Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Needs a Visa When You Have Video Conferencing.

It appears that the Canadian government is even more protectionist about allowing foreigners in professional capacities to enter the country than the post 9/11 American model.

We are working on a joint venture project with an Indian company and looking at Indian bank financing through their Canadian subsidiary. We had a meeting set up in Toronto to discuss the project and we wanted our Indian strategic partner to attend the meeting with us. He is a PhD in Finance educated at the University of California.

When he applied at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi for a business visa he was denied and said he needed a "work permit" to be able to work with us in Canada on this project. How absurd. This kind of interpretation of consulting services by the Canadian government makes no sense and undermines efforts to provide equal trade in services between India and Canada. India has no such silliness in its business vise polities.

It seems to be motivated more by the Harper government trying to indirectly control international trade in services under the guise of visa restrictions. Accessing high calibre talent with the right relationships, from anywhere on the plant, is a necessity for Canada to become competitive and productive again.

As a matter of interest the hyper-anxious Americans, particularly about immigration matters have issued our strategic partner a 5 year unlimited access visa. So when he comes now I guess we will meet in New York instead of Canada. We will end up spending the money for such meetings in the States instead of Canada. Canadian short sightedness has its economic costs too.

So we solved the Visa problem by merely using communications technology. We set up the meeting using a commercial video conferencing service out of Mumbai right into the bank's boardroom in Toronto. We avoided the silliness of the Canadian visa restrictions, had the advantage of the strategic partnership and had a successful meeting anyway. At Cambridge Strategies we use video conferencing a great deal and find it a very effective tool that saves time, money and increase productivity, reach and effectiveness.

Just as capital is fluid and global these days - so is high quality talent global in context and reach. The arcane belief by our Canadian government that visa restrictions can somehow control access to national markets and stop this new world of global connectivity from happening is laughable.

Even the recent blanket visa restrictions by the Harper Cons with Mexico, our NAFTA trading partner makes no sense. It is apparently motivated by some ill-founded angst about allegations of 900 Mexican refugee applications in Canada. Deal with the real problem of processing refugee applications and stop creating bigger problems with blanket visa restrictions with Mexico. This is another galling example of misguided public policy being pursued by our-of-touch and out-of-date Harper Conservative government.

Canada, and especially Alberta, should be aggressively reaching out to India for more mutually beneficial economic, environmental, political and societal relations. We at Cambridge Strategies have written on this opportunity before. After all, we are both members of the British Commonwealth, share language, legal systems, the rule of law and democratic institutional frameworks. Instead we restrict visas to control relationships instead of opening up and embracing opportunities. Again the Americans are eating our lunch in promoting these crucial new relations with the large and emerging economies, especially India.

So once again we see our federal public policy approach as trying to perfect yesterday instead of designing and adapting to the new realities to prepare us for the future. Canadians have to get past our pride a "hewers of wood and drawers of water" if we are ever going to compete in the new world order.