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The View from North of the 49th Parallel

I had the opportunity to participate in the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Fraternal Association last month in Ottawa.  It was my second trip to the CFA Meeting and my first visit to Canada’s national capital.  And if you haven’t been there, it’s worth the trip for many reasons. 

  • First and foremost, the hospitality of the CFA and our Canadian fraternal brethren is second to none.  They are just an awfully nice group of individuals. 

  • Ottawa is a pristinely beautiful place – lakes, rivers, hills (these are important to Chicagoans, where speed bumps present the only change in topography for miles on end).

  • The architecture of the government buildings is spectacular; completely different than Washington, D.C., but equally inspiring.

  • The system of canals and locks that link the river system to Lake Ontario is a feat of engineering equal to that of the Panama Canal.  It’s even more interesting when you learn that one of the primary reasons it was built was to secure the safe evacuation of the city in the event of an American invasion – in the War of 1812.

  • While in the province of Ontario, you are close enough to Quebec that you’ll hear French spoken as often as English.

  • And when you’re not trying to use your high-school French to decipher the conversation at the next table, that wonderfully lilting Canadian-accented English reminds you that you are really in a foreign country despite being just a 90-minute flight away from home.

  • You can buy Cuban cigars there.  And, yes, I smoked all the ones I purchased before coming back to the U.S.

Fraternals operate differently in Canada than they do in the States due to the fact that they are nationally rather than state regulated, their insurance revenues are taxed, and the Canadian health care system is socialized, which affects virtually every business operating north of the border.  Yet despite these significant differences in the public policy issues that affect our industry, Canadian fraternals face the same problems in terms of growth, product mix, and member relevance that we in the U.S. do.

One of the best presenters at the CFA Annual Meeting was Daphne Woolf, a managing partner of the Collin Baer Group and a consultant who has worked with fraternals on both sides of the border.  Daphne’s presentation was a follow-up to her program at the 2008 CFA Meeting and focused on getting participants to identify the major problems their societies are facing and developing a few concrete initiatives that their individual organizations and their national trade group could implement.  Here’s a link to her PowerPoint presentation and a summary of the comments and feedback generated by the workshop’s participants. 

By the way, Daphne will be conducting a workshop at the 2009 NFCA Annual Meeting from September 17-19 in San Antonio, so if you like what you see in this PowerPoint, you’ll want to make a point of participating in her session.

Later this week, I’ll post the PowerPoint presentation delivered at the CFA Meeting by Tony Minopoli, Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of the Knights of Columbus.  Let me tell you, he is one smart cookie (and I’m not just saying that because he’s my paisan).  His presentation on the root causes of the financial crisis and the outlook for our economic future was one of the best and most understandable descriptions of what we’re going through that I’ve heard.  Stay tuned…

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