In the latest of our special series of profiles, Laureen Regan, President and Founder of the Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce, Calgary, talks about doing business in Calgary and the province of Alberta.
Can you tell us a little about the ICCCC?
The Ireland Canada Centre for Commerce in Calgary works to promote and support bilateral trade between Alberta and Ireland. We create collaboration opportunities and business connections between Irish and Canadian professionals through networking and industry-specific events featuring key business leaders and diplomats.
What originally brought you to Calgary?
Waterford born, my family immigrated to Alberta for work many years ago. Here they found many opportunities, a strong entrepreneurial spirit to match their own and a welcoming community.
What advice would you give Irish companies about business in Alberta?
Irish Companies looking to start or set up a business in Alberta can see success if they are committed to maintaining a permanent presence here. It is difficult to gain traction when visits to Alberta are monthly or only every few weeks. Relationships are very important in the business community. It takes time, in market, to build connections and foster and grow the relationships needed to succeed.
Why Calgary? Top three things that make it a great place to live and do business
- Quality of Life
We are ranked in the top 5 most liveable cities in the world. The pool of highly qualified workers has made Calgary a global talent hub that is home to innovators and entrepreneurs.
The City has the benefits of having a large metropolitan centre, friendly and relaxed atmosphere, clean and safe environment, abundant green spaces and parks, longest urban pathway system, and an hour’s drive from the Canadian Rockies.
Calgary is ranked #1, out of Canada’s 100 largest cities for the sunniest days year-round – over 2,300 hours of sunshine annually!
- Connected to the World
Calgary has the highest head office concentration per capita in Canada. It has ready access to global markets through a highly integrated transportation and logistics system moving people, products, and services. Calgary also provides access to the rapidly expanding markets in Asia by air and via the Port of Vancouver and is also regarded by many European companies as a gateway to North America.
- Low cost of doing business
Compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, Alberta has no provincial sales tax, no health care premiums, lower personal income tax rates and the lowest fuel tax among provinces.
Calgary businesses also benefit from the fact that Alberta has no inventory tax, no machinery and equipment tax and no payroll tax, which are common in many other provinces and U.S. states.
Albertans. across all income ranges, will generally continue to pay the lowest overall taxes compared to other provinces.
If you could give one message to the Irish government about how to improve the Ireland Canada relationship, what would it be?
Canada is a large and diverse country, with much to offer. Alberta has strong, established markets in many sectors including agriculture, advanced industries, energy, renewables, forestry, water, manufacturing and more. Alberta also has leading university and research institutions.
Direct access through WestJet is opening up the Alberta market to Irish businesses and Canadian businesses are eyeing up the Irish and European markets.
Building awareness of the market opportunities in both directions is a crucial first step.
Is the future bright for Irish companies operating in or exporting to Canada?
The future is very bright for Irish companies looking for market access into Canada. Alberta has a strong focus on market diversification and a history of successful partnerships with many countries around the globe.
The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, direct flights and a vibrant province that is ‘open for business’ all work together to create a solid foundation for opportunities in multiple sectors.
Alberta opens the doors to Canadian, American and Asian markets.
Anything else you would like to mention…
The time has never been better for Irish and Alberta businesses looking for new markets. Businesses and visitors alike will find a world of opportunity, an affordable business climate, young and educated workforce and a warm welcome in Alberta.
Image from left to right: Kate Hickey, Deirdre Giblin, Gerry Mongey, and Suzanne Drisdell
The ICBA recently presented Gerry Mongey with an honorary lifetime membership as she retired from her role as Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy in Dublin. Here is the tribute paid to her on the evening.
The growth of Ireland’s relationship with Canada in tourism trade and in terms of the sheer number of young Irish people who leave Ireland every year to work in Canada is one of the great success stories in international relations. It encompasses the recent appointment of an Honorary Consul in Vancouver and the fact that five airlines now direct flights between Ireland and Canada. But it also but goes beyond this, spanning a wide range of areas from education, government, innovation, business to culture and tourism.
While many individuals and bodies can take credit for this great success, in both Canada and Ireland, it is widely recognised that one individual stands out. This individual’s contribution can be traced back to one morning in February in 1981 when a young Gerry walked in to the Embassy offices. Gerry Mongey is often described as the central ‘common thread’ in the success of Ireland Canada. For the last 38 years and 8 months she has nurtured the relationship and has steered and guided many who came to work on the relationship down the years.
Gerry has worked with many ambassadors and trade commissioners in promoting Canada in Ireland. She has helped literally hundreds and hundreds of Canadian companies come into the Irish market to become established and employ many Irish people. She has lead trade mission after trade mission and brought Irish journalist’s and industry experts to conferences in Canada to witness best practice. As a tribute to Gerry’s outstanding contribution Gerry received a letter from PM Justin Trudeau upon her retirement last week.
Steve Jobs said “Choose to do something you love if not keep looking”. It is fair to say that Gerry’s love of her job made her a joy to work with. Her enthusiasm for Canada is infectious and her professionalism always impressed.
In today’s roller-coaster world, the terms ‘champion and visionary’ are often mis-used and over-used. In the case of Gerry Mongey, they are completely apt. Since 1981 Gerry has more than delivered on her job in international business development. For Ireland and Canada over the last four decades a great gift has been bestowed, providing inspiration and models for many others in Canada and Ireland.’
Kate Hickey, Executive Director, Ireland Canada Business Association (ICBA)
A delegation of the Ireland Canada Business Association (ICBA) recently returned from a high-level business mission to Canada. The mission coincided with a meeting in Paris between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, where Brexit, Northern Ireland and CETA were discussed.
Ireland and Canada already enjoy close bilateral business connections and the purpose of the ICBA mission was to further strengthen those ties and capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit, CETA, and NAFTA renegotiations present.
The ICBA mission revealed that Canada’s business and political leaders firmly believe in the vast potential of the Canada / Ireland relationship. With further efforts on a governmental level, a number of opportunities can be capitalised upon. They include:
- Canada’s desire to do more business with Ireland
Meetings held with the Board of Trade in Toronto and Quebec trade development agencies highlighted the attractiveness of the Irish market for Canadian businesses looking to export beyond the US. There is an opportunity for Ireland to showcase its attractive business environment across Canada, focusing on the country’s talented workforce, open economy and ease of doing business. With the continued efforts of the ICBA, IDA, Ambassador Jim Kelly, and Tánaiste Simon Coveney in highlighting what we have to offer, Ireland will become a real contender for Canadian investment this side of the world.
- Canada is looking for direct investment from Ireland
Roundtable meetings held with investment agencies in Ontario and Quebec confirmed that these provinces wanted strongly to promote themselves as a location for Irish direct investment. Irish and Canadian business cultures are very closely aligned and both share a legacy of common law. Meetings with Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney confirmed that this shared legacy is an important aspect of the Ireland Canada story. In fact, Ireland remains the last common law English-speaking country which is a member of the European Union.
- The changing Canada / US trade relationship presents Ireland with a big opportunity
Canada urgently needs to diversify trade beyond the United States and increase links to other market economies. For a long time, being right beside the US - the biggest, richest market in the world — has allowed Canadian companies export with ease. The experience of renegotiating NAFTA into USMCA has highlighted Canada’s vulnerability to a dominant trading partner that buys approximately 75% of Canadian exports. Only Kuwait, Bermuda, and Mexico have a higher geographic concentration of exports than Canada. When compared to countries where there are similar dependence issues such as Ireland & UK, Hong Kong & China, and New Zealand & Australia, Canada’s exports are much more concentrated. As a result of these factors, the delegation heard from well-placed sources that Canada is very open to increasing trade with Ireland and to using Ireland as a stepping stone for the wider EU market.
- Toronto Financial International (TFI)– a potential ally
TFI is a public-private partnership between Canada’s three levels of government, the financial services sector and academia with a mission to drive the competitiveness and growth of Toronto’s financial sector. Currently Toronto is the 2nd largest financial centre in North America. Aligning financial activities with a transition to a smart economy is a key concern for TFI and also for the Irish Government. Currently, the organisation is looking for international cooperation in the areas of Fintech and sustainable finance. Ireland, with its thriving international financial sector and a shared common law legacy with Canada, is very well placed to be a partner. There exists the opportunity to replicate the role of the Canadian financial sector in supporting actions that address climate change and collaborating with TFI.
The Ireland Canada Business Association strongly believes in the potential that lies in the economic and political relationships between our two nations. Already we have seen the number of jobs created by Canadian companies in Ireland grow by over 40% since 2014, and almost double-digit growth in the value of exports from Ireland to Canada. With Brexit strengthening Ireland’s position as a natural gateway to Europe for multinationals, boosted by the recent opening of an IDA office in Toronto, the opportunity is sizeable.
The ICBA’s recent business mission has confirmed that Canada’s industry and political leaders share our belief in the Ireland Canada relationship, and can clearly see ways to further strengthen it. We call on the government to continue to build on the great work it is doing in this regard, so that Ireland can make the very most of the opportunity currently presented.
Robert G. Kearns, Chair and Founder of Ireland Park Foundation
Ireland Park Foundation (IPF) is an arts, culture and heritage organization, dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the story of the Irish in Canada. We believe that through these lenses, the people of Canada and Ireland can enrich the mutual understanding of their interconnected identities. IPF promotes artistic connectivity, engages in original academic research, and hosts public art and cultural events to help build a stronger sense of community between Ireland and Canada.
Ireland Park Foundation takes a multidisciplinary approach to celebrating and commemorating the story of the Irish in Canada. Through public parks we commemorate, through theatre and film we relate, through music we inspire, through history we discover and through migrant stories we reveal.
The histories of Ireland and Canada are closely intertwined in so many ways, here are 6 of the most significant:
1. Migration of Irish during the Famine to Toronto and Canada as a whole
During the years of the famine in Ireland, many migrants made their way by boat to various points in eastern Canada, particularly Grosse île, Montreal, Kingston and Toronto. In 1847, the worst year of the famine, 38,586 Irish migrants descended upon the Toronto Harbour. While many migrants moved out of the city in the months and years to come, Toronto has a rich Irish influence, visible in its public figures, architecture and place names. Today, in the Province of Ontario alone, around 16.5% of the population claims Irish ancestry.
2. Irish migration fundamentally changed how Toronto’s healthcare system was run.
Many of the Irish migrants who arrived in Toronto during 1847 were inflicted with typhus, with 1,186 perishing that year alone. A Toronto doctor named Dr. George Robert Grasett was appointed Chief Attending Surgeon of the Emigrant Hospital in June of 1847, where most of the typhus-stricken Irish were treated. Dr. Grasett, along with 11 other medical professionals, gave their lives while tending to the migrants. To this day, Irish Famine migration to Canada is the largest health crises in Canadian history and fundamentally shaped this country’s celebrated public healthcare infrastructure.
3. Canada’s role in Ireland’s Home Rule movement.
While Canada did not have a direct role in Ireland’s Home Rule movement, it was a supporter of it, having received its own ‘Home Rule’ though Confederation in 1867. However, Mr. Edward Blake, one of only three Canadian Liberal Party leaders never to become Prime Minister of Canada, joined the British House of Commons to support Ireland’s Home Rule movement. Blake’s parents emigrated from Ireland before he was born and in 1892, he resigned his position as leader of the Liberal Party and moved to Ireland with his family. He was elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party Member of Parliament in 1892, for South Longford.
4. Ireland announced its departure from the Commonwealth in Canada
In 1948, at a dinner at the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa, Taoiseach John A. Costello allegedly declared that Ireland was leaving the Commonwealth. Popular legend claims the Taoiseach, offended at having been placed across the table from a replica of the cannon, ‘Roaring Meg’, declared Ireland a republic. The reality was that Ireland had for some time been in talks with the British Government regarding the External Relations Act, which Britain passed, and Ireland wished to repeal. During his visit, Costello arranged for a toast to the President of Ireland in exchange for a toast to King George VI. Governor General Lord Alexander reneged on the toast to President of Ireland and, at a press conference the following day, Costello announced that Ireland would repeal the External Relations Act, which led to the declaration of the Republic of Ireland.
5. Dublin and Belfast were major influences for Toronto’s architecture.
Toronto’s built heritage reflects both the multiple waves and constant streams of Irish migrants, particularly in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20thcenturies. Many Irish architects, builders, engineers and cultural leaders came to Canada during these years and helped to shape the city we see today. In the mid-to-late 1800s, Dublin’s Georgian architecture came to define much of the residential neighbourhood architecture, as well as that of major buildings, such as Union Station, Toronto’s main train station. In the 20th century, Toronto was largely influenced by Belfast’s industrial architecture, visible in areas such as the Distillery District and Liberty Village.
6. Canada’s role in securing better IMF bailout terms.
Canada represents Ireland at the IMF and World Bank, and Ireland is the only European country that Canada represents at both. Canada was a strong supporter of Ireland’s bailout terms and former Canadian Finance Minister, the late Honourable Jim Flaherty, was recognized as a strong supporter of the eventual favourable terms given to Ireland. (For the full story see the Sunday Independent’s article)
IPF has embarked on many exciting projects and programs over the past year. In August of 2018, Grasett Park was opened to the public, with its granite installation. We await the final piece of the park—the glass elements—which will be installed in 2020. On March 17th of this year, we signed the lease for 3 Eireann Quay, the former Administrative Office building of the Canada Malting Company, situated between Billy Bishop City Airport and Ireland Park on Toronto’s waterfront. IPF looks forward to converting this space into a permanent arts, culture, and heritage event and presentation space.
For the second in our series of ICCC profiles, we catch up with Jackie Gilna, President of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Ottawa
Describe ICCCOTT and what its all about…
In cooperation with the Irish and Canadian business community, ICCCOTT established in 2010 promotes and supports programs that focus on trade and investment including sports, culture, and education as they relate to economic growth. We provide networking opportunities for members by organizing events with high profile speakers. Additionally, we support the business community representing member’s business views before the Irish and Canadian governments in Dublin and Ottawa.
We are committed to resourcefully connecting people and helping foster relationships to further business opportunities and help deepen economic ties between our two countries.
Please describe one of ICCCOTT’s members
We are fortunate to have one of Canada’s most decorated Irish entrepreneurs and leader in our community, businessman Pat Kelly (Galway), Director Community Affairs ICCCOTT. Pat is a recipient of the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Service Award 2012, and founder of the Gales. His success with the Heart and Crown group, construction group Bradley-Kelly and many other business interests is an example to all that hard work, focus, drive, and ambition drive results.
From the beginning of his journey in Canada Pat helped so many who came to Ottawa with a roof over their head, a job to get them started and introductions to help create their opportunities. He is a true example to all. It is often said the Irish abroad do not support each other in business. Not Pat Kelly, he set the bar and leads by example!
What originally brought you to Ottawa?
I spent many of my adult years in the Netherlands. Before leaving I was involved in the Dutch Oil &Gas, Aviation, Marine and Fire Fighting training sector as Managing Director and sat as Director on the Board of Directors for Merger& Acquisitions.
I thrive on challenge and felt ready for a change. It was a family decision and so we moved from the Netherlands via Ireland (nine months) to Ottawa, my Canadian husband’s hometown where his mother, a west-coaster, still lives.
I had no thoughts other than to take a sabbatical and see what inspired me on the next step of life’s journey. The journey subsequently morphed into two acquisitions ripe for management restructuring and two start ups in the tech sector.
Ottawa is a very safe city with a growing international community, tech hubs, talent and home to the largest employer in the country, the Federal government. We have access to great health care, housing and activities. Yes, the winters get very cold, but the warmth of our great Irish Canadian and local community compensates for the long weeks of boots and tukes!
Why should Irish companies consider Ottawa?
Ottawa has affordable housing costs in comparison to other major Canadian cities. We are a tech hub with over 1.3m people and 1,750 knowledge-based business employing over 68k people. We boast innovative talent, highly competitive business costs, incubator hubs such as Invest Ottawa and L- Spark, and access to the Embassies of the world to establish international opportunities. Not bad for our small Nation’s capital! And did I mention, it’s only 16 km to the ski slopes?
What are your key pieces of advice for Irish companies starting to do business in this city?
As we are in the nation’s capital Ottawa, a few simple rules to follow are: take the time to build relationships. Be punctual, give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and opportunity will follow.
What’s next for ICCCOTT?
ICCCOTT continue to grow with representatives from predominately three sectors: Legal, Financial Services and Tech. We enjoy and are grateful for the support of the business community, the Embassy and our Chamber colleagues throughout Canada. We are excited and look forward to a unique event happening in this fall, an ICCCOTT initiative which will bring together the first Pan-Canadian Chamber meeting with guests ICBA and other parties in September 2019.
Check out part 1 of our series of Ireland-Canada Chamber profiles with Lar Quigley of the Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce Vancouver