Editorial: Of neighbours and fences

Relations between Canada and the U.S. have impact on the rental industry.
Patrick Flannery
March 22, 2017
This issue includes a report from the American Rental Association’s Rental Show with a roundup of some of the new equipment introduced there. As you’ll see, it was quite a crop this year. JCB probably stole the limelight with its splashy entrance into the lift market, a sector it had previously not played in.
Hats off to any manufacturer willing to get into the ring with the plethora of big, established, international brands already there. More competition can only be good for all of us, so best of luck to JCB in this new venture.

Once again, reports from the show confirm its status as by far the largest and most vibrant trade show for the rental market on the continent. I’m curious to know whether the number of Canadians at The Rental Show exceeds the total number who attend shows in Canada, but I haven’t asked for fear the answer might depress me. I recently returned from the Prairie Show in Edmonton. The attendence wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Luckily, most exhibitors reported good conversations with key decision-makers, so the quality was there even if the quantity was not. One has to wonder if the schedule overlapping with the massive ConExpo/Conn-Agg show in Las Vegas might have impacted the turnout. It would indeed be depressing if a general heavy equipment show, no matter how large, was taking large numbers of Canadians away from one targetted to the rental industry.

Then again, what would be more depressing? A circumstance where more Canadians attend an American show, or a circumstance where we don’t because we are unwilling or unable to travel freely south of the border? All in all, I think we need to celebrate our close ties with the U.S. and be grateful we get to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities they afford us. Being able to take a short flight to an event where all the best manufacturers in the world are making their strongest effort then to be able to immediately buy (usually) that same equipment back at home is a luxury we should not take for granted. Of course, it would be nice if our dollar were a little stronger...

Nowhere is the Canada/U.S. tie more evident than in the link between our national association and the American Rental Association. The Canadian Rental Association is a part of the ARA with full access to all the member programs that can be delivered across the border. They call Canada “Region 10,” which I have to say rubs my nationalistic fur somewhat the wrong way, but the CRA is granted some unique freedoms out of recognition of its status as a representative of an entire country rather than just a state or two. The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks, which is something you can probably say about the whole relationship between our two countries.

Let’s hope the leadership in our two countries continues to see things that way.  I recently attended a speech by Kevin O’Leary, who is running for leadership of the national Conservative party. Without getting into the politics, I noted that O’Leary called for a harder line on immigration and for Canada to shift its approach to become more competitive with the U.S. Whether you agree with those policies or not, they could be read as representing a more closed, defensive approach to our international relationships. Given the active hostility to international relationships coming from the White House, it becomes possible to wonder if Canadians will always enjoy the same welcome at American events and organizations.

Don’t get me wrong – I think we will. But it would be a shame to see anything get in the way of that.

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