Global Business GuideCanada

From Global Connections

This is one of a series of Global Business Guides designed for businesses wishing to expand into another country/territory. This Global Business Guide was produced in January 2016. The materials contained in this document provide a snapshot at that time and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.


According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2015, Canada is in the top 10 prospective host economies for multinational enterprises in 2015 – 17. Canada received foreign direct investment inflows of USD53.9 billion in 2014; investment into Canada is primarily focussed in the manufacturing, mining oil and gas industries.

Canada ranked 14th in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business rankings, down one place from 13th in the year prior. Canada ranked in the top 10 for each of the following categories: Starting a Business (third), Protecting Minority Investors (sixth), Getting Credit (seventh) and Paying Taxes (ninth).

Key facts about starting a business in Canada:

  • It takes two procedures and approximately 1.5 days to start a new business in Canada; this process is detailed in the Doing Business in chapter
  • Minimum wages in Canada vary in accordance to the employment standards legislation in every jurisdiction; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • It takes approximately 15 days and costs CAD14,229 to obtain a building permit
  • Companies operating in Canada spend, on average, 131 hours per year 'Paying Taxes'; the tax regime is outlined in the Tax chapter
  • Public companies must use IFRS for their financial reporting, private companies must use Accounting Standards of Private Enterprises; further details can be found in the Audit chapter
  • Stock and commodity exchanges in Canada include the Toronto Stock Exchange, TSX Venture Exchange and several smaller exchanges designated for specific stock and commodity trading; this is discussed further in the Finance chapter

Canada's attractiveness as an investment location can be attributed to a number of factors, including its highly qualified workforce and business friendly environment. Nevertheless, in order to make an informed decision, it is critical to understand the nuances of any local regime. The manner in which people conduct business in Canada may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist depending on the region and industry in which a company operates.

Canada's official languages are English and French. However, a number of other languages are widely spoken. Business culture and structures may vary depending on the region in Canada.

Business attire is conservative. Punctuality is expected when doing business in Canada. A handshake is the typical business greeting for both French and English Canadians. Business cards will usually be exchanged after the initial introduction.

Those looking to establish a business in Canada may look across North America for alternative options. However, Canada can be differentiated on the following factors:

  • Long-term GDP growth statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) place Canada at the top of the G7 over the last decade
  • Once the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement comes into force, foreign investors in Canada will have assured preferential access to the countries that are a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the EU - a market comprising half of the world’s output of goods and services; trade policy discussed further in the Trade chapter
  • Canada has a highly educated workforce with half of the working age population having a tertiary level education
  • Canada's latest budget pledged CAD60 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next 10 years; an overview of the country's current infrastructure can be found in the Infrastructure chapter

Canada's liberal foreign investment policy and business friendly regulation contribute to its reputation as a good destination for FDI. Nevertheless, businesses operating in Canada may still face challenges due to restrictions on investment in certain sectors. Businesses should also remain aware that Canada has a mix of federal and provincial laws. Furthermore, while in most of Canada the legal systems are based on common law, in Quebec, the legal system is based on civil law; further details on Canadian law can be found in the Legal chapter.

This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of Canada, its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in Canada. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.

Please note that the Global Business Guides may only be available in English.

Useful Links

1 Canada Business Registration
2 Canada Revenue Agency
3 Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
4 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)
5 Canadian Intellectual Property Office
6 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
7 Canadian Trade Commissioner Service
8 Employment and Social Development Canada



1 UNCTAD World Investment Report
2 World Bank Rankings
3 Infrastructure investment


Download Global Business Guide - Canada (1.28MB, PDF)


This document is issued by HSBC Bank Canada (the Bank). This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

Grant Thornton refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL) and its member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by GTIL for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

HSBC retains all responsibility for the translation of the content of this guide. In the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between the English and translated versions of this Guide, the English version shall apply and prevail.

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