Leadership: Canada's position on the global stage

  • Agnes Chick
  • |
  • Oct 14, 2019

The Honourable Perrin Beatty, BA'71, LLD'13, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, challenged HBA1 students to consider Canada's leadership potential in his keynote address at the annual Thomas d'Aquino Lecture on Leadership.

Over the past 48 years, Beatty has spent his career fostering relationships and providing a national voice for business. At this year's d'Aquino Lecture, the former Progressive Conservative member of the House of Commons shared his knowledge and expertise with HBA1 students, giving his take on where Canada stands today and its leadership potential in a world without quality leadership.

Here are some key areas for future Canadian business leaders to consider:

Leadership on international trade

When it comes to Canada's role in international trade, Beatty urged students to focus on where bold leadership can get the greatest benefits and resolve barriers for our country's market access in areas like agricultural, agricultural subsidies, and digital trade.

While trade agreements open the doors to international markets, it is imperative that political leaders concentrate more on how to get Canadian businesses through those doors.

Government and business collaboration

Beatty pointed out that collaboration between government and businesses is a crucial ingredient for Canada's success.

"This message is particularly important for you, given your career aspirations in the private sector," Beatty said to students. "Canadian businesses are among our country's most prominent brand ambassadors abroad."

Not only do businesses act as brand ambassadors, they also help to promote Canadian objectives at forums like the G7, G20, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Each of these groups, as business advisory bodies that provide a platform for Canadian companies, should encourage government to work closely with the private sector in coordinating Canadian priorities rather keeping them separate.

Sustainable economic development

Beatty also advised Canadian business to lead in promoting sustainable economic development among populations affected by poverty.

"I firmly believe that Canada's abundant natural resources and expertise in agriculture and marine science can contribute to rising living standards both abroad and here at home," said Beatty. "Just as affordable Canadian energy can replace unstable supplies in countries whose standards in government's environmental protection fall well below ours."

Corporate social responsibility

Business leadership needs to be much more than self-serving virtue-signalling. It must be more than ticking a box on the corporate social responsibility checklist. Beatty encouraged business leaders to understand that authentic commitment to putting something back into society is vital to the relationships and customers in the communities in which they operate.

Canada's position on climate change

Even though Beatty said the result of climate change will not be decided in Canada, but in countries that are by far the most significant contributors to greenhouse gases, he believes Canadian businesses still need to show they are an essential part of the solution in climate change.

"We need to do our part if we're going to have any credibility in persuading others to change their behaviour," said Beatty. "That's why we need an open, honest, and respectful discussion about the options open to us, cost of each, and how the cost will be afforded."

Canadian leadership potential

Over the course of his career, Beatty has witnessed that the greatest challenges often produce the most transformative leaders. Before ending his keynote, he advised HBA1 students to vote for leaders who will define Canada's leadership role on the global stage.

"For all of our problems, we Canadians remain the most fortunate people on the planet," said Beatty. "(We are) challenged now to ensure that our leaders have the vision, principle, and the strength of purpose to achieve that potential both here at home and in our relations with the rest of the world."

The Lecture on Leadership was established in 2006 to salute Thomas d’Aquino’s outstanding contributions to national and international business, public policy and the voluntary sector. It is supported by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership.