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Why Amazon Should Consider Locating its new Headquarters in Canada

Amazon.com is inviting proposals for a second North American headquarters from states, provinces and metro areas. The presumption by many (example here) is that this means a U.S. location. But Amazon should consider a Canadian location. Here’s why:

• Amazon wants size. The Request for Proposals (RFP) identifies a desire for a metro area of a million people or more “with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent.” Canada has several cities in this category, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

• They want a “stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure.” Canada is enjoying strong growth, has a lower debt-to-GDP ratio than other nations, and has among the lowest corporate taxes in the OECD (documented here).

• The centre will hire 50,000 people and “a highly educated labor pool is critical and a strong university system is required.” Canada has not only the deep technological talent required but additionally one of the most literate, globally aware and engaged populations in the world. The WEF human capital report ranks Canada among the elite, and the OECD’s studies of youth achievement suggest we’re going to stay that way.

• Amazon wants a modern transportation network, with access to highways, rapid transit, and international airports. Government investments in transportation infrastructure, including airports, are substantial and consistent.

• They also want “a compatible cultural and community environment for its long-term success,” which includes “the presence and support of a diverse population.” Canada shines here. As Prime Minister Trudeau said in a recent speech, Canada considers its diversity a strength. Governments and institutions support a dialogue of inclusion founded on respect and trust.

• Amazon finally wants to “invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.” Canada’s quality of life ranks among the highest in the world in study after study.
Canada also offers a number of advantages not listed specifically in the RFP. Amazon should consider them.

• Health care. Every Amazon employee in Canada comes to the workplace with a lifetime of public health case support, and of course public health insurance continues while they are on the job. This represents significant benefit savings to the company, and as well, it means employees are healthier and less liable to illness or injury.

• Canadians are also unlikely to worry about crime, and especially violent crime. Canadian cities are among the safest in the world, and crime continues to decline. Canada has much lower rates of violent crime than the U.S., for reasons that include gun control, less income disparity, and less segregation between economic groups in society.

• Canada is open to the world, and citizens from everywhere are welcome in Canada. This is a major factor in business transactions, trade shows and conventions, and even human resource management. In turn, Canadians are welcome around the world, which includes visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 171 countries.

• Privacy and data protection. Canada has strong personal privacy laws in all jurisdictions. Amazon has recently responded to the need for data storage outside the U.S. by opening the Amazon Web Services Canada subsidiary. For data security reasons (in addition to qualifying for government benefits and programs) being located in Canada is also important in order to serve the Canadian government as an infrastructure and cloud services partner.

Two thirds of Canada’s energy supply comes from renewable sources, with the majority of this coming from hydroelectricity. This bodes well for future energy security as petroleum energy sources become, if not more costly, more unpalatable.

All things considered, Canada should be a very attractive location for the second Amazon headquarters. A Canadian presence has all the advantages of the company’s existing location in Seattle, but also offers a more international and future-facing look.

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