Government efforts to ensure Canada’s tech sector has access to the best international and domestic talent are providing a unique advantage in the global economy, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
An interview with Trudeau kicked off the 2019 Collision Conference in Toronto on May 20, marking the first time the five-year-old gathering of global tech leaders has been held outside the United States.
Organizers picked Toronto over other North American cities because of its status as a global tech hub that is on track to outpace Silicon Valley in terms of jobs growth.
Trudeau told interviewer Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of Broadband TV, that Canada “needs to stay open” to international talent and pointed to policies like Canada’s rising immigration levels and his government’s creation of the Global Skills Strategy, which helps employers obtain work visas in as little as two weeks for foreign workers in specific occupations.
“We’re at a time right now where big countries around the world are closing themselves off a little more to immigration at a time where Canada is realizing we need to stay open, we need to make sure we’re drawing in the best and brightest from all around the world,” he said.
Making sure Canadian students and workers also have the “right opportunities” for a career in tech by investing in research, innovation and Canada’s education system is another key government priority, Trudeau said.
“There’s a lot of anxiety that people are feeling all around the world, and it’s coming out in all different sorts of ways — whether it’s populism or nationalism,” he said. “The important thing is making sure that there is room for everyone to succeed, for everyone to feel like there is a path for them and their kids in technology.”
Trudeau said Canadians remain in favour of immigration and his government is working to maintain this by ensuring that those welcomed to Canada are “able to contribute and grow.”
“Canadians know that we get more resilient communities, we get better solutions, we get better innovation when we bring in people from all around the world,” he said. “That’s why we are doing well, even in a time of anxiety.”
Canada’s immigration policies are also helping to lure Canadian tech leaders back from traditional innovation hubs like California’s Silicon Valley, which has long been a popular draw for Canadian tech talent.
“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to compete with Silicon Valley, watching Canadian innovators head down to the Bay Area to try and succeed, and what we’ve seen over the past few years is people are coming back: for the quality of life, the stability, the access to global talent through immigration, the liveable cities, through all of the things we’ve been doing,” he said.
“The fact Canada has always been a country that embraced diversity and we know that it is a source of strength — never a source of weakness — has given us a real advantage as we look at that competitive investment environment that more and more people are looking to Canada for.”
Asked about his “elevator pitch” for attracting business to Canada, Trudeau cited Canada’s network of free trade agreements, its education system and immigration system, and the diversity of its communities, among others.
“This is a good place to set down roots, this is a good place to build a company, this is a good place to build a future,” he said.
“We’ve got socio-economic, fiscal, banking and legal stability that is world class, and we’re a country that does so in two languages.”
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