Canada Seeks to Poach U.S. Tech Workers

One of Donald Trump’s fundamental campaign platforms was a business-friendly administration, and his stump speeches as a presidential contender were frequently peppered with pledges to bolster American industry amidst an increasingly globalized economy. But since taking office, President Trump’s immigration policies seem to be at odds with his pro-business promises. His dogged attacks on immigration, including a travel ban that threatened to bar immigrants from several Muslim majority countries from entering the United States and a “buy American, hire American” executive order that could possibly curtail the skilled H1B visa program, have the potential to wreak havoc on a multi-billion dollar U.S. juggernaut – the tech industry.

Silicon Valley alone comprises over a quarter of the global tech market, and the industry is heavily reliant on highly skilled and educated immigrants to fill demanding positions. But Trump’s relentless attacks on immigration have some potential U.S. tech sector workers looking northward instead, to Canada’s burgeoning tech industry. While still minute compared to Silicon Valley, Toronto’s tech scene has steadily evolved over the last several years, and entrepreneurs in the region feel confident that they can compete with the U.S. for top immigrant talent. And considering that Canada has been vocally pro-immigrant for decades, the time has never been better to recruit skilled immigrants fearful of living and working in the United States under the Trump Administration.

“I think Canada’s never been in a better position in terms of its ability to foster the growth of tech companies. I’m very excited about what we’re seeing in Canada and there’s never been a better time,” explained Janet Bannister at Real Ventures, the largest Canadian seed stage venture capital fund, in an interview with The Atlantic. Bannister notes that, while venture capital funding for U.S. based tech startups still greatly exceeds those in Canada, success stories in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are happening every day. Canada is hoping to further energize its fledgling tech sector with a public-private partnership between Canadian tech companies and the Ontario government known as MaRS. The goal of the program is to create a physical innovation hub in Toronto, where Canadian based startups can grow their businesses. To date, the MaRS center houses more than 6,000 tech workers working for small startups and well-known tech brands such as Facebook, Paypal, and AirBnB. [See Canada Wants Silicon Valley’s Tech Employees, by Bourree Lam, The Atlantic, 9.May.17.]

Canada’s efforts to recruit more tech workers have not been without speedbumps. The MaRS program has been the target of critics wary of using public funds to bolster the tech industry, and Silicon Valley still dwarfs Canada’s tech sector in terms of global visibility and financial clout. But Canada’s efforts to energize its tech industry and attract top talent, combined with the Trump Administration’s obsession with curbing immigration programs that are the lifeblood of Silicon Valley, could potentially mean a mass exodus of our highly skilled immigrants within the next several years. That’s the antithesis of an “America first” business policy, and future generations could end up paying the price.


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