Canada just signaled it’s about to escalate the $5 billion war for Amazon’s HQ2

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
REUTERS/Trish Badger

  • Justin Trudeau and Jeff Bezos are set to meet on Thursday in San Francisco.
  • Amazon‘s HQ2 will surely be among the topics of discussion.
  • The Canadian city of Toronto is on Amazon’s 20-city shortlist, and Trudeau is sure to talk up his country’s immigration policies in his pitch.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to meet with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in San Francisco on Thursday, according to Reuters.

It’s part of the Canadian leader’s three-day tour of America to shore up support for NAFTA.

Trudeau will “meet with various business leaders and entrepreneurs in the technology sector to explore opportunities for growth in high-quality jobs and investment in Canada” during his trip, as his press secretary Eleanore Catenaro told the Toronto Star.

If you read between the lines just a smidge, it’s not hard to figure that Amazon’s search for a place to put its second headquarters will come up in conversation. This is Trudeau’s chance to pitch Toronto – the only city outside the US on Amazon’s HQ2 shortlist – directly to Bezos during a closed-door conversation.

HQ2, with its promise of 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment, is big enough that it would matter not just to an individual city or state but to an entire country the size of Canada.

Trudeau previously sent a letter to Bezos when the HQ2 project was announced, talking up Toronto’s tech talent and cosmopolitan lifestyle, as well as Canada’s lower cost to employers via universal healthcare.

Mayor Jim Watson of Ottawa previously said Canadian cities had an advantage because of Canada’s more liberal policies.

“Amazon has something like 9,000 engineering jobs they can’t fill,” Watson told The New York Times in September, adding that Canada’s immigration policy was “much more liberal” and that “that’s where we have an advantage.”

There’s less uncertainty about possible changes to immigration laws right now in Canada than there is in the US. In an interview with the CBC from September, a former Amazon executive described Canada as “more welcoming” when it came to immigration.

Toronto and Canada are hoping that Amazon weighs that advantage heavily, as the bid it submitted to Amazon did not emphasize tax and other financial incentives.