The CEO of a Philadelphia-based tech company says his U.S. employees can work at the company's recently acquired Vancouver operation if they are concerned about Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.
The offer from WebLinc, which provides a cloud-based software for online retailers, comes amid anecdotal reports from immigration lawyers who say they've been flooded with calls from Americans wanting to move to Canada in the wake of Mr. Trump's surprise victory last week. The results have prompted celebrities and others to proclaim their desire to move to Canada, though experts have cautioned that emigrating isn't simple.
WebLinc head Darren Hill said Tuesday that 15 people – 10 per cent of his U.S. work force – say they are interested in Vancouver, where the company has an operation with 20 people after purchasing Orderbot, a provider of online inventory-management software, in February. WebLinc is 22 years old, founded by Mr. Hill when he was 18.
"No one that would move would need to change their job. They would just be doing it from Vancouver, in a different time zone," said Mr. Hill, who is looking at the details of making this work. "We don't need to have a job opening for them to go."
Mr. Hill, 41, said that during the election, employees joked about moving to Canada if Mr. Trump won. "My thing was, 'Hey, you can if you want.' So it really wasn't anything serious – until it was." The day after the election, he sent out a company e-mail reaffirming his position.
Now, he said employees are waiting to see how things play out under Mr. Trump's leadership, and whether he follows through on such election promises as building a wall along the Mexican border or banning Muslims from visiting the United States.
Mr. Trump's looming presidency has caused many concerns, he said. Gay employees are wondering about the status of their marriages. And Muslims and Mexicans are concerned or insulted. "I want to make sure our employees are comfortable and happy and they can do their best work without worrying about the federal government coming down on them," he said.
Mr. Hill, a Republican, expressed skepticism about Mr. Trump's leadership qualities. "He obviously lied a lot during the campaign, and I teach my kids not to lie. He makes fun of people who aren't like him. I teach my kids not to do that. He admitted to sexually assaulting people, which I teach my kids not to do."
He said it remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will be different as a president than as a candidate.
Steve Meurrens, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, said he has been "flooded" with queries from Americans about getting into Canada in light of the election result. That includes about 10 queries from companies he declined to name looking to help American workers in Canada become permanent residents.
To work in Canada, Mr. Meurrens said employees would need work permits, which, depending on circumstances, could allow for one to three years work in Canada. He noted that changes to the North American free-trade agreement could also have an impact on staying in Canada.
Asked about the WebLinc situation, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson replied with a statement noting that Vancouver strives to be a "beacon" for inclusion and diversity. "With our steady and strong economic growth, Vancouver welcomes people from all over the world and we invite people to come put down roots in our city."
Iain Black, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, said human capital is vital to the tech sector, which has about 85,000 workers and is said to be larger than the forestry, mining and gas sectors combined. "To the extent Donald Trump and policies he has been espousing on the campaign trail is seen as problematic to the lifestyles and the culture of the community that these people want, they are very much portable," Mr. Black said.
Mr. Hill said his proposal has been greeted with curiosity from other Philadelphia business people, offers from Vancouver-ites willing to provide living space for company staff. In addition, Canadian immigration lawyers have offered free services to help figure out how to proceed.
Mr. Hill said he loves America – and Philadelphia. Still, he is concerned about various policies of Mr. Trump including his threats to curtail federal funding to any sanctuary cities – including Philadelphia – that do not use municipal resources to enforce national immigration laws. "Would I leave if things got terrible? Of course." And, if it came to that, he said he would move his company to Canada instead of elsewhere in America.
As for Vancouver, he said he liked the weather during a summer visit as well as the "fantastic" Asian cuisine and "super nice" people. "It's a great place."