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Foreign control in the Canadian economy, 2015

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Released: 2017-07-04

The combined value of Canadian and foreign-controlled assets in the Canadian economy increased 6.7% to $11.5 trillion in 2015. Operating revenues fell 1.0% to $3.9 trillion, while operating profits declined 5.8% to $358.6 billion.

Canadian-controlled assets rose 7.8% in 2015, while foreign-controlled assets were up 2.0%. Foreign-controlled revenues fell 4.2% in 2015, while Canadian-controlled revenues remained virtually unchanged (+0.2%). Canadian-controlled operating profits fell slightly (-1.4%), while foreign-controlled operating profits declined 23.6%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Shares of assets, operating revenue and operating profits under foreign control
Shares of assets, operating revenue and operating profits under foreign control

Shares held by foreign-controlled enterprises have varied over the previous decade

Shares of assets and revenues of foreign-controlled enterprises have remained relatively stable over the 10-year period ending in 2015. Asset shares have ranged from a low of 17.2% to a high of 21.6%. Revenue shares have remained between 27.7% and 30.1%. Foreign-controlled profit shares have experienced more variation than either assets or revenue shares during this period, ranging from 16.2% to 27.2%.

Non-financial industries

In the non-financial industries, the share of assets under foreign control was up slightly, from 25.5% in 2014 to 25.9% in 2015. The share of operating revenues under foreign control decreased slightly, from 29.9% to 29.2%. The foreign-controlled share of operating profits also declined, from 23.2% to 18.6%.

Wholesale trade, manufacturing and oil and gas extraction were the non-financial industries with the largest share of foreign control, as measured by assets. The share of assets under foreign control in 2015 was highest for wholesale trade (50.4%), followed by manufacturing (49.6%) and oil and gas (44.3%).

Finance and insurance industries

In the finance and insurance industries, the foreign-controlled shares of assets, revenues and profits all decreased in 2015. The share of assets under foreign control decreased from 12.0% to 10.5%. Foreign-controlled revenue shares decreased from 17.3% to 14.7%, while foreign-controlled profit shares decreased from 12.5% to 11.7%. Non-depository credit intermediation had the highest share of foreign-controlled enterprises within the finance and insurance industries, with a share of assets of 48.2%.

Foreign-controlled enterprises in the finance and insurance industries have been losing asset, revenue, and profit shares for nine consecutive years. No one sub-industry has contributed most to this decline.

Foreign control by country

Enterprises from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Japan accounted for 78.4% of foreign-controlled assets in Canada in 2015. U.S.-controlled enterprises maintained the largest overall share, in terms of total foreign-controlled assets (50.2%), revenues (55.7%) and profits (67.1%).

In Canadian manufacturing, the majority of foreign-controlled assets were held by enterprises from the United States (53.8%), followed by the European Union (30.3%) and all other foreign countries (15.9%).

In the Canadian oil and gas extraction and support activities industry, enterprises from the United States (39.0%) and the European Union (24.3%) accounted for close to two-thirds of assets under foreign control. All other foreign countries (36.7%) contributed the rest.

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

Foreign control in Canada decreased steadily throughout the 1970s and into the mid-1980s. At the same time, the Foreign Investment Review Agency was created in order to keep track of foreign investment.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, foreign control began to rise, as there was a change in the regulatory climate with the creation of Investment Canada, whose mandate was to promote foreign investment in Canada.

In the past 20 years, foreign-controlled operating revenues have remained largely unchanged.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Share of foreign control for non-financial industries in Canada
Share of foreign control for non-financial industries in Canada

  Note to readers

Under the authority of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Statistics Canada administers the Corporations Returns Act, which requires the collection of financial and ownership information on corporations conducting business in Canada. This information is used to evaluate the extent of non-resident control of the Canadian corporate economy.

The Corporations Returns Act requires that an annual report be submitted to Parliament summarizing the extent to which foreign control is prevalent in Canada. The document being released today is the report for reference year 2015.

The financial information on foreign control in the Canadian economy is derived from administrative data received from the Canada Revenue Agency. This information is based on financial statements filed with corporate annual income tax returns. Therefore, the reference period has a lag of two years.

These statistics are compiled from enterprise level data. An enterprise can be a single corporation or a family of corporations under common ownership or control, for which consolidated financial statements are produced.

Three components are used to measure foreign control: assets, operating revenue and operating profits.

Asset-based measures of foreign control provide a longer term perspective. Assets are a stock item, reflecting economic decisions and market conditions that evolve more slowly over time.

Revenue-based measures, on the other hand, represent a flow item and are closely tied to the business cycle. Revenue tends to reflect current business conditions, causing revenue-based measures to be more volatile than asset-based measures.

Profits are a measure of the financial health and well-being of an economy and can be used to assess its performance and sustainability.


The report Corporations Returns Act, 2015 (Catalogue number61-220-X), is now available online.

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