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Canada: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Canada

Usual courtesies are observed in Canada, including exchanging business cards and making appointments. Men and women wear business suits and rarely drink alcohol at lunch, although drinking at lunchtime is starting to become more common. Younger corporate workers enjoy a few after-work drinks too. Entertaining is usually confined to restaurants and bars, rarely in private homes. You might be taken to an ice hockey match if the company has box seats.

Toronto has often been ridiculed as a conservative, uptight city - Toronto the Good, as its detractors say. But while this perception is about 20 years out of date, its legacy survives in the city's approach to business. Torontonians are hard-working, efficient employees. A little chit chat here and there is welcome but generally people like getting to the point. The giving of gifts in business situations is unusual and might be treated suspiciously. In the workplace, it is common to answer the telephone by stating one's first and last name. Around the office, however, people (both superiors and co-workers) are usually addressed by first name.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1700.


Canada is one of the world's leading trading nations and a member of the G8 group of major industrial economies. The country has immense natural resources and a high standard of living.

Agriculture and fisheries are particularly important; Canada exports much of its agricultural produce (principally grain and oil seeds) and is the world's sixth-largest exporter of fish. Timber is another important sector, given that more than 40% of the land area is forest.

As a mineral producer, Canada exports crude oil and natural gas, copper, nickel, zinc, iron ore, asbestos, cement, coal and potash. Energy requirements are met by a mixture of hydroelectric, nuclear, coal and oil-fired generating stations. Manufacturing covers a wide range of industries from heavy engineering and chemicals to vehicle production and agro-business to office automation and commercial printing.

Almost 80% of the country's trade is with the USA, making this the world's largest single bilateral trade relationship.

The 1989 free trade agreement signed with the USA formed the basis for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Mexico joined as the third signatory in 1994. The future of NAFTA remains uncertain as US President Donald Trump seeks to re-negotiate the terms  of the agreement.

Canada’s prudent economic policies have allowed it to weather the worst of the global economic downturn, with growth recovering to 3.1% in 2010. This is in part thanks to its increasing population due to immigration. Nonetheless, some economists predict Canada’s housing bubble will soon burst; house prices have rocketed in the past decade, with low interest rates encouraging consumers to borrow ever-increasing amounts.


US$1.55 trillion (2015).

Main exports

Motor vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, crude petroleum, natural gas and high-technology products.

Main imports

Machinery and equipment, industry goods, motor vehicles and parts, fuels and oils, and plastics.

Main trading partners

China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, UK and USA.

Keeping in Touch in Canada


Most public telephones charge 50 cents a call, which can be paid with any combination of five-, 10- and 25-cent coins. Public telephones are becoming harder to find, due to the growing popularity of mobile phones. Many telephone companies offer a reduced long-distance rate Mon-Fri 1800-0800 and Sat 1200 to Mon 0800. For long-distance calls, telephone cards are available. You can find credit card telephones in larger centres. If you're near an internet café, you can use Skype too.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good in major urban areas, but spotty in remote locations. Roaming rates can be high, so you should check with your provider before leaving home.


Available throughout Canada, as are internet cafes (although the latter are not as common as they are in many other countries). You can often find pay-per-use Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, fast-food outlets and airports; in some cases it's free as long as you buy a drink or something to eat. Free public Wi-Fi is easiest to find in public libraries. Some hotels provide free Wi-Fi too, but others continue to charge exorbitant daily fees.


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is Canada’s national broadcaster. It was set up in the 1930s and broadcasts in both French and English via TV, radio, internet and satellite. The main national daily newspapers are The Globe and Mail and The National Post. French-language dailies are published in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. Regional English-language daily newspapers are also published in individual provinces.


All mail from Canada to outside North America is by air. Stamps are available at post offices and in many hotels, pharmacies and convenience stores, among other locations. Letters sent by regular mail take four to six working days to reach the USA and four to seven working days to reach other countries.

Post Office hours

Generally Mon-Fri 0930-1700, Sat 0900-1200, but times vary according to province and location; city offices will have longer hours. Canada Post ( has a full list of locations and hours.

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