By industry standards, the LCT Canada Conference was a bit cozy. That was apparent in the downstairs bar of the Toronto Hilton the night before the event when operators and LCT staff members unofficially welcomed each other — with multiple goodwill beverages.
The “social circle,” seated on rearranged chairs and couches in the faux-colonial decorated lounge, chatted and imbibed late into the night, and helped set the tone for a conference that built some lasting bonds among operators, and with LCT Magazine.
LCT Canada drew 102 registered participants out of an industry estimated at about 1,200 individual operators across Canada. Several Canadian operators served on a show committee that planned sessions geared toward the needs of the nation’s industry. The conference laid the groundwork and generated the buzz that likely will yield even more participation next year, several operators said.
“As an inaugural effort it was a true success,” said Craig McCutcheon, CEO of Toronto-based Rosedale Livery Ltd., one of the largest chauffeured transportation companies in Canada. “Had it been marketed earlier to the American side, you would have had more attendance. The only reason for not having more attendance, I think, was the lack of time to throw it together. The educational series was well above Limo 101.”
McCutcheon said Canadian operators want the event to return. “It also will produce more international arrivals to LCT events in the states. I think it opened the eyes for a lot of people who weren’t exposed to the fact that our industry exists like this.” Some highlights from the July 20-21 inaugural conference:
Operator of the Year The first Operator of the Year award was given to Joe Ironi, CEO of Toronto-based Global Alliance. Ironi was chosen among three finalists that also included McCutcheon and Judy McBride, president of Calgary, Alberta-based TransProtection Services Ltd. Founded in 1988, Global Alliance operates 55 vehicles and has 80 full- and part-time workers. The OOY Award closely tracks the established and prestigious American OOY awards recognized each year at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas.
Executive Coach Builders
As the second largest coachbuilder worldwide, Executive Coach Builders broke new ground at the conference with the presence of CEO David Bakare and an ECB sales team. The company was the only U.S. limousine manufacturer present at the conference.
ECB plans to open a full-service, company-owned dealership in Toronto — the first for Canada — by the end of the year. Bakare and team members featured the company’s latest major model: the Evolution SUV stretch limousine that was parked in front of the hotel. Canadian operators collectively represent a key potential market for ECB and its diverse selection of vehicles.
National Limousine Association
The leading association for the industry worldwide asserted its global credentials during the conference, emphasizing its growing membership among operators outside the U.S. Newly elected NLA President Richard Kane, CEO of International Limousine Service of Washington, D.C., spoke during the awards dinner explaining the NLA’s resources and benefits to operators. So far, only 65 Canadian operators belong to the NLA, indicating a strong potential for more growth.
Kane told operators about the organization’s lobbying efforts to combat excessive regulations and promote favorable legislation. The NLA also serves as a clearinghouse for building connections, providing ongoing industry education and offering discounts on key services and supplies.
McCutcheon, also president of the 130-member Ontario Limousine Owners Association and an NLA board member, underscored those benefits during a session titled “Problem Solving Through Local Associations.”
“The more members we have, the more government will listen,” McCutcheon said. “We can’t have a stronger voice without the numbers.” Operators heard from Judith Andrew, vice president/Ontario for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who explained how Ontario’s onerous regulations, taxes, and workers’ compensation requirements impede healthy business growth. In fact, the heavy-handed governmental control of businesses in Ontario resembles the situation in California and other high-tax, high-cost states and provinces.
In Ontario, corporate income, personal income, and property taxes rank as leading concerns among the 105,000 members of the CFIB. “Ontario is the worst in Canada for the property tax,” Andrew said.
She cited figures showing how between 1997 and 2008, government expenses in Ontario grew 61%, while inflation was only 22.8%, and population growth, 15.9%.
“The vast majority say the provincial regulatory burden is getting worse,” Andrew said. It now costs businesses $13 billion a year to comply with regulatory red tape, she added.
Andrew said strong lobbying was critical to influencing how governments tax, regulate, and spend. Activists, unions, and big business are extremely aggressive in raising funds for lobbying.
“If you are not at the table or in the game,” Andrew said of independent and small businesses, “then you will pay for those who are.”
Panelist Joe Ironi, one of the leading operators in Canada, added, “The list of taxes makes you sick. It’s surprising we can still afford groceries. It makes you want to raise the American flag.”
Canadian Operators Sound Off…
…on why they came, what they liked, and what works best
Paul Richard, president Arrow Limousine & Sedan Services Ltd. Red Deer, Alberta
What have you gained from being here?
It’s about time something like this has come to Canada. The industry has been craving this and will continue to support it. I got the latest update on vehicle options — what’s out there. I did see Executive Coach Builder’s Diplomat, a non-stretch Expedition SUV modified inside. Oil field boys love that sort of thing — they might take visitors to see Lake Louise. It’s ideal for that purpose.
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Brian Jones, owner Memory Lane Limousine Burlington, Ontario
So, when are you coming back, and why?
I should have been coming to LCT shows years ago. We as Canadians need to be more connected with Americans who are running the business. . . This brings your own community and business together. . .It’s nice to see a lot of people I’ve not met before, even from my own province.
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George Pejic, president Adria Limousine Service Toronto, Ontario
What’s working well for you?
I love to visit nightclubs and network with all sorts of people — clients, club owners. Sometimes I take clients out for night life. I don’t do any drinking; I just go out and have fun and network with people. It’s a good way to grow our business beyond corporate accounts. Growth is also happening by expanding our services to corporate clients, such as adding a bus to our fleet.
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Kuldip “Kal” Sanghera, CEO Regent Limousine Service Ltd. Victoria, British Columbia
How does the conference help you?
I’ve been attending shows since 1990. . . This is a good place to connect with local people. You always learn something you didn’t before. This was cookie cutter for Canadian operators. . . 50% of the people I meet here don’t go to the Vegas show. . . I’ve met people I’ve never met before that will lead to business.”
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Jennifer Mandley, Reservations/Dispatch Manager Imperial Xpress Midland, Ontario
What made LCT Canada worthwhile?
It definitely was worth the three-hour drive to attend. The one-on-one face time alone was worth coming to the show. Irene Johnston, co-owner Jerry’s Limousine Service Oshawa, Ontario
What’s the conference take home value for you?
The idea of networking with other limousine operators in the industry, keeping up to date with news and trends, and knowing there is a support system for us. We found some potential affiliates and networks with other companies in the greater Toronto area.
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Evelyn Klachan, operations manager A Universal Limousine St. Thomas, Ontario
What was your goal in attending LCT Canada?
It’s all about knowledge — not falling out of the loop, and this is a great learning experience. We’ve become known as a high-level service company mainly in the wedding business. We have one-on-one talks with brides and go through the whole itinerary to understand the timetable. We never ask customers where they’re going next. It’s not a transportation business; it’s a hospitality business, and all about giving our clients milestones and memories.
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Demetrious Orphanos, owner Legacy Limousines Ottawa, Ontario
Why did you attend LCT Canada?
We had been meaning to go to the big show (ILCT), but something always comes up, so we wanted to come here to check it out for new opportunities. We’ve been mingling and getting some leads and meeting other affiliates. We definitely would like to come to another show, whether this one or the one in Las Vegas.
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Brent Ferguson, Managing Director Brentwood Livery Kitchener, Ontario
What impressed you the most?
Where else can you hear directly from a guy who is doing over $15 million a year in sales? The LCT Canada Show gave me an opportunity to hear from many industry leaders.
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Sara Cruz, Public Relations Specialist Cruz Limousine Montreal, Quebec
Tell LCT what you really liked.
I am inspired by the diversity of subject matter provided at the show.
— compiled by Martin Romjue, Jon LeSage, and Jim Luff
Green Issues: Canada on the Cutting Edge
By Jon LeSage
TORONTO — Green issues matter in Canada as much or more than they do in the U.S., which was easy to see during the “All Things Green” seminar during the LCT Canada Conference.
The speaker panel was moderated by LCT Publisher Sara Eastwood, and featured Lee Schnaiberg, producer of green-themed films, documentaries, and programs; Justin Raymond, president of Green Ride Global in Toronto; Wyman Pattee, an executive with Ford Motor Co.; Bryon Stremler, manager of advanced technology and powertrain for Toyota Canada Inc., and Brian Maher, manager of NGV sales for the natural gas power vehicle department of Enbridge Gas Distribution.
Some of the seminar’s key points:
• CORPORATE DEMANDS: While the government hasn’t mandated using alternative-fuel vehicles, operators are getting more pressure from corporate accounts to go green. In Canada, Fairmont Hotels and Bank of Montreal have a “very robust greening of their supply chain,” Raymond said. “We’re seeing more and more corporate RFPs with requirements for, and questions about, their greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
Corporate demands don’t mean conversion of fleets entirely to hybrids or alternative fuels, he said. “Some clients want Town Cars, but want to see a strict, enforced idling policy,” Raymond said. “Standard fleet vehicles will idle 25% of the time — this needs to be reduced to 10%. Nitrogen tire systems can increase fuel efficiency.”
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- GROUP TRANSPORTATION: It isn’t all about converting completely over to a green fleet. Eastwood said that high fuel costs and environmental concerns emphasize the benefits of using chauffeured transportation: “It’s important to get clients to consider one vehicle for a group instead of several to save fuel,” she said. “An operator in Seattle is setting up clients with bus trips as they cut down on corporate plane rides. As airlines are cutting more flights, this is a chance to pick up more clients and build the niche.”
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- TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS: Auto manufacturers are rapidly improving technology that will help accomplish green goals, Pattee said. Multi-speed engines, variable valves, tire pressure monitoring, and cruise control systems are saving fuel and controlling emissions, he said. Lightweight metals including aluminum, magnesium, and titanium also are boosting fuel performance.
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- DRIVING CONDITIONS: The car model you choose for your fleet depends a lot on driving conditions in your market, Stremler said. “The Toyota Prius could be one of your options, but it doesn’t replace the Town Car,” he said. “In British Columbia, taxi drivers are using the Prius and they love them. They have constant stops and starts — the vehicle is living up to the test.”
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- VANPOOLS WORK: Like many companies in the region, Enbridge Gas Distribution needed to find a way to reduce employee vehicle use. The company bought seven vans that each carry nine employees in a vanpool, which removed 54 vehicles from the company’s parking lot. “This has been hugely well received,” Maher said. “We’ve been contacted by other companies that want to know how we’re doing this.”