Trudeau looks to lure talent
PM pitches expanding tech sector in Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived Thursday in sunny California, armed with a Canadian sales pitch aimed at attracting Silicon Valley talent and investment capital.
Trudeau is shopping an expanding tech sector in places like Toronto and Kitchenerwaterloo, where companies need executive-level expertise to stay competitive. Canada has also invested millions to attract top talent and researchers away from other countries.
During his lunch-hour meeting with a roundtable of tech executives from companies like AIRBNB, Eventbrite, Google, Paypal, and Pinterest, Trudeau said companies and governments must consider how technological disruption affects traditional jobs.
“The conversations we’re having about how you do things right — how you think about the positive impact, long-term, of the choices that we make — is core to the kinds of conversations we have to be having whether we’re in government, or in business,” Trudeau said.
Two years ago when Trudeau took office, Canadian expats who were veterans of Silicon Valley talked about the difficult sell their home country faced. In California, salaries, sunshine and venture capital are all abundant, the professional culture more advanced, they said. However, they also spoke longingly about bringing that culture back home to create the same kind of success in Canada that they experienced in California.
Donald Trump’s presidency has made the pitch a little easier: all the tough talk about trade deals and immigration has changed the political climate in the United States.
“The political climate has obviously made Canada more attractive because we’re more diverse, we’re more welcoming and we’re more open,” said Lekan Olawoye, who leads the venture talent development division at the MARS Discovery District in Toronto.
Companies like Microsoft and Amazon have invested in staff in Canada to get around the American visa quotas for overseas workers, said Chris Sands, Director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In a paper published last month co-authored by Olawoye, MARS researchers suggested Canada rethink its pitch to top tech talent. Instead of promoting itself as a place to settle, companies and governments needed to sell the virtues of regions and cities.
Trudeau is likely to do just that when he sits down face-toface with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s top executive, as his company decides whether to make Toronto home to a second headquarters.
Employees grab selfies with Prime Minister Justin trudeau as he leaves the offices of Salesforce in San Francisco on thursday.