A breath of fresh air in Canada

I have always loved visiting Canada and meeting its wonderful people. Whether it has been working with Virgin Mobile, launching Virgin Radio stations or enjoying skiing holidays with my family, the country has so much to offer. It is great to see such a large country going in the right direction.

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I was fortunate enough to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently. Seeing a young, exciting Prime Minister and his colleagues in action was a breath of fresh air. At Davos, where too many people focus on the negatives, he was optimistic on topics ranging from drug policy to climate change to diversity. On the latter, he said: "Diversity isn't just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada."

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I congratulated him on his commitment to gender equality, having appointed a cabinet made up of 15 men and 15 women.

I also discussed Canada's policies on the war on drugs and told him it was wonderful to see a country the size of Canada pledging to legalise and regulate recreational marijuana, learning from the US states that have made that step already.

My colleagues President Zedillo and Louise Arbour from the Global Commission on Drug Policy joined Stephane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, for a meeting on drug policy recently too. They returned expressing enthusiasm for ambitious drug policy reform in Canada. I am very hopeful this will stimulate even more progress in other countries in the months and years to come. 

Davos 2016: Justin Trudeau and Sheryl Sandberg on gender equality

Prime Minister Trudeau is also the minister for youth of Canada - a first for a prime minister in that country. Having started out as a school teacher, the Prime Minister says this choice "...recognizes the fact that the success of our young people will determine the success of not just of our economies, but indeed of our planet".

Prime Minister Trudeau’s focus on improving the economy and tackling the war on drugs should hopefully have a positive effect on at-risk youth and fighting homelessness, something Virgin Mobile Canada is tackling through our Virgin Mobile RE*Generation initiative. A disproportionate number of young people struggle with addiction while living on the streets. The continuing criminalisation of drugs too often keeps these youths connected to the streets, even as they try to get employment training. Virgin Mobile RE*Generation is investing in helping youth gain skills to get jobs as well as support to live a prosperous and healthy life. I would also encourage Canada to look at programmes such as start-up loans to help create even more opportunities for young people.

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After meeting Justin, it was interesting reading Tawfik Hammoud and Michael Sabia's thoughts on how Canada can move forward in the future. They highlighted pragmatism, capacity for constructive dialogue, public institutions and inclusiveness as some of its key strengths.

"We are encouraged by the fresh leadership we see across the political spectrum and at various levels of government. These leaders seem committed to reasserting Canada's place in the world, and they are not alone. Most business and social-sector leaders we meet in Canada are ready to do their part. What we need now is a new level of national ambition and confidence: Let's stand up and be vocal about what we can contribute to solving the world's challenges."

I'm looking forward to more visits to Canada, more business opportunities and more progressive policies from its government in 2016 and beyond.

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