Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Innovators and Entrepreneurs
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29 June, 2022 Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Innovators and Entrepreneurs
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June 2022
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June 29, 2022

The Empire Club of Canada Presents

Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College

Moderator
Kelly Jackson, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada

Panelists
The Honourable Perrin Beatty, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Tareq Hadhad, Founder & CEO, Peace by Chocolate

Distinguished Guest Speaker
The Honourable Randy Boissonault, Minister of Tourism for Canada

Introduction
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon fellow directors, past presidents, members, and guests. Welcome to the final event of the Empire Club of Canada's 118th season. My name is Kelly Jackson. I am the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada, and Vice-President, External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College. I'm also your host for today's event, our annual Canada Reflection, themed this year around “Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Country's Innovators and Entrepreneurs.”

I'd like to begin this afternoon with an acknowledgement. I am hosting this event on the Shared, Unceded Territory of the Squamish Nation and Lillooet Nation. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege that my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a very deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. I often reflect on how delivering a land acknowledgement provides an important opportunity to think about our human connection, and shared responsibility to care for the land. Arriving in Whistler, I was struck by the use of the word “shared,” in the land acknowledgement, and learned that the Squamish First Nation and the Lillooet First Nation have an area of overlapping Traditional Territory, that extends into the lands around the resort community of Whistler. And although they are two distinct First Nations, with different cultural and social relationships, they have a history of respectful coexistence as neighbours. In March 2001, the Squamish and Lillooet Nations signed an historic protocol, and that agreement, is one of its kind in Canada. The agreement affirms the Nations’ shared heritage, and profound desire to continue to live and work together harmoniously. We encourage everybody who is tuning in today to learn more about the Traditional Territory on which you work and live.

The Empire Club of Canada is a non-profit organization. So, I now want to take a moment to recognize our sponsors, because they generously support the Club, and they make these events possible, and complimentary, for our supporters to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsor, CN, and thank you to our season sponsors, Bruce Power, Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, and Waste Connections of Canada.

Before we get into today's discussion, just a few quick housekeeping notes. I want to remind everybody who's participating today, that this is an interactive event. And so, if you're attending live, I encourage you engage with us, by taking advantage of the question box that you see below your on-screen video player. We have reserved time for audience questions as part of today's discussion. I also invite you to share your thoughts on social media, using the hashtags displayed on-screen throughout the event. If you require technical assistance, you can start a conversation with our team, using the chat button that you will see on the right-hand side of your screen. And for those watching on-demand later, and to those tuning in on the podcast, welcome.

It's now my honour to welcome our guests to the Empire Club of Canada's virtual stage for the first time, the Honourable Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Tareq Hadhad, Founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate. You can learn more about them both by scrolling down below the video player on your screen to find their full bios. Today, we're also going to hear from the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Canada's Minister of Tourism. Minister Boissonnault couldn't be with us today in person, but he's asked us to share a special message with you all. So, stay tuned for that later in the program.

And now, it's my pleasure to get into the conversation that we've all been waiting to have. So, first of all, good morning on my end, and good afternoon to those of you who are in other parts of Canada and abroad, and, hi Tareq, and hi Perrin, good morning,

Tareq Hadhad, Founder & CEO, Peace by Chocolate
Thanks, Kelly. Good morning. Thank you for having us.

The Honourable Perrin Beatty, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Good afternoon.

Kelly Jackson
So, we're really excited about this idea of, you know, we wanted to celebrate Canada Day, as we all do, we're all looking forward to that in a couple of days. And so, what was the key thing, we thought, from the Empire Club’s perspective, when we got together and said, “we do this annual Canada Day Reflection; what do we want to talk about this year?” We said, “you know what? Let's talk about our entrepreneurs; let's talk about our iconic Canadian brands, and some of the new really great emerging Canadian companies and brands that are being formed, especially coming out of the pandemic.” I think our business—hopefully, we're coming out of the pandemic, I don't want to speak too soon here—but you know, we've seen so much resiliency, we've seen so much innovation and adaptation, and we just thought, this is the theme we want to talk about. So, thank you for joining us, and I think, just to kick off the conversation, I'm going to ask you both to give me your thoughts on this question. How would you define Brand Canada?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Well, perhaps I can take a take a shot at that. It's the perception that people have around the world of who we are as a country, and it reflects our character, reflects the type of products, it reflects our conduct. And in general, we're very fortunate with the brand, and it's a very positive one; we're seen as being green, as being ethical, as being friendly. On the more negative side, we still are seen as Mounties and mountains. It's often not understood that we're one of the most multicultural societies anywhere in the world, and how heavily urbanised we are, and how highly technological we are. So, we still have some work to do on the brand, but where you're coming from is a very strong starting point.

Tareq Hadhad
I think I would echo exactly what Perrin had said. But also, for me as a newcomer, as a new Canadian who just got his citizenship in 2020, I would say, for me as an outsider coming here, we are in a nation of innovation, creation, peace, respect, fairness, inclusion, democracy, diversity, politeness, and empathy. You know, these are the key Canadian values that really, we live by every single day. Being nice is what makes Canadians unique and being diverse and free is what makes us strong. This is really the brand that they talk about wherever I travel around the world. And we have a magical power in Canada, to peacefully interact with the world. We are involved on the world stage peacefully—more than any other country of the G7 or the G20. And we are positively known for this role that contributes to the Canadian brand, and to the to the world peace, and inclusion. And we are so happy to keep the doors open for those who are fleeing wars and persecution and seeking a brighter future for themselves and their families. This is what Canada is known for around the world. And I came back from an international tour after the world has opened up after the pandemic, and this is what I saw: a beautiful picture of what Canada truly is.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
I might just pick up on what Tareq was saying as well, and that we're a country that doesn't covet one square centimetre of anybody else's territory. What we want for anybody else is exactly we want for ourselves, the ability to live in peace, and freedom, and to have a decent standard of living. And as a consequence then, we're seen by other countries as being a country which, far from being threatening in any way, is there to help, and actually tried to make the world better. And I think that's a very good starting point for us.

Kelly Jackson
And it's interesting, you know, looking at some of the work done by Simon Anholt around the goodness of countries, and how others outside of your country perceive you as a good country. Canadians are often showing up in the top 10 lists of, you know, if you could be friends with somebody from another country, who would you pick. And so it goes beyond sometimes this friendliness into the good piece. And you know, I'm just wondering about, when we think about some of these perceptions that people have of us, if you can think a little bit or talk to us about how sometimes Canadian companies use those to their advantage when they position them; like our inclusiveness or diversity, you know, the green piece now; sustainability, you know, all of these different pieces, even just the friendliness piece. Perrin have you seen that as you know, you go out and work with companies?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Absolutely. And particularly in the world as it is today, people are looking to do business with people who are ethical. They are concerned about the environment, they want to make sure that the products that they're buying and the services that they get, are respectful of the environment. They want to make sure that if they give money to a company or to a country, that is going to be used for proper purposes, that it won't be used to finance invading some other country or oppressing one's own citizens. And as a consequence, then, this is a competitive advantage for Canada, that were seen as being open, friendly, and ethical in what we do. We have to be careful though, to avoid smugness on our part; there are times when we descend into thinking we're a moral superpower. You know, others do a lot of heavy lifting in the world, and it's tough to do; and it's easy to sit on the sidelines and to criticize, and to feel that you're pure. It's important for us as Canadians to maintain a sense of modesty about ourselves, to be aware of where we've fallen short, and always be striving to improve.

Tareq Hadhad
When I look at Canada, in the eyes of people around the world, I certainly see how much people celebrate Canadian friendliness, and openness, and the trade, and the easiness of doing business with Canadian companies. It all comes down to the interests of Canadian companies in the first place, to jump off cliffs and build that plane on the way down. You know, all Canadian companies and entrepreneurs jump off those cliffs, build a plane on the way down, learn how to fly again. And when we fly again, we find the world waiting for us. And when I travel to meet trade commissioners, and really using this amazing network of connections from around the world that are opening a whole new horizon for Canadian companies. And it is, you know, both people from different parts of the world who were yearning for freedom and opportunity, when they come here, they are they're usually entrepreneurs, they labour and succeed; but also, I think on the world stage, people certainly see us as a really great brand, you know, to do business with. We are safe, and we are seeking to do better in the future. We're not a perfect country, we are not a perfect brand; we are doing so much more work than many other countries around the world to create that positive image that encourage more businesses and more people around the world to come here and work with Canadian companies at the same time.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
I might just add to that, that it's the right thing to do, to be ethical, or to be green, or to be open and respectful of others; but it's also good business. It's a case where you have a synergy between the two. We're very fortunate as to a great extent, the debate taking place in the world today isn't between left and right, it's between open and closed societies. And the fact that we are welcoming to people from other countries to come to Canada and bring their talents here, is a tremendous competitive advantage for us as well, in that we get people like Tareq coming to Canada, bringing their skills helping us build this country; and it gives us enormous potential for the future.

Tareq Hadhad
And I think, too, to that point, Perrin, there's a huge advantage in, pretty much, we have economic and political stability in Canada that attracts more people from around the world to do business with us. Like, when you look at many other countries around the world, I think there is a lot of instability, a lot of uncertainty coming around, that really discourages a lot of companies to do business or work with many other countries. So, this is a huge competitive advantage for our country, for sure.

Kelly Jackson
In thinking about this topic, I was also reflecting on how sometimes we use what we think is the perception that others have of us to then market to our domestic audiences. So, you know, Perrin, you opened by also just mentioning some of the stereotypes of what people think we are; and I was kind of reflecting on that Molson Canadian ad from many years ago, you know, the “I Am Canadian,” and almost just sort of celebrating all of these things that, you know, I think it was kind of targeted at that time around, you know, what's the Americans stereotypes of Canada? You know, this is who I am. And I was thinking, you know, it's funny how sometimes we also use this in a way to kind of then appeal to domestic, right customers...

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
It's true.

Kelly Jackson
...and inspire pride.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
And it’s important to note the stereotypes usually have some grounding in reality. They're an exaggeration, they're a caricature, if you like. But the fact is, the stereotype of Canadians as friendly, and warm, and open, and trusting, and wanting to be helpful, is grounded in reality—even if it even becomes something of a caricature.

Kelly Jackson
Absolutely. So, again, it's been a very challenging time across the world for everybody over the last few years, and certainly, you know, a lot of challenges imposed on Canadian businesses. So, as we think about that kind of resiliency, and then how many businesses have tried to work through and make it through, I'm wondering if either of you want to share some stories about either I guess Perrin, from some of your members, maybe that you've heard or Tareq, again, at your level. I think those are important stories to share with people.

Tareq Hadhad
At the time of uncertainty, I think that resiliency through adversity and adaptability that Canadian businesses showed over the past few years, have been certainly significant. I always say that Canada doesn't only seek success, but we seek significance. And when we seek significance in everything we do, I think that's really the, that's the highest rank that we really all want to see. During any challenge, you know, we can either sit down or complain, or we can dig down and find solutions, and we can either play the role of victims or we can play the role of victors. And that applies to Canadian businesses, that applies to Canadian individuals. For me, personally, I believe that what did not kill us during the pandemic, or the challenges before, or the challenges that are coming—the pandemic is not going to be the last crisis that we're gonna live through, we have to prepare for the next pandemic, or the next crisis, as we are talking right now—but what did not kill us made us stronger.

And I have many stories, actually. Since we started the company, we reflected a lot on how to be there for our people, how to be there for not only caring about profit. I think a lot of corporations around the world right now, there is that perception that caring a lot about profit will create a sustainable company. But I think thinking about kindness in a way that return these benefits on us as CEOs, as business owners, as shareholders, as employees, as communities, as a country. I think thinking about business differently, thinking about overcoming challenges differently, is certainly what's going to last for that for the long run. And all the lessons that we have learned over the past few years are going to help us certainly to overcome the next challenges. We have seen Canadians pull together, we have seen employees pull together, we've seen companies learn from each other, we’ve seen the government being there for Canadian companies during the time of uncertainty. But the biggest lesson for me during this crisis was how to create the “return on kindness,” or ROK, how to think about the ROK when we deal with a crisis that Canada has never seen.

Now, we are dealing with inflation, with labour shortages, with supply chain disruptions; and all of these issues are massive, they are very complex. But when we deal with them together, when we talk about them openly with transparent mindset, I think this is really what's going to help us for the next run. And, you know, when the pandemic started, for example, we had to shut down our factory. And I remember examples of us really having to take some leadership during the early days. And I remember how our team members, some of them, they couldn't make it without coming to work, without getting paychecks. They were living, you know, on the work that they were doing. And we invited all of our team members, and we asked them, who can take their two weeks of vacation? Now, that was actually before knowing that the pandemic would last two years. And a lot of employees came to us and say, “I'm not coming to work tomorrow so more staff can come on the production table,” because we didn't have enough space. A lot of people had volunteered, so we would all have to suffer a little, so not all of us have to suffer a lot.

The mentality, I think, of pulling together, and coming together, has been a great help for us, as companies. And I have a million other stories, really, of how our team members, how our customers, but also how our family—that has survived the war, coming from the Middle East—really had to think differently. I always said that during the pandemic, when it started and when the crisis just came in, we thought about it differently. In 2013, we were forced to leave our homes in Syria. Many family members were killed, and we had to leave everything behind. In 2020, we were asked to stay in our homes, and we were asked to stay safe. It's all about perspective, right? I said I would take the second. I will take a million pandemics over really living through a war. So, I think that's really what has helped us really to develop this mentality of resiliency and celebrating our, I think, our togetherness as Canadians.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
I think Tareq, really by singling out resiliency, has really put his finger on what was the critical characteristic that the businesses in particular had to have, but all Canadians needed that. None of us anticipated, on the 15th of March, you know, two and-a-half years ago, that we would be going into a tunnel that would be so long, and so dark; that it would take so long for us to emerge from it. And it called upon all of us, families, institutions, businesses, others, to show a degree of resiliency that many of us might have doubted that we had. The other thing, and particularly in the business community, that stands out is innovation. I was astonished by how quickly businesses started to reinvent themselves. They recognized that the business model that they had going into COVID simply wasn't working anymore, because people couldn't come into their stores, or their restaurants, or onto the shop floor, and that they had to find other means of developing their products and services, and connecting them with customers. Restaurants are a very good example of that. Where they shifted to takeout, in many instances they developed food stores alongside the restaurant itself, they developed food kits, working with municipalities, they established patios, so people could be outdoors. Provincial governments changed regulations to allow them to sell alcohol from the restaurant for people to take home. So, it was a reinvention of business models. And what has impressed me, with all of the businesspeople I've talked to over the course the last two and-a-half years, is there's not been one business leader who has said to me that his or her business was going to look the same after COVID, as it did before. All of us have changed, all of us have rethought the business model, and are looking at where do we go from here, as opposed to simply going back to where we were before. And I think it's important for us to understand as well that in every crisis, there's also opportunity. For example, we've moved ahead in digitalization in Canada by probably seven or eight years, compared to where we were before. This digital society will allow us to do things we couldn't do before. Look at telemedicine as a case in point, where services for persons with disabilities, for people in remote areas, or the elderly, and so on, can be dramatically improved as a result of these technologies. Similarly, Canadian technologies and agri-food are more important than ever before; tremendous capacity for us to move ahead. The reinvention of the workplace is an opportunity for us, as well. So, the important thing in the business community is first the resiliency that Tareq talked about, but secondly, the incredible innovative spirit that people have shown, that allow us to keep on looking forward and constantly finding better ways of doing things.

Tareq Hadhad
I will add to that just quickly there, Perrin, that the pandemic was a health issue with huge ramifications on social welfare, and it was a welfare issue with huge ramifications on health. And if you think about it, you know, it was—the disease and the pandemic was not a great leveller, like we do not see the rich and the poor suffer the same. Frontline workers, bus drivers, grocery store, employees, they were paid the least, but they were the most likely to catch the disease because they were exposed. And I think now, after celebrating the success and the learnings from the pandemic, we need to ask ourselves what kind of social settlement needs to be in place to stop inequality from becoming even greater. I think this is a great question for all the business leaders out there in the country to prepare for the next crisis.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Absolutely. And I think we have to recognize the fact that the impacts of the pandemic were very uneven. They're uneven by region, they were uneven by gender, they were uneven by income group, a whole range of other of other areas, sector. And we need to look at what lessons we've learned from that, and how we ensure that the burden is shared as fairly as possible, and that we're properly prepared for the next crisis. It won't be—the biggest mistake for us to make would be to prepare to refight COVID; we'd be generals fighting the last war. What we have to do is look at what are the lessons that we've learned that apply to a pandemic that could be far more serious than COVID, or to a natural disaster, or to any range of other issues. So, the one thing we know for sure, is that there will be unforeseen crises in the future, and that now's the time for us to start preparing for those, and to ensure that the tools that we have in place, are functional, that they work well, and that fairness is a key element in everything that we're doing.

Kelly Jackson
I wanted to just pick up on something, Perrin, that you mentioned—and I think it's true not just for businesses, but almost every organization, that how they operated before the pandemic likely will not be the same going forward. And so, I just wondered, Tareq, do you have an example that you could provide us, big or small, something from Peace by Chocolate, of something that will just be different in terms of the model going forward?

Tareq Hadhad
Well, absolutely, I mean, as I mentioned, we have pivoted a lot in the business. Although we took some steps that a lot of people thought were a little bit to the crazy side, you know, we were we were trying to spread happiness. We are a company that spreads peace, inclusion, love, acceptance, compassion; all of these values I think we will do together, but at the same time, to tell you, like, even during the war in Syria, my dad kept the factory operating, because he said, “people need chocolate in the time of war, people need happiness; people need this product that just spread this incredible value.” And the same thing during the pandemic. We kept the factory operating, although we were only working as a family, we couldn’t have our staff come to the factory anymore because of the lockdowns, and because everything was going on.

And then afterwards, we started working on opening a new flagship store in downtown Halifax that opened right in the middle of the pandemic, in March of 2021, and we had a lockdown a month after. But we started realizing that, you know, we are a company that can pivot very quickly, but also, we realize that e-commerce is an amazing place to go for Canadian companies, that you do not have any borders online. There are no borders, there are no boundaries, there are no restrictions you can sell to anyone; you can become a B2C easily overnight. And we found a great Canadian companies like Shopify, to step forward and help Canadian companies to take their online digital platforms to the next phase. And that's really what we did, is we focused a lot on creating new products—we created actually something called the Mood Booster. We felt Canadians were sitting home, and they needed some Mood Boosters during their lockdown sitting at home, and chocolate helps at anytime, anyway. So, we felt that we have that advantage we can take, and we have a shippable product, it can go anywhere. We started to expand our network, we opened our shipping internationally—we started shipping literally to every corner of the planet—and our business grew three times, actually, online, since before the pandemic. So, I think using the new tools had helped us.

But at the same time, talking about how we could have been there for our communities, we created campaigns to celebrate, and reward kindness. So, there were many stories actually, across the country, but the one story that I remember, we partnered with Goodable at the beginning of the pandemic, and we started sending chocolate to those who were doing kind things to others, frontline workers, nurses in the hospitals. But there was a woman in Lunenburg, in Nova Scotia. She used to go out every day at 6pm, to knock on her on her pots, and to celebrate healthcare workers. She used to go out because she didn't have any other means, you know, to cheer them on, except going out and knocking on her pots; and really, that was a great gesture. A lot of other people around the country, they started doing amazing, and kind gestures to their neighbours. And I think really it was for Canadian businesses to step in. I believe that businesses are our platform of leadership, and in the time of crisis, we see that leadership really coming into light more than ever.

But Peace by Chocolate has, we are lucky that Peace by Chocolate has survived that economic downturn, when many businesses were closing. I would say many businesses in our region in Nova Scotia, across the City of Halifax, across the province, and across the country were closing down their doors because they couldn't make the two ends meet, and that was unfortunate. And I'm happy now to see more businesses are surviving and are opening up again, and we would just see how the next 12 months, they are going to be really interesting to see how things unfold across the country. But we as a company, will be there for our partners, for those who we work with. And we have the Peace on Earth Society, where we donate our profit to many other causes across the country, like mental health, like Indigenous communities, like refugee hub, where we make sure that we are not only doing business to build wealth or profit, but we are certainly taking care of those who need the help the most. And I think if we are successful in any business, it is our moral responsibility to lift others to be successful with us.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Just to build, really, on what Tareq was saying there—and he's absolutely right about the role of business. Business does have a responsibility to society. It's not simply there simply to make money; it's there to contribute to the good of society in the broadest sense of the word. And what was striking to me was the generosity of so many people, whether in business or in the broader society. The best test of a of character, whether it's of us as individuals, or of society, is a crisis. Because, by definition, you're not prepared for it. It's not something that can be canned, and that you can have the advisors say, “well, this is what you do.” The spontaneity that a crisis requires shows what the true character of an institution, or of an individual, or the people is. And what we've seen is enormous acts of generosity on people's part, of courage on the part of the frontline workers who were there throughout, innovation on the part of so many people who reinvented the institutions that they were part of. And, you know, frankly, in pulling back looking at it and taking stock, it is a pretty attractive picture that I see in terms of how Canadians responded through the pandemic. It speaks well of the foundation on which we can build for the future.

Kelly Jackson
I think, often when people talk about crisis situations, and we refer to them as, you know, well it builds character, and I think Perrin, to your point, it really reveals character. You know, it may build character, but it is a lot about revealing what is the true character in those moments. And we did see a lot of inspiring stories across the country, absolutely, from the business community and others. I do just want to take a quick moment to remind our audience that you are welcome, and we encourage you to submit your questions. If you see me looking down, it's because I'm keeping an eye on our platform here, to see if anybody has questions for our panelists. So, please feel free to submit, and we will make sure we include them in our conversation.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
I suspect you'll be getting questions or asking for samples of Tareq’s product.

Kelly Jackson
Exactly, everybody wants a Mood Booster.

QUESTION & ANSWER

Kelly Jackson
Oh, actually, this is great. First question here. There's a question around whether—and I don't know, Perrin, maybe you might know this from your work on the national level, whether there is a formal national disaster and recovery team for the entire country?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Recovery scheme or team?

Kelly Jackson
Team.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
There isn't there isn't a formal one where everything is integrated together and where you can go and consult it on a piece of paper. Obviously, the federal budget set out the government's strategy in terms of how we emerge from COVID and reopen the economy, but there's so many players here. Provincial governments are responsible for so much of what takes place in the frontline delivery of services, and so on, and local governments and others are, so there's not one document that does that. I hope that one of the things, Kelly, that I would hope that we'll see, is an arm's length review, of what are the lessons learned from COVID? And by that, what I'm not interested in, is how do we assign blame? There's no question that things went wrong. We were, as Tareq was saying, building the plane as we're flying in it. None of us anticipated this crisis, and governments did their best as they were going along. There are things that they could have done better, there's no question about that. Our goal should be the same thing as the military does after an operation, that you pull back, the issue isn't assigning blame, it's saying, what are the lessons that we learn from this experience, and how do we prepare for the future? So, I would like to see an arm's length review saying, were we prepared adequately for this crisis? What sort of mechanisms and structures do we have in place? What were the impediments to being more effective than we were? How effectively have we made the transition from the pandemic to reopening, and to resuming more normal lives? Are we prepared for the next possible crisis that we know is going to come, even if we don't know what its nature is? And have that sort of the national discussion and strategy. If I were to be critical of our previous behaviour, you'll recall that Toronto was the was the epicentre for SARS. And it was a warning for us. SARS in comparison with COVID was nothing, but it was a scary occasion for us, and it was a reminder to us that there could be pandemics that could be very damaging. After SARS was over, we said phew, dodged a bullet there; we rolled over and went back to sleep. We can't afford to do this this time. What we need to do is to look at what are the lessons that we learned from COVID, and how do we prepare for whatever the next crisis may be. So, yes, guess we need a more coherent strategy on where we go from here, and we need a broad national discussion about what are the lessons learned.

Kelly Jackson
So, Tareq, this one I'm gonna throw to you. It was submitted by James North General Store. And it says, Peace by Chocolate support their retail partners. Do you have any suggestions for other small businesses when growing? Also thank you for your support to Ukraine—FYI, we sell PBC chocolate.

Tareq Hadhad
I thank everyone really who think of our brand this way. We are there for all our stakeholders that work with us, all the partners, all the suppliers, all the retail shops, and they really carry our products and support and celebrate our mission. My advice to other businesses is, think about the customer and the consumer in different ways. You know, we have the customers who are proudly telling our stories, and I think now the storytelling part is very important. People don't buy products now they buy stories, and people don't buy what you do, they're buying why you're doing it. So, yeah, my advice to other businesses is to focus more on telling their stories and support the other partners in the times of the crisis. When the pandemic started, we felt that many of our partners across the country, they were shut down, so we're trying to move some of our stock actually from one place to another, to make sure that we lessen, actually, that the burden on them. To ease, you know, the doing business with many of our retail partners across the country. So, I think we exist in business, again, to reveal our leadership in the times of crisis more than the times of comfort. And I think the sense of resiliency that businesses can show, small or big, does not really matter; if you're an entrepreneur, it doesn't matter. I was sitting on the stage at the Summit of the Americas with Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google. And I was telling him, you know, like, we have probably 0.001% of Google's employees around the world, but we have the same strategies when it comes down to taking care of our customers, or to think big about our companies, and to grow. And it was really stunning to feel that the structure and the foundation for small businesses is exactly the same for big companies. Although small businesses are more flexible when it comes to decisions, of celebrating who they work with. So, I encourage really everyone to—I mean, we are not perfect as a company, and I'm not trying to make the case that to say that we are perfect. We're trying to grow; we're trying to learn. The pandemic was a crisis that has taught us many lessons, but if there was one big lesson for us that was taught is that certainly what did not kill us had made us stronger, had made us think outside of the box, be more innovative, and be there for each other. And I thank you for mentioning the campaign for Ukraine. I think that was the time when we were thinking that we're just coming out of the pandemic, and then another crisis just came right in. And we believe, as a family who survived the war that we know, we are not in the business of chocolate, we are in the business of peace. And that was our mission is to celebrate—you know, the word peace in Ukraine, which is Myr. And we saw our chocolate bars were gifted to highest delegations around the world by Canadian ambassadors, as we were trying to donate all of the proceeds of those bars to the Canadian Red Cross. And again, that's really just a reflection of how my family, and myself, you know, felt that we could just pay it forward, and be there for Ukrainians who are fleeing wars, like our family did 10 years ago.

Kelly Jackson
And Perrin I want to ask you about this sort of same question in terms of, I mean, this is what Chambers of Commerce do, right, is support small and growing businesses, in addition to our medium- and large-sized companies. So, you know, from your perspective, you know, sort of any advice for those who are looking to grow their businesses?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Well, I think the important thing is to recognize the fact that whatever challenges we're facing, we can get through those, and we can build for the future. Businesspeople, by their very nature, are optimists—as Tareq can tell you—given all of the uncertainties, and the challenges, and the risks, and the fact that you're committing everything that you have to build a business, you have to be, by definition, an optimist. And I think the message that I would give to entrepreneurs is that this is more than simply a means of making an income, it is also a means of making a contribution to society more broadly, and of expressing your yourself, and your talents, and your abilities, and that there are great opportunities for businesses of all sizes in Canada. It is important, as, you know, Tareq has really set the way in terms of demonstrating that your business is part of the larger community. And he offered a couple of very important insights where he was saying it's not the product, but it's the it's the story, and what you're attempting to do, that interests people the most. I think, increasingly, we're finding that customers are looking at, and employees are looking at, our business and saying, “well, what is the contribution that you are making the society, as opposed to what are you taking back out?” And the most successful businesses, large or small that I've seen, are ones that consider themselves part of the community, and feel that they have a responsibility that goes beyond just the bottom line.

Kelly Jackson
So, now that now the audience questions are coming in fast and furious.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Fast I like, furious I'm not as keen on.

Kelly Jackson
So, here’s a great question. What are some examples of new Canadian companies that are succeeding in international markets? You know, open either of you.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
You have one of them on this panel, and it's not me.

Tareq Hadhad
I think there are many Canadian examples, you know, when I think about—and again, you know, I mentioned, many tech companies that start right here in Canada, and they just go around the world, and they inspire leaders. You know, just giving, again, I always talk about Shopify because they are a great partner of ours, and wherever I go around the world, like they have millions of businesses that they stayed afloat because of the innovation, because of the creation that they have gone through throughout the pandemic. And I think the way that Canadian businesses are setting the tone for international communities is that, you know, we can do whatever we want, and I think we as human beings, you know, we have legs for reason; we are not trees, we don't have roots, so we can move, and we can find our own opportunity. And if we don't find our opportunity, we can create one. So, I think there are countless other community companies we that they have succeeded. There's another company in Newfoundland called Verafin, and they are absolutely an incredible example of starting right there in Atlantic Canada and growing their market base to become international, you know, they work on internationally, you know, financial counterterrorism and theft, and they work a lot with many companies right here in the US or around the world.

So, the examples we have of Canadian innovation is absolutely limitless, you know, we can go on and on until tomorrow. And they really encourage everyone to learn about the real kind of Canadian stories. I think we, in Canada, we have to do more in storytelling to the world, and I feel that, you know, we have a large place to grow there. That's why our company alone, you know, we are working on telling our stories in different medium. We have released the movie just in May, that is becoming a great hit here in the in the US as I'm talking to you from Green Bay, I was just talking to many Americans who just watch our stories, and they were inspired by it, and they were saying that great things are happening in Canada, but they don't know about it. So, I think Canadian companies, they just have to be, I think we have to be bolder in telling our own stories and celebrating our own successes, because if we don't do it ourselves, no one is going to do it for us. And I feel that, you know, I’m always there talking to entrepreneurs who have small businesses, or medium-sized businesses, or big corporations, you know, that we really we have a lot to tell to the international community. And we have a lot to celebrate.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
I was going to cite Shopify as well. Shopify in and of itself is a stellar global Canadian success story. But the important thing about Shopify is it's a vehicle, it's a facilitator, for thousands and thousands of other businesses, for small entrepreneurs, to be able to literally see the whole world as their market. And it is stunning when I go across the country and visit small communities, and even the most remote areas of the country, to see entrepreneurs who now are taking on the world, and who see it as though their customer base; it's truly inspirational. You compare that to when I was younger, when your goal was to be the best in your in your town, or the best in your region. Now, you're finding small companies in rural Nova Scotia, or in Yukon, who we're taking on the rest of the world, and winning.

Tareq Hadhad
There's one more message I really, just briefly there, Kelly, I think. So right now, business is so different than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. And, for example, Airbnb, this—I’m not mentioning cleaning companies, but Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, all those companies they don't own. They don't own any vehicle, they don't own any properties, they don't own the product, they are just this vehicle, as Perrin mentioned. So, the space out there is so vast for innovation and creation for these companies, for Canadian companies, really, to grow and scale up, and cannot really wait to see what Canada's support to digital economy is going to bring on for entrepreneurs with absolutely brilliant ideas.

Kelly Jackson
So, we definitely talked a bit about storytelling today, right, and the importance of that. And one of the questions from the audience is around whether, so, when a Canadian company markets its product or service to a foreign country, do you think most entrepreneurs know how to leverage Brand Canada?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Tareq will have a better sense in terms of his own company, and it varies a great deal in terms of what you want to do. In many instances, what do you want to do is you want to localize the product that you're selling, as you go into another market. You want to demonstrate you have roots in the community that you're going into, so you may or may not be flying the Canadian flag and saying this is the most the most important element. In other instances, it may very well be that having a product that builds on this Canadian brand that we were talking about, is something that's very positive in marketing your product. It is still a new experience for so many Canadian entrepreneurs to be going abroad for their very first time, and one of the things that we need to do more of, is for companies that have been successful internationally, to hold the hand of companies going abroad for the first time, to act as mentors to them, and to assist them in terms of knowing what they need to know to get into a new market, and to be able to make their product attractive in that market. So, there's some stellar examples where companies have done a great job in leveraging the Canadian flag, but one of the areas where I think we could be doing much more, in terms of helping Canadian entrepreneurs go global.

Tareq Hadhad
I think, to add to what Perrin mentioned, you know, Canadian companies, they have a lot of advantages really, going into international markets for many reasons. But in addition to the Canadian brand of openness, and fairness, and positive impact in these countries, I think people perceive Canadian products as quality products, as premium, as something that they want to try. And I was in Dubai Expo, actually, in March, at an event at the Canadian Embassy there, and I met many international entrepreneurs who were coming to us, to the Investing Canada event there. And they were so happy actually, without even asking us for any of the other questions that they asked to many other companies around the world, they were like, you know, they were asking us about our stories. They were not asking us about the quality of the products, or giving them samples, or really showing them anything, because they believe that we have systems in Canada that support making great products. So, that is certainly a bonus for entrepreneurs to leverage. But at the same time, whenever I think consumers see the Canadian flag, made in Canada on the back of a product, I think that's a great advantage for companies to work on. I think this is something to be to be proud of, and not shy away from representing the Canadian flag on the international stage. Because again, you know, we are positively impacting many of these economies already, and the partnerships that Canada is doing is setting the stage for entrepreneurs to go big and wide.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Kelly, let me let me set an example of a product that you'll be very familiar with, an export product, education, and of the advantage that there is for Canadian institutions in doing that. Some years ago, I accompanied former Governor General David Johnston on a number of his state visits, which was fascinating because it really did give you an opportunity to see how Canada was perceived in these other countries. But I remember being in Singapore and picking up a copy of the newspaper, The Straits Times, and on that there was a banner headline on it that said, “Future Unlimited: Get an Australian Educational Degree.” I was struck by the fact that the Aussies were advertising in Singapore, and spending extensively to bring Singaporean students to Australia. And when I came home, I met with the Australian High Commissioner, and I said, “tell me what I need to know; what can I learn from your experience?” And she said, “you have all of the advantages that Australia does, you just may not realize it.” I said, “well, what do you mean?” She said, “because if you're sending your son or your daughter to the other side of the world, the first question you ask is not where will they get the very best education; you ask, where will they be safe, and be made to feel welcomed?” And that's part of the Canadian brand, as being seen as welcoming as a place where it's safe for people to go. And so, once you make that decision of what jurisdiction you're going, you start looking at, well, then what institution do I want to go to within there. What we've seen, what educational institutions around the around Canada have seen, is a dramatic increase in the grade point average of international students applying to Canadian institutions, because other countries in the world are closing doors, and driving away some of the best and the brightest in the world, and we're saying, “come to Canada, where you'll be welcomed, and where we want to have you.” And that's an example of how, in one product, one institution, our educational institutions, can fly the Canadian flag. It is a direct advantage that they have in terms of recruitment, and it's allowing us to bring to Canada some of the some of the most capable people anywhere in the world.

Kelly Jackson
Yeah, absolutely. And there's also a whole ecosystem of ed-tech, right, that sprung up around the work that happens, from learning management systems, to ways in which facilitate international students applications and processes. So, there are a lot of great companies working in that space as well, so it goes much beyond just the individual colleges and universities and polytechnics. Okay, we have time for one more question. And I am going to take moderator privilege and ask one of my questions that I wanted to get in, because I think it's an important one. You know, we have more than 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada, and they contribute right now about, you know, 30 billion, approximately, to the national economy. So, when we talk about, you know, building back better, and recovery from the pandemic, really we're talking about also inclusive growth, and we think about reconciliation and the role that business community has to play in sort of supporting those entrepreneurs and helping to support the growth within Indigenous communities, and more businesses. Just wondering, like, you know, just an open question for both of you about sort of, what do you think, where can the business community sort of have the most impact on that front?

Tareq Hadhad
Yeah, absolutely. I would love to start there. I think there is a huge advantage for businesses to take on many leadership roles in terms of, not only of inclusive growth, but also the inclusive innovation. You know, as I mentioned, I just became a Canadian citizen two years ago, and when I became a Canadian citizen, I said, “I did not only sign up to only Canada’s excellence; I also own its mistakes and failures.” And I would work so hard to leave Canada better for our kids and grandkids in the future. That's why actually, as a company, the first chocolate bar we created actually was called Wantaoqo’ti, which means peace in Mi’kmaq. And we said, there is nothing nobler than spreading our message in the mother tongue of the land that we are on, and the land that we call home, which is Mi’kma’ki. And then we created a campaign called Nitap, where proceeds are supporting cultural initiatives within the Mi’kmaq community, to celebrate themselves, but also to share that culture with other newcomers. I think the relationship between the new Canadians and Indigenous communities across the country is something to celebrate, to reflect on. And that's why actually now we are making more and more new work with Indigenous organizations across the country, because we believe that we conciliation should be that top of mind focus for every business and every organization in the country, working towards social justice, and fighting against racism, discrimination, against anyone, any component of the society here in this country I think is something to be to be focused on for everyone, but at the same time, I guess, for many entrepreneurs using their voices. Again, business is a voice, business is a platform, use it to advocate for causes that matter to the day. The issues that matter today are different even than they were two years ago, than they were five years ago. So, I think being up to date, making sure that we do not just, you know, brush the issues off, but we solve them. We work in the mindset that of conflict resolution, not of making sure that we move forward without including everyone in Canada. I think this is something for the future of our country, to take these issues seriously. Not only work with Indigenous communities, but also at the same time addressing climate change, because there are a lot of Indigenous leaders out there working to fight climate change for a long time before we even start thinking about it.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
The starting point, Kelly, is for business to understand that we have to internalize this relationship that we have with Indigenous communities. It's not something you add on afterward, after you've done everything else, it has to be part of the mission of the company itself. And we need to recognize that in the past, too often, whether it was government or business, we did things to Indigenous communities, as opposed to with and for Indigenous communities. Increasingly, in the future, for us to be successful, Indigenous Canadians are going to have to be our partners, they’re going to be our suppliers, our employees, our customers—and increasingly, I might add, our investors, as Indigenous communities continue to grow, and to be successful. They’re an incredible resource for businesses, at a time when we have a million jobs going begging in Canada. You're in Western Canada right now, the fastest-growing part of the population is in fact the Indigenous community in much of Western Canada. This is a tremendous opportunity for us, if we can bring people fully into the economy, and fully into partnership with us. So, we need to invest, we need to partner, we need to reach out. And there are plenty of examples of companies that do that, and that make a major contribution.

One stellar example is Suncor Energy. Suncor Energy procures more from Indigenous businesses in Canada, than the Government of Canada does. It shows you something of the of the leverage that the Canadian business community can bring to bear on assisting Indigenous businesses and helping them be successful. And when you talk to the leadership within Suncor, from the CEO on down, it's not a matter that they see this as something that is, you know, is an obligation or a drag on them in some way. They see this as being core to the way in which they operate, and as being a strength, if they are able to do it right. And that's, I think, what Canadian businesses need to do. There's an opportunity out there. It's one that is in plain sight, but one that we that we miss all too often.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you. So, we're at the, or we're getting near the end here of the time that we have. So, maybe I would just ask if either—well, for both of you—just sort of last thoughts, final thoughts here, just for today. And then we are going to have a special video greeting from Mr. Boissonault. So why don't I start with you, Perrin. Any final thoughts want to share?

The Hon. Perrin Beatty
Let me say how inspired I am by my Tareq’s example, and you multiply that by thousands and thousands of times across the country. One of the tests of any country is which way to people want to cross the borders. Millions of people want to come to Canada because of what we can offer, but we are so enriched by people coming to this country, bringing their skills and their commitment, and helping us to make the country better and stronger. And that's, I think, a very important lesson for us as we go forward and plan for the future. This will be our 155th birthday party, birthday celebration, and we should celebrate; there's so much to be proud of in Canada. But it should also be a time for reflection when we look at what are our ideals? Are we achieving those ideals? What can we do that's better than we've been doing? And if we do those two things on Canada Day, celebrate where we are and the advantages that we have as Canadians, and look at how we can do better, they I think we'll put the day to very good use.

Tareq Hadhad
I would echo what Perrin mentioned in terms of reflecting. I think reflecting is a great value for all of us, to spend some time just to think about what we did right what we did wrong, what could we do better as a country. To give you an example, anyone can come to Canada and become a Canadian. You can go to Qatar, you can go to Japan, but you are not going to become Qatari or Japanese. But anyone can come from any corner of the world to Canada and become a Canadian. You know, other countries may seek to compete with us, but in this vital area, no country actually comes close to us. We draw the talent, we draw the creation, we draw the innovation from many countries around the world, and we keep the doors open for those fleeing wars and persecution. I really just get choked up every time I think about how Canada opened doors for me and my family. When I applied to go to 15 other countries, no other country opened the doors for us. Everyone said that they're not taking refugees, everyone said that they're not taking immigrants. And I'm pretty sure that me and my family, we are here to contribute, we're here to give back, and I'm here to celebrate Canada Day with Canadians. I wish everyone to have a wonderful and safe celebration, and I will continue to faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen; I always renew my Canadian citizenship oath actually, on Canada Day. So, my last thought is tell to everyone here, please reflect, please celebrate, and may we honour one another, build this country together, and inspire this world to be better.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you so much. This has been—what an uplifting note to end on. You know, we need to reflect, but we need to celebrate too. And we need to come together. And that's the way we're all going to move forward, right, is through community and businesses connecting and supporting each other. One of the, you know, sectors certainly that was very hard hit throughout the last number of years has been our tourism sector. And you know, so many people, we talked about Brand Canada, so many people come to Canada for amazing, memorable experiences, and it's been very difficult for many of our tourism operators, our hotel sector, others, to, you know, to be able to support people in having those. So, I just want to acknowledge that that is a sector that's been particularly hard hit, just as we we've had a lot of different conversation themes today, we haven't really touched on that. But we do have, as I mentioned, a special greeting in honour of Canada Day from Canada's Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Randy Boissonault, so if we could please roll that video. That would be great. Thank you.

The Honourable Randy Boissonault, Minister of Tourism for Canada
Hello, everyone. I would like to begin by acknowledging that I'm speaking today from the Traditional and Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Nation. While I wish I could see you all in person, I'm delighted to be there with you to mark Canada Day, and to speak about our strong Canadian brand at home and abroad, as well as what we are doing to attract even more visitors to Canada. As Minister of Tourism, I've seen firsthand how the pandemic has affected the sector. Restaurants, local shops, microbreweries, theatres, comedy festivals and river cruises, were hard hit, just to name a few. In fact, all businesses in the hospitality industry took a big hit. Despite the challenges, the tourism sector was resilient. Members, like many here today, rolled up their sleeves and redoubled their efforts. Disruptions and unpredictability took a steep toll on the tourism sector, which was poised to see continued year-over-year economic growth, and then, crickets. No one had a crystal ball to predict what was about to happen to us for more than two years. And with very little lead time, the Government of Canada had to act quickly. We could have let markets run their course and risk a deep economic downturn. Or, we could have invested in Canadians, in you. We were bold, and didn't hesitate to invest in you, because we knew that it would pay off for everyone.

The Government of Canada dedicated $511 billion to supporting our economy. We invested in you, in your businesses, in your associations, in the lives of Torontonians, in the provinces, and in our communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Supporting Canadians in this difficult time wasn't just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do, full stop. We invested $23 billion to help the Canadian tourism sector weather the impact of public health measures and border closures. As our tourism industry moves forward, we have an opportunity to take everything we've learned, creativity, flexibility, innovation, and redouble our efforts to showcase Canada as among the best places in the world to visit. But our success will hinge on your involvement. From coast-to-coast-to-coast, you were the experts, and your input will lay the groundwork for what's to come. I'm working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, Indigenous partners, in the tourism sector, to set a course for future growth, investment and stability. I would like to hear your thoughts on areas we know need attention, like workforce challenges and destination development. Whether you're from the West Coast, the East Coast, the Northern Territories, our south, or right in the middle of the country, you have specific expertise that would be great to hear from. You can visit our new federal tourism growth strategy website to share your expertise at canada.ca/tourism We're going to build on the work, first begun in 2019, with a distinctly post-pandemic lens.

Friends, this is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to come back stronger. It's really the perfect opportunity to raise the bar. Canada has much to offer visitors from all over the world, wide open spaces, breathtaking landscapes, bucket-list adventures, warm and welcoming hosts, authentic Indigenous tourism experiences, and an inclusive and diverse country. But it's not just about attracting visitors. It's also about highlighting the tremendous opportunities that tourism offers to workers. In closing, when I was talking with our partners in the tourism sector, many of our discussions reminded me of this quote from Albert Camus, “in the midst of winter, I found that within me, there lie and invincible summer.” Let's take this feeling of invincible summer, and use it to boost the sector. Let us be ambitious. Let us be bold. There's a place for everyone as we rebuild, recover and reclaim our visitor economy from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Thank you, and best wishes, and have a very Happy Canada Day.

Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
We really appreciate Minister Boissonault providing us that message. I'd now like to take the opportunity to express appreciation to Perrin, and to Tareq, for being here today and having this great conversation. I'd like to express that appreciation on behalf of our lead event sponsor CN, who unfortunately could not join us today. Thank you to Perrin and Tareq, and CN, and all of our season sponsors, everybody who has been watching live, and everybody who submitted questions, and those who will be watching and listening on-demand later. As a club of record, all Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch and listen to on the website. The recording of this event will be available shortly, and everybody who had registered should receive automatically an email with the link. I encourage you to share that link so we can keep the conversation going. Thank you so much for joining us. I wish you a great rest of your day. Take care, stay safe and happy Canada Day.

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Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Innovators and Entrepreneurs


29 June, 2022 Brand Canada: Celebrating Our Innovators and Entrepreneurs