When Amazon put out its call for cities to submit bids to be the site of the company’s second headquarters, the wording was deliberate: Amazon would be considering proposals from not just cities in the US, but from all North American cities.
Many Canadian cities — from Toronto and Ottawa to Vancouver and Calgary — are all planning on placing bids to host Amazon’s next headquarters. While some see the complications that would come with Amazon placing its HQ2 across the border, some Canadian cities like Ottawa see an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
“Amazon has something like 9,000 engineering jobs they can’t fill. [Canada’s] immigration policy is much more liberal,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the New York Times. “That’s where we have an advantage.”
Canada is not as affected by political turmoil, and there’s less uncertainty about changes coming to immigration laws as there is in the US. In an interview with the CBC, a former Amazon exec described Canada as “more welcoming” when it comes to immigration.
Tech companies in particular have come out strongly against proposed immigration law changes in the US, as it directly affects their business. In April, more than 160 companies, including Amazon, filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s March immigration orders. On Sunday, a new immigration ban was announced, and experts say it will be harder to fight in court.
There is also a large degree of uncertainty about the future of the H-1B visa program, which tech companies often use to hire foreign nationals to work in specialised areas. In April, Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order which required agencies to suggest reforms to the H-1B program “as soon as practicable.”
Ottawa’s mayor’s comments are just the latest in a series of moves by city officials in towns across the continent to lure Amazon to their neck of the woods. Watson also made a visit to Amazon’s hometown of Seattle earlier in September, to try and gather support for his cause and get a sense of what the company needs from a hometown.
“It’s like ‘The Amazing Race,'” Watson said. “You’ve got this cast of characters running toward the Holy Grail.”
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