The New Normal for Business with Rona Ambrose – September 2021

The Hon. Rona Ambrose currently serves as the Deputy Chairwoman, TD Securities. She is a dynamic national leader, a champion for the rights of women and girls, the former leader of Canada’s Official Opposition in the House of Commons, and the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Rona recently joined Ontario Global 100 members to review the current political and economic landscape, and what that means for medium and large Canadian businesses.

This election took place in a highly emotional environment, due to factors exacerbated by the pandemic. All parties had similar platforms regarding healthcare and the environment, however economic policies weren’t as prevalent. It is unusual and concerning that we have no one on the political landscape committed to balancing the budget. With the NDP and Bloc Quebecois holding the balance of power, we’ll have to wait and see how policy changes will play out.

Trump wasn’t the first time we’d dealt with protectionism, and while Biden is a long-time, professional politician and knows the importance of relationships, his administration is very anti-trade and anti-globalization. Biden’s advisors insist the increased costs to US consumers coming from onshoring are worth it. Many Canadians agree with the “made at home” messages coming out of the US and fighting the resultant wave of protectionism will be tough. Business leaders have a lot of work to do to communicate the importance and benefits of free trade to the wider public. This is as true at home where interprovincial trade barriers continue to plague domestic trade. This issue has been on the agenda for years, with reports estimating up to $130 billion in lost revenue due to these barriers (Tear Down These Walls: Dismantling Canada’s Internal Trade Barriers, June 2016). Businesses need to engage with government and forge relationships to drive home a simplified message that barriers need to come down once and for all. Business leaders offer a different and valuable skill set to that of policy makers when addressing economic impact, and the best-case scenario is meeting halfway with government to develop policies that address economic growth and ideological platforms.

The oil and gas industries are thinking long term, knowing the energy industry will change dramatically and ESG policies must be addressed today. Planning the energy transition must include a comprehensive labour strategy that transitions an entire labour force. This important conversation has to happen alongside the rush to hit environmental targets. Businesses would benefit from aligning with other organizations to put forward good policy ideas in front of government. Also, there are long overdue changes needed in the area of Diversity & Inclusion, specifically for more women leaders at the table. While no one wants to be a quota, quotas do answer the call for increased diversity. However, real change will only occur after organizations commit to serious investments in creating significant culture shifts, such as really good diversity training (don’t just watch a video!) and strong mentoring programs.