Every year a group of MBA students visit Vancouver businesses over the Presidents’ Day weekend during the annual Canada Study Tour sponsored by the Michael Foster School of Business and the Canadian Studies Center.
This year saw a record participation with 21 students taking part in the tour. Most students were from the Business School, with one from the Department of Engineering. The Canada Study Tour is open to all UW graduate students.
A main focus of the tour included discussions around NAFTA, Cross Border Trade, and Immigration Policy. The participants also got a chance to discuss various trade problems that exist between Canada and the US.
The kickoff of the tour was a pre-departure reception that was hosted by the Canadian Consulate in downtown Seattle. The student participants had an opportunity to meet with the staff of the Consulate and learn about the Consulate’s important function in the US-Canada relationship.
The group drove to Vancouver on the evening of February 12th to begin their four-day tour, and started their business visits next day with the US Consulate and the Vancouver Olympic Comittee 2010 Commerce Centre. In addition to visiting government entities the tour also gave an opportunity to experience the diversity of businesses in Vancouver. We visited the Canada Export Centre, a private trading house that helps Canadian businesses venture abroad and also helps foreign businesses find partners in Canada. We also visited a Canadian Law firm, Fraser Milner Casgrain, who introduced us to some of the legal aspects of doing business in Canada, the differences between American and Canadian laws and the impact of those differences on business.
On the weekend the study tour group got a rare game-day visit to the stadium of the Canucks Vancouver Ice Hockey team and met with executives of the company. Some other businesses visited by the group included financial institutes like the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and TD Bank Financial Group. We also visited technological companies like Microsoft Canada and Kodak Canada on our last day of the tour.
In an effort to build cross-border friendships, the study tour also included time with peers from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business and the Simon Fraser University Business School. We got an opportunity to exchange experiences with each other and to compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of the programs.
In addition to meeting businesses, the group also hosted a lunch with Dr. Sukumar Periwal, Executive Director of Strategic Policy and Planning at the Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat of British Columbia. Dr. Periwal, former Canada-US Visiting Fulbright Chair of the Canadian Studies Center in 2006-2007, offered the study tour students some insights on border crossing issues presently facing the British Columbia government.
The study tour also featured cultural activities like bike riding along the Stanley Park sea wall and visits to Granville Island. Participants also got a chance to experience Hockey Night in Canada by going to a local sports bar to watch the Vancouver Canucks play against the Montréal Canadiens.
Overall the 2009 Canada Study Tour was a great success, and opened the participants’ eyes to the importance of improving business relations with our closest neighbor and largest trading partner.
This project was supported, in part, by funding from a Canadian Studies Center Program Enhancement Grant, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.