Canadian Manufacturing

Does Toronto have what it takes to win Amazon’s coveted HQ2?

Canada's largest city has no shortage of strengths when stacked up against its all-American rivals, but certain weaknesses could sink its bid


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Toronto has growing tech scene and is well established as the country’s financial and business base. Arild VĂ¥gen/Wikimedia

TORONTO—Leaving some 200 American and Canadian cities coast to coast disappointed, Amazon.com Inc. revealed the short list for its much sought after second North American headquarters earlier this week.

The one Canadian city not in mourning is Ontario’s capital and the country’s largest population centre.

And though Toronto is one of 20 cities on the continent still in contention for HQ2, it faces some steep competition to land the huge new tech campus.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that Toronto has as the only Canadian location on Amazon’s short list


Pros:

The Canadian dollar: The loonie has been worth less than the U.S. dollar since February 2013 and is currently at about 80 cents US, giving an Toronto an edge in dollar-for-dollar labour cost comparisons with U.S. cities.

Health care: Canadian employers pay an average of 25 per cent of payroll to health care and benefits, compared with 37 per cent on average for U.S. employers. (Government statistics as of July 2017).

Skilled labour force: The Toronto bid claims more people working in computer, engineering and science than Washington, D.C., San Francisco or most other of its U.S. rivals. But New York City tops the list.

Money skills: The Toronto region claims more people working in business and financial operations than Chicago, Washington, D.C. or most of its American rivals. Again, Toronto trails only New York City.

Quality of life: Toronto was ranked 16th in Mercer’s 2017 survey of world cities. The highest ranking for Toronto’s remaining U.S. rivals was Boston, ranked 35th on Mercer’s list.

Safety and security: Toronto was ranked fourth overall in Economist’s 2017 global safe cities index, best of all North American cities. Toronto scored well on digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal security.


Cons:

Outside United States: Border crossings can be unpredictable for employees and each country has its own legal and regulatory frameworks, adding a layer of complexity.

Donald Trump: The U.S. president has been an outspoken and unpredictable force since he was elected in November 2017. The potential loss of an important job creator may provoke Trump.

Corporate taxes: While Canada and Ontario retain an edge in terms of corporate tax rates, their advantage has shrunk since Trump’s recent success in slashing the U.S. corporate tax rate.

Real estate and rental prices: Toronto was recently ranked the most expensive city in Canada for rental apartments and has long been Canada’s second-most expensive residential real estate.


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