Skip: Hi everyone, Skip Montreux here with a little bit of a programing note. The show you are about to hear was recorded way back at the end of July. Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties and, well to be honest, some over-indulgent summer fun on my part, Down to Business English took a little bit of a unplanned hiatus in August. Anyway, Dez and I are back together and will be putting out regular episodes, right away.
Now because of our hiatus we have decided to extend our Tell 2 Friends contest til the end of September. Listen to the end of the show for full details and make sure to enter.
So welcome back everybody to Down to Business English.
Dez: This is Dez Morgan in Southhampton on the south coast of England.
Skip: And my name is Skip Montreux, and today for once I am NOT coming to you from Tokyo, Japan
Dez: Not Tokyo?! Where on earth are you Skip?
Skip: Dez, you introduce the show and I will explain everything.
Dez: All right, I’ll do that. Welcome back everyone, you are listening to Down to Business English.
Dez: So, you are not in Tokyo at the moment then. Exactly, where in the world are you Skip? Thailand? The Philippines?
Skip: No, not this time. I’ll give you a hint.
Dez: This should be fun.
Skip: Okay so, what do Celine Dion, The Blackberry, Jim Carrey, IMAX movies, and Basketball all have in common?
Dez: That’s my hint?
Dez: Hmm…oh. Celine Dion, The Blackberry, Jim Carrey, IMAX movies and basketball?
Skip: That’s right.
Dez: Hmm…let’s see. Celine Dion and Jim Carrey are world famous entertainers, and the Blackberry and IMAX movies are great technologies.
Dez: But I haven’t the slightest idea what ties them together, or indeed how basketball is related. And this has something to do with where you are at the moment?
Skip: Yes it certainly does. Celine Dion, The Blackberry, Jim Carrey, IMAX movie technology and basketball are all products of the same country. My native country of Canada.
Dez: Is that right? Wow, I knew that Celine Dion was Canadian but I didn’t know about Jim Carrey, and of course I always assumed basketball was from America.
Skip: Well most people do assume that but the truth of the matter is basketball was invented by James Naismith who was a Canadian. However, he did invent the concept of basketball when he was working at a YMCA in the United States so technically basketball was invented by a Canadian but the game was invented in the United States.
Dez: I see. So, you are presently in Canada then?
Skip: That’s right. I’ve taken a bit of time off work and and have come over to Canada for a nice relaxing 10 day vacation. It’s my first time back in quite a long time and wow have things ever changed.
Dez: Yeah, I can imagine. Whereabouts in Canada are you?
Skip: I’m staying in a beautiful area of British Columbia known as the Boundary region and I’m in a small community called Grand Forks.
Dez: Is that very close to Toronto?
Skip: No Dez, nowhere near. It’s completely on the other side of the country.
Dez: Sorry, I am really not that familiar with Canadian geography.
Skip: No worries. You are probably in the majority on that. In fact I think for many people, the only image they have of Canada is that it is a very big, and very cold country.
Dez: Yes, I would certainly fall into that category.
Skip: Well I’m going to do my best to change that. On today’s program I would like to introduce you to Canada, its economy, and a few Canadian companies that are leaders in their fields around the world.
Dez: Great! I’m really looking forward to this.
Skip: Well let’s do it. Let’s get Down to Business with Canada: everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
Dez: Now that you have me thinking about it, I really don’t know very much about Canada. I probably know more about the United States I guess.
Skip: Well, being situated so close to the U.S. really puts Canada in a shadow. In fact, many Americans jokingly refer to us as the 51st state although I personally don’t like that expression very much.
Dez: Well there is a grain of truth to that isn’t there?
Skip: Not in the least. Canada is very different from the U.S. politically, socially, historically. I think the reason that so many Americans feel Canada is almost another state is because the two countries are so closely intertwined economically.
Dez: Okay, so please yes, please educate me on that.
Skip: Well first of all, Canada is by far the United State’s biggest trading partner.
Dez: Are you sure? It was my understanding that the EU was the largest with China being second.
Skip: No, the EU is made up of a group of 27 countries. The largest individual trading partner is Canada. In 2009 total U.S. trade with Canada amounted to $429.64 billion. That was nearly $70 billion more than China.
Dez: Okay, I stand corrected. My assumption then is that exports from Canada would be primarily resources such as gas and oil.
Skip: That is a very good assumption. In fact 4 out of the top 10 export product categories are related to oil and gas. The other six are a mixture of automotive related manufacturing, telecommunication products, and plastics.
Dez: Canada has an automotive industry? Wow, I’ve never heard of a Canadian car.
Skip: Well we don’t have a Canadian car. However, all three big US car manufacturers have factories in Canada that make parts and assemble complete cars. Most of the cars are sold within Canada, but many of the automotive parts are exported to the U.S.
Dez: Interesting.The U.S car manufacturers are having a really tough time of it at the moment. That must be having an effect on the Canadian factories as well I would think.
Skip: It certainly has. Just this week General Motors has closed a transmission factory in Windsor, Ontario. And Ford has announced that they will be laying off almost 500 workers. It is really looking dismal in that sector.
Dez: How about the financial sector. Is Canada in much the same shape as Europe, Asia, and the U.S.?
Skip: Actually, no. One of the big differences between the U.S. and Canada is the amount of government regulation that exists. In the United States the deregulation movement that took place over the last 20 years did not happen to the same extent in Canada.
Dez: I see and would that be a positive or a negative?
Skip: Well, a little of both but one advantage to more regulation is that Canadian banks have some of the strictest lending policies in the world and because of this, they were not caught up in the sub prime loan crisis and have weathered the global financial meltdown pretty much unscathed.
Dez: Well that sounds good but what’s the tax situation like in Canada? Is it comparable to the U.S or are tax rates more in line with what’s happening here in Europe?
Skip: They are more on par with tax rates you would find in Europe. Speaking very generally, corporate taxes in Canada can range from 13-34% depending on the industry and which province the corporation is doing business in. Personal income tax can reach as high as 46%.
Dez: Yep, that sounds a lot like Europe. What about sales taxes though?
Skip: That too takes a large chunk out of your pocketbook as well. The federal government levies a 5% Goods and Service Tax, known as the G.S.T. On top of that, each province adds its own P.S.T, or Provincial Sales Tax.
Dez: Alright, and what does that run?
Skip: Only one province has 0% P.S.T. and that is Alberta. Now, Alberta is the largest oil producing area of Canada and that generates a lot of revenue for the provincial government so they don’t need to charge a Provincial Sales Tax. In other provinces however, the P.S.T. ranges from as low as 5 % to as high as 10%.
Dez: So a combined total sales tax of 15% in some areas. That is pretty steep. With tax rates so high, it must be difficult for provinces to attract foreign investment or to encourage start up companies.
Skip: True, but there are many examples of entrepreneurship and innovation happening in Canada.
Dez: You mentioned the Blackberry in the introduction. That’s made by RIM isn’t it, Research in Motion.
Skip: Yes. RIM is a Canadian tech company founded back in 1984. They launched the Blackberry in 1999 and have been a leader in smartphone technology. Even with the incredible popularity of Apple’s iPhone, the Blackberry is still the market leader in the smartphone sector.
Dez: And what other Canadian companies are leaders in their fields?
Skip: I’m sure you haven’t heard of many of them, but Forbes magazine has listed 13 Canadian companies in its top 500 worldwide list. Besides RIM, other companies include Husky Energy, which is an oil production company. Rogers Communication, which is Canada’s largest telcom, Bombardier- an aircraft manufacturer, and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Dez: I’ve heard of the Royal Bank and RIM but the other names are not that familiar to me. I will have to take a closer look at their stock performances though.
Skip: Please do. You may find some potentially good investments.
Dez: So overall, even though companies doing business in Canada face a fairly high tax burden, it is a stable environment in which to operate and it is possible to be profitable.
Skip: Yes, I think that is a fair analysis. However, there are benefits that come with those high taxes, the most notable being a government run health care system. In fact, and I’m sure this will surprise you- the first government in history to provide Universal Health Care to its citizens was the government of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in 1946.
Dez: You know, I did not know that. Well Skip, you’re right again. There is more to Canada that meets the eye. And thanks for all that information.
Skip: You are most welcome.
Dez: Why don’t we go back and look at some of the words and phrases used in your report. Let’s get D2V….down to vocabulary.
Dez: I’ll get things started today with the word assume. To assume something means you make a guess based on your impressions or experiences. It’s basically the same as to guess, but when we assume something we have some evidence for that assumption. And I assume you have an example for us Skip.
Skip: I most certainly do. Let us say that there was an ice hockey game and Canada was playing the United Kingdom. I would assume that Canada would win that game as hockey is not really a popular game over there in the U.K. and it is the national sport here in Canada.
Dez: I would also assume that that would be the case.
Skip: My first word is the noun category and it means when we separate things into different types.
Dez: I was recently trying to organise all of my books into different categories. So I put all of the fiction together and then I further sorted the books into Mystery and Travel, and I have to admit it, even a few went into the romance category.
Skip: Ohh, I never knew you were such a romantic Dez.
Dez. Well only quality romance like Wuthering Heights. Not the really bad stuff. Anyway, next up we have an expression and that is a grain of truth which means when you hear something that is mostly untrue but there is a very small part of it that is based on truth.
Skip: You know, I was reading that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were going to break up and although they are still together I bet there was at least a small grain of truth in that story.
Dez: Probably there was. Like some of those conspiracy theories you believe in, there is a grain of truth there.
Skip: No,no. Some of them are totally true. Moving on my next word is the adjective intertwined. And if we break that down the prefix inter means together and twine means to tie together so when two separate facts are tied together in some way, they are intertwined.
Dez: A great example of that would be the strength of the Japanese yen being intertwined with the success of the Japanese exporters. As the yen is very strong at the moment the exporters are doing less well because their products cost more internationally. And next I stand corrected.
Skip: Why, what did you do wrong?
Dez: No, my next phrase is I stand corrected.
Skip: Oh, I see okay.
Dez: And it means when you realize that you have done or said something wrong and now you now accept that fact and you apologise for it .
Skip: We have spoken about this before but the recent problems with the iPhone are a good example. Apple had to stand corrected and admit there was a problem that they needed to repair with their antennae. Which really leads well into my next word and that is the adjective unscathed which means undamaged. I don’t think we can say the reputation of Apple came out unscathed but it could have been a lot worse.
Dez: It sure could. I came very close to having an accident on my bicycle the other morning but luckily I came out unscathed when the driver of a bus saw me at the last minute.
Skip Wow, that was lucky.
Dez: It certainly was and it could have been on par with an accident a friend of mine recently had, and he had to buy a new bike. Oh, that is my next expression by the way; on par with. And it means when two things are more or less equal.
Skip: Hmm…I think it comes from golf when par for a course is the number of shots a good player would expect to get after completing 18 holes. But then my knowledge of golf is on par with my knowledge of soccer. I’m sorry I mean football, meaning that I know very little about either of them.
Dez: Just like my knowledge of American football and basketball. Next I have the verb to levy which means when the government charges a company tax, it levies that percentage of tax from the company.
Skip: So to levy means to charge?
Dez: That’s right. But it is always type of tax levied by the government.
Skip: I see so the Japanese Government levies a 5% consumption tax on all goods.
Dez: Which is very reasonable compared to the 20% levied by the British government.
Skip: I should be thankful then. Although they are talking about raising it in the near future. My next word is entrepreneurship. Although this word is usually used in its noun form entrepreneur. An entreprenuer is used to describe a person who is very good at business and generally owns a very successful company. So entrepreneurship describes the skills needed to be a success.
Dez: Those skills would be vision I guess, and the courage to stand alone when others doubt you. Oh, and a little bit of luck would probably help as well. I hate to mention Apple computers again but Steve Jobs is a very good example of an entrepreneur and as could be seen when he left the company once, without his entrepreneurship the company quickly started to lose money.
Skip: And when he came back they certainly recovered. Do you have a final word for us Dez?
Dez: Yes, here is a phrase that I forgot from earlier. It is to be in a shadow. In the story Skip spoke about how Canada is often seen to be in a shadow cast by its larger neighbour the United States.
Skip: I had a friend at high school whose brother was really good at almost every sport he tried and my friend lived in his shadow all the time although he wasn’t bad at quite a few sports himself.
Dez: That must have been terrible. Anyway that is about all the vocabulary we have time for today.
Skip: Please go back and try listening for those keywords.
Dez: Thanks everybody for listening and don’t forget to download the pdf and go to our website, which I’m sure you know is www.downtobusinessenglish.com
Skip: Also, don’t forget about our Tell 2 Friends contest. If you tell two friends or two colleagues about our podcast, please email us or send us a direct message on Twitter and your name will be entered to win an 8GB iPod Touch. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening everyone.
Dez: Yeah, thanks for listening and we look forward to meeting you again soon. Bye for now.