CCCJ Governors Weigh in on TOPICS TO WATCH IN…

The CCCJ is led by a Board of Governors who volunteer their time to support the Chamber. Governors serve as Board liaisons to the Chamber’s committees, provide input on and approval for important decisions, and ensure that Executive Director Noriko Ishida always has a drink when she needs one.

CCCJ members consistently elect governors from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Including the chair and vice-chair, the Board has fifteen experts in areas such as investment attraction, policy analysis, commercial real estate, talent development, education, manufacturing, communications, law, technology, global business development and more. As the Chamber heads in to 2024, we sat down with a few governors to see what trends and topics they’ll be paying attention to in 2024.

Human capital is on the radar for Riyo Whitney and Anne Parent. Riyo has been involved in education for over three decades and knows the issues and trends in both Japan and North America. She has her eye on the current priority in Japan, which is to “do a better job of preparing students for the global economy.” This includes improving English-language skills as well as critical thinking and creative thinking. New programs are emerging in Japan, including an option Riyo offers to Japanese junior and senior high school students to earn a “double diploma” from both Japan and Canada.

After they graduate, where do Japan’s bilingual, globally oriented professionals want to work? Anne is a specialized recruitment consultant who places mid-career and executive-level bilingual professionals in the Japan branches of foreign companies as well as in global roles at Japanese companies. The hot topic in her field for 2024 will be how two conflicting trends play out: the return-to-office approach many companies in Japan seem to be adopting versus worker expectations for flexibility. Competition for talent is heating up, driven by Japan’s aging population and rising interest among younger Japanese in working abroad due to the weak yen. Talented employees have more options than ever. For Anne, the question is “how companies can retain a competitive edge by fully incorporating DX and new ways of working.” 

How will new workstyles, demographic change, digital technologies like AI and the demand for sustainable infrastructure change the urban landscape? Gordon Hatton weighs in. “My day job as an architect and property developer places me at the forefront of a number of current issues. How will our cities adapt to new workstyles, what sustainable technologies are emerging in building construction, and how can Japan address the boom in high-tech demand while facing demographic challenges in the construction sector?” 

Big trends such as these shape how cities are built and how they function. For example, while most of us are thinking about how AI will change the way we work, for Gordon it’s also a question of how AI will change the way we build cities. AI drives demand for data centers, which are actual physical facilities that need to be built somewhere. 

“In the data center space,” he says, “we are fervently exploring the impact that AI technology will have on society and specifically the needs for data management infrastructure.” Gordon also volunteers as a global trustee for the Urban Land Institute, working with several Japanese universities to promote an intensive workshop called Urban Plan that helps students considering careers in the property industry learn the complexities of community planning from multiple stakeholder perspectives. 

While new workstyles shape career decisions and new technologies shape the urban landscape, new markets are shaping overseas investment decisions for Japanese companies. As the world transitions to a decarbonized energy system and the digitalization of manufacturing continues, Japanese firms are evaluating new business opportunities and considering where to invest. Christian Howes is seeking to attract some of that investment to Ontario. Christian has over three decades of experience advising Japanese companies on how to build a global investor base; now he’s using that experience to convince Japanese companies to invest in Ontario. Says Howes: “In 2024 we will continue work with Japanese companies to build a world-class electric vehicle ecosystem in Ontario as well as expand strong ties in other industries, such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing.”

Decarbonization is a focus for Seiji Omote, who wears two hats as both a CCCJ governor and member of our Honorary Board of Advisors. Omote has spent more than five decades developing the Canadian wood business in Japan. He knows forests and lumber, and he also knows how focused Japan’s business leaders are on achieving carbon neutrality and what Canada has to offer to this challenge. Omote and the rest of the CCCJ governors are focused on preparing for a Net Zero seminar in March 2024 as well as other networking events such as the CPTPP Cup golf tournament planned for May 2024. Canada’s first timber export to Japan arrived in 1923, marking the start of a century-long trade relationship that’s still going strong. Let’s hope 2024 marks the start of a new century of Canada-Japan collaboration for sustainability.

Finally, we turn to Dr. Stephen Nagy for a big-picture take on geopolitics. Stephen is a professor at International Christian University, specializing in Japan-China relations and the geopolitics of the region. He’s also a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; a visiting fellow with the Japan Institute for International Affairs; a senior fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute; a senior fellow with the East Asia Security Centre; and director of policy studies for the Yokosuka Council of Asia Pacific Studies, where he spearheads the Indo-Pacific Policy Dialogue series. In short, if you want to know what’s going on in Indo-Pacific geopolitics, ask Stephen. His geopolitical consulting work helps businesses “negotiate volatility in the markets and investment opportunities associated with changes in the geopolitical landscape of the region.” For the Chamber and our members, the challenge in 2024 will continue to be learning to identify the business opportunities that come with continued geopolitical change in our region. 

New approaches to educating the next generation, new ways of working, technology-linked changes to the urban landscape, new Japan-Canada investment decisions linked to the decarbonization of energy, and a changing landscape of business opportunities driven by geopolitical change in the Indo Pacific—that’s just after a quick chat with half of the CCCJ’s Board of Governors. Access to this rich perspective is why the Chamber cares so much about diversity of experience on our Board.

Do you want to contribute your expertise to the CCCJ? Our next election is coming up in June 2024. Any CCCJ member can run for governor, and the more diverse the backgrounds of our Board the better. Please email for details.