Evidence of meeting #7 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was companies.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Michel Laurin  Vice-President, Global Business Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
Chris Clarke  President, Mobile Detect Inc.
Bruce Linton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Clearford Industries Inc.
Edmond Chiasson  Vice-President, Public Affairs, Plasco Energy Group Inc.
Hemant M. Shah  Director, Western Asia, Megamatic Drilling Division, Cubex Limited

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

I would like to call the meeting to order.

I want to mention a couple of changes, if I have the permission of the committee.

First of all, because of the votes, our time is really tight.

There are a couple of changes. Mr. Ravignat has a motion for committee business. He's graciously said he can handle that on Tuesday. Mr. Easter has a couple of motions. He's not here. So we'll do committee business on Tuesday, if that's okay with the committee.

To be able to speed this up and give opportunity for our witnesses, as well as proper questions and answers, I've asked all the witnesses to present first, and then we'll open it up to questions and answers. That way we can get as strong a dialogue as we possibly can, if that's okay with you.

11:35 a.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Just quickly, Mr. Chair, if you want to shorten the question and answer period, instead of seven-minute rounds, if we moved right to five minutes, more members would get a chance to speak.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Do you want to do the five-minutes rounds and have everybody have a chance...?

11:35 a.m.

An hon. member

That's fine.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Okay, we'll do that. That's fine.

Okay, very good. We'll proceed, then.

We want to thank our witnesses for coming. We have, first of all, Mr. Laurin—thank you for coming again—from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters; Mr. Clarke, from Mobile Detect Inc; Mr. Linton, from Clearford Industries Inc.; Mr. Chiasson, from Plasco Energy Group Inc.; and then Mr. Shah, from Cubex Limited.

So thank you for coming. We'll start with your interventions. We'd ask you to keep them as tight as possible and we'll get through them and get on to questions and answers very quickly.

Mr. Laurin, the floor is yours.

11:35 a.m.

Jean-Michel Laurin Vice-President, Global Business Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Bonjour à tous.

It's a pleasure to be back before the committee today on behalf of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters to take part in your consultations on the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.

This year marks CME's 140th anniversary. Our association's inception dates back to December 1871 in Toronto, when a handful of manufacturers in a gaslit room decided to found the Canadian Manufacturers' Association. Only a few years later, in the 1890s, CMA, as we were known at the time, founded the forerunner of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. You could say our interest in having commercial representation in countries where our members do business goes back a very long time.

While the role of the trade commissioner service has evolved over the years to keep up with changing business needs, it continues to play a very critical role in ensuring the success of Canadian companies in markets around the globe—and we'll hear from some examples today.

In my opening remarks, I'd like to say a few words about why we think the trade commissioner service is more relevant today than it has ever been, what its role needs to be today and in the future, and what it can do to continue to improve the services it provides to Canadian manufacturers and exporters.

First of all, I want to put on the record that we believe that the trade commissioner service is more important than ever before to the success of Canadian businesses and of the Canadian economy. The changing nature of manufacturing and international business makes it critical for Canadian companies to be globally competitive and able to connect with global supply chains. As manufacturers increasingly invest in innovation and become more agile, specialized, and able to serve niche markets, the more they need to find customers, suppliers, and business partners everywhere around the world.

Moreover, given the current economic slowdown affecting the North American and European economies, given the increased risk of doing business in the United States, and given the need to find new customers and partners around the world, the business case for having a vast global network of trade commissioners in some 270 locations in over 180 countries is stronger today than it has ever been, in our opinion.

As to what we think the role of the service needs to be today and in the future, in general terms, I think we should view it as a partner working with companies toward the objectives of growing sales in existing and new markets, facilitating Canadian foreign direct investments abroad, attracting and retaining foreign investments here in Canada, and helping Canadian businesses cooperate with other companies in foreign markets in areas such as technology, innovation, or venture capital.

The types of services that we need trade commissioners to continue to provide on the ground include a number of things. I won't go into too much detail, but these include things around providing market intelligence, connecting businesses with the right people in target markets, advocating on behalf of Canadian companies when we need the government to address a market access issue or when we need the government to support a Canadian company directly in a foreign market. Finally, we also use the trade commissioner service regularly as a first point of contact for connecting companies with the federal and provincial services available to exporters. In other words, you'll call up a trade commissioner because you have a relationship with them, but they'll sometimes connect you with services provided by other departments and sometimes other governments.

Many of these services are provided on a transactional basis, but I think as Canadian companies become more established in markets around the world, we see a growing need for more sophisticated, relationship-based services. That's especially true in markets like the United States, where it's important for Canadian companies to diversify their sales into new markets. But we also need to maintain our position in markets like the United States where we already have a strong foothold and face stronger competition. I won't go into too much detail, as we can talk about this a little bit later, but some of these relationship-based services include things like advocacy, investment attraction and retention, setting up innovation networks, and helping Canadian firms connect with global value chains.

I want to say a few words about advocacy, especially in the United States. We've been hearing lately about the Buy American issues that Canadian companies are facing. This is just one example of the very valuable service that trade commissioners have been playing throughout the United States over the last several years, not only helping companies to get waivers and working with local governments to ensure that Canadian companies continue to have access to local procurement markets, but also by advocating on behalf of Canada. As you know, all politics is local in the United States. Having trade commissioners and representation in various parts of the United States developing local allies and getting our message out, I think, has been critical, not only for companies affected by Buy American issues but also, for example, for ensuring future development in the oil sands.

I know you want to hear from some of your other guests, but we would first like to make some recommendations on the future of the trade commissioner service. Historically, the service has shown a willingness and an ability continually to improve its performance and meet the changing needs of Canadian businesses, but I think there are a number of recommendations we can make. There's a bit of a need for better coordination with new trade agreements. I think the implementation of a free trade agreement often provides Canadian companies with a comparative advantage in foreign markets. I think we need to leverage the attention that a new FTA brings us to help grow a Canadian presence in these foreign markets where we do have FTAs.

Colombia is a really good example. We've seen a number of Colombian companies look to Canada because we now have an FTA with them, and the United States doesn't. The United States will have one soon, but I think we've got a bit of an advantage there that we need to capitalize on.

I'll end my remarks there. We have some other recommendations and we'll be pleased to provide them to you in writing. I'm pretty sure my time is close to being up so I'll leave the floor to the other guests. We'll be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

11:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Mr. Clarke.

11:45 a.m.

Chris Clarke President, Mobile Detect Inc.

I'd like to start by thanking the chair and the committee for this opportunity to speak.

My name is Chris Clarke. I'm with Mobile Detect Inc. and am the co-founder and president of the company.

Founded in 2004, Mobile Detect is a small Ontario-based company. We're an innovator in counterterrorism technology, specifically radiation detection security systems. Mobile Detect has worked with the Department of National Defence's research and development branch, DRDC, in making investments to develop and deploy novel radiation security systems in airports, with police forces, and in transit systems.

As my colleague spoke very broadly about the value of the trade commissioner service, I'm going to talk very specifically about my experience with it, so I think it will be a very different perspective.

Jan Vogtle at the trade commission was one of Mobile Detect's first contacts and used her network of contacts as a springboard to introduce and assist Mobile Detect through her colleagues in the United States and overseas. She, and later her successor, Shezara Ali, in Toronto have continued to provide ongoing assistance.

When Jan was a trade commissioner based in Toronto, she introduced Mobile Detect to Sean Barr, who was then trade commissioner in San Diego. Jan arranged for Sean to visit our radiation detection and security installation at the Ottawa International Airport in March of 2006. The visit was scheduled for an hour but ran for several hours, and this connection has played a critical role in the success of Mobile Detect. I could talk about other connections that have been made and other assistance from other trade commissioners, but I think this one really illustrates the power of the assistance we've received.

My business partner and Mobile Detect CEO, Dr. Robert McFadden, and I demonstrated to Sean our technology in operation at the airport. We explained our business plan and asked for Sean's help. We explained that Mobile Detect had been selected to participate at the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, CWID, sponsored by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in June of 2006. Mobile Detect went on to be very successful at CWID 2006 and was named a top performer, Canada's only top performer at that demonstration.

But we have had our challenges. We were definitely the very smallest company at CWID. We were working beside companies like IBM and some of the huge defence contractors in the U.S.

It's worthwhile to take a few minutes to describe in concrete terms the linkages created by Sean Barr, traceable back to that initial meeting. Sean introduced Mobile Detect to a non-profit organization in San Diego called The Security Network, and arranged for the Mobile Detect CEO to speak at a San Diego security network conference while he was in San Diego for CWID.

At that conference, Sean introduced Robert to senior decision-makers at Cubic Corporation, a billion-dollar corporation based in San Diego. Sean and his successor, Sreemoyi Sanyal in San Diego, and consuls general Alain Dudoit, and later, David Fransen, helped Mobile Detect forge links with Cubic and helped Mobile Detect manage that relationship for years.

This relationship led Mobile Detect and Cubic to make joint proposals to California Homeland Defense and to Canada's CRTI program, organized by DRDC. Mobile Detect and Cubic were awarded funding to place this DRDC investment in L.A. transit systems in 2008. Unfortunately, the funding was later revoked due to California budget issues.

In 2007 a proposal to DRDC's CRTI for radiation and explosives detection system development for transit security in Canada was approved, leading to a contract in September of 2010. This new investment by DRDC is maturing a unique radiological and explosives security system, which will be trialled in Edmonton in March of 2012, to provide ongoing counterterrorism security to Canada and our allies.

With the assistance of the trade commissioner team in San Diego and Consul General David Fransen, an important business deal was reached between Mobile Detect and Cubic in February 2009, a five-year basic ordering agreement and licensing agreement. This agreement grants Cubic exclusive rights to Mobile Detect products in the transit sector around the world in exchange for financial compensation to Mobile Detect. We're really partners now.

Sean also introduced Mobile Detect to ProFinance of San Diego. ProFinance has been Mobile Detect's investment banker since 2007. This relationship with ProFinance has given Mobile Detect key opportunities to commercialize the investments made by DRDC and Mobile Detect.

What if the trade commissioner service had not provided the local San Diego market intelligence, market knowledge, and networking to us? We at Mobile Detect are well aware of what the answer would be. The cost and time to make similar contacts would have been high, if not prohibitive. The senior executives of large corporations would not have been accessible to a small Canadian innovator. Mobile Detect would not have been able to bring DRDC investments in Mobile Detect to the security market of California, the eighth largest economy in the world.

This natural synergy among DFAIT, DRDC, and Mobile Detect has resulted in moving the investments Canada has made in cutting-edge security technologies toward commercialization and availability, enhancing public security around the world

Mobile Detect is, in effect, a shared client of both DRDC and DFAIT, which have an equal interest in the successful commercialization of Mobile Detect's security technologies. I believe that it will be to Canada's economic and trade benefit, as well as to its security benefit, to strengthen and continue the working relationship between the trade commissioner service, DRDC, and innovators, including small companies like Mobile Detect.

Thank you very much.

11:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Linton.

11:50 a.m.

Bruce Linton President and Chief Executive Officer, Clearford Industries Inc.

Thank you for the invitation.

I'm Bruce Linton, the CEO of a company called Clearford Industries.

Clearford, I think, is similar in some ways to many companies in Canada, in that we have a long history going back more than 20 years, yet we're a small company—and we would have remained a small company or even disappeared if we had stayed in Canada. In 2009, we determined that our future would be much brighter if we exported to the part II countries--the developing world--as defined by the World Bank, .

In 2009 we had almost exactly enough capital in the bank to allow us either to spend all of it pursuing international markets or to spend half of it pursuing international markets and then failing there and probably at home. So our board decided that it would all be for the international markets—100%. In the first year, we had to validate our product in that market. We have a method of collecting waste water and converting it into two outcomes: clean water for reuse and biogas that gets carbon credits and makes energy.

We thought that if we could be successful in the first 12 months, we'd be able to raise sufficient capital to continue the business. It's from that perspective that we made contact with the trade commissioners. We had an urgent and focused priority. I should add that the only reason we knew about them is that there was a deputy minister of Foreign Affairs three years ago who took the list of the top 40 under 40 award recipients in Ottawa, sent each of us an invitation to lunch, and said she would like to meet us. A free lunch sounded good, so we all went. Her name was Marie-Lucie Morin. I paraphrased her message, when it was my time to speak, which was, “If you need help, call the government”. She essentially confirmed for us that there were 1,300 people around the world who could work for free for us, if we were smart enough to call them, and that we should. And we did.

It was from that baseline knowledge and that perspective that we made contact. To date we've used twelve offices in eight countries to pursue and establish our initial contracts in Peru and India. We believed that the lineup to buy our offerings, as a second customer in those geographies, would be quite substantial. To get the first contacts was quite difficult. We relied on two things for every prospect and project that we were pursuing. One was the trade commissioners, and the second was political missions, which I would argue the trade commissioners were quite active in organizing. They put together teams. What they did for us was bring to the room the people who could either be our customers or our partners, and it's from that perspective that we moved forward.

If I were to offer one input on something that I think could make it faster for us in other countries, and for any small to medium enterprise following us, it would be that trade commissioners not be organized according to what its clients like us do. We're broadly called clean tech. I think everything's clean tech. I did a presentation in India and asked everybody who's not in the clean tech business to put a hand up, and not one person put a hand up. There were about 400 people in the audience; they were all in clean tech.

What I would ask is that the trade commissioners reorganize based on outcomes, which are purchases by end customers. In our case, our procurement is either with a private sector developer or a municipal corporation responsible for water and infrastructure. On that basis, they would be measured on how many new clients or end buyers are procured for the small to medium enterprises that enter the country. It would either be on the basis of an incremental bonus or a core goal. I think the procurement process in many of the countries is more complicated than about just discovering the need or the potential customer.

I'll leave it at that. I'd be happy to answer detailed questions on our technology, but I suspect that not many will arise on how you collect sewage more efficiently in the developing world.

11:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much. That was interesting.

Mr. Chiasson.

11:55 a.m.

Edmond Chiasson Vice-President, Public Affairs, Plasco Energy Group Inc.


My name is Edmond Chiasson. I'm vice-president of public affairs for a company based here in Ottawa called Plasco Energy Group.

I am an Acadian, but it would be easier for me to make my comments in English, if possible.

Plasco Energy is actually quite an interesting story of the collaboration between government and the private sector, going back some 30 years when the technology was developed largely with the National Research Council, and as recently as a few years ago when we did a partnership with SDTC Canada, which is still very much in business.

It's quite encouraging to hear positive comments about how government can be a positive force for the business community, and that's certainly been our experience at Plasco. From eight people about five years ago, the company today has 120 people here Ottawa and a commercial-scale demonstration project, and we've raised over $300 million in private capital.

Why have we done that? From the very beginning, we've been of the view that the market has to be the world. In fact, the world is flat, and it doesn't matter where we go in terms of potential customers, because people want to know if we are the best at what we do. Being the best at what you do can be very difficult, so you have to be ambitious and look wherever you can to get some help that can be useful to you.

As we've wandered into the global world, we've always started by saying, “How do we get moving?” I have to say that the trade commissioner service has been a good first port of entry for us, in terms of the various points that we've already heard from the previous witnesses: its understanding of the local market, its strategic advice, and its professional people who are quite keen to be helpful in what we do. It's pretty obvious that if we're successful through their efforts, we're going to be more successful in Canada. So it really is a win-win relationship.

More important than anything else from our vantage point--and I think we should be quite proud of this--is the value of the Canada brand. When you're doing business in another jurisdiction and your own government speaks up on your behalf and validates what you do, indicating that you are legitimate, that you are in Canada and have a certain number of employees, and puts the maple leaf on what you do, that carries a lot of weight in the eyes of other jurisdictions. This is truly a wonderful country to come from.

Like Bruce, I think it's fair to say that things can always get better. We can get better at what we do, and local offices can get better at what they do. In a network as large as the trade commissioner service, some offices are going to be stronger than others.

I got an email at five o'clock this morning from our high commission in London and another email about two hours ago from our counsel in New York City. These two jurisdictions are working with us on possible opportunities for Plasco. It's very encouraging to see a proactive attitude; they're not simply waiting for us to hassle, bug, push, and shove to get their attention. They seem to have a very professional attitude that says, “Let's see how we can work together for you, Plasco, and for Canada”.

Thank you.

11:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Shah.

11:55 a.m.

Hemant M. Shah Director, Western Asia, Megamatic Drilling Division, Cubex Limited

Thank you.

Good morning.

My name is Hemant Shah. I'm from Winnipeg, and it's my honour and privilege to be here.

You just stole my heart—I'm talking about the trade commissioner service, TCS. I am the product of TCS. Thirty seven years ago I landed in Winnipeg, going from plus 30 degrees to minus 30.

11:55 a.m.


Oh, oh!

11:55 a.m.

Director, Western Asia, Megamatic Drilling Division, Cubex Limited

Hemant M. Shah

And after three months, I never needed a parka because TCS adopted me into their family.

I'm going to talk about me and my company, Cubex Limited. Today we are a world-renowned manufacturer in Winnipeg of underground and surface mining equipment. There are only three companies in the world: two are in Finland; one in western Canada, in Winnipeg.

We started with 16 employees. Today, we have 150 employees. We are still a family-owned company. We are selling Canada to the world in 29 countries. Wherever the mines are, Cubex equipment is there, and we are there because of the trade commissioner service.

I remember 1977, the old days. I don't know how many people have seen the old days of Industry, Trade and Commerce. There was no DFAIT. It was ITC, then it became DRIE, then it became Foreign Affairs. I've seen that transition. When we walked into that office, they really helped us out, giving gave us a contact and a referral as well. And wherever we wanted to go into a market, they did the due diligence. And that was it. Our first success led to lots of other successes. I can go on. I can write the big book on the TCS, how they helped us and helped the company.

Whenever we needed help, TCS was there. They took us on a trade mission. When we wanted referrals and contacts, they gave us the contacts. Today we are successful in the market, but we work very closely with them.

I recently came back from Saudi Arabia. Nobody knows mining in Saudi Arabia, but because of the trade commissioner service, we did a workshop there. We did the same thing in India. So we work very closely with them.

In the end, I'll just say that TCS deserves big kudos. This great service lets Canadian exporters use that service.

I have only one recommendation for the TCS: focus on small- and medium-size business. Big players have their own channels and their own money; by hook or by crook, they're going to do business. But small or medium size businesses have limited budgets and limited resources. So the trade commissioner service should focus a little more on them. Big businesses have their own channels, they have their own money, and they'll do business.

Thank you.



The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much, Mr. Shah.

It was great to hear from all of you about the success of the trade commissioner service.

We'll start with question and answer.

Go ahead, Mr. Ravignat.



Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses for coming and for your very interesting contributions.

As a member of the official opposition, obviously one of my interests is how well we are doing in the trade commissioner service. Also, given that it's one of the major tools that we have to compete, my concerns are related to how we compare to some of the other countries that we're doing business with.

It is in that spirit I ask my first question, which will be for everyone.

Several of you do business internationally, whether it be in Spain, the United States, or Saudi Arabia. When it comes to those countries, in your opinion, how do the services they offer their own businesses compare to Canada's, if you have any comparison? By those examples, how can we improve our own services?



The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

We'll leave it open to whoever wishes to answer.

Mr. Laurin, go ahead.


Vice-President, Global Business Policy, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Jean-Michel Laurin

I can start. It's a good question to ask how well we doing and how we measure up against the competition.

I don't have any metrics, but I can tell you what I'm hearing anecdotally from a lot of our members. I usually hear good words about the trade commissioner service. We have several members here today—they are not exceptions—who have used the trade commissioner service. The types of comments we hear from them, as I think Bruce said, are that it's probably one of the best-kept secrets. So I think sometimes the challenge is to get more companies to be aware of these services and to be able to use the trade commissioner service effectively.

The other comment I hear, which gets more to your point, is that we need people on the ground in foreign countries, especially now with the threats of cutbacks and things like that. I think there's a bit of a concern that our resources might be fewer and farther between in foreign countries. The comment I often hear from Canadian companies is, “We go to a certain place and we see the Americans having a very strong presence, we see the Chinese having a very strong presence, and we see a lot of European countries having a strong presence,” and that's not necessarily always the case for Canada, despite the fact that we carry a very strong brand. I think that's pretty explicit. So I think the we cannot stress enough the need to have more of these resources in foreign markets.

As to measuring the performance of our services, one of the things you might want to take a look at is the trade delegations that a lot of foreign countries have here in Ottawa, some of which operate a little bit differently than our own trade commissioner service.

Generally speaking, I think the level of satisfaction on the part of Canadian companies is quite high. There are obviously certain things that could be done to help improve the service.

I think it's important that they maintain the level of flexibility they've had historically, and not necessarily have all of their priorities dictated here in Ottawa, but be able to be flexible enough to meet the needs of businesses, depending on the market where you're doing business. I think Bruce's comment was quite clear in that regard, when he said everybody falls within clean tech. So focus on the results and on companies that are well-positioned to gain business in foreign markets.

I guess I'll end my comments here, but generally speaking, I think it's important to have boots on the ground.

But just to add to what Mr. Shah was saying, I think the needs of SMEs are specific. I think they were quite well explained by people here. And, yes, I think large companies might have more resources and sometimes have more people on the ground in these countries, but they still require very strong support from the trade commissioner service. To have an ambassador, to have a senior trade commissioner, there alongside a Canadian company in a lot of these foreign markets makes a difference, because all the other countries are doing it.

What I'm hearing from members is, “Sometimes we need our ambassador to make a phone call or just say a few words in support of our bid, or just be there alongside us when we're trying to get a specific contract or project off the ground, because all the other countries are doing it.”

I think that's why you've heard business communities in recent years sometimes complain about—or actually, not complain, but probably support—the government, Prime Minister Harper, Minister Fast, and other ministers spending more time travelling to these other markets, because that's what other countries are doing. To have them lead missions and business delegations to these foreign countries makes a huge difference in companies' ability to get business in these markets.

12:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

We'll ask Mr. Linton very quickly, as his time has gone, to add a couple of comments.

12:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Clearford Industries Inc.

Bruce Linton

Perhaps I'm not referring to the countries you mentioned, but in Colombia we reached a free trade agreement.

I picture the trade commissioners as being one point on a sprocket, and there they were very sharp and onto it. But what surprised me a bit in Canada's effort to reach a free trade agreement there was that we did not have more of a product launch platform, if you will, to enable multiple departments to prioritize the introduction of Canadian companies to the requirements of that country. Colombia has been a priority, but we haven't experienced a cross-platform organization to try to make us succeed. Now, America is chasing us and we have lost our window.

12:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Public Affairs, Plasco Energy Group Inc.

Edmond Chiasson

I just want to comment. I'm not sure if this is part of your mandate, but at our company I've been surprised that two countries, the U.K. and France, have been very aggressive in meeting with us to go to France and make an investment there.

So to what extent is the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service—because it's part of our trade division—also saying, “We want to get foreign investment into Canada”? It's actually been quite surprising to have red-carpet treatment when we fly to London, because they are determined to get our company to make an investment, to create jobs, to build plants and manufacture there.

I think this should also be part of the trade relationship the service supports.

12:05 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Keddy.

12:05 p.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our witnesses.

Jean-Michel, it's great to have you back again. It was only a couple of days ago that we were talking. And welcome to everyone else.

There has been a good, thorough, and interesting discussion this morning about the success of our trade commissioners and, frankly, also on some of the challenges that we face and you face as business people.

My question is going to come from a slightly different angle, and I'll give you an example. We have a trade commissioner service in place. We have our ambassadors in place. They do great work. I've been in many of their offices around the world and I used them when I was in business before coming to politics. I can't say enough good things about them.

What more can you do, as business people, not just to work with the trade commissioners but also with some of the provincial trade commissioners out there—and even on the municipal or city side?

I'll give you an example. We have a new NDP government in Nova Scotia. The previous government, and the previous five or six Liberal governments, in Nova Scotia had paid freight on a very small item, Christmas trees going to the Washington embassy. That enabled the our Canadian manufacturers association, all of the businesses and growers, to have a night at the Washington embassy. There would be a large tree in the outside atrium. They invited all of the senators and House representatives. They invited all the businesses in. They lit the outside tree. There would be the ambassador or the ambassador's wife or the president of the Christmas tree association of Canada. There would be greenery on the inside. It was a great promotion for the industry, but it was a great promotion for business. You brought the elite of Washington to a Christmas party at the Canadian Embassy, in view of the White House. That cost $1,500 for freight because the trees were donated.

The provincial government cancelled that, I think, much to their demise, but at the same time they saw the value in other missions, for instance, to Vietnam and other places that cost a lot of money. I think there's a lesson here not to be penny-wise and dollar foolish.

What more can be done to take the existing system, the existing template, and work with our provincial partners and municipal partners to actually promote and encourage further trade and further participation from other levels of government?

Mr. Chiasson, I took notes of what you said. I think you talked about the ambassador's product launch.