April 2,1998

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We're cool and elegant in 'the capital of the world,' NYC

by Barbara Black

George Haynal has a big product to advertise. As our consul in New York City, his job is to sell Canada. The Loyola College alumnus spoke recently to members of Concordia's Executive MBA class and interested faculty members.

A seasoned policy expert who has held executive positions at the Board of Trade, the Royal Bank and Foreign Affairs, he talked about the peculiar challenges of making busy New Yorkers stop and look at their big, quiet neighbour to the north.

It's important to realize the extraordinary importance -- and self-importance -- of New York, Haynal said. His consulate staff deliver a steady stream of financial information about Canada to business people and potential investors of the world, because virtually every corporation of significance is represented there.

New York is also a global media centre, where an interview can go a long, long way. He did one recently in a grungy basement studio with a representative of the BBC that went around the world, judging from far-flung friends' responses.

In a pre-eminently image-conscious society like the United States, how do you advertise a country so close it's invisible, a country known for being well-mannered? Haynal knows many more interesting differences between Canadians and Americans than their good manners, and he knows by now how to give them a good spin.

"Do you know what our most successful export to New York is right now?" he asked the class. "Canadian literature. They can't get enough of it." Then there's the success of Garth Drabinsky's mega-musicals, Showboat and Ragtime, which both ran for many months in Toronto before going to the Big Apple. So did the quirky off-Broadway play Two Pianos Four Hands, now doing well there.

The image of Canadians Haynal projects to sophisticated, well-connected New Yorkers is that of a cool, elegant country, big on high culture. He tells them that Canadian men buy more suits, per capita, than those of any other country, a fact which surprised some in the class.

He tells New Yorkers we have a stable, civil society, whose constitution is flexible and open to question, unlike their own, which many Americans find immutable and awkward.

Among the challenges Haynal faces is the absence of a resident Canadian community in New York to support his efforts. However, he said that universities, Concordia among them, are waking up to a rich, hitherto untapped source of recruitment and funding. "Universities are actually in the vanguard" of the Canadian effort to impress New Yorkers, he said approvingly.

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