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Canada Businesses Technology

Canada's Challenge Is Keeping Techies, BlackBerry Inventor Says (bloomberg.com) 161

The former chief executive officer of BlackBerry added his voice to the chorus of people saying that Canada's main economic hurdle is keeping technology talent. From a report: "The biggest challenge as a country is retaining and recruiting the best people to build industries in Canada and not lose them to other jurisdictions," Mike Lazaridis, who left BlackBerry in 2013, said Thursday at the Waterloo Innovation Summit. Canada is pushing to become a technological leader as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to shift away from a commodities-driven economy by increasing funding for technology and offering fast-track visas to highly skilled workers. Cities like Ottawa, the capital, have stepped up recruitment efforts targeting expats in the U.S., while Toronto and its surrounding cities submitted a regional bid Wednesday for Amazon.com's second headquarters. The BlackBerry inventor sees Canada as at the forefront of the development of quantum computers, technology that could transform the world by allowing computers to operate much faster and on larger data sets than ever before.
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Canada's Challenge Is Keeping Techies, BlackBerry Inventor Says

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  • Pay more (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 15, 2017 @10:24AM (#55202763)

    Do you think people leave Canada because they want to?

    • Yes. Your question suggests that the only reason people would leave Canada is because they are being forced out.

      Are there vigilante groups running around Canada and running people out of the country on a rail (as the saying used to be) or is it the government doing this? Does it work like the way England used to ship convicts to Australia?

      I am curious about how this forced emigration works because none of my co-workers down there have mentioned any of this to me.

      • From the sound of it, it seems to be an economical factor brought on by government. I believe I read something similar to this in the UK medical field [palatinate.org.uk] and US medical field [medscape.com] as well.

        There seems to be a very fine balance between regulations that help and ones that actually destroy.

        • So people are choosing to leave, not being forced.

          • Only if you consider just being able to survive as your one and only choice. You do know there is a difference between "living" and just "existing", right? That is part of being human.

      • When people within driving distance of where you live make twice as much money, for the same job and with the same qualifications, it's not hard to join the "Brain Drain".
    • The Canadians will settle on reason after they've exhausted all other options. They're just working through the options now.
  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @10:28AM (#55202801)
    Canada has had a number of successful technology companies, but they've all been plagued by mismanagement see Blackberry, Nortel, Corel, etc
    • Canada has had a number of successful technology companies, but they've all been plagued by mismanagement see Blackberry, Nortel, Corel, etc

      Perhaps they need to enact a Too-Big-To-Fail law.

      That way, they could reward mismanagement like the US does (see banking industry, auto industry, etc.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        We (Canada) do that already - it's called Bombardier.
    • Canada has had a number of successful technology companies, but they've all been plagued by mismanagement see...Corel

      Hey, don't keep Corel in that list! They've acquired - and still sell - WordPerfect, Paradox, WinZip, and WinDVD. It's a retirement home for software.

    • I'm not sure "Getting destroyed by unfair American competition" counts as mismanagement.
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Who? Maybe Corel? Blackberry was a shit show, they focused all their energy on a tablet that couldn't even retrieve email without being tethered to a phone while they lost their entire market share.
  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    Canada (and Britain) have a history of abandoning promising [wikipedia.org] technology [wikipedia.org] to the USA.

    • Re:History (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mangastudent ( 718064 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:10AM (#55203077)
      Not sure about the CF-105 Arrow, I mean, the first flight of the US F-102 Delta Dagger was 5 years before, I'd have to look a lot harder to see if they had any special sauce we didn't. But Colossus et. al. were the equivalent of ASICs, useless once Nazi Germany was defeated and no one was sending messages using their particular devices. But in general purpose AKA "stored program" as it was called back then computing the U.K. was quite competitive with the US in the immediate post-WWII period, especially given the economic constraints. See for example the EDSAC [wikipedia.org] and Mark I [wikipedia.org].
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not sure about the CF-105 Arrow, I mean, the first flight of the US F-102 Delta Dagger was 5 years before, I'd have to look a lot harder to see if they had any special sauce we didn't.

        The first Dagger couldn't go super-sonic. They did get super-sonic figured out, but Wikipedia says the max speed was still only Mach 1.22. The first prototype Arrow went Mach 1.9 the same year Dagger hit Mach 1.22, and Arrow Mark 2 promised to easily pass Mach 2 due to an engine upgrade.

        Then Canada signed on to NORAD, with an American push for hosting missile defense systems in Canada, and six months later the Arrow was cancelled and every person who worked on it fired that same day. There's still deba

        • "The first Dagger couldn't go super-sonic. They did get super-sonic figured out, but Wikipedia says the max speed was still only Mach 1.22. The first prototype Arrow went Mach 1.9 the same year Dagger hit Mach 1.22, and Arrow Mark 2 promised to easily pass Mach 2 due to an engine upgrade.

          None of which is very interesting, seeing as how the Dagger's followon F-106 Delta Dart [wikipedia.org] first flew 3 years after the Dagger and 2 years before the Arrow, achieved Mach 3 in a test flight 8 months after the Arrow's first f

  • by Anonymous Coward

    More lies by companies to get cheap foreign labour. I work in the IT management field and know many well educated, skilled people who cannot find work. Banks are making record profits and laying off IT staff and out sourcing to India or bringing in cheap labour to replace Canadians. For example
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/rbc-replaces-canadian-staff-with-foreign-workers-1.1315008

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Again... when private companies are offering crappy wages (with high canadian taxes) comparable to other professions with a lower skill requirement (teaching, nursing) with no pension people are going to go where there is opportunity or choose a different profession. And bonus points to the government for importing more workers to depress wages even more....

  • If I had a job lined up. Toronto is like a smaller, cleaner, better-organized version of New York. The cost of living is 27% less too.

    The only thing is I also do like a place with a little more topography than Toronto, and access to wilderness-y areas within reasonable driving distance. There probably aren't any good places for fly-fishing around Toronto, that's almost a deal-breaker. Maybe Vancouver, then. Weather's better there, too: a bit rainy in the winter but with dry, cool summers with, long, l

    • Toronto costs a bit less, but the wages are significantly lower, and if you manage to avoid that, the taxes and cost of living make up for the cost. Ontario healthcare is not particularly as good, so plan on going private for that.

      If you do move to Canada, prepare to pay more for pretty much everything.

      • Ontario healthcare is not particularly as good, so plan on going private for that.

        How exactly does one "plan on going" private in Ontario with health care when providing private health care is essentially illegal?

        The only things you can "go private" on are things OHIP doesn't cover, unless you plan to cross the border to the US every time you want to see a doctor.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      The cost of living is less, but you'd also likely find that your income won't stretch quite as far as it used to. The gross pay is about the same after converting between different currencies, but the tax rates are generally higher in Canada than they are in most places in the USA.

      Toronto is right on the shore of Lake Ontario, and I'd be surprised if there isn't at least *SOME* fishing there.

      Vancouver's climate is nicer (and the scenery is probably nicer as well), but the cost of living is also highe

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Well, you get what you pay for. I also note that Vancouver has some of the "worst" traffic in Canada -- the average commuter spends 30 hours annually in traffic. This however compares to a US-wide average of 42 hours/year -- and well over 80 in the Bay Area. In my hometown forget the commute -- which his horrible -- the average driver spends 53 hours per year looking for parking.

        As you get older, you value your time more than money, because you realize its running out.

      • So Vancouver is more expensive than Manhattan and San Francisco? That's somewhat hard to believe, even if I believe it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is OK if you get a job in the private sector. if you get a job in tech within the federal government, you have a glass ceiling at the CS-02 level (where you don't manage people) if you are not bilingual.

    There is a reason most senior jobs are held by French people even though they make up a small percentage of the population. Your technical skills barely register, being bilingual is the most important thing. FWIW I have a CBC language ranking as a CS-04, this language nonsense seriously hampers my abilit
  • Guy who left Canadian job thinks everyone is just like him - more at 11.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The cause is lack of ecosystem, including the lack of useful and scalable Venture Capital. It is impossible to grow a venture backed startup in Toronto, once you reach a certain point and need to raise $15M, you run into problems with your unsophisticated (read: small time, inexperienced and Toronto market size thinking) investors who just want out, or get scared.

    There isn't an ecosystem, so you can't build an ecosystem. And if you built a company, the only way to get scale customers is to sell where ther

  • I could very easily be tempted to move permanently to the Toronto metro area, but a work visa is not enough to tempt me at this stage of my life (more or less closing in on retirement). If they could offer a faster, simpler route to citizenship, that'd get me there pretty quick.

    PS if anyone at my current company is reading this, I don't really mean it.

    • Surely their path to citizenship has to be quicker than here in the US, right? All I've ever heard is how horrible the US is for having far more restrictive immigration and naturalization policies than the rest of the world.

    • If they could offer a faster, simpler route to citizenship, that'd get me there pretty quick.

      Unfortunately, there's no such thing (except in certain cases). The only route to citizenship is to first get a permanent residence permit (PR). Once you have your PR, getting citizenship is easy - you have to stick around long enough (3 or 4 years, I forget the exact amount, being most of the year in Canada) - nothing else is required (except, I think, a clean criminal record) - and you can apply for citizenship (once you do, you get it within 6-12 months typically).

      Getting the PR is the difficult part. Th

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:10AM (#55203079)

    One interesting thing Canada could do is make it incredibly easy for US citizens to work in Canada. I know I'd move there if I didn't have things tying me down in the US and could have an easily portable work visa. The climate (both literal and political) is better in my opinion...the issue is that there need to be more than a couple of standout tech companies to create an ecosystem. Nortel was absolutely huge until they went bankrupt after the first dotcom bubble, and BlackBerry has basically run its course.

    I do hear that Toronto and Vancouver are in the middle of a housing bubble though, so I don't know if now is the right time to move there. But, if US citizens could easily work in the Canadian labor market and not be tethered to an employer the way H-1B visa holders here are, I think a lot of people would jump at the chance to move. I've looked into it in the past, and apparently US citizens don't get any special preference and have to deal with immigration the same way everyone else does.

    If they really wanted to accelerate a move, just implement a program where a US citizen with a certain skillset and education can walk into any Canadian embassy and turn in their US passport in exchange for a Canadian one. Overall quality of life seems much better there, so it would just be a matter of convincing people of that.

    • If they really wanted to accelerate a move, just implement a program where a US citizen with a certain skillset and education can walk into any Canadian embassy and turn in their US passport in exchange for a Canadian one. Overall quality of life seems much better there, so it would just be a matter of convincing people of that.

      Bad idea, a lot of people would do it on impulse (say in reaction to Trump winning another election or whatever), and then be very unhappy when they realize it's not what they wanted and that they cannot go back (I doubt the US would implement an equivalent scheme).

      Besides, I don't think Canada wants to just be swamped by hundreds of thousands of Americans all of a sudden, it's difficult to keep a separate identity as is. Also, Quebec would be super pissed for upsetting the franco-anglophone balance.

  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:10AM (#55203087)
    Want more tech talent?
    Fucking pay them.
    • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:39AM (#55203341)

      This. Money talks.

      We have have 4 Canadians in my small design group of ~20, though only 2 at the moment. For them the pay delta was a 50% raise combined with many more tech options if they needed to change jobs for any reason.

      So not only does pay need to be higher, but you need to attract enough companies that folks who move to work their will feel secure enough in the job market as a whole to be willing to put down roots. The magic of Silicon Valley is that despite being a traffic snarled expensive mess you know that if your current dotcom, or startup folds you can go a couple doors down and pick up a job at the next wiz-bang scam shop, likely with a raise.

      Companies know that if they setup shop it is easy to hire just about any techy person, though it might cost a pretty penny. If time to market is important, then growing talent internally is foolish.

    • Want more tech talent?
      Fucking pay them, eh?

      FTFY.

  • by enjar ( 249223 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:18AM (#55203157) Homepage

    Some time ago, I went to up to Montreal for a business trip. Talking with the engineers there, they told me that Canadian salaries are largely the same dollar (number) amount as US firms pay, but their tax burden is far higher, with federal, provincial and VAT taxes taking away a good deal of that salary, plus then the cost of things like gasoline were considerably higher, making the cost of living greater. That can't help. There's also the issue of the climate. Given a choice between working in a warmer climate (California or Texas), working in the Great Frozen North is a really hard sell. There are also other issues like travel hassles to visit family, crossing international borders and so on. I've also been to Toronto a number of times for vacation and I've enjoyed it, but I always went in the warmer months. Toronto reminded me a lot of a cleaner and more polite version of NYC and I enjoyed my vacation, but I've never been there in winter time. People say the lake "helps" but I can still imagine the winter nights being dark and full of Horton's. I can't stand the darkness of winter here in Massachusetts, and geometry tells me it's far worse in Canada. So Canadian firms need to come up with means of sweetening the pot to attract talent, one knob being paying more.

    Disclaimer list: 1) anecdotal, employer could have been stingy, employee could have been a poor performer 2) a big metro area, as they are expensive in the US, too 3) years ago, when the US dollar was stronger vs. CAD 4) comparing COL across countries is hard, as I pay more out of my paycheck for health insurance in the US than a Canadian does, who pays it in taxes.

    • Just note: Quebec (Montreal) has higher taxes and lower salaries than Ontario (Toronto) in general, although in Montreal the cost of living is cheaper and there a lot more subsidized things (e.g. public transit, university tuition is cheaper). Quebec is in general more socialist than Ontario (and pretty much all of the other provinces), with all the good and bad that that entails.

      I think money-wise, Toronto & southern Ontario compares well to the US, yes the taxes are slightly higher but you get full he

      • by enjar ( 249223 )
        Yep -- it can be hard enough to make a realistic COL comparisons within the US, trying to compare US vs. Canada adds even another layer of complexity since you add in the respective Federal levels, too. As someone who lives in the northern US, if I was going to go through the hassle of changing jobs AND moving I would agree with you on picking a warmer climate. I'm not going to uproot myself, my family and my career to move somewhere else cold unless I absolutely had to or the opportunity was truly unique.
    • So a couple of points. I'd say generally speaking the pay in the US is more. There are also more opportunity (though perhaps more competition as well). Tax burden is heavier in Canada for sure. I don't think the cold or the darkness really matters when trying to KEEP talent, as they would already be used to it. Trying to ATTRACT talent, well that might be a different matter. Also, another point is that most of the places where these jobs are located are also the most expensive to live in Canada, Toronto and

      • by enjar ( 249223 )

        Trying to ATTRACT talent, well that might be a different matter. I doubt Travel is a big deal, Canada is BIG. I live about 2000 km away from my family for example. There are plenty of families that are spread across the country.

        To clarify my point about travel, it was specifically for the point of attracting talent and either having family visit you or you visit family. When I was a kid, traveling to Canada from the US was really easy -- you showed a US driver's license and the polite Canadian border guard waved you through and told you to enjoy your trip. Nowadays to consider Canadian travel you need passports ($110/adult, $80/kid), so for my family of four, that's spending $380 just to be able to cross the border. Right now we l

      • I don't think the cold or the darkness really matters when trying to KEEP talent, as they would already be used to it. Trying to ATTRACT talent, well that might be a different matter.

        Paradoxically, in many cases it's the reverse. Immigrants from poor countries are looking for a place where they can get their foot in the door and get permanent residence/citizenship, and the ease of immigration/job availability will trump weather concerns. However once an immigrant from Iran or China for example gets their Canadian passport, it's much easier for them to get a job in the US (and they always have the fallback option of returning to Canada). At this point they might actually make decisions b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would be simply to realize that while Ontario is in the center of Canada it is not the only concern of Canadians.

    Oh and maybe the idea of a Substitute drama teacher running the country that has no idea what technology actually is. Then again all of this is really to distract from the corruption in his own party and specifically the leadership of Ontario.

    Maybe, just maybe the dumber Trudeau could focus on the problems of current Canadians (such as job retraining for the manufacturing jobs that are being lost

  • As a Canadian from Toronto who is working in NYC, it is really hard for Canadian companies to compete if the wages are 30-40% lower. Also tech adoption and the scale in Canada just doesn't compare to the US.
  • "PMJT tries to [help] by increasing funding for technology"

    no thanks!

  • Needs More Startups (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday September 15, 2017 @11:43AM (#55203371) Journal
    Canada's problem isn't unskilled labor. On a whim, I looked into jobs in Canada after Trump won. (yup, I'm that guy) As a mechanical engineer, there are basically two major employers:

    1. Bombardier -Horribly mismanaged
    2. Mining -Since environmental responsibility was on my mind, I ruled that out.

    There were a few smaller organizations, but they seemed to be shrinking rather than growing. One example is the nuclear power sector.

    If the Canadian government wants a high tech industry, they need to invest in some scientific research. Sure, it's a gamble that will take decades to pay off if it ever does. It's no coincidence that The Bay Area has four national labs, and the most high tech jobs.

    I was at a lab in Ontario five years ago, and that place was struggling. There was so much equipment gathering dust and in disrepair it was astounding! I've since learned that lab went out of business.

    Canada already has a very simple immigration system. A lot of people who can't get into the US go to Canada. One of my coworkers immigrated to Canada from China. He ended up in the US because he couldn't find work in Canada. He used to commute between Windsor and Detroit every day until he was granted a US visa.
    • If the Canadian government wants a high tech industry, they need to invest in some scientific research. Sure, it's a gamble that will take decades to pay off if it ever does. It's no coincidence that The Bay Area has four national labs, and the most high tech jobs.

      Canada invests a lot in research (at least in my field), and the universities are quite good. The University of Toronto is on par with any Ivy League university in the States for example. The problem is that a lot of people have nowhere to work once they do their degree if they want to stay in their field of specialization. I've seen tons of people who have Master's and PhD degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering end up as business analysts at banks and consulting firms, doing nothing related to th

      • I've seen tons of people who have Master's and PhD degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering end up as business analysts at banks and consulting firms, doing nothing related to the fields in which they became experts in, because that's the only thing that is open to them if they don't want to move to the US.

        There were a lot of engineers going to Wall Street the around the time of the housing bubble. The finance industry was paying way more than anywhere else. Things seem to have flipped now that tech is booming again.

        Any start-up that wants to make it big in Canada will naturally orient itself towards the US market (which is easy due to NAFTA etc.) and will then end up being bought up by an American corporation or investment fund which then will often move the headquarters to the US. I've seen that happen, Canadian start-ups moving to Silicon Valley because of the investors there, nothing to do with government support.

        Perhaps the Canadian government could invest in a few startups in an effort to keep them within Canada. (Socialism! Scary!) It wouldn't have to be a permanent program. Once a few companies succeed, Canadian VC won't see it as a large risk. It just needs to be demonstrated that success is po

        • There were a lot of engineers going to Wall Street the around the time of the housing bubble. The finance industry was paying way more than anywhere else. Things seem to have flipped now that tech is booming again.

          That's true, however in Canada this is still happening, the banks are strong (they didn't implode or explode during the financial crisis, since they were...conservative, like most Canadian companies), and they like hiring people with tech/science degrees, and there just isn't that large of a tech industry as in the US. The U. of Toronto keeps chugging out electronics graduates at all levels all the time, they are good, however the only major electronics employer is AMD (the former ATI) and they're not very

        • Perhaps the Canadian government could invest in a few startups in an effort to keep them within Canada. (Socialism! Scary!) It wouldn't have to be a permanent program. Once a few companies succeed, Canadian VC won't see it as a large risk. It just needs to be demonstrated that success is possible outside of Silicon Valley.

          There are various government programs for helping startups (at least in Ontario), I've no idea if the money being offered is enough. I think part of the problem is that there aren't that many Canadian VCs, and people who want to invest in VC funds in Canada will invest in US funds since they are so much more numerous, bigger, varied, successful, etc.

          One idea I've seen floated around is co-investment into VC funds, e.g. the government promising to match any investment in a company that a VC makes, or funds w

    • Since environmental responsibility was on my mind

      Are you aware that most of the things you use daily are made of materials mined somewhere (and in all likelihood, in poorly regulated third-world countries)?. Mining is not bad in itself, and Canada is surely not the worst place in terms of regulation.

      Probably not taking a job in the mining industry lets you sleep at night, but, in fact, you are fooling yourself.

      • Probably not taking a job in the mining industry lets you sleep at night, but, in fact, you are fooling yourself.

        A lot of my decisions are decided based on whether or not I will be able to sleep at night. I am aware that I am fooling myself, but so far it's working.

  • Does Canada not have H1Bs? Does Canada not have sanctuary cities? Does Canada not have a welcoming policy for refugees from the entire world? Why aren't people flocking to staff these industries? Someone explain, I don't get it. #welcomerefugees [theatlantic.com]
  • Pay them more, or watch them go to the U.S.

    Can't afford it? Don't bother being in business then. You can't expect to pay high tech workers the same wage as you do a Subway employee.

  • When I see the progressive garbage coming out of Canada (e.g. giving the government the power to seize children from parents who don't agree with the child's gender identity, stripping a parent's right to decide how their child is taught about homosexuality), I simply shake my head and say, "No, thank you."
  • As a Canadian Army veteran, I was trained as an Oracle developer, went to Canadian universities and colleges, and then moved to the US.

    I didn't move for money, or because I didn't like the military or anything, I moved because I met someone who was a citizen of another country with a kid there.

    You can make all the retention programmes in the world and I still would have moved.

    Did I make more in the US? Sure.

    Did I like Canada's single payer national healthcare, run by provinces? Loved it!

    Worry more about the

  • Canadian tech company hints at Canadian Government to throw money at Canadian tech companies.

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