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A year into Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, Toronto remains confident in its bid

The logo of Amazon is seen at the company's logistics centre in Lauwin-Planque, France.

Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Canada’s most populous city remains confident it has what it takes to snag Amazon’s second North American headquarters a year after the online retail giant launched its search for a new home base.

With Amazon expected to make its decision by the end of the year, Toronto’s mayor said the city – the only Canadian contender to make the short list – is uniquely positioned to host the company.

“We put forward a strong bid that highlights the fact that the Toronto Region has emerged as a global centre of innovation and technology because of our talented, diverse and inclusive workforce,” John Tory said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

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“There is no other region in North America that can boast the same talent, the same quality of life, the same vibrancy and economic strength. We made that point to Amazon in our pitch and in person when they visited us here.”

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government, meanwhile, said its plans to reduce corporate taxes to 10.5 per cent from 11.5 per cent and to reduce government red tape would signal to potential investors that the province is “open for business.”

Amazon’s announcement that it sought to open a second North American headquarters drew a landslide of proposals from municipalities keen to draw the $5-billion investment and the 50,000 jobs it is expected to create.

Canadian cities large and small sent in bids, but only Toronto made the cut, and the city must now compete with American contenders such as Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

In the bid it submitted last fall, Toronto highlighted its diversity as well as its comparatively lower business costs. It also touted its infrastructure and low crime rates.

While recent high-profile gun violence could tarnish the city’s image as a safe destination, it is unlikely to affect the outcome of the contest, said Gabor Forgacs, a professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University who specializes in tourism and business.

“It doesn’t help our image, that’s for sure, but in a relationship like a possible Amazon location for a big office, I don’t think it’s going to be a decision influencer,” he said. “You look at comparable sized North American urban conglomerates, we’re still considered very safe, and that didn’t change.”

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Negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement have stirred tensions between Canada and its southern neighbour, but those disputes probably won’t have a meaningful impact on Amazon’s decision, he said.

The ongoing political turmoil in the U.S. could come into play, however, and would probably weigh in Toronto’s favour, Forgacs said.

“Businesses like stability, they want the ability to forecast, they like to anticipate how the future, at least in the near term, will unfold, and in economic and political climate that has so much hyped-up events and divisions...that’s not favourable for businesses,” he said.

“Everything that’s happening currently in the U.S. is not ... necessarily a very inviting climate so you have a high propensity to look elsewhere.”

Though there has been some upheaval in Ontario’s political landscape in recent months – after the Progressive Conservatives ended 15 years of Liberal rule this spring – that kind of change is to be expected whenever there is a new government and the dust should settle soon, he said.

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