On­tario’s Amazon bid won’t in­clude sub­si­dies

The London Free Press - - COMMENT - SHAWN JEF­FORDS THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

TORONTO — The man head­ing up On­tario’s ef­fort to lure Amazon to the prov­ince said Thurs­day that while the prov­ince would con­sider sen­si­ble in­cen­tives, the bid will not of­fer bil­lions in sub­si­dies to the tech gi­ant.

Pro­vid­ing large tax­payer sub­si­dies to the firm wouldn’t be fair to other com­pa­nies that have set up shop in On­tario with lit­tle or no gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance, said Ed Clark, who was ap­pointed last week by Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne to head up the Greater Toronto Re­gion’s bid to be­come the home of Amazon’s new cor­po­rate head­quar­ters.

The re­gion’s bid to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Be­zos will high­light other strengths such as the prov­ince’s skilled work­force, Clark said, adding that the prov­ince would be will­ing to make other con­tri­bu­tions like help­ing the com­pany se­cure land.

“There are clearly places in the United States that will, I use the word, bribe, peo­ple to come,” he said. “(They) say you just tell us what cheque you want us to write, we will write that cheque. We’re not in that busi­ness.”

If that’s what Amazon is look­ing for, On­tario will not win, said Clark.

“But we have proven peo­ple are com­ing to Toronto right now, and to On­tario, be­cause we’ve just got fan­tas­tic peo­ple.”

The on­line retail gi­ant an­nounced ear­lier this month that it is hunt­ing for a sec­ond North Amer­i­can of­fice, say­ing it would spend $5 bil­lion to build the new head­quar­ters to house as many as 50,000 em­ploy­ees.

The com­pany said it wants to be near a metropoli­tan area with more than a mil­lion peo­ple; be able to at­tract top tech­ni­cal tal­ent; be within 45 min­utes of an in­ter­na­tional air­port; have di­rect ac­cess to mass tran­sit; and be able to ex­pand that head­quar­ters in the next decade.

Clark said the two big­gest road­blocks a Toronto re­gion bid will face are the pres­sure to spend large amounts on tax in­cen­tives and po­ten­tial blow­back to the firm cre­ated by U.S. President Don­ald Trump’s push to keep Amer­i­can com­pa­nies from mov­ing op­er­a­tions to other coun­tries.

“It will be seen as a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal state­ment if Amazon says the next 50,000 jobs we cre­ate are go­ing to be in Canada,” he said. “Whether they will stand that po­lit­i­cal heat, we don’t know.”

“(Be­zos) may well be pre­pared to take that heat and there are com­pa­nies that say the most im­por­tant thing is that they get the peo­ple and a tax break here or there isn’t go­ing to sway it,” Clark said.

Cities have un­til Oct. 19 to ap­ply through a spe­cial web­site, and Amazon said it will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion next year.

Amazon’s cur­rent cam­pus in Seat­tle fea­tures 33 build­ings and 24 restau­rants and is home to more than 40,000 em­ploy­ees. At the sec­ond head­quar­ters, Amazon said it will hire up to 50,000 new full-time em­ploy­ees over the next 15 years who would have an av­er­age pay of more than US$100,000 a year.

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