“I travelled to the states four times last year, and I usually take my son on a trip south every March,” says Dan Strasbourg of Toronto. Not any more, he says. After Donald Trump’s election win, he is boycotting the United States, and will likely spend his money on a summer trip to the Rockies.
“I don’t want to take my son there,” Mr. Strasbourg said. “My concern is not so much for the political party, it’s about the people who are backing the president-elect. There’s a lot of hate and misogyny and racism and homophobia. That’s not an environment I find very appealing in a travel destination.”
He is not alone. Many Canadians and liberal Americans express a similar view. And that may be a silver lining for some Canadian businesses, said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). “There are some huge risks associated with a Trump presidency – the tide of protectionism in the U.S., with the threats to NAFTA being fairly significant,” he said. “But I would imagine it’s going to be a bit of a mixed bag; I think there will be some Canadian businesses that will come out ahead.”
Mary Tulle, CEO of Destination Cape Breton, has already seen some positive effects. Last February, local radio DJ Rob Calabrese created a tongue-in-cheek website with the slogan “Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins.”
It urged Americans who want to “get the hell out of there” to consider moving to Cape Breton Island. Calabrese was quickly buried in serious inquiries about how to go about immigrating, so Destination Cape Breton took over, launching a new website (Welcome to Cape Breton) to handle questions on buying real estate, opening a business and moving.
Apart from generating amused chuckles around the world, the region got a lot of free attention. Tourism traffic grew by 14.5 per cent over the summer (compared to 4 per cent for Nova Scotia overall), boosting business for hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
“Our Destination Cape Breton tourism site saw a 359 per cent increase in traffic from Nov. 8 to the 17th,” Tulle said. And the Welcome to Cape Breton site has had 86,000 unique visits since the end of March, almost 30,000 between Nov. 8 and 17. “About 26,000 of those came from the U.S., and California just keeps ranking No. 1 on everything,” Ms. Tulle said.
Will all those disaffected Californians pick up and move to the province? Not likely, she admits. But enough are serious to boost business for real estate firms and immigration lawyers.
Mr. Kelly said our own immigrant population might feel “a little more vulnerable in the U.S. at this moment in time” and spend their tourism dollars in Victoria rather than going to Florida for March break.
“And who knows – if the U.S. is looking turbulent and race relations are fraying, other Canadians may choose not to go there,” he said. But he believes that, in the long term, Canadian snowbirds will return to the U.S. south or pick somewhere else warm. “A Trump presidency isn’t all of a sudden going to make palm trees appear in Manitoba,” he said. “Some of them may choose to go elsewhere – like the Caribbean instead.”
The biggest and probably most immediate benefit of Trump’s presidency, Mr. Kelly said, would be the “ability for Keystone Pipeline to re-propose and get approved.” That would help any number of companies in Canada’s oil patch, including Calgary-based IntelliView Technology Inc., according to Christopher Beadle, the company’s VP, sales and marketing.
“Our primary market is midstream pipeline operators, who would deploy our technology to reduce the impact of small leaks in pump stations and above-ground piping,” Mr. Beadle said. If new pipelines into the United States are approved, “that means more infrastructure, and that would increase the market for our camera-based leak-detection solutions.”
Mr. Kelly said Canadian businesses may also benefit from a reversal of the trend that has drawn skilled people from various sectors, but particularly tech, to the United States. “If we’re able to attract talented immigrants, or people looking to set up businesses who would normally look to the U.S., there could be a silver lining there,” he said.
Heather Galt agrees. She is vice-president of talent initiatives for tech hub Communitech, one of the organizations behind Go North Canada, a national initiative that aims to let ex-pat Canadian techies know about opportunities in the tech sector at home. “We’ve got an expected 3,000 open positions in Waterloo alone,” Ms. Galt said. “There’s a high need for those people, and companies can’t grow without them.”
Go North Canada ran several networking events last summer, and launched its website on Oct. 28, following up with a billboard campaign in Palo Alto and San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 31. The election, she said, “for sure had an impact on our timing.”
By three weeks after its launch, Go North Canada had registered 4,000 hits (about 250 a day), and the number of respondents who handed over their LinkedIn profiles has “exceeded expectations,” Ms. Galt said.
“That’s not necessarily driven by the political situation,” she said. “It’s driven by people’s affinity to Canada, their interest in raising their kids here, and their appreciation for Canadian values and the Canadian social system. ... The election may have given them a little bit of incentive to shorten their time-frame. It paints a contrasting picture and makes it easy for people to discern what’s important to them.”
Some 300,000 ex-pat Canadian techies are in Silicon Valley, adds Michael Litt, CEO and co-founder of Vidyard, an online video platform based in Kitchener, Ont., and “brain drain has been a consistent challenge since the 1980s.”
But at least one large multinational tech organization in the Waterloo region has had 400 requests to transfer to Canada in recent weeks, and a number of tech industry recruiters have approached Vidyard seeking opportunities for their clients in Canada. “I have not seen that before,” Mr. Litt said.
Providing it does not throw a monkey wrench into trade between Canada and the United States, Mr. Litt believes the U.S. election and its fallout may just provide a leg up for Canadian tech firms in the race for scarce talent. “We haven’t necessarily reversed the flow yet,” he said. “But this is an opportunity to stem the flow for a while and expose new grads and ex-pats to all the great stuff happening in Canada.”Report Typo/Error
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