Amazon's new Seattle headquarters are still under construction. But they're sure to be a tourist draw when finished - even if tourists can only view them from outside. (Courtesy architecture firm NBBJ)

Published: October 19th, 2017

Amazon announced its intentions to build a second headquarters location just a few weeks ago, and the sweepstakes are heating up as the deadline to submit bids ends at midnight on Oct. 19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sent a personal letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pitching Canadian cities as “progressive, confident and natural homes” for the company, according to reports from the Ottawa Citizen.

The two-page letter is dated Oct. 13 and emphasizes Canada’s open, tolerant, and multicultural society, as well as the country’s keenness to bring in skilled immigrants.

Trudeau also mentions Canada’s strong business environments and educated workforce.

“As the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism, we have shown time and time again that a country can be stronger not in spite of its differences, but because of them,” the letter says. “Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Canada has made its decision and our cities have become windows to the world.”

It goes on to add that in a world with a changing economy, “we recognize that we must also have access to the best talent in the world, wherever it is. We have therefore introduced dedicated immigration services, allowing companies to attract highly skilled global talent through an expedited review process to quickly recruit for the skills they need,” the Citizen reports.

While Trudeau shies away from taking any sides, as several Canadian cities including Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa are bidding for the headquarters, he explicitly says that all submissions have the full support of the federal government.

He also points out the country’s universal healthcare, pension plan, and good relations with its southern neighbour as other key convincing arguments.

Amazon is not expected to make any decisions until 2018.

Opposition speaks up

However, not everyone loves the idea of bringing an American-owned tech giant into Canada.

Anthony Lacavera, founder of Freedom Mobile and chair at Toronto-based venture capital firm Gobalive Capital, has not been shy in his opposition and expressed his concern again while speaking at Startup Day on the Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 19.

“Our elected officials are trying to lure Amazon to open its second global headquarters here, and in the short-term, that looks like a good idea that will create lots of jobs and benefit our economy,” he explains. “But if you take a deeper look, Amazon is a massive American company that, if it chooses a Canadian city for this, essentially will come into our country, identify and hire our top talent while at the same time paying them less than they would pay talent in the US.”

Lacavera says that this move would ultimately be bad for Canada. While he appreciates the government’s enthusiasm for the project, he wants to see the same passion going towards supporting homegrown talent instead.

“I want to see the same urgency they’re putting towards trying to woo Amazon going into building winners at home that can eventually grow into huge dominate companies. That’s the path to prosperity,” he concludes.

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