Executive Summary

Canada and the United States (U.S.) have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. U.S. investors are attracted to Canada’s strong economic fundamentals, its proximity to the U.S. market, its highly skilled work force, and abundant resources. As of 2016, the U.S. had a stock of USD 363 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada, representing over 50 percent of Canada’s USD 600 billion total stock of FDI. Canada’s FDI stock in the U.S. totaled USD 454 billion.

U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to the provisions of the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chapter 11 of NAFTA contains provisions such as “national treatment” designed to protect cross-border investors and facilitate the settlement of investment disputes. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are currently renegotiating NAFTA, including the chapters related to dispute settlements and investment. NAFTA does not exempt U.S. investors from review under the ICA, which has guided foreign investment policy in Canada since its implementation in 1985. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadian investors and includes the requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada. The Canadian government has blocked investments on only a few occasions.

Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic development, restrictions remain in key sectors. Under the Telecommunications Act, Canada maintains a 46.7 percent limit on foreign ownership of voting shares for a Canadian telecom services provider. However, a 2012 amendment exempts foreign telecom carriers with less than 10 percent market share from ownership restrictions in an attempt to increase competition in the sector. While the government announced a plan in November 2016 to allow 49 percent foreign ownership of Canadian air carriers, current law limits foreign ownership of Canadian air carriers to 25 percent of voting equity. Investment in cultural industries also carries restrictions, including a provision under the ICA that foreign investment in book publishing and distribution must be compatible with Canada’s national cultural policies and be of “net benefit” to Canada. Canada is open to investment in the financial sector, but barriers remain in retail banking.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 8 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 18 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2017 18 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 $363,914 http://www.bea.gov/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 $47,270 http://data.worldbank.org/

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

With few exceptions, Canada offers full national treatment to foreign investors within the context of a developed open market economy operating with democratic principles and institutions. Canada reviews investments under the ICA. Foreign investment is prohibited or restricted in several sectors of the economy such as telecoms, airlines and culture. The U.S. and Canada agree on important foreign investment principles, including right of establishment and national treatment.

The U.S. has long been Canada’s primary source for foreign investment, and Canada is the second largest source of FDI in the U.S. after the United Kingdom (U.K.). Nearly 50 percent of Canada’s FDI comes from the U.S. At the end of 2016, the most recent year available, U.S. FDI in Canada was USD 364 billion. The U.S.’ share of FDI in Canada has declined considerably since 2005 when it was 63.2 percent of Canada’s total FDI stock. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Canada attracted 3.3 percent of the world’s FDI in 2015.

Canadian residents have become increasingly active as worldwide investors. Canadian FDI in the U.S. was USD 454 billion in 2016, an increase of 12 percent (USD 55 billion) compared to 2015 (http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_multinational_companies_comprehensive_
). The U.S. is the top destination for Canadian FDI. The U.S.’ share of total Canadian FDI in 2016 increased to 47.5 percent from 44 percent in 2015 (http://www.international.gc.ca/economist-economiste/performance/state-point/state_2017_point/index.aspx?lang=eng ).

The Canadian government launched a new federal agency, Invest in Canada, in March 2018. The agency will help global business navigate Canada’s investment landscape and promote inward FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Aerospace and Defense ‑ Commercial Aviation: Canada limits foreign ownership of Canadian air carriers to 25 percent. In addition, foreign interests may not control a Canadian air carrier. One Canadian airline has put a special procedure in place for foreign share transfers that reclassifies its stock as variable voting shares. This allows non-Canadians to own more than 25 percent of the equity while reducing foreign voting rights and allowing the airline to remain Canadian with at least 75 percent of its voting interests owned and controlled by Canadians. Bill C-49 is in Parliament and would increase foreign ownership limits for commercial airlines to 49 percent.

Aerospace and Defense – General Aviation: No non-Canadian (other than permanent residents) may register a general aviation aircraft for commercial or personal use in Canada.

Energy and Environmental Industries: Canada continues to encourage additional foreign investment in its energy sector to develop its vast oil and gas resources. In Quebec, calls for tender for energy projects vary between 30 and 60 percent of local content. Canada has faced several investment disputes involving energy in recent years. A U.S. oil and gas company filed a notice of arbitration under NAFTA Chapter 11 in September 2013, following the Government of Quebec’s announced suspension of oil and gas exploration beneath the Saint Lawrence River in June 2011. The U.S. company filed an additional memorial in April 2015 stating that Quebec’s provincial legislation effectively destroyed the economic potential of its investment and deprived it of the ability to enjoy any economic benefit from the investment. The USD 118.9 million damages claim is still active and the government of Canada filed a counter-memorial in January 2016. Further, the company claims the suspension breached NAFTA expropriation and minimum standard of treatment provisions.

Energy and Environmental Industries – Mining: Generally, foreigners cannot be majority owners of uranium mines.

Energy and Environmental Industries – Electric Power Generation and Distribution: Regulatory reform in electricity continues in Canada in expectation that increased competition will lower costs of electricity supply. Province-owned power firms are interested in gaining greater access to the U.S. power market. Since power markets fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian provinces, they are at the forefront of the reform effort. Several Canadian provinces have introduced initiatives to encourage the development and implementation of renewable sources of electricity.

Finance – Financial Services: Chapter 14 of the NAFTA deals specifically with the financial services sector, and eliminates discriminatory asset and capital restrictions on U.S. bank subsidiaries in Canada. The NAFTA also exempts U.S. firms and investors from the federal “10/25” rule so that they will be treated the same as Canadian firms. The “10/25” rule prevents any non-NAFTA, nonresident entity from acquiring more than 10 percent of the shares (and all such entities collectively from acquiring more than 25 percent of the shares) of a federally regulated, Canadian-controlled financial institution. The limit for single, non-NAFTA shareholders is 20 percent. Several provinces, however, including Ontario and Quebec, have similar “10/25” rules for provincially chartered trust and insurance companies that were not waived under the NAFTA.

The requirement that bank ownership be “widely held” with no more than 25 percent of its shares owned by a single shareholder is said to prevent ownership concentration without discriminating against foreign investors; however, Canadian influence is still exerted through certain requirements of the Bank Act:

  • the head office of a bank must be located in Canada;
  • shareholders’ meetings are required to be held in Canada;
  • two-thirds of the directors must be resident Canadians;
  • the chief executive officer of the bank must ordinarily be resident in Canada;
  • important corporate and transactional documents must be kept in Canada;
  • certain administrative changes require ministerial approval.

Information & Communication – Telecommunications: Under provisions of Canada’s Telecommunications Act, foreign ownership of transmission facilities is limited to 20 percent direct ownership and 33 percent through a holding company, for an effective limit of 46.7 percent total foreign ownership. Canada also requires that at least 80 percent of the members of the board of directors of facilities-based telecommunications service suppliers be Canadian citizens.

Canada amended the Telecommunications Act in June 2012 to rescind foreign ownership restrictions on carriers with less than 10 percent share of the total Canadian telecommunications market. Foreign-owned carriers are permitted to continue operating if their market share grows beyond 10 percent provided the increase does not result from the acquisition of or merger with another Canadian carrier. The policy change was part of the Canadian government’s strategy to facilitate more competition in the telecom sector.

Canada defines cultural industries to include: the publication, distribution or sale of books, magazines, periodicals or newspapers, other than the sole activity of printing or typesetting; the production, distribution, sale or exhibition of film or video recording, or audio or video music recordings; the publication, distribution or sale of music in print or machine-readable form; and any radio, television and cable television broadcasting undertakings and any satellite programming and broadcast network services.

The Broadcasting Act sets out the policy objectives of enriching and strengthening the cultural, political, social, and economic fabric of Canada. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) administers broadcasting policy. When a Canadian broadcast service is licensed in a format competitive with that of an authorized non-Canadian service, the commission can drop the non-Canadian service if a new Canadian applicant requests it to do so. Licenses will not be granted or renewed to firms that do not have at least 80 percent Canadian control, represented both by shareholding and by representation on the firms’ board of directors.

Canada allows up to 100 percent foreign equity in an enterprise to publish, distribute and sell periodicals, but all foreign investments in this industry are subject to review by the Minister for Canadian Heritage, and investments may not occur through acquisition of a Canadian-owned enterprise. No more than 18 percent of the total advertising space in foreign periodicals exported to Canada may be aimed primarily at the Canadian market. Canadian advertisers may place advertisements in foreign-owned periodicals, and may claim a tax deduction for the advertising costs, including in cases where the periodical is a Canadian issue of a foreign-owned periodical.

This regime is the result of a 1999 U.S.-Canada agreement, which balanced U.S. publishers’ desire for access to the Canadian market against Canada’s desire to ensure that Canadian advertising expenditures support the production of Canadian editorial content.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Canada has not conducted an Investment Policy Review through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), WTO, or UNCTAD in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) works with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to encourage foreign companies to invest in Canada and to promote an open, rules-based global investment regime. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has a comprehensive website “Invest in Canada” with the needed information for starting and registering a business in Canada. It can be found at the following website: http://www.international.gc.ca/investors-investisseurs/index.aspx?lang=eng . While the website is available in several languages, navigation can be difficult. In addition to Federal registration, businesses may also be required to register with the provincial, territorial, and municipal revenue agencies (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/bn-ne/bro-ide/menu-eng.html ). Canada ranks 18th on the 2017 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Scale. For more general information on the Canadian business climate, see:

In its 2018 budget, the Canadian government launched a Canadian Women Entrepreneurship Strategy to break down the barriers to growth-oriented entrepreneurship that will include new funding from the regional development agencies targeted to women entrepreneurs, mentorship, and skills training, as well as targets for federal procurement from women-led business. The Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business promotes subcontracting to Aboriginal firms and encourages Aboriginal firms to form joint ventures with other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal businesses (http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032802/1100100032803). Departments must set aside procurement contracts for competition among Aboriginal businesses when an Aboriginal population is the end user of the good or service being procured and the value exceeds USD 3,884 (C5,000).

Outward Investment

Canada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. Canadian companies are encouraged to invest abroad through Export Development Canada (EDC), which created the Canadian Direct Investment Abroad (CDIA) program. CDIA offers Canadian businesses a range of solutions to obtain financing and research international markets in support of long-term business objectives.

The NAFTA guides investment relations between Canada and the U.S. Investment relations with other states are governed by Foreign Investment Protection Agreements (FIPAs). These bilateral treaties promote and protect foreign investment through a system of legally binding rights and obligations based on the same principles found in the NAFTA. Canada has 37 FIPAs in force with countries in Central Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Canada is actively pursuing FIPAs with nine countries including India, Pakistan, and Kosovo. Canada views China as an increasingly important trade and investment partner and ratified a FIPA with China in September 2014. In February 2016, Canada and the EU completed the legal review of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). CETA was signed in October 2016 and came into force provisionally in September 2017. Canada is a partner to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which it signed in March 2018.

Canada has tax conventions or agreements with many countries, including the U.S.

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The transparency of Canada’s regulatory system is similar to that of the U.S. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms. Proposed legislation is subject to parliamentary debate and public hearings, and regulations are issued in draft form for public comment prior to implementation. While federal and/or provincial licenses or permits may be needed to engage in economic activities, regulation of these activities is generally for statistical or tax compliance reasons. The Bureau of Competition Policy and the Competition Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body, enforce Canada’s antitrust legislation.

Canada and the U.S. announced the creation of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) on February 4, 2011. This regulatory cooperation does not encompass all regulatory activities within all agencies. Rather, the RCC is focused on areas where benefits can be realized by regulated parties, consumers, and/or regulators without sacrificing outcomes such as protecting public health, safety and the environment. The initial RCC Joint Action Plan set out 29 initiatives where Canada and the U.S. sought greater regulatory alignment.

The World Bank published in-depth information on regulatory transparency for 185 economies. For information on Canada, see http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/data/explorecountries/canada#cer_transparency .

International Regulatory Considerations

Canada is not part of a regional economic block and does not incorporate regional standards into its economic system. Canada and the U.S. work together through the RCC to develop like standards and streamline product certification on both sides of the border. Canada, with the U.S. and Mexico, is a member of the NAFTA.

Canada is a member of the WTO and notifies draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Canada is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in December 2016.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Canada’s legal system is based on English common law, except for Quebec, which follows civil law. Canada has both a federal parliament which makes laws for all of Canada and a legislature in each of the provinces and territories that deals with laws in their areas. When Parliament or a provincial or territorial legislature passes a statute, it takes the place of common law or precedents dealing with the same subject. The judicial branch of government is independent of the executive branch and the current judicial process is considered procedurally competent, fair, and reliable. The provinces administer justice in their jurisdictions. This includes organizing and maintaining the civil and criminal provincial courts and civil procedures in those courts.

Canada has both written commercial law and contractual law, and specialized commercial and civil courts. Canada’s Commercial Law Directorate provides advisory and litigation services to federal departments and agencies whose mandate includes a commercial component and has legal counsel in Montréal and Ottawa.

Parliament and provincial and territorial legislatures give government organizations the authority to make specific regulations. As of June 1, 2009, all consolidated Acts and regulations on the Justice Laws Website (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/ ) are “official,” meaning they can be used for evidentiary purposes.

Laws and Regulations on FDI

Foreign investment policy in Canada has been guided by the Investment Canada Act (ICA) since 1985. The ICA liberalized policy on foreign investment by recognizing that investment is central to economic growth and key to technological advancement. The ICA provides for review of large acquisitions by non-Canadians and imposes a requirement that these investments be of “net benefit” to Canada, and conducts a national security review of every acquisition. For the vast majority of small acquisitions and the establishment of new businesses, foreign investors need only to notify the Canadian government of their investments.

U.S. FDI in Canada is subject to provisions of the ICA, the WTO, and the NAFTA. Chapter 11 of the NAFTA ensures that regulation of U.S. investors in Canada and Canadian investors in the U.S. results in treatment no different than that extended to domestic investors within each country, i.e., “national treatment.” Both governments are free to regulate the ongoing operation of business enterprises in their respective jurisdictions provided that the governments accord national treatment to both U.S. and Canadian investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Bureau of Competition Policy and the Competition Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body, enforce Canada’s antitrust legislation.

Expropriation and Compensation

Canadian federal and provincial laws recognize both the right of the government to expropriate private property for a public purpose, and the obligation to pay compensation. The federal government has not nationalized any foreign firm since the nationalization of Axis property during World War II. Both the federal and provincial governments have assumed control of private firms, usually financially distressed, after reaching agreement with the former owners.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Canada ratified the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention on December 1, 2013 and is a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention, ratified on May 12, 1986. Canada signed the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (known as the Mauritius Convention on Transparency) in March 2015.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Canada accepts binding arbitration of investment disputes to which it is a party only when it has specifically agreed to do so through a bilateral or multilateral agreement, such as a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement. The provisions of Chapter 11 of the NAFTA guide the resolution of investment disputes between NAFTA persons and NAFTA member governments. The NAFTA encourages parties to settle disputes through consultation or negotiation. It also establishes special arbitration procedures for investment disputes separate from the NAFTA’s general dispute settlement provisions. Under the NAFTA, a narrow range of disputes dealing with government monopolies and expropriation between an investor from a NAFTA country and a NAFTA government may be settled, at the investor’s option, by binding international arbitration. An investor who seeks binding arbitration in a dispute with a NAFTA party gives up his right to seek redress through the court system of the NAFTA party, except for proceedings seeking nonmonetary damages. As stated previously, the NAFTA is currently being renegotiated. Canada does not have a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

A list of current NAFTA Chapter 11 Arbitrations is below:

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Provinces primarily regulate arbitration within Canada. With the exception of Quebec, each province has legislation adopting the UNCITRAL Model Law. The Quebec Civil Code and Code of Civil Procedure are consistent with the UNCITRAL Model Law. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that arbitration agreements must be broadly interpreted and enforced. Canadian courts respect arbitral proceedings and have been willing to lend their enforcement powers to facilitate the effective conduct of arbitration proceedings, requiring witnesses to attend and give evidence and produce documents and other evidence to the arbitral tribunal.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Bankruptcy in Canada is governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) and is not criminalized. Creditors must deliver claims to the trustee and the trustee must examine every proof of claim. The trustee may disallow, in whole or in part, any claim of right to a priority under the BIA or security. Generally, the test of proving the claim before the trustee in bankruptcy is very low and a claim is proved unless it is too “remote and speculative.” Provision is also made for dealing with cross-border insolvencies and the recognition of foreign proceedings. Canada is ranked number 11 for ease of “resolving insolvency” by the World Bank. Credit bureaus in Canada include Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.

Investment Incentives

Federal and provincial governments in Canada offer a wide array of investment incentives that municipalities are generally prohibited from offering. None of the federal incentives is specifically aimed at promoting or discouraging foreign investment in Canada. The incentives are designed to advance broader policy goals, such as boosting research and development or promoting regional economies. The funds are available to any qualified Canadian or foreign investor who agrees to use the monies for the stated purpose. For example, Export Development Canada can support inbound investment under certain specific conditions (e.g., investment must be export-focused; export contracts must be in hand or companies have a track record; there is a world or regional product mandate for the product to be produced).

Several provinces offer an array of incentive programs and services aimed at attracting foreign investment that lower corporate taxes and incentivize research and development. The Province of Quebec officially re-launched its “Plan Nord” (Northern Plan) in April 2015, a 20-year sustainable development investment initiative that is intended to harness the economic, mineral, energy, and tourism potential of Quebec’s northern territory. Quebec’s government created the “Société du Plan Nord” (Northern Plan Company) to attract investors and work with local communities to implement the plan. Thus far, Plan Nord has helped finance mining projects in northern Quebec and began building the necessary infrastructure to link remote mines with ports. The provincial government is actively seeking other foreign investors who desire to take advantage of these opportunities.

Provincial incentives tend to be more investor-specific and are conditioned on applying the funds to an investment in the granting province. For example, Ontario’s Jobs and Prosperity Fund provides USD 2.5 billion from 2013 to 2023 to enhance productivity, bolster innovation, and grow Ontario’s exports. To qualify, companies must have substantive operations (generally three years) and at least C10 million in eligible project costs. Alberta offers companies a 10 percent refundable provincial tax credit worth up to C400,000 annually for scientific research and experimental development encouraging research and development in Alberta as well as Alberta Innovation Vouchers worth C15,000 to C50,000 to help small early-stage technology and knowledge-driven businesses in Alberta get their ideas and products to market faster. Newfoundland and Labrador provide vouchers worth 75 percent of eligible project costs up to C15,000 for R&D, performance testing, field trials, and other projects.

Provincial incentives may also be restricted to firms established in the province or that agree to establish a facility in the province. Government officials at both the federal and provincial levels expect investors who receive investment incentives to use them for the agreed purpose, but no enforcement mechanism exists.

Incentives for investment in cultural industries, at both the federal and provincial level, are generally available only to Canadian-controlled firms. Incentives may take the form of grants, loans, loan guarantees, venture capital, or tax credits. Provincial incentive programs for film production in Canada are available to foreign filmmakers.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Under the NAFTA, Canada operates as a free trade zone for products made in the U.S. Most U.S. made goods enter Canada duty free.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Data localization is an evolving area in Canada. Privacy rules in two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, mandate that personal information in the custody of a public body must be stored and accessed only in Canada unless one of a few limited exceptions applies. These laws prevent public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using non-Canadian hosting services.

The Canada Revenue Agency stipulates that tax records must be kept at a filer’s place of business or residence in Canada. Current regulations were written over 30 years ago and do not take into account current technical realities concerning data storage.

Real Property

Foreign investors have full and fair access to Canada’s legal system, with private property rights limited only by the rights of governments to establish monopolies and to expropriate for public purposes. Investors from NAFTA countries have mechanisms available to them for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 33 in 2017 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Registering Property” rankings. About 89 percent of Canada’s land area is Crown Land owned by federal (41 percent) or provincial (48 percent) governments; the remaining 11 percent is privately owned. British Columbia began a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of residential real estate in the Metro Vancouver area in August 2016 (http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/crown-land/  & https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/property-transfer-tax/additional-property-transfer-tax ). In early 2017, the province announced that foreign buyers with work permits would be exempt from the tax.

A 2014 Supreme Court decision recognized the existence of aboriginal title on land in British Columbia, which has ramifications for aboriginal land claims across Canada. While stopping short of giving aboriginals a veto on projects, the decision gives them increased influence on the economic development of any land with a colorable (potentially valid) aboriginal title claim.

In terms of non-resident access to land, including farmland, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have no restrictions on foreign ownership of land. However, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan maintain measures aimed at prohibiting or limiting land acquisition by foreigners. The acreage limits vary by province, from as low as five acres in Prince Edward Island to as high as 40 acres in Manitoba. In certain cases, provincial authorities may grant exemptions from these limits, for instance for investment projects. In British Columbia, Crown land cannot be acquired by foreigners, while there are no restrictions on acquisition of other land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Canada remains the only G7 country identified in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report and it was downgraded to the Priority Watch List in 2018, reflecting its failure to resolve key longstanding deficiencies in protection and enforcement of IP that continue to constitute barriers to U.S. exports and investment. Significant concerns include poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding geographical indications (GIs).

Canada continues to exclude shipments of goods in-transit to the U.S. from counterfeit inspection, which permits large-scale shipments of counterfeit and pirated goods to enter our highly integrated supply chains. There were no known criminal prosecutions for counterfeiting in Canada in 2017, which makes Canada a striking outlier among OECD countries.

On patents, a welcome development by Canada’s Supreme Court issued a unanimous, landmark ruling on June 30, 2017, which struck down the controversial “Promise Doctrine.” That doctrine held that if a patent promised more than it could provide, it could be invalidated for lack of utility. Canadian courts had used the Promise Doctrine to invalidate at least 27 pharmaceutical patents in the past. AstraZeneca’s case focused on its patent for Nexium which a Federal Court invalidated by applying the Promise Doctrine. AstraZeneca appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which overturned the lower courts’ rulings in favor of AstraZeneca. In its decision, the Supreme Court noted the Promise Doctrine is not the correct method of determining whether the utility requirements outlined in Canada’s Patent Act are fulfilled.

On pharmaceuticals, Canada has drawn concern from stakeholders by proposing changes that would dramatically reshape how the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board evaluates patented pharmaceuticals and sets their ceiling prices. If implemented, the changes would significantly undermine the marketplace for innovative pharmaceutical products, delay or prevent the introduction of new medicines in Canada, and reduce investments in Canada’s life sciences sector. Further, the U.S. has serious concerns about the fairness of Canada’s Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) proceedings as amended in September 2017. Canada’s long-anticipated proposal to provide for patent term restoration for delays in obtaining marketing approval appears to be disappointingly limited in duration, eligibility, and scope of protection. The U.S. also has serious concerns about the breadth of the Minister of Health’s discretion in disclosing confidential business information.

Commercial-scale online piracy is a significant issue in Canada where some notorious copyright-infringing websites are hosted or operated. Stream-ripping, the unauthorized converting of a file from a licensed streaming site into an unauthorized copy, is now a dominant method of music piracy including in Canada, causing substantial economic harm to music creators and undermining legitimate online services. Industry is also concerned with uneven application of new notice and notice regulations requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to notify (and address) sites of trademark or copyright infringements. On the positive side, the Federal Court of Canada in July 2017 ruled in favor of an educational content company, which may help circumscribe the overly broad fair dealing copyright exception for educational purposes.

On GIs, the U.S. has concerns about lack of due process and transparency relating to the GI system in Canada, including commitments Canada made without public notification or opposition procedures to protect certain GIs under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, which came into force provisionally on September 21, 2017. These measures negatively affect market access for U.S. agricultural producers. The U.S. prefers the protection or recognition of GIs, including with respect to existing trademarks, safeguards for the use of common names, and meaningful opposition and cancellation procedures.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Canada’s capital markets are open, accessible, and without onerous regulatory requirements. Foreign investors are able to get credit in the local market. Canada has its own stock market, the Toronto Exchange, and there is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. The World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system as the second “most sound” in the world in 2017. Canadian banking stability is linked to high capitalization rates that are well above the norms set by the Bank for International Settlements. The Canadian government and Bank of Canada do not place restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

The Canadian banking industry is dominated by six major domestic banks, but includes a total of 32 domestic banks, 21 foreign bank subsidiaries, 28 full-service foreign bank branches and four foreign bank lending branches operating in Canada. The six largest banks account for approximately 93 percent of total assets among Canada’s federally regulated deposit-taking institutions. These institutions manage close to USD 4 trillion in assets. The remaining 10 percent of Canadian banks’ assets are held by smaller banks with niche focuses such as mortgage lending or credit cards. Many large international banks have a presence in Canada through a subsidiary, representative office, or branch of the parent bank. Ninety-nine percent of Canadians have an account with a financial institution. The IMF noted in 2014 that Canada’s banking system is well capitalized, profitable, and nonperforming loans are low.

Foreign financial firms interested in investing submit their applications to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) for approval by the Finance Minister. U.S. firms are present in all three sectors, but play secondary roles. U.S. and other foreign banks have long been able to establish banking subsidiaries in Canada, but no U.S. banks have retail banking operations in Canada. Several U.S. financial institutions have established branches in Canada, chiefly targeting commercial lending, investment banking, and niche markets such as credit card issuance.

The Bank of Canada is the nation’s central bank. Its principal role is “to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada,” as defined in the Bank of Canada Act. The Bank’s four main areas of responsibility are monetary policy, promoting a safe, sound, and efficient financial system, issuing and distributing currency, and being the fiscal agent for Canada.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Canada has a free floating exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

The Canadian dollar is fully convertible and the central bank does not place time restrictions on remittances. Canada provides some incentives for Canadian investment in developing countries through programs offered by Global Affairs Canada.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Canada does not have a sovereign wealth fund, but the province of Alberta has the Heritage Savings Trust Fund established to manage the province’s share of petroleum royalties. The fund’s value was US9.3 billion (C12.6 billion) on December 31, 2017. It is invested in a globally diversified portfolio of public and private equity, fixed income, and real assets. The fund follows the voluntary code of good practices known as the “Santiago Principles” and participates in the IMF-hosted International Working Group of SWFs. 45 percent of the Heritage Fund is currently held in equity investments, 14 percent of which are Canadian equities. The fund is currently heavily invested in the U.S. dollar (16 percent of total currency) with more than USD 2.9 billion in reserves.

Canada has more than 40 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) at the federal level, with the majority of assets held by three federal crown corporations: Export Development Canada, Farm Credit Canada, and Business Development Bank of Canada. Canada also has over 100 SOEs at the provincial level that contribute to a variety of sectors including, finance; power, electricity and utilities; and transportation. The Treasury Board Secretariat provides an annual report to Parliament regarding the governance and performance of Canada’s federal crown corporations and other corporate interests.

The Canadian government lists SOEs as “Government Business Enterprises” (GBE). A list is available at http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/Eng/fi-if/rtn-rlv/fr-rf/dti-id/Pages/GBE.aspx  and includes both federal and provincial enterprises.

There are no restrictions on the ability of private enterprises to compete with SOEs. The functions of most Canadian crown corporations have limited appeal to the private sector. The activities of some SOEs such as VIA Rail and Canada Post do overlap with private enterprise. As such, they are subject to the rules of the Competition Act to prevent abuse of dominance and other anti-competitive practices. Foreign investors are also able to challenge SOEs under the NAFTA and WTO.

Privatization Program

Federal and provincial privatizations are considered on a case-by-case basis, and there are no overall limitations with regard to foreign ownership. As an example, the federal Ministry of Transport did not impose any limitations in the 1995 privatization of Canadian National Railway, whose majority shareholders are now U.S. persons.

Canada encourages Canadian companies to observe the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in their operations abroad and provides a National Contact Point for dealing with issues that arise in relation to Canadian companies. Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” is available on the Global Affairs Canada website: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-strat-rse.aspx?lang=eng .

Despite the increased level of official attention paid to Responsible Business Conduct, the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad remain the subject of some critical attention and have prompted calls for the government to move beyond voluntary measures. Canada is a supporter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

International Trade Portfolio Division
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Tel: (1-343) 203-2341
Fax: (1-613) 944-1574
Email: ncp.pcn@international.gc.ca
Web: www.ncp.gc.ca  / www.pcn.gc.ca 

On an international scale, corruption in Canada is low and similar to that found in the U.S.. In general, the type of due diligence that would be required in the U.S. to avoid corrupt practices would be appropriate in Canada. Canada is a party to the UN Convention Against Corruption. Canada is a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, as well as the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits corruption, bribery, influence peddling, extortion, and abuse of office. The 1998 Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act prohibits individuals and businesses from bribing foreign government officials to obtain influence and prohibits destruction or falsification of books and records to conceal corrupt payments. The law has extended jurisdiction that permits Canadian courts to prosecute corruption committed by companies and individuals abroad. Canada’s anti-corruption legislation is vigorously enforced, and companies and officials guilty of violating Canadian law are being effectively investigated, prosecuted, and convicted of corruption-related crimes. In March 2014, Public Works and Government Services Canada (now Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC) revised its Integrity Framework for government procurement to ban companies or their foreign affiliates for 10 years from winning government contracts if they have been convicted of corruption. In August 2015, the Canadian government revised the framework to allow suppliers to apply to have their ineligibility reduced to five years where the causes of conduct are addressed and no longer penalized a supplier for the actions of an affiliate in which it had no involvement. PSPC has a Code of Conduct for Procurement, which counters conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts. Canadian firms operating abroad must declare whether they or an affiliate are under charge or have been convicted under Canada’s anti-corruption laws during the past five years in order to receive help from the Trade Commissioner Service. U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Canada.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Mario Dion
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (for appointed and elected officials, House of Commons)
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
66 Slater Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario

(Mailing address)
Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Parliament of Canada
Centre Block, P.O. Box 16
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Pierre Legault
Office of the Senate Ethics Officer (for appointed Senators)
Thomas D’Arcy McGee Building
Parliament of Canada
90 Sparks St., Room 526
Ottawa, ON K1P 5B4

Political violence occurs in Canada to about the same extent as it does in the U.S.

The federal government and provincial/territorial governments share jurisdiction for labor regulation and standards. Federal employees and those employed in the railroad, airline, and banking sector are covered under the federally administered Canada Labor Code. Employees in most other sectors come under provincial labor codes. As the laws vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to another, it is advisable to contact a federal or provincial labor office for specifics, such as minimum wage and benefit requirements.

Canada’s unemployment rate stood at 5.9 percent in January 2018, a decrease from 6.8 percent twelve months earlier (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/180209/dq180209a-eng.htm ). Analysts note that Canada’s labor story varies significantly by province, with resource-dependent provinces affected more adversely than non-resource dependent provinces as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices.

Canada faces a labor shortage in skilled trades’ professions, such as carpenters, engineers, and electricians. Canada launched several initiatives including the Global Skills Visa, announced in November 2016, to address its skilled labor shortage, including through immigration reform, the inclusion of labor mobility provisions in free trade agreements, including the Canada-EU CETA agreement, and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The TFWP is jointly managed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and is divided into two categories: the International Mobility Program (IMP), which primarily includes high skillhigh wage professions, and the TFWP, which refers to primarily low skilled workers. The majority of U.S. temporary workers fall under the more highly skilled IMP stream. The number of temporary foreign workers a business can employ is limited. For more information, see the TFWP website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/employers/temp-foreign-worker-program.asp .

Canadian labor unions are independent from the government. Canada has labor dispute mechanisms in place and unions practice collective bargaining. In Canada less than one in three employees belonged to a union or was covered by a collective agreement in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. In 2015, there were 776 unions in Canada. Eight of those unions – five of which were national and three international – represented 100,000 or more workers each and comprised over 45 percent of all unionized workers in Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/collective-bargaining-data/reports/union-coverage.html ). In June 2017 parliament repealed legislation public service unions had claimed contravened International Labor Organization conventions by limiting the number of persons who could strike.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation does not operate in Canada.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2016 1,464,162 2016 1,500,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 284,315 2016 363,914 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_
Host Country’s FDI in the U.S. ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 343,997 2016 454,641 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 23% 2016 24% N/A

*Host Country Source, Office of the Chief Economist, 2016 FDI Stats, Global Affairs Canada.
Note: Data converted to U.S. dollars using yearly average currency conversions from IRS
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 614,604 100% Total Outward 781,352 100%
U.S. 292,002 48% U.S. 353,298 45%
Netherlands 69,608 11% U.K. 72,934 9%
Luxembourg 43,480 7% Barbados 50,835 6%
Switzerland 41,110 6% Luxembourg 44,517 5%
U.K. 31,128 5% Cayman Islands 35,671 4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 1,437,261 100% All Countries 1,140,584 100% All Countries 296,676 100%
U.S. 886,831 62% U.S. 681,394 60% U.S. 205,437 69%
U.K. 82,202 6% U.K. 67,976 6% U.K. 14,226 5%
Japan 65,672 5% Japan 57,038 5% Japan 8,634 3%
France 38,427 3% France 31,574 3% Germany 8,484 3%
Germany 38,290 3% Germany 29,806 2% Australia 7,655 3%

Katherine Musgrove
Economic Officer
490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa Ontario
Email: musgroveka@state.gov

2018 Investment Climate Statements: Canada
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