EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Canada and the United States 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 2018, the United States had a stock of USD 401 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada. U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 46 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled US$511 billion.

The full impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s economy is yet to be seen. Private sector analysts predict Canada’s GDP will shrink between 1 and 6 percent in 2020. IMF’s April 2020 World Economic Outlook forecasts Canada’s annual GDP in 2020 will contract by 6.2 percent. A majority of small- and medium-sized enterprises are responding to steep declines in sales and mandated closures with layoffs, with more than 44 percent indicating on April 14 they might not survive should business restrictions remain in place until the end of May. Despite a rapidly changing business environment, borders and supply chains are functioning well.

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. 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 ICA also has provisions for the review of investments on national security grounds. The Canadian government has blocked investments on only a few occasions.

The Canadian government announced April 18, 2020 enhanced scrutiny of certain foreign investments under the ICA, which will apply until the economy recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While all investments will continue to be examined on their own merits, the Government will scrutinize with particular attention foreign direct investments of any value in Canadian businesses that are related to public health or involved in the supply of critical goods and services to Canadians. The Government will also subject all foreign investments by state-owned investors, or investors with close ties to foreign governments, to enhanced scrutiny under the Investment Canada Act.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico signed a modernized and rebalanced NAFTA agreement – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – November 30, 2018 and a protocol of amendment to the USMCA on December 10, 2019. President Trump signed legislation implementing the USMCA on January 29, 2020. The agreement will come into force after the completion of the domestic ratification processes by each individual member of the agreement, likely in 2020. The agreement updates NAFTA’s provisions with respect to investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement procedures to better reflect U.S. priorities related to foreign investment. All Parties to the agreement have agreed to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.

Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic growth contributing 1.9 percent to GDP, 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. In May 2018, Canada eased its foreign ownership restrictions in the aviation sector, which increased foreign ownership limits of Canadian commercial airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent. 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: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 12 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 23 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 17 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 $401,874 http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $44,940 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Canada and the United States 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 2018, the United States had a stock of US$401 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada. U.S. FDI stock in Canada represents 46 percent of Canada’s total investment. Canada’s FDI stock in the United States totaled US$511 billion.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico signed a modernized and rebalanced NAFTA agreement – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – on November 30, 2018 and a protocol of amendment to the USMCA on December 10, 2019. President Trump signed legislation implementing the USMCA on January 29, 2020. The agreement will come into force after the completion of the domestic ratification processes by each individual member of the agreement, likely in 2020. The agreement updates NAFTA’s provisions with respect to investment protection rules and investor-state dispute settlement procedures to better reflect U.S. priorities related to foreign investment. All Parties to the agreement have agreed to treat investors and investments of the other Parties in accordance with the highest international standards, and consistent with U.S. law and practice, while safeguarding each Party’s sovereignty and promoting domestic investment.

Invest in Canada is Canada’s investment attraction and promotion agency. It provides information and advice on doing business in Canada, strategic market intelligence on specific industries, site visits, as well as introductions to provincial, territorial, and local investment promotion agencies who can help companies access local opportunities, networks, and programs.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

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. 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 ICA also has provisions for the review of investments on national security grounds. The Canadian government has blocked investments on a few occasions.

The Canadian government announced April 18 enhanced scrutiny of certain foreign investments under the ICA, which will apply until the economy recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While all investments will continue to be examined on their own merits, the Government will scrutinize with particular attention foreign direct investments of any value in Canadian businesses that are related to public health or involved in the supply of critical goods and services to Canadians. The Government will also subject all foreign investments by state-owned investors, or investors with close ties to foreign governments, to enhanced scrutiny under the Investment Canada Act.

Although foreign investment is a key component of Canada’s economic growth contributing 1.9 percent to GDP, 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. In May 2018, Canada eased its foreign ownership restrictions in the aviation sector, which increased foreign ownership limits of Canadian commercial airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent. 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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review of Canada in 2019. The report is available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp489_e.htm.

Business Facilitation

Canada ranks third out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business survey on starting a business. The Canadian government has a business registration page available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/start/register-with-gov.html?it=government/registering-your-business/&it=eng/page/2730/. Corporations must incorporate either through the federal or provincial government, apply for a federal business number and corporation income tax account from the Canada Revenue Agency, register as an extra-provincial or extra-territorial corporation in all other Canadian jurisdictions where you plan to do business, and apply for any permits and licenses the business may need. In some cases, registration for these accounts is streamlined (a business can receive its business number, tax accounts, and provincial registrations as part of the incorporation process); however, this is not true for all provinces and territories.

Outward Investment

Canada’s trade diversification strategy promotes trade and investment opportunities, primarily through export promotion and negotiation of free trade agreements, which generally have investment chapters.

2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties

The NAFTA guides investment relations between Canada and the United States. 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 38 FIPAs in force with countries in Central Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Canada is actively pursuing FIPAs with 14 countries including India, Pakistan, and Georgia. Canada views China as an increasingly important trade and investment partner and ratified a FIPA with China in September 2014. The Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed in October 2016 and came into force provisionally in September 2017. It will enter into force fully and definitively when all EU Member States have ratified the agreement. Canada is a partner to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which entered into force in December 2018.

In 2017, federal, provincial, and territorial governments negotiated a Canadian Free Trade Agreement to improve the flow of goods, services, and investments across the country. A Bank of Canada study estimated that interprovincial trade barriers cost the Canadian economy up to US$3.06 billion annually.

Canada has tax conventions or agreements with many countries, including the United States.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The transparency of Canada’s regulatory system is similar to that of the United States. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems, including those related to debt obligations, 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 in the Canada Gazette. 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. Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), parties agreed to make publicly available any written comments they receive, except to the extent necessary to protect confidential information or withhold personal identifying information or inappropriate content.

Canada and the United States 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 focuses 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 United States sought greater regulatory alignment. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Treasury Board of Canada and the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, signed on June 4, 2018, reaffirmed the RCC as a vehicle for regulatory cooperation.

Canada publishes an annual budget and debt management report. According to the Ministry of Finance, the design and implementation of the domestic debt program are guided by the key principles of transparency, regularity, prudence, and liquidity.

International Regulatory Considerations

Canada is not part of a regional economic block and does not incorporate regional standards into its economic system. Through the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) the three countries agreed to a new chapter on Good Regulatory Practices that will promote transparency and accountability when developing and implementing regulations. Canada and the United States also work together through the RCC to reduce differences between their regulatory frameworks, making it easier for bilateral trade. Canada, with the United States and Mexico, is a member of the NAFTA. The Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) also contains a chapter on regulatory cooperation that commits both sides to strengthen regulatory cooperation and facilitate discussions between regulatory authorities in the EU and Canada. The Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership for Trans-Pacific Partnership contains a chapter on regulatory coherence that aims to encourage members of the agreement to adopt widely accepted good regulatory practices, such as reviewing the effectiveness of existing regulatory practices and providing public notice of future regulatory measures.

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 Foreign Direct Investment

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. The ICA also contains provisions that permit the government to conduct a national security review of virtually any investment or 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 United States results in treatment no different than that extended to domestic investors within each country, i.e., “national treatment.” The concept of national treatment is also a feature of the USMCA. 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

Competition Bureau Canada is a law-enforcement agency that administers and enforces Canadian legislation that regulates competition, including the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act. The Competition Tribunal is a specialized tribunal that adjudicates antitrust cases related to competition.

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.

The USMCA, like NAFTA, requires that expropriation can only be used for a public purpose and must be done in a nondiscriminatory manner, with prompt, adequate, and effective compensation, and in accordance with due process of law.

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. Canada does not have a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

Over the history of the NAFTA, more than 25 disputes have been filed against the Government of Canada. For more information about cases filed under NAFTA Chapter 11, please visit https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/disp-diff/gov.aspx?lang=eng

Upon entry into force of the USMCA, Investor State Dispute Settlement procedures that existed under NAFTA for the United States and Canada will be eliminated over a three-year period. Canadian and U.S. investors that believe their host country has violated USMCA will rely on the domestic courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms.

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. 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 was ranked number 13 for ease of “resolving insolvency” by the World Bank in 2020. Credit bureaus in Canada include Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Federal and provincial governments in Canada offer a wide array of investment incentives that municipalities are generally prohibited from offering. 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). The government also announced the US$940 million Strategic Innovation Fund in 2017, which provides repayable or non-repayable contributions to firms of all sizes across Canada’s industrial and technology sectors in an effort to grow and expand those industries. One of the explicit goals of the program is to attract new investments to Canada.

The Liberal government invested US$730 million over five years, beginning in 2018, to support five business-led supercluster projects that have the potential to accelerate economic and investment growth in Canada. The superclusters are now operational, and feature projects in digital technologies, food production, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence in supply chain management, and ocean industries. There are 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions, and 180 other partners involved in the supercluster projects. Several U.S. firms are participants.

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 US$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 US$7.5 million in eligible project costs. Alberta offers companies a 10 percent refundable provincial tax credit worth up to US$300,000 annually for scientific research and experimental development encouraging research and development in Alberta, as well as Alberta Innovation Vouchers worth US$11,000 to US$37,000 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 US$11,000 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 United States. Most U.S. made goods enter Canada duty free.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

As a general rule, foreign firms establishing themselves in Canada are not subject to local employment or forced localization requirements, although Canada has some requirements on local employment for boards of directors. Ordinarily, at least 25 percent of the directors of a corporation must be resident Canadians. If a corporation has fewer than four directors, however, at least one of them must be a resident Canadian. In addition, corporations operating in sectors subject to ownership restrictions (such as airlines and telecommunications) or corporations in certain cultural sectors (such as book retailing, video, or film distribution) must have a majority of resident Canadian directors.

Data localization is an evolving issue 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 United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) will help ensure cross-border data flows between Canada and the United States remain open by prohibiting any member of the agreement from requiring the use or location of computing facilities in a particular jurisdiction as a condition of business.

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.

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 under NAFTA (and USMCA) have mechanisms available for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 18 out of 190 countries in 2020 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. In early 2017, the province announced that foreign buyers with work permits would be exempt from the tax. In 2018, British Columbia increased this tax to 20 percent and expanded its geographical coverage to include several other metro areas, including that of the provincial capital Victoria. In 2018, British Columbia broadened taxation on foreign ownership in Metro Vancouver and enacted a 0.5 percent Speculation and Vacancy Tax, targeting foreign-owned homes left empty. In 2019, the Ministry of Finance increased the tax to 2.0 percent. The tax includes foreign owners and satellite families defined as those who earn a majority of their income outside of Canada. A group of homeowners is challenging the tax in the British Columbia Supreme Court. Canadian citizens and permanent residents pay 0.5 percent per year.

In April 2017, a 15 percent tax was instituted for non-resident buyers of residential property in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of Ontario, which includes most of southern Ontario including, but not limited to, such cities such as Toronto, Mississauga, and Hamilton.

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 took significant steps to improve its intellectual property (IP) provisions by ratifying implementing legislation for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in 2020. It is expected to issue accompanying regulations and Ministerial Statements that further fulfill its commitments under the agreement. Canada’s commitments under the USMCA will address areas where there have been longstanding concerns, including enforcement against counterfeits, inspection of goods in transit, transparency with respect to new geographical indicators, national treatment, copyright term, and patent term extensions for unreasonable patent office delay. Rights holders report that Canadian courts have established meaningful penalties against circumvention devices and services. Canada has also made positive progress in reforming proceedings before the Copyright Board related to tariff-setting procedures for the use of copyrighted works.

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 stakeholders are 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. Canada’s ambiguous education-related exemption added to the 2012 copyright law has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors. While Canadian courts have helped clarify this exception, confusion remains and the educational publishing sector reports lost revenue from licensing.

Canada is on the Watch List in USTR’s Special 301 Report to congress.

6. Financial Sector

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 several securities markets, the largest of which is the Toronto Stock 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 2018. Among other factors, 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 36 domestic banks, 18 foreign bank subsidiaries, 28 full-service foreign bank branches and four foreign bank lending branches operating in Canada. The six largest banks manage close to US$4 trillion in assets. 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.

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. Foreigners may be able to open bank accounts in Canada with proper identification and would need to visit the financial institution in person.

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

The Canadian dollar is a free floating currency with no restrictions on its transfer or conversion.

Remittance Policies

The Canadian dollar is fully convertible and the central bank does not place time restrictions on remittances.

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 net financial assets were US$13.5 billion on December 31, 2019. 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. Forty-eight percent of the Heritage Fund is currently held in equity investments, eight percent of which are Canadian equities.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Canada has more than 30 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 more than 90 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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

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 defines responsible business conduct as Canadian companies doing business abroad responsibly in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner. On April 8, 2019, Canada announced the appointment of Sheri Meyerhoffer as Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. She is mandated to review allegations of human rights abuses arising from the operations of Canadian companies abroad. 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).

9. Corruption

On an international scale, corruption in Canada is low and similar to that found in the United States. In general, the type of due diligence that would be required in the United States 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 penalizes 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

10. Political and Security Environment

Political violence occurs in Canada to about the same extent as it does in the United States.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The federal government and provincial/territorial governments share jurisdiction for labor regulation and standards. Federal employees and those employed in federally-regulated industries, including the railroad, airline, and banking sectors 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.

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. The impact of COVID-19 on the labor force is yet to be fully seen, but analysts have predicted unemployment rates around 10 percent or higher as a result of the pandemic. More than one million Canadians lost their jobs in March 2020 due largely to the outbreak, increasing Canada’s unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 5.6 percent in February. The Canadian government created an emergency response benefit for workers who lost employment due to COVID-19 as well as wage subsidies and other support for employers.

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 Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The International Mobility Program (IMP) primarily includes high skill/high wage professions and is not subject to a labor market impact assessment. 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 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.

In 2019, workers for Montreal-based CN rail walked off the job on November 19 over concerns about long hours, fatigue, and “dangerous working conditions.” The strike lasted for seven days from November 19 through November 26, during which the railroad operated at approximately 10 percent capacity. CN Rail carries about $189 billion worth of goods annually. Economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank predicted Canada’s gross domestic product would have lost as much as $1.65 billion if the strike had lasted four more days, until November 30. In the end, the one-week long strike clipped GDP by about 0.1 percent that month according to the Bank of Montreal. The Canadian government focused on finding a negotiated end to the strike amid calls to legislate the workers back to work.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The DFC does not operate in Canada.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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) 2018 $1,352,603 2018 $1,713,000 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $313,069 2018 $401,874 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $458,746 2018 $511,176 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 $676,064 2018 52.2% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx

* Source for Host Country Data:

  • Host Country Source: Office of the Chief Economist, State of Trade 2019, Global Affairs Canada.
  • Host Country Source: Statistics 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 642,572 100% Total Outward 936,122 100%
United States 297,670 46% United States 436,181 47%
Netherlands 78,224 12% United Kingdom 80,149 9%
Luxembourg 40,927 6% Luxembourg 66,028 7%
United Kingdom 36,913 6% Barbados 47,521 5%
Switzerland 33,830 5% Bermuda 34,460 4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 1,599,773 100% All Countries 1,200,859 100% All Countries 398,914 100%
United States 988,562 62% United States 717,341 60% United States 271,221 68%
United Kingdom 87,458 5% United Kingdom 68,708 6% United Kingdom 18,751 5%
Japan 62,038 4% Japan 55,151 5% Australia 10,087 3%
France 39,837 2% France 32,991 3% Germany 8,066 2%
Cayman Islands 33,899 2% Cayman Islands 29,510 2% Japan 6,887 2%

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section
490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario
613-688-5335
OttawaEconCounselor@state.gov

2020 Investment Climate Statements: Canada
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