Trudeau looks to lure tech talent, capital north in San Francisco visit

Prime Minister’s visit includes a sit-down with Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos

The employee roll at Ben Zifkin’s Toronto-based startup is set to double over the coming year to handle the increase in users of his free service, a business-based social network known as Hubba.

He knows he faces international competition for top talent, including the established tech ecosystem in Silicon Valley.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make a pitch to that talent on behalf of prospective employers like Zifkin during his discussions today in San Francisco, including face-to-face meetings with the head of Amazon and eBay.

On offer is a rapidly growing tech sector in places like Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo with companies that require executive-level expertise to compete with Silicon Valley rivals. Canada has also invested millions to attract top talent and researchers away from other countries.

Rana Sankar, Canada’s consul general in San Francisco, says the goal of Trudeau’s visit isn’t to lure talent away from the region, but ensure that Canada has a voice in what has become the epicentre of the new economy.

“We are here not to steal jobs from Silicon Valley,” Sankar said in an interview this week. “We are here to co-create with the tech sector here.”

Two years ago when Trudeau took office, Canadian expats who were veterans of Silicon Valley talked to The Canadian Press about the difficult sell their home country faced. In California, salaries, sunshine and venture capital were all abundant, and the professional culture was more advanced.

READ: Trudeau talks to premiers about pipeline battle

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.

“The valley is great, but it’s actually not my number 1 place where I’m trying to bring talent from,” Zifkin said. “It’s hard to pull people out of that.”

Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House made the pitch a little easier. Trump’s tough talk about trade deals and immigration 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, so the pitch is much easier,” 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 John Hopkins University.

“Canada has been a safety valve for these big companies that are able to bring people from Asia and elsewhere into Canada.”

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-to-face with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s top executive, as his company decides whether to make Toronto home to a second headquarters.

Trudeau’s job, meanwhile, won’t simply be to act as a salesman; he’ll have to play the role of digital diplomat.

There are conversations taking place about privacy, how technological disruption affects traditional jobs and even trade deals, and Canada wants to be a part of those talks — much of which are happening in San Francisco, Sankar said.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

Veteran Saanich councillor Vicki Sanders won’t seek re-election

‘Council is becoming more complicated,’ says Coun. Leif Wergeland

Local and international artists paint murals across Victoria

Sixteen murals are spread out across downtown Victoria as part of the ‘concrete canvas’ project

First responders, police march in funeral procession for Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Longtime broadcaster joins race for Saanich council

Ian Jessop says he wants to bring support to Mayor Richard Atwell around council table

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

Most Read