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Canadian Leadership Orientation – NAFTA, eh!

August 31, 2008

Kelly Voss with Michael Kelly, Dean of the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, at the 2008 Ottawa Business Leadership Orientation.

Every year the University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management invites twenty US MBAs to participate in their Canadian Leadership Orientation. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the 2008 program, held in early June in Ottawa and Montréal. Participants attend lectures by top business and government professionals, visit major Canadian companies, and experience the highlights of Canadian culture–including Hockey Night in Canada!

For the first time, Mexican MBAs were invited, as well, to represent a major theme of the program–the importance of NAFTA in promoting international business. Guest speaker US Ambassador David H. Wilkins touted NAFTA as a positive force in North America, bringing structural change in Mexico and an increase in Canadian jobs. A representative of the Embassy of Mexico’s NAFTA Office noted that the increases in transportation costs and Carbon Footprint awareness make it more attractive for US companies to produce in Canada and Mexico rather than in China, intertwining our economies more than ever before.

With the rising price of oil, energy was a hot topic among guest speakers. The Ministry of Alberta cited Canada as one of the world’s energy superpowers, with large pools of oil second only to Saudi Arabia. The province of Alberta is currently working with the US government to secure an environmentally sustainable energy future.

Deputy Chair Frank McKenna of TD Bank Financial Group, one of Canada’s leading financial institutions, reinforced the importance of cooperation between NAFTA countries. Although the US and Canada share the world’s longest border, we still have a lot to learn from each other. McKenna encourages American students to study abroad or intern in Canada to increase cultural awareness of the difference in business practices. With trade moving closer to home, more companies will be recruiting students with cross-cultural experience who understand the advantages of their country’s largest trade partner.

All business aside, with Hockey Night, Beaver Tails and the Montréal F1 Grand Prix, the University of Ottawa introduced us to a delicious taste of Canadian life, and we are looking forward to getting to better know our neighbors as the bond between our countries continues to grow!