May 29, 2023

Focus on... Canada

Straddling six time zones, the second-largest country in the world has strong historic and economic ties to the UK, writes Emma Allen.

Canada is vast. The second-largest country in the world stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for ambitious UK business.

Much of its interior is beautiful wilderness, but Canada’s cosmopolitan cities like Toronto and Vancouver regularly top the ‘best places to live’ listings and the country ranks highly for its education levels, government transparency and disposable income per capita. It is also one of the world’s biggest economies, taking tenth place in the 2018 IMF global ranking of GDP value, ahead of Russia and South Korea.

A long shared history between Canada and the UK has helped forge strong alliances between the two countries – we share the same head of state and a common language, after all. Economically, there are already well-established trade links too, making Canada an accessible option for UK firms, particularly as its legal and business practices are built on the UK’s systems.

Two years ago, trade between the two countries was given a big boost when the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was brought in, boosting investment and making it far easier to trade goods and services between Canada and the EU.

Labelled ‘the most ambitious trade agreement that the EU has ever concluded’, CETA threw open the door to UK firms keen to bid for Canadian public contracts, and in turn, meant that British importers have seen taxes reduced to zero on some 9,000 Canadian products.

The UK’s International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said: “British businesses and consumers are already feeling the benefits since the agreement came provisionally into force. The agreement eliminates almost every tariff on goods traded between our two countries and we will transition it into UK law after we leave the European Union so that businesses can continue to enjoy as free and frictionless trade as possible.”

Post-Brexit, the hope is that trade relations remain unhindered. Department for International Trade figures show that the UK exports around £8.2billion of goods and services to Canada each year, making it our eighth-biggest export market outside the EU. Key exports include air and space craft, pharmaceutical products, boilers and electronic equipment.

In return, the UK is by far Canada’s most important commercial partner in Europe. Over the last five years, the UK has grown into Canada’s second-largest goods export market after the United States.

However, there are considerations for UK firms wanting to enter the Canadian market. Canada’s federal structure means each province has its own regulatory processes in place, meaning good local research is needed to ensure the legal requirements are met for products in each location. Canada’s sheer size may be another issue – it may be worth using a local agent or representation to work around distance and time zones.

While Brexit uncertainty continues, there are signs that positive trade ties with Canada are being given a new focus by the UK government. Speaking recently, UK High Commissioner to Canada, Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, said she was confident the two countries could avoid tariffs in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU, with officials from both sides holding talks to preserve existing CETA rules.  

Reaching the Maple Leaf market from the UK is straightforward, with direct flights from many UK departure points to all the key cities in our survey. And access has been further enhanced this summer by a rash of new routes operated by the likes of WestJet, Air Transat and Air Canada Rouge. All of which will help to cut one of the world’s biggest countries down to size for serious business.


British Airways: flies direct twice a day to Toronto from London Heathrow and once daily to Vancouver and Montréal from Heathrow.

Air Canada: operates daily flights from Heathrow to Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, as well as regular flights to Halifax and St John’s. Glasgow flights are also available to Montréal and Toronto daily, and twice weekly to Calgary and Ottawa.

Westjet Airlines: increases Gatwick services from April 28, offering daily flights to Toronto, up to seven weekly flights to Calgary and Halifax, up to six flights a week to Vancouver, twice a week to Edmonton and once a week to Winnipeg. Flights from Glasgow to Halifax will run six times a week.

Air Transat: runs seasonal services from Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester to Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montréal, Toronto and Québec. .

Canadian-owned boutique brand Le Germain Hotels has stylish properties in Toronto, Montréal, Québec, Charlevoix, Calgary, Ottawa and other destinations across Canada.

Sister brand Alt Hotels is also well represented across Canada and offers eco-friendly, ‘affordable luxury’ in cities including Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Brossard, Québec City, Halifax, Saskatoon and St. John’s. Four Seasons will open a hotel in Montréal this June, while US brand Loews has hotels in Montréal and Toronto. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has luxury properties in Banff, Ottawa, Victoria, Québec and Toronto.

Marriott has properties across Canada with multiple hotels in locations including Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa.

Ramada by Wyndham Hotels has the largest coverage in Canada with over 75 hotels spread across Alberta, Québec, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Off Duty

Quebec City: Walk along the fortified walls surrounding Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit notable historical sites like the Petit-Champlain District, Place Royale, the Plains of Abraham and the Parliament Building.  Village Vacances Valcartier is one of Canada’s biggest theme and water parks.

Toronto: Head skywards to 360, the revolving restaurant two-thirds of the way up Toronto’s 553m-tall CN Tower. Historic food hall St Lawrence Market offers the best seasonal produce. Each September, the city hosts the Toronto International Film festival.

Vancouver: Wander the historic neighbourhoods of Gastown and Chinatown. Visit scenic English Bay and the Vancouver Harbour. Don’t miss Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre park with the city’s iconic totem poles, spectacular views of the mountains and Lion’s Gate Bridge. The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver offers the best in traditional handcrafted art.

Ottawa: In summer, see the daily Changing of the Guard on the front lawn at Parliament Hill and return in the evening for the nightly sound and light show. Visit the dramatic Canadian War Museum, or stroll around the courtyards of shopping district Byward Market.

Calgary: Calgary Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, a prehistoric park and botanical garden, and is praised for its conservation work. The 191m Calgary Tower has a revolving restaurant a with sweeping views. Each July the city hosts the Calgary Stampede, a giant wild west festival.

Montreal: Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame with its impressive interior. The Musee de Beaux-Arts has a vast collection of fine art. Head to Montréal’s Old Port for boat tours or a stroll along the St Lawrence river.