1. About Canada
2. Business Dress
4. First Name or Title?
5. Gift Giving. Selecting and presenting an appropriate business gift
6. Let's Make a Deal!
7. Prosperous Entertaining
8. Public Behaviour
1. About Canada
Location: Canada is a country occupying most of northern North America, extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is the world's second largest country by total area, and shares land borders with the United States to the south and northwest.
Population: According to Canada's 2006 census, 31,612,897 people call Canada home, an increase of 5.4% since 2001. Population growth is due to immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural growth. About three-quarters of Canada's population lives within 150 kilometres of the US border.
Language: Canada's two official languages are English and French. Official Bilingualism in Canada is the law. English and French have equal status in federal courts, Parliament, and in all federal institutions. The public has the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French, and official language minorities are guaranteed their own schools in all provinces and territories.
Capital: Ottawa is the capital of Canada; it is the country’s fourth largest city, with a population of 812,129, according to Canada’s 2006 census.
Administrative Divisions: Canada is a federation comprised of ten provinces and three territories. It is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is a bilingual and multicultural country, with both English and French as official languages at the federal level.
Government: Canada's Parliament consists of a Monarch and a bicameral legislature: an elected House of Commons and an appointed Senate. The government is comprised of the party with a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, ie., more seats than any other party. Presently, the Conservative Party makes up the current government having won the federal election of October 14, 2008 with a plurality of 143 seats out of possible 308. Because it only holds a minority government, the Conservative Party has had to rely on other parties to help pass its legislation. Prior to the Conservative Party’s first victory in 2006, the Liberal Party had held power for 13 consecutive years with three majority governments. The Conservative Party’s breakthrough was the first ever electoral victory for a right-of-centre party in a federal election. Traditionally, the left-of-centre Liberal Party could rely on the vast majority of seats from the ultra-moderate province of Ontario, where nearly 40% of the nation’s population resides. In the 1993 federal election the Liberal Party had won 98 out of a possible 99 seats in Ontario, and 101 seats out of 103 in the 2000 election. However, after the “Unite the Right" movement was successful in merging the right-of-centre Canadian Alliance Party and the moderate Progressive Conservative Party in 2003, the Liberals were not as successful in Ontario, winning only 75 out of a possible 108 seats in the 2004 election. In the 2006 election, the Conservative Party won 40 seats out of 108 in Ontario-the then best showing for any right-of-centre party in decades in Ontario. In the 2008 election, the Conservatives won 51 seats. Undoubtedly, in the 2006 election the Conservative Party’s improved showing in Ontario was caused in part by a major scandal involving the Liberal Party’s misappropriation of over $100 million of government funds in Quebec related to advertising contracts. As a result, voters in Quebec abandoned the Liberal Party in droves reducing its seats in that province to 13 in 2006 from 21 in the 2004 election. The Conservative Party was able to gain 10 seats in Quebec, the most a moderate-to-conservative party was able to win in Quebec in four previous federal elections.
Unlike the system of government in the United States, where citizens vote separately for the President and their local candidate for the House of Representatives, in the Parliamentary system of government such as Canada’s, a citizen votes only for his or her local representative. This has the effect of combining power between both the executive and legislative branches of government. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers, all of whom are sworn into the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to become Ministers of the Crown and responsible to the elected House of Commons.
The Prime Minister and Cabinet are formally appointed by the Governor General (who is the Monarch's representative in Canada). However, the Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet, and by convention, the Governor General respects the Prime Minister's choices. There is no committee that confirms or disconfirms the Prime Minister’s choice of a cabinet minister.
The Prime Minister exercises vast political power, especially in the appointment of government officials, civil servants, Supreme Court and provincial appellate justices, as well as appointments to various boards, commissions, tribunals, crown corporations, and even the Senate-all with little or no oversight. This has led many critics inside and outside of government circles to argue for some controls/oversight on the vast amount of patronage positions afforded the Prime Minister’s Office. This power was cited by many critics as the reason for the corruption scandal which rocked the Liberal Party in 2004. The current Prime Minister has said that he intends to put oversight mechanisms in place to restore public confidence in government. To that end, against intense opposition from the Liberal Party and in the halls of academia, in February 2006 Canada saw its first-ever public hearing of a proposed Supreme Court justice. Marshall Rothstein was eventually approved in the same month.
General elections are called by the Governor General when the Prime Minister so advises. While there is no minimum term for a Parliament, a new election must be called within five years of the last general election. Increasingly, provincial governments are passing laws implementing set election dates to restore confidence in government after the scandal that put the Liberal Party out of office after the 2006 election. Ontario is holding its first set election date on October 10, 2011. The federal government under the Conservative Party passed similar legislation but then called an election only two years later citing the world recession as the reason. In the past, provincial and federal governments have called surprise elections for no other reason than to take advantage of their leads in the polls. Set election dates are seen to be fairer to opposition parties. Members of the Senate, whose seats are apportioned on a regional basis, are chosen by the Prime Minister and formally appointed by the Governor General. This has been a continuing subject of controversy. It has been argued that the upper chamber of a bi-cameral system of government should be “Triple E”, i. e., elected, effective and equal among the provinces. Currently, the Senate is made up of former cabinet ministers and MP’s, ex-premiers, etc., and other party loyalists. Critics have argued that unelected Senators have no moral authority to block proposed legislation of elected members of the House of Commons. The current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has proposed that when a Senator retires, the person that fills that seat should be elected. The proposal has run into stiff opposition from many quarters who have cited constitutional grounds, as from provincial premiers, who would rather be seen as the voice of their respective regions rather than elected Senators.
Economy: Canada, one of the world's wealthiest nations with a high per capita income, is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Group of Eight (G8). Canada is a free market economy with slightly more government intervention than in the United States, but much less than most European nations. Canada has traditionally had a lower per capita gross domestic product (GDP) than its southern neighbour but higher than the large western European economies. Since the early 1990's, the Canadian economy has been growing rapidly with low unemployment and large government surpluses on the federal level. Today Canada closely resembles the US in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. As of October 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate stands at 6.3% and is still low compared with other industrialized nations. According to the OECD’s 2003 ranking of nations by GDP, Canada came in 8th, well above Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy. Atlantic Canada has vast offshore deposits of natural gas and large oil and gas resources are centred in Alberta. The vast Athabasca Tar Sands give Canada the world's second largest reserves of oil behind Saudi Arabia.
canada public behaviour parliament
2. Business Dress
Canadians usually dress in dark business suits in the winter and in somewhat lighter suits in the Spring and Summer. For instance, instead of charcoal grey, navy blue and black, Canadians are more likely to dress in beige, medium grey and blue in the warmer months.
Dress codes depend on the context. Like other western countries, dress is becoming increasingly casual. That said, a business suit is still expected at a meeting with other professionals.
It’s often been said about Canadians that while they are polite, they are not a friendly people compared, that is, to their American cousins. Canadians pride themselves on their tolerance and of being non-judgmental, which means that Canadians often times prefer not to express opinions on various subjects for fear of offending, which, to many Canadians, is seen as a faux pas. Do not expect a passionate debate on any issue from a Canadian. It’s just not in the national DNA.
Perhaps the movie Crazy People, a 1990 movie starring Dudley Moore, will help to put some perspective on Canadians. As a burnt-out advertising executive whose mental breakdown lands him in a psychiatric hospital, the character played by Moore, eventually recovers his mental health and is inspired to make truthful advertisements, such as in an ad for Volvo which proclaims, "Volvo. They're boxy, but they're good." When he was handed the account for Canada, Moore racked his brains for days on end and lost many nights of sleep before he finally came up with this slogan: “Canada, it’s not as boring as you think." While some Canadians might take issue with that slogan, many would not. Woven into the cultural fabric is an avoidance of argument and ideology, and an acute acceptance of appeals to put our self-interests aside in favour of the greater good. While Canadians might sound and look like Americans at first glance, we are very different. Canadians are quieter and much less willing to offer opinions. This can be both good and bad. On the one hand, because of our avoidance of conflict, it is harder to have an in-depth conversation with a Canadian, but on the other hand, it is easier to engage us in small talk. On that note, hockey is always a welcome subject of conversation.
4. First Name or Title?
“Mr." or “Ms. ”, followed by the person’s surname, are the preferred forms of address. Though it may not be used extensively in older cultures, the term “Ms. ” for women is now a common form of address in professional contexts in Canada. When addressing a man, the term ‘Sir’ is rarely used, as it is perceived as too formal and hierarchical.
Like other younger cultures, such as America’s or Australia’s, first names are used in Canada both in personal and professional circumstances, even amongst relatively new acquaintances. Don’t be surprised if your Canadian hosts move quickly to a first-name basis.
In Canada, professional titles are not prominent in business culture, and are generally thought to be pretentious.
The giving and receiving of business cards is common practice in Canadian business culture. In fact, it so common that Canadians would think it unusual if their counterparts did not offer them one.
5. Gift Giving. Selecting and presenting an appropriate business gift
Unlike in India or Japan, gift-giving does not play a big role in Canadian business culture. Of course, Christmas and/or New Year’s cards are appropriate, particularly as a ‘thank-you’ for the other party’s business during the previous year.
Gifts are not expected for casual social events. In fact, most Canadians would consider them unusual. That said, if you were invited to a home for dinner, it would not be inappropriate to bring a token gift of flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine.
If you are invited to a barbecue or a picnic, “byob”, which means, bring your own booze. Just ask when invited if you should bring something. Bringing a six-pack of either Molson’s or Labatt’s would not offend.
Generally, if you are giving a gift, any product relating to your home country is a good choice. For instance, Canada makes the finest ice wines, so don’t be surprised if you receive a bottle of ice wine from your Canadian business guest or host. A thoughtful choice is considered more important than the actual cost of the gift.
In Canada, if you receive an invitation to lunch it means a meal at or about noon hour; an invitation to supper or dinner usually means 6.00 p. m. In some countries, the word “dinner" is used instead for lunch, but in Canada the words dinner and supper are used interchangeably.
Canadians can be sensitive when a person cannot accept his or her invitation. If you are unable to attend, or you don’t feel like it, the best way to refuse an invitation is by saying ‘Thank you, but unfortunately I/we already have other plans at that time’ - even if you don’t have other plans.
If you accept an invitation for a meal, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your host what you cannot eat, for example that you are a vegetarian, or that your religion prohibits you from having certain foods/drinks. Canadians will appreciate and respect your preferences.
6. Let's Make a Deal!
It is appropriate to present a business card at an introduction.
While Canadians are often confused with Americans by non-North Americans who see few differences between the two peoples, please don’t make that mistake. Americans are much more assertive whereas Canadians are generally low-key and prefer to ease into business discussions.
Cynicism is a part of the national character, which is directed at those who make conspicuous shows of wealth and/or power. In Canada, there is great love for the ‘underdog’. Canadians generally dislike negotiation and aggressive sales techniques. They tend to value low-key sales presentations.
Modesty, casualness, and an air of nonchalance are characteristic attitudes in Canadian business culture.
You should also be aware that business schools here teach students that the outcome of all negotiations is that both sides win in a negotiation, i. e., “win/win." This fits neatly with Canadians’ ideas of equality and fairness. The win/win principle is so accepted today that the very idea of one party winning the negotiation while other party loses, would seem unacceptable to most Canadians.
Canadians tend to be receptive to new ideas. Generally, they are analytical, conceptual thinkers. It is at the meeting table that problems are solved and decisions made. Canadians are comfortable with time lines, agendas and deadlines and tend to adhere to them. They will not avoid confrontation or negative responses if they feel they need to question something.
Established rules or laws usually take precedence over one's feelings. During negotiations, company policy is strictly adhered to at all times. Empirical evidence and other facts are considered the most valid forms of proof. Feelings of any kind are usually regarded with suspicion, particularly for decision-making purposes.
In presentations and conversation, Canadians are often receptive to sporting analogies.
Among all individuals, regardless of rank, communication is direct and slightly informal. Hierarchies in Canadian organizations exist for clarity of decision making, not because ranking is important. Those who will sit with you in a meeting usually have the power to make a decision.
Canadian business persons may emphasize profit over market share.
Refrain from discussing your personal life during business negotiations.
Generally, Canadians do not like or trust people who appear to give excessive praise, which raises the suspicion that they are being set up to be embarrassed or misled in some way. Moreover, Canadians dislike being pressured and will only resent the stress that accompanies high expectations.
The work environment in Canadian business culture tends to be collaborative. Before a decision is made, top management will consult subordinates and their input will be given careful consideration. It will be in your best interests not to try to rush this process. Negotiations usually proceed at a fast pace and bargaining is not customary. Canadians will expect your initial proposal to have only a small margin for negotiation.
Deadlines and producing results are the main sources of anxiety in this culture. Decisions of any kind must be in accordance with company policy. Informing against one's colleagues is regarded with disgust in this culture.
If you are teased, take it good-naturedly; you may tease back in a friendly, rather than mean-spirited manner.
In the workplace, men may not always treat women as equals, and Canadian women are still struggling for increased salary and positions of authority.
7. Prosperous Entertaining
If you are invivted out to a pub in Canada, please keep in mind that each person is expected to pay for a round of drinks. Neglecting your turn to pay for a round will create a bad impression. Having said that, bear in mind that in Canada drinking and driving laws are strictly enforced. Hence, do not attempt to drive your rented car back to the hotel if you feel tipsy. Instead, take a taxi.
If you are hosting a dinner at a restaurant for your Canadian guests, make sure it is a licensed establishment. Your Canadian guests would likely be unhappy if alcohol were not served with meals. Athough wine is the usual preferred drink at meals, beer may also be served.
If you are the guest of a Canadian businessman, do not automatically assume that he or she will be paying the bill. True, the host may have a lavish expense account. However, etiquette dictates that the guest should at least make some effort to try to pay a portion of the evening’s expenses. Canadians generally go “Dutch” when the bill arrives at casual get-togethers.
Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and Canadian cuisine reflects this diversity. A visitor to Canada can expect to see virtually any and all kinds of food from literally dozens of cultures. In Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, one could expect to find dozens of restaurants serving hundreds of national dishes. Canadian hospitality tends to be very informal, particularly when you are invited to a home for a barbecue. At a BBQ, you will be encouraged to serve yourself. Hesitation will only cause your hosts to feel annoyance, if only because they genuinely want you to feel ‘at home’.
Barbecues are a very popular form of home entertaining. Guests are encouraged to dress casually and engage in lively socializing. Men and women often gather separately. Never ‘drop in’ unannounced to someone’s home. Always phone ahead.
Tipping is customary for restaurant visits and taxi travel in Canada. The commonly accepted practice in Canada is to tip between 10% -15% of the entire cost of the bill.
8. Public Behaviour
Canadians drive on the right and pass on the left, and that also goes for walking up escalators, roads and streets.
In business contexts, men do not wink or whistle at women. Most large companies have sexual harassment policies that govern acceptable conduct.
It is polite to wait for a third party to introduce you to others, but if it doesn’t happen for a few moments feel free to introduce yourself. At formal gatherings, wait to be seated, but if the host is not directing you, and other people are taking seats, follow them. It is quite okay to ask your host if you should sit at a particular spot.
“Hey” or "How are you?" are common forms of address that do not require an answer. It is just another way Canadians say "Hi". It has often been observed by Americans that while Canadians are generally a polite people-even to a fault-they aren’t necessarily friendly.
When speaking to a Canadian, keep an arm's length distance from the person. Maintaining personal space is important to Canadians.
Unlike Australians and Americans, Canadians do not give a lot of eye contact to people who are speaking with them. Why? It probably has something to do with our mania for politeness.
No backslapping, shouting or calling attention to oneself is acceptable. Canadians tend to embarrass easily, so while Canadians are generally casual, they are not loud. On that note, Canadians do not generally express themselves with their hands. Moreover, touching, patting or hugging other men in public is considered socially unacceptable. Your best approach to get along with Canadians is to remain exceedingly polite, modest, and unpretentious.