In 2019, Export Development Canada turned 75 years old. For more than three quarters of a century, through economic boom and bust, this corporation has worked hand in hand with Canadian businesses, helping them grow through trade and, in turn, helping to grow the Canadian economy.
Back when it was founded, it’s hard to imagine what kind of impact the Government of Canada expected the then-named Export Credits Insurance Corporation might have. I doubt anybody back in 1944 could have imagined that the company that would one day be renamed EDC would help generate more than a trillion dollars of Canadian exports and foreign investment.
This year alone, EDC helped 16,807 Canadian companies do business in more than 200 markets. It also generated more than $102.6 billion in global business for Canada. With numbers that size, it can be easy to forget that what EDC does – and has been doing for 75 years – is about a lot more than numbers. As the Chair of EDC’s Board, I’ve had the privilege of hearing first-hand accounts from exporters across Canada about the difference EDC has made for them. It’s those stories, more than the numbers, that speak most powerfully to the impact EDC has had on Canada over its history.
Help an exporter find the capital, the insurance, the customers or the confidence they need to find international success, and that makes a real difference for that company and the community around it. Do this for tens of thousands of companies over 75 years, and you can help build an economy. In 2019 alone, EDC is estimated to have supported 510,714 Canadian jobs and contributed $63.7 billion to Canadian GDP(1). That’s a major contribution to Canadian prosperity.
Just as impressive as the scale of EDC’s impact over 75 years has been the variety of forms this impact has taken. Last year, as part of a government-wide response to trade disruption in the canola industry, EDC made $150 million in commercial insurance available to assist Canadian exporters who were hurting. In 2019, EDC also continued with its commitment to support more women-owned and women-led businesses that are exporting or looking to start. Not only did EDC far surpass the $250 million financing commitment outlined in the 2018 federal Budget, it also introduced a new $50 million Women in Trade Investments Program. With this new program, EDC is delivering equity capital through both direct investment in companies and investment in Canadian venture capital funds that demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity.
EDC also entered a new era of sustainability and responsibility in 2019, recognizing that Canadians expect their export credit agency to be held to the highest standards. It released new human rights and climate change policies that bring the organization more in line with international best practices. It also completed work on a new transparency and disclosure policy aimed at helping EDC proactively share more information related to its business activities.
This commitment to transparency also extended to its dealings with the media and the public, where EDC took ownership of decisions that showed gaps in its due diligence and decision-making processes – then redoubled its commitment to do better.
All of this happened in the same year that EDC hired its first woman CEO – Mairead Lavery. I was fortunate to play a role in that selection process and, now, I am honoured to serve alongside Mairead as EDC’s first woman CEO–Chair tandem. With her extensive experience in finance, strategic planning and corporate transformation, Mairead also brings a passion for EDC’s mandate. She is very much the champion that EDC needs to build its visibility in the marketplace.
She also brings with her a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and, in her first year as CEO, made this a point of emphasis for the organization. A workforce that is diverse and inclusive not only reflects the mosaic of Canadian society, but also better positions EDC to serve the unique needs of all Canadian businesses. In 2019, EDC created for the first time a position that is dedicated solely to supporting indigenous exporters, in recognition that more must be done to support this under-resourced business segment. EDC also completed a review of its accessibility to Canada’s indigenous business population and will build those findings into its long-term strategy.
It’s clear that EDC is changing the nature of its impact and with that, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow board members for their invaluable role in guiding the corporation through this important time of change.
For half of our Board, this was their first full year of service, and I can say that our dialogue was greatly enriched by their new ideas and contributions. The combination of these fresh perspectives, along with the knowledge and experience of our veteran members, made for a special dynamic in 2019 that was very effective and, frankly, a pleasure to be a part of. I can’t wait to see what we’ll accomplish in the years ahead.
Finally, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the hard-working employees of EDC. This corporation started 75 years ago with four people, three of whom were veterans of the Second World War. All of them, no doubt, were excited to start the important work of making sure Canada was ready to realize its full potential in the post-war global economy. Today, you are continuing to build on their important legacy, doing work that is no less exciting, important…or challenging. I can point to thousands of exporters across this country who are grateful for how you’ve helped them grow and succeed internationally. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors of Export Development Canada, thank you for making a difference for those companies, and for Canada.
(1) In 2019, EDC is estimated to have supported 510,714 Canadian jobs.