unconventional and his administration has not fostered a great deal of confidence from businesses in the US or among America’s major trading partners. For Canada, the rise of a President like Mr. Trump sent shockwaves through the business community with talk of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has been the cornerstone of Canadian economic planning for nearly a quarter century. Talks between Mexico, Canada, and the United States are scheduled to begin in mid August. For Canadian businesses, the election of Mr. Trump created opportunities to take advantage of what appear to be desperate or foolish mistakes such as the “travel ban” his administration is trying to impose on a half dozen middle eastern nations. Attempts to impose this ban, along with other forceful talk around immigration, is pushing tech companies to relocate away from the United States in order to ensure their best brains (often foreign students, researchers, and technicians) are still available, able, and most importantly, comfortable and safe. Toronto, Montreal, London, Guelph, Vancouver, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, and Victoria appear to be the major recipients of a US tech world in transition with Toronto’s tech sector growing so rapidly it is starting to become difficult for start-ups to find long-term office space.
Another major shift is America’s new sense of isolationism. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been the central pillar upon which much of the world’s economy has rested. The Trump administration has adopted an “America First” philosophy that has cut or challenged ties with many of of America’s traditional trading and military allies. At recent NATO and G7 meetings held in Brussels and Italy respectively, the United States was clear in its intent to pull back from its central, guiding position. In fact, America’s new stance has prompted Canada to introduce new, more robust national policies in international trade, foreign relations, and in military readiness. Canada plans on wielding a bigger stick as it takes on a larger leadership role. This opens a world of opportunity for Canadian businesses and organizers and those who are prepared to take the risk of taking advantage are poised to prosper. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal Ottawa, Quebec City, and Calgary are the main beneficiaries as overseas international trade and relations become primary focuses of Canadian businesses.
Climate change is perhaps the greatest and most challenging of the changes facing Canadians. The warming of the planet has brought strange and intense weather systems, altered the courses of rivers, created drought conditions that have led to civil war in Syria, and is releasing tonnes of carbon and energy as glaciers and permafrost melt in Canada’s Arctic regions. Canada is a world leader in sustainable, non-carbon based energy production. We are also innovators in means of persuading citizens to use less carbon-based energy through a cap-and-trade system and carbon-taxation schemes. Climate change presents the widest array of opportunities to Canadian businesses, in part because our American neighbours have abdicated the federal role in funding and implementing new projects. That leaves the playing field wide open for Canadian interests to exploit.
Other notable changes businesses can take advantage of include the pending legalization of recreational marijuana and the expansion of medicinal marijuana programs, extraordinary growth in immigration and acceptance of refugees, and pending changes to the supply management systems that have regulated Canadian dairy and grain production over the decades.
Change is often a scary thing, especially for Canadian business which is traditionally highly risk-adverse. Nevertheless, change is inevitable and great changes are taking place around us. In Canada’s 150 year history, there has never been a time so dangerous and frightening yet so ripe with opportunity for Canadians doing business here and abroad. Take advantage of it while you can.