Why 2017 might be the year Canada leads the new global economy

Four experts predict where the real opportunity is for Canadian businesses in the year ahead—and how to seize it



With a new U.S. president, the U.K. about to leave the European Union and political turmoil in many emerging markets, the global economy is far from stable in the early days of 2017. Yet amid all that tumult, Canada has remained (relatively) politically stable, economically sound and resolutely open for business, leading many to think that the year ahead holds very great promise for businesses in the land of ice and Timbits.

We asked four of the sharpest minds in Canadian business to share their predictions on what Canada’s role will be in the new world order—and how to seize the unique opportunities on offer:

1. Look to Europe

“With all the challenges I see a lot of opportunities, particularly for Canadian companies. I think our trade deal with Europe, when that comes into effect, will open up a lot of opportunities for exports. It already is opening up tremendous opportunities for companies to find technology partners in Europe and to go into new markets through European supply chains, or maybe with European technology partners. They may not have thought of these opportunities before, and they’re now in a much stronger position to take advantage. Looking forward, I’m excited to see to how companies take advantage of that.”

Jayson Myers, principal, Jayson Myers Public Affairs, former CEO, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

2. Canada could become a free-trade hub…

“I’m pleased that, with all that has happened in the past year, Canada has remained very open to trade. In a world where the trend line is going opposite—given the more protectionist impulses the new U.S. president seems to hold— I think there are some really exciting opportunities that Canada has on the international trade front that are just getting better.

“There are opportunities for Canada to diversify its trading arrangements into different markets, like Europe. I give the government high marks for finalizing the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). I think it’s important.

“[With the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,] should progress continue with the other countries outside the U.S., and should Canada be able to maintain its preferred trading status with the U.S., Canada could be a really interesting place for businesses, both small and large. In that we would have preferred access to the European market, the U.S. market, and potentially markets in Asia. It seems unlikely that the U.S. is going to be able to be in the same position. That could provide a competitive advantage to Canadian exporters, should some of those stars align.”

Dan Kelly, president, CEO & chair, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

3. …And a magnet for amazing talent, too…

“We are building a lot of great companies in this country, and the type of talent needed to help those companies scale is not necessarily in Canada. We need to be very aggressive about seeking the best talent anywhere in the world. The rest of the world seems to be moving into some sort of chaos, and we are one of the few countries that’s not increasingly turning xenophobic. I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity for our nation.”

John Ruffolo, CEO, OMERS Ventures

4. …But it’ll only happen if Canadians get to work

“I hope there will be a movement in 2017 that will see Canadians take all the negatives—the friction and disruption and unease that everyone has been feeling—and let it inspire us about how we can be the best. If we want to be the country that is known to be the most inclusive, prosperous, progressive nation in the world, we have a lot of work to do.

“I hope people feel invigorated to really take a hard look at what’s happening, and to make change instead of being apathetic or patting themselves on the back for something that’s not really finished.”

Rhiannon Traill, president & CEO, Economic Club of Canada