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Canada facing ‘brain drain’ as tech talent leaves for Silicon Valley (theglobeandmail.com)
419 points by paulashbourne on May 4, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 693 comments



Canada is in a really tough spot here. I've always admired Canadian culture/values, and in the abstract, would love to live in Canada one day. However, as a Software developer, the compensation and opportunities that one can find in SF/Seattle/NYC dwarf anything in Canada. Until this changes, Canada is always going to lose its brightest engineers, which will in turn worsen the problem even further.

Some solutions I can think of, which might help:

- Aggressively pursue the brightest non-American engineers, who are hesitant to move to USA because of immigration restrictions.

- Offer very lucrative perks to the major software companies, to expand their engineering presence in Canada. Yes, it stinks having to offer tax-breaks, but at least it will help build initial momentum.

- Aggressively encourage/fund/facilitate startups. Unlike salaried employees, startups aren't turned off by the low-engineering-wages. Once Canada can grow 5-10 startups into major established companies with Canadian HQs, that will really boost the local engineering ecosystem and job market.


Canadian here (who lives outside of Canada but recently did a stint there for a bit) and this will sound negative but f-it. Canadian culture sucks when it comes to trying new things. Canada has some extra safety net but the culture is puritanical and conservative and nobody wants to go out on a limb and try something new and crazy. Not like Americans. Those that do are constantly questioned by everybody. The idea of being an entrepreneur, in the GTA especially, is buying a second house in the suburbs and hoping the housing market continues rising.

The problem of trying to get Canadian tech up to par with the US is much deeper than pulling some tax/incentive levers, I think. There are some really deep cultural issues that I don't think can be solved for a few generations.


The liberalness of Canada is overhyped. The reality is Canada is deeply conservative. It's possible to have universal health care and be conservative, that's only a oxymoron in the US.

To quote this excellent article[1]: "the default setting of the Canadian male: a dull but stern dad, who, under a facade of apparent normalcy and common sense, conceals a reserve of barely contained hostility toward anyone who might rock the boat. To these types, those who make a fuss are bothersome and ignorant at best, and probably dangerous and destructive too."

I was born in Canada. I went to school in Canada. Only once I moved to the US did I feel like I could express and be myself. That I am surrounded by people who think like I do and value the things I value. Dogmatic adherence to the way it's done, because change is dangerous is the default state of many Canadians. For those who it's not, well, you know them, they're already living in the US.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/06/opinion/jordan-peterson-c...


Honestly I gotta agree with you here, bud. When I was growing up in Canada I had to keep my dreams a secret. If you had any grand goals people thought you were an egomaniacal weirdo. It wasn't until I seriously dated someone here in the US that I realized the difference: as part of the "delving into each others' inner lives" phase of the early relationship, I sheepishly admitted I had dreams of doing some pretty big things. I was greeted with an eye-roll and her saying "everyone wants to do something like that".

Here in the USA it's normal for everyone to have big dreams, and weird if they don't. I think I like it.


As a Canadian who has lived in the US for 1 year (in SF) I have a totally different take away. I noticed that people here are very hard working, almost as they are desperate for success, like if they fail or lost their job they would just die, poor and homeless and healthcare-less.

I found that people in Canada were much more focused on happiness and were more willing to make sacrifices to improve their quality of live, though in Vancouver the housing crisis was a gut check for anyone who's goals include owning a home, or starting a family.

There is money to be made here in the valley, especially in tech, but it is not where I intend to be permanently. I want to retire one day, and I probably can't do that here. I definitely couldn't do that in Vancouver with a local salary.


>> like if they fail or lost their job they would just die, poor and homeless and healthcare-less

Because they could be very easily if they don't have a family safety net. I think that ultimately puts a damper on peoples' productive and creative ability as they tend to then focus more on keeping their job rather than being the most productive they can be for their employer.


> I think that ultimately puts a damper on peoples' productive and creative ability as they tend to then focus more on keeping their job rather than being the most productive they can be for their employer.

You could also look at it the other way. The lack of a safety net is like burning the bridges: it encourages you to be more productive and creative precisely because if you're not, then you've got nothing to fall back on.


I think that works when looking for employment, because there is a wide open field in which creativity is more likely to find a good match. Once people get hired they tend to focus solely, right or wrong, on getting on with the people within their organization which is going to place a limit on their creative output.


> like if they fail or lost their job they would just die, poor and homeless and healthcare-less

Poor people get free healthcare in the US. I'm not sure how you could not know that after decades of that being the case. Medicaid has existed since 1965. Not only has it broadened out considerably, today there is also CHIP and SS disability to further supplement that along with countless smaller programs.

Just Medicaid + CHIP covers 70 million people, about 22% of the US, or twice the entire population of Canada.

The US also has vast housing subsidization programs for poor people.


Before Medicaid expansion, Medicaid was strictly for disabled populations under the age of 65 and below a certain income.

After Medicaid expansion, Medicaid is offered to those with an income of below ~130% of the federal poverty line: roughly $16k a year for an individual. I think we'd both agree that $16k/yr is abjectly poor, and those making even 50% more than that are still very poor.

However, only 33 states have expanded Medicaid. Some of the poorest states in the Union have not expanded Medicaid. Therefore, Medicaid is still strictly for disabled population under a certain income in those states.

To say poor people get free healthcare in the US isn't a true statement. Some very poor people in the US have access to Medicaid, depending on their location and income. Some poor people in states that have expanded Medicaid will still not get free healthcare because, while they are objectively poor, they do not meet the income requirements for Medicaid.

For those with a low income, and without access to Medicaid, health insurance premiums are very high and have deductibles that people would need to take a car loan out to pay.


You are incorrect. Medicaid is not and was not strictly for "disabled populations". Are you thinking of SSI?

Over 67 million people are enrolled in Medicaid, over 6 million are in CHIP. That's over 22% of the population.

Your definition of objectively poor is suspect, because the cost of living varies so widely across the US.


I agree there's more ambition/drive in the US (Just observed, never having worked there), but there's lots here too. People do start companies.

I think the bay area tends to do a lot more experimentation darwinian style, but I suspect it's because they can (more seed money/angels, etc)


It's the East Coast vs West Coast mentality.

West coast has always been about experiment wheareas east coast is more conservative. I've always wondered if it was because the Europeans took hold of the East coast first and it was only the more brave who would take on the Westword journey. Perhaps that mentality is still engrained in the culture?

I think Dragons Den vs Shark Tank is a clear example of how much stronger the US is (population is 10x too though).


My dad has a good saying: "what takes three hundred years to accomplish in western Europe takes 3 generations on the east coast, takes 30 years on the west coast".

Not surprisingly they moved out west soon after school and I've been forever poisoned to the east!


Yeah, that's why Germany has maglevs and high speed rail and California can barely get it's own HSR off the ground.

That's a truly awful saying that's emblematic of the stupid prejudices brought about by American exceptionalism and the even more obnoxious (to me) West Coast exceptionalism.


As much as I nodded along with your exasperation at the parent poster's (father's) demonstration of bias, you can't compare long-distance public transportation infrastructure in places with the population densities and growth rates of Germany and California, two extremes in that sense. California has 1/5 more area, with half the population, and that population has almost doubled over the last 35 years, versus a few % growth in Germany.


>you can't compare long-distance public transportation infrastructure in places with the population densities and growth rates of Germany and California

You very much can. Parent didn't ask Californians to build infrastructure in Yosemite or the Death Valley. Heck, not even in Bakersfield.

How's that L.A, San Diego, and San Francisco public transportation infrastructure? Places that, if anything, have more population density than the most populus German cities?


The US mostly relies on air travel, and it's not too inconvenient if you can avoid major hubs like SFO and LAX. The population of those metropolitan areas isn't the problem; it's the distance, as well as the lower demand for travel between them. California is also more seismically active. You can build a passenger HSR system in California, but the cost/benefit is going to be worse than somewhere like Germany.


Distance wouldn't be much of a problem. It isn't much longer than Paris - Frankfurt. Chinese trains cover the distance in 2 hours. It would work from a European perspective, but Europe built most of its networks decades ago. The Chinese aren't just building train lines, they are building entire regions.

Everyone complains how few things can be built in SF or LA, but suddenly having a lot of space available is something negative? Californians have a dream scenario on their hands as the high cost of construction can relatively soon be offset by the huge gains in capturing the global tech market. Something that will pay off for a century. And they should have the money to do it. It is probably one of the best infrastructure investments available anywhere.


Wendover Productions made an interesting video on the economics of Trains in the States:

https://youtu.be/fwjwePe-HmA


The point is, it's still very difficult to do basic things in California: get to work and have a place to live. This is progressive?


I hear this explanation floated around a lot, but I have extreme doubts that it has any bearing in reality. I live in NYC, and it's not that we're adverse to experimentation. Far from it; we mix and match cultures obsessively until the most bizarre "only in New York" moments come about.

Instead, New Yorkers are more likely to call bullshit on an idea when it isn't good or at a minimum challenge it to be better. You don't have nearly the same survival of the fittest attitude in the Bay Area from my impressions, and as a result tons of crackpot ideas end up funded. Admittedly, crackpot ideas in NYC also get funded (Juicero, oy) so I'm not sure if the difference can totally be attributed to New York's adversarial nature.

Mostly what it boils down to here I suspect is that start-ups just aren't as visible because all of the software devs and engineers realized that they could go work in finance rather than a "tech company" and make millions of dollars more. In this sense, lots of New York's innovative spirit gets channeled into problems relating to designing custom ASICs for HFT and trying to outwit the market.

As another point, who claim that the East Coast is averse to experimentation have a marked tendency to ignore counterfactual examples like BBN and Bell Labs. Even Xerox (in Rochester) and Kodak were pretty deep into R&D before they fucked themselves.


I have lived on both coasts and the biggest difference I have noticed is the strength of the elite university caste system in the East. It felt like if you didn't go to a top ten school you had a glass ceiling.

It exists out West too but in my experience so far is less prevalent and is given less weight. People out East often start a presentation, pitch, or interview with where they went to school. Out West I have done a dozen VC meetings and have only been asked once or twice and I didn't get the impression it was a major data point for them.

Dominant mentalities are:

East: who are you? What is your background?

West: what can you do?


I've never lived outside of the East Coast / mid-West, but what you're saying sounds feasible. That said, I'd guess that the "who are you? What is your background?" question is more of a Boston thing than a New York thing, since New York doesn't have the Puritan / Boston Brahman caste system. I've known of a number of people who went to state schools or random unknown schools in New Jersey who've done reasonably well here.


I also wonder if the weather has anything to do with the mentality.

Winters in the East Coast are harsh so it forces people to be more 'realistic'. Whereas the sub tropical West Coast gives people an environment to think in more imaginitive ways.

Also Juicero was headquarted in San Fran?


Juicero may have headquartered in San Fran because it was the "cool thing to do", but the founder lives in Brooklyn. I suspect that the San Fran HQ was HQ in name only.

Weather certainly does have an effect on culture. That said, the East Coast vs. West Coast, U.S. vs the World rivalry is mostly contrived, and claims that one area is more innovative than another are dubious. It's reasonable to claim that the Bay Area has more of an engineering-centric culture, but that is likely due to a) Intel and b) the presence of multiple well-funded National Labs within close proximity.

If you look at the case of Leland Stanford, for instance, you'll notice that he maintained pretty deep personal and economic ties with his hometown of Albany up until his death- a lot of his success wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been able to rely upon his extended family in the East Coast for support.

Stanford University was actually originally supposed to be in Albany, but was the location was switched to Palo Alto- allegedly because people got greedy. Instead Albany got a children's orphanage sponsored by Stanford's wife, which didn't last past the 30s. [1]

[1] http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2010/10/01/why-stanford-isn...


Sailing across an ocean to who knows what is pretty brave.

I expect the enormous wealth captured by computers and software gives people the leeway to experiment.


California and Japan are the farthest people and ideas can travel...those who survive the journey will have been refined by it!

When those people meet those ideas at the end of said journey is when then magic happens


> West coast has always been about experiment wheareas east coast is more conservative.

This is just flat out wrong and a bit egotistical. Now the west coast thinks it’s the “experimenters” rolls eyes


True that's an over generalization!

I don't think it's egotistical though.


As a Canadian thank you for your story. I felt somewhat the same way but thought it was just me.


As a German thank you...I feel just the same way about it!

To infinity and beyond guys


That's part of the "tall poppy" culture endemic to Canada and other British colonies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome

You stand out, you become a target.


> Here in the USA it's normal for everyone to have big dreams, and weird if they don't. I think I like it

It makes Americans easily manipulated and exploited.


That’s unfair - any stable trait of any community will be used by people to manipulate and exploit them.


Not every trait is equally exploitable.


I agree with this observation. There are countless examples of companies making big money by taking advantage of that trait.


So true. I'll give you a poignant example... I was a Canadian exchange student at a California University. I was walking from one class to another when I noticed somebody on a skateboard coming my way on the path.

Just as he was passing I realize it was one of my professors. That surprised me and I turned my head as he went by to take it in. But what surprised me more was that I was the only person who gave a shit that a 50-year-old guy in dress pants and a sweater just road past on a skateboard. That's when I first realized people were much more open-minded.

It took me about 10 years after University to move back to California and I can't imagine I'll ever move away.


Where in Canada did you live and gone to school?

I live in the US now, and don't disagree that Americans as a people are more...well, I like the word 'ambitious'.

But I think your characterization of Canada is overly harsh: in Toronto and Montreal I know (and love) misfits just as individual, wild, and free as anyone I met during my years in Brooklyn.


Also Canadian (Vancouver / Victoria), spend a lot of time in SF. This has also been my experience but I'm wondering if its just a big city thing in CAD.


I’m a New Yorker, grew up there and now living in SF. Brooklyn was cool, but it didn’t “get” the kind of experimental intellectualism that’s needed in a tech startup scene. Not ripping on my old hometown. They have the intellectualism but haven’t applied it to tech. If I were to go back to New York, I wouldn’t go into tech, I’d go into finance because that’s where the nerds would be.

If I may, when I visited Vancouver (several times), I couldn’t find a coffee shop culture there. For some reason this seems like a big deal. In Manhattan and in San Francisco, people write in coffee shops and it’s kind of a thing. This seems like a big deal too. There’s more startups that started in a coffee shop than you’d think. Again, it goes towards a certain kind of intellectual experimentation.


I remember this Ted Talk titled “Where Good Ideas Come From” [1] where the speaker suggests that coffee or the combination of coffee and stimulating conversation catalyzed the generation of ideas and the rest is history up to the birth of Enlightenment. It seems like it’s still happening around coffee shops.

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_co...


That's a really good talk. Thanks.


Which coffee shops in Manhattan?


As a Vancouverite, I found people less adventurous, less free-thinking, and greedier, in the Valley. Not by a huge margin, but still.

But if you're in it for the money, the 2x salaries can't be beat.


'Free' as in as long as you both have the same socially-acceptable opinion.


When I graduated and tried to find work in Canada multiple firms told me I was "too weird" and "should move to California", so I did and I'm super happy that it worked out the way it did -- but I still feel sad about having to leave my home country to be my authentic self.


My experience in here in the 'States exemplifies your comments "that I am surrounded by people who think like I do and value the things I value".

But this does not lead to healthy social communities. We as a country are drunk on the idea that our friends are people who think and act like us, when this is only part -- IMO, a very small part -- of group chemistry that this outlook overlooks. Group interaction is so much more complicated and beautiful than that. At least in my case, my best friendships are with people very much unlike me.

If you look at the current political situation here we are all banding together along lines of common interests and beliefs, and not things like proximity, or economic need, or other factors. And one wonders why we are so divided, when nobody wants to find common ground...

I hate to use the word diversity but it's as important in life as water, now more than ever.


> we are all banding together along lines of common interests and beliefs, and not things like proximity, or economic need, or other factors. And one wonders why we are so divided, when nobody wants to find common ground...

I believe you are reversing the cause and effect. It is never easy to find common ground. In the bad old days when people could not band together along lines of common interests and beliefs easily, common ground were found by the powerful suppressing the opinion of the powerless, and other times by resolution of war.


I think the appropriate term here is "diversity of thought" which is sort of opposite to the unqualified "diversity" which usually means diversity of genetics and uniformity of thought.


Not everyone in my environment thinks as I do, but I can find enough that I can live a happy life.

This is not so in other areas.


A lot of Canada's GDP seems to come from mining, and some of it seems to come from places that could be disrupted by technology or ecological concerns, so I'm not surprised at resistance to disruption.


Mining is a bit of a paradox. Historically mining companies were the "start-ups" of their day.

When you discovered a deposit you'd stake a claim (e.g. patent) and then seek investors to exploit it (e.g. venture funding). If the discovery turned out to be genuine and the mine was successful the returns would often be extraordinary.

Thing is, a lot of mines fail. Maybe there's resources there but extracting them isn't practical or profitable. Maybe there wasn't as much there as theorized. Maybe it was all a lie.

The paradox is that once you have a successful mining industry built up, people think of those as the conservative play, the safe bet, and are reluctant to go through that process all over again with a new industry.


Real-estate (in addition to associated construction) is bigger for than mining and oil:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/g...


But can one really count that, at least in the context of how the people understand where their money really comes from? Consider the adage, "Buy land: they don't make it any more."

A growth in the value of land isn't, in and of itself, an actual product, though I do agree the construction is. However, how much of that construction is actually in service of a different industry (i.e. would never have happened but for, say, mining and oil)? Similarly, how much of that real estate value would drop to approximately zero if the industries supporting it disappeared?

I'm sure there's some construction, especially residential, that must be happening just due to population growth, but I'm skeptical if that accounts for even a majority of that number.


Certainly not all that construction is related to real-estate. Still real-estate as a % of GDP eclipses "mining, Oil & Gas".

http://www.investorsfriend.com/canadian-gdp-canadian-imports...


My point is that a chart like that doesn't even hint at how much of that "real estate" activity is a direct result of the needs of "conservative" industries. It certainly stands to reason that something like resource extraction is not just land-intensive but is intensive in changes to land ownership/tenancy.

I'm pretty confident that someone who, according to that chart, is in the "real estate" industry who works selling houses in newly-built mining towns knows full well what industry really supplies his income.


I'm pretty confident that residential real-estate activity (people selling houses to each other) in major urban centres (eg: YVR, GTA) eclipses that of mining towns.


That may well be true, but it's just not detailed in those charts.

A very brief search resulted in this:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/607742/gdp-of-manitoba-c...

If that's accurate, it suggests that Manitoba, which, though known as more agricultural and manufacturing rather than mining, has the same pattern of "real estate" accounting for individual income. Of course, the significant majority of the population is in Winnipeg, but I don't think that qualifies it as a major, on the same scale as Vancouver or Toronto.

Again, I think that even real estate "industry" workers in Winnipeg know their money really comes from manufacturing, just as the ones in Edmonton know their money really comes from oil.

Maybe in the major cities you mention it's not so obvious, but "real estate" still fails to eclipse the sum of all the industries that actually produce something (manufacturing, resource extraction, construction).


AMA about Manitoba: I was born there.

If resisdential RE tanks in Canada, a real possibility with rising interests rate and extreme debt levels, the economy goes down with it.

Mining / Oil & Gas isn’t going to save it.


I think you're conflating the value of the real estate property itself with the GDP from the "industry", which has to do with property changing hands or tenancy.

(Those charts also fail to show how much of that income is from residential transactions/management versus commercial ones.)

It just doesn't stand to reason that if people entirely stop paying other people to buy and sell each other houses (even if it does account for the vast majority of that 13% of the GDP) that the economy would collapse completely.

However, if housing values collapse due to questionable (or worse) lending practices, as happened in the US around 2008, could collapse the financial system and thereby the economy. It might even increase the GDP of the real estate category, especially as a percentage, at the expense of the finance category.

More importantly, though, I don't think there are any voters that buy the notion that they could, for example, do away with their real industry, such as mining or manufacturing, and replace it entirely with selling each other their houses. Because of that, whatever conservatism they may hold would remain from that real industry, regardless of what category the statisticians put their income in.


Hmmm that is an interesting observation. I wonder if and when more of the GDP comes from Services/Software, it will impact the culture of the country as well?


>I was born in Canada. I went to school in Canada. Only once I moved to the US did I feel like I could express and be myself. That I am surrounded by people who think like I do and value the things I value.

So to escape the uniformity of Canada you left and went to find a place were people think like you and value the things you do?

Isn't that what those Canadians are all about as well? Seeking the company of other similar thinking people?

The really open mind thing would be to recognize that some cultures like to experiment, others not, and both are fine.


This thread and it's comments have been super enlightening. Living in California my whole life has skewed my perception of what is normal with respect to ambition. Ambition is not inherently good, but Eve as a small child we are inundated with messages about success, "hard work" (whatever that means), and reaching


That's because Canada is socially liberal and financially conservative.


Socially liberal in some ways, but not in everything. 4 states decriminalized and/or legalized marijuana before any Canadian provinces. 2 of them did it years before Canada was even planning to do it. That is very telling of the two cultures.


Marijuana is illegal in every state, because it's illegal under federal law. No province could decriminalize marijuana because no province had criminalized marijuana in the first place. We never had the redundant laws that the US states had.


Summarizing the social liberal aspect of Canada by the legalization of marijuana seems very narrow minded. There are far more important social aspects than marijuana legalization.


Agreed, like I said, "in some ways". Of course, there are more important social aspects, and it's not an in-depth analysis of the two cultures and it wasn't meant to be -- it simply highlights just how open-minded Americans can be and how conservative Canadians can be and that's all it was meant to be.


marijuana has been de facto legal in vancouver for two decades


Toronto too. I've been "caught" smoking weed by the police in Toronto and they literally don't give a shit. That said, not everyone is willing to accept that -- there's a huge portion of very conservative Canadians who think "drugs" are for dropouts and losers (and don't realize the opposite is true too -- nearly half of the most successful people are doing "drugs" too).


>"The reality is Canada is deeply conservative."

Agreed. Ontario is a few weeks away from voting in a conservative government with Doug Ford at the helm.


I think the conservativeness of Canada is a bit different from conservatives in the USA though. It's less focused on "morality" and religion and more an aversion to change. Which is why I think it's possible for the culture to be simultaneously conservative and OK with things like gay marriage and legal cannabis, neither of which would be conservative positions in the US.


Same thing in Germany.

In the political sense, Germany is more liberal than the US (especially economically), but there's this sort personal conservatism that manifests in paranoia about data/privacy, aversion/skepticism around change and technology and risk, less acceptance of weirdness. German culture just feels...rigid. It's stable and very functional, but also inflexible.


Don't forget the incremental perfectionism, which wont allow for a product to ship, unless its polished to a mirror-shine, and at least a year behind any competitor.

And the constant skepticism to anything that is not a physical product. Writing Software in the eye of the layman is something between boring and con-artistry.


To be fair the polished product for physical goods is the better choice. If you buy the rushed appliance with design flaws you will just have to spend money again to replace it, or time to get it returned and fixed.

Software is different in that problems can be fixed instantly (since online updates) and the first to build the user base is often the winner.

The real problems occur when the "software startup" model is applied to a product that it does not fit.


We're insulated because provinces cannot pass laws on gay marriage or legal cannabis.

Canadian federalism is incomplete in that regard.

However Ford could pull a Mike Harris and start firing nurses. His economic plan promises a balanced budget with no job cuts and no tax rises. He claims there are efficiencies to be had whatever that means.


Canada has gay marriages since 2005. Why would provinces need to pass more laws on that?

As of legal cannabis, it is better when it is federal. In US you will go to jail in one state, and can be just fine in another.


Passing laws on those issues isn’t even possible in Canadian provinces they don’t have the constitutional right.


Legal cannibis is absolutely a conservative opinion in the US. Most conservatives want government to just leave us alone.

Republican authored bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/975/

And Diane Feinstein opposed California’s 2016 legalization.

It’s ridiculous to suggest Democrats are more likely to legalize than Republicans because the facts don’t really support that. It’s much less of an obvious partisan issue. Remember, Democrats controlled the house, senate and White House in 2009-2011 and not a single legalization bill even made it to the floor.


To be fair, Doug Ford winning would be partially the liberals' fault. Kathleen Wynne is hated, and they for some reason had her lead again. They've got some great plans, but the way elections work makes it really easy for Doug Ford to pander hard to suburbites who only give a shit about lower taxes and real estate.

Frankly, as a Toronto area dev Doug Ford winning the election would definitely cause me to consider looking for work in the US. Toronto's in a pretty crucial moment right now wrt growth and infrastructure, and I don't really see the point staying if the party of stagnation wins - whatever tax cut they may introduce is dwarfed by higher salary + lower CoL in the US anyways.


Awesome article, and should be required reading for anyone who has only heard of Jordan Peterson through his fans.

I'll say that there's a huge difference in values between the big cities, the suburbs, and Alberta.

Alberta is much more socially conservative than most of the states (if you ever see a Canuck unironically call someone a "cuck", 9/10 times they're Albertan).

Montreal/QC are cool but still hosts an extremely ethnonationalist element that's all but crippled their local economy (remember that a little over a year ago, we had a terror attack where some altright guy shot up a mosque in QC).

Toronto is incredibly progressive (I'd argue it's the most diverse city on the planet), but is surrounded by some of the worst, overtly racist, politicians you'll ever meet. Because of a first-past-the-post voting system, even though they're in the minority, the vote among reasonable people is split among reasonable candidates, and hateful buffoons get a consistent voting bloc. (The late) Rob Ford was mayor, in spite of making violent rants, being repeatedly publicly drunk, using every racial epitaph in the book, smoking crack (sometimes on video), and smoking crack with his KKK-member sister. His brother, reported former drug dealer Doug Ford, now stands a real chance of being Ontario's next premier.

Vancouver is a great city, but somewhat isolated from the rest of Canada. Toronto's pretty expensive, but Vancouver is even worse. Unlike Toronto, though, there aren't a lot of options for anyone but the most wealthy who want to live there. While the Conservative party is very weak there (they didn't even have a location there hosting the federal leadership convention, when even people in PEI had one in driving distance), BC's influence federally is minimal. You could argue they're becoming something of an oligarchy due to the huge influence of corporate money. You either need to have a high-paying job, or be very old, to live there.


>To quote this excellent article[1]: "the default setting of the Canadian male: a dull but stern dad, who, under a facade of apparent normalcy and common sense, conceals a reserve of barely contained hostility toward anyone who might rock the boat. To these types, those who make a fuss are bothersome and ignorant at best, and probably dangerous and destructive too."

Just being a conservative or a right-winger is bothersome and ignorant and dangerous and destructive and lots of bad things. What a way of seeing the world. :-)


Bothersome is describing “those who would not rock the boat,” aka the enemies of the conservative, not the conservative.


The usual phrase is "psychologically conservative." Sticking to the comfort zone. Therefore, a psychological conservative who grows up in a politically Marxist household will remain Marxist, and of the same stripe of Marxist. They'll never consider political Conservatism seriously as a worldview, or switch to that.


What does this description have to do with being a "right-winger"? Looks like you are the one bringing a preconceived worldview into the discussion. You are not a victim.


It’s a quote from an article about a paleoconservative, Jordan Peterson. Isn’t it?


Canadian here who worked in the Valley for ~7 years, and currently works for a US-based startup remotely.

You're absolutely right that the culture of respecting changemakers is not as present in Canada. But the SFBA is the world leader here. There probably isn't any place on earth that's more optimistic about innovators.

I don't think this is a culture thing, exactly. It's just that everyone who became rich in the SFBA did so by exploiting trends or innovating – since like, the 1890s. And the USA plowed zillions of dollars into the tech ecosystem in the Bay Area since World War II. Once you have that tech investor class, culture bends a lot towards their way of thinking.

Investors in Canada just don't have that kind of money to play with. Or, they made their money in an old-school industry, like resource extraction, and they flip out at the risk levels in tech startups.

In terms of prevailing national norms, I'd say Canada is slightly more change-friendly than the USA. Think about all the ways that the USA tries to kill immigration, stifle innovation in favor of incumbents, and put regulatory barriers in the way for entrepreneurs.

In contrast, Canada has lots of official policies to support tech entrepreneurship and skilled immigration. Plus, socialized medicine really does make it easier to be an entrepreneur. Politically and culturally, Canada isn't that into retro stuff, or trying to revive earlier, more conservative eras. People think their best days are ahead of them.

It's true that the people in Canada are not super interested in overturning anyone's applecart, for its own sake or just to get rich. That's not as respected here. People are more likely to be interested in innovations that improve the general social welfare. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.


stifle innovation in favor of incumbents, and put regulatory barriers in the way for entrepreneurs

As a Canadian I'm a little shock by this description. Stifle innovation? The gov't ran the phone system in Alberta until the 1990's (or so). There was no innovation because it was determined "that's the job for the gov't, not private businesses" and they did it terribly.

Look at the cellular phone networks in Canada. Nothing changes unless the CRTC OKs it. Those companies would be eaten for lunch without the gov't backing them.

My own experience in the US is that things change much quicker when it comes to innovation. Are their stupid regulations? Sure, but they seem to change pretty quickly down here when people get pissed.


> Look at the cellular phone networks in Canada. Nothing changes unless the CRTC OKs it. Those companies would be eaten for lunch without the gov't backing them.

Not to defend the cellular oligopoly in Canada (because it's one of the worst in the world) but things aren't perfect in the US either.

T-Mobile and Sprint just agreed to merge, which means the US will have only 3 major wireless providers: AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint/T-Mobile.

> My own experience in the US is that things change much quicker when it comes to innovation. Are their stupid regulations? Sure, but they seem to change pretty quickly down here when people get pissed.

The US government just defacto banned (or outright, I can't recall) using ZTE/Huawei equipment in their mobile networks.

Say what you want about the Chinese, and I have no doubt they have ambitions of an NSA-like agency, but the rest of the world is fine to use their equipment and it smacks of protectionism for America to block their use.

I totally agree though that the Canadian government doesn't do nearly enough to encourage competition, and is usually quite content to let an oligopoly remain if it means avoiding foreign ownership.


The US has a fairly high tolerance for weirdness and novelty in general because of its extreme fixation on individualism. Especially so when you compare it to most other high income countries like Japan, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, etc.


People say that a lot but I'm not so sure. Half of my American friends had to move to the SFBA not just for a job, but because nobody understood them back home, or they'd be literally persecuted for being who they were. And these aren't always tiny rural towns.

The coastal cities embrace some kinds of individualism for sure.


And similarly - the reason people don't move back (despite the high housing costs) is usually fear of persecution, or a perceived inability to be their true self, or a perception that they'll be a pariah without any true friends.

That's also why when people do tend to leave the Bay Area, they go to other liberal areas like Seattle/Portland/Boulder/Asheville/Austin/Boston/NYC, even though those areas also have housing crises and the cost of living is rapidly approaching the Bay, rather than places like Mississippi, West Virginia, or Detroit, where their dollars would stretch a lot farther.


I actually really enjoyed living in Ithaca personally, and it had the advantage of being only a 2 hour drive from where I grew up in upstate New York. I moved there after college to try to find a good balance between cost of living and economic opportunity, basically using it as a stepping stone to move to NYC (although I'd consider moving back if I were going to raise a family or wanted to retire).

It was definitely a world of difference from where I grew up, even though it wasn't that far away. My experience in my hometown (Utica) was that it was a constant uphill battle fighting with idiots to try to get sensible policies in place to make the quality of life there better (context: It's a rust belt city with 0 industry or jobs, but a sizable amount of the population there actively makes things worse for themselves). For me, moving to a liberal area wasn't just a tolerance thing, it was a "I want to be around like-minded folks who actually care about improving their city and have the competence to do so". I don't want to come across the wrong way here- there were some people in Utica who really did try to make it a nice place to live, but I always felt like they were drowned out by fools.


Ithaca is an expensive place with not a lot happening. Its lovely, but not a place to wok.


Yep. That's why I moved away, although I'd imagine it would be nice for remote work. That said, I'd argue that it's not really that expensive compared to New York, especially if you consider living in less popular parts of the city like West Hill or surrounding towns like Lansing/Dryden.


>That's also why when people do tend to leave the Bay Area, they go to other liberal areas like Seattle/Portland/Boulder/Asheville/Austin/Boston/NYC, even though those areas also have housing crises and the cost of living is rapidly approaching the Bay

Wow, that's true for all those cities? I might have guessed it for Boston and NYC, maybe Seattle too, not so much about the others. But don't know a lot about this area.


It's not a "crisis" in the way the Bay Area is, where there is barely any inventory even if you're a double-Googler household, 3BR homes on 1/4 acre go for $2.5M, and if you're a teacher or other non-tech job you're either living with roommates or have an hour and a half commute. However, Portland/Boulder/Denver/Austin have all seen large increases in house prices, driven largely by Californian housing wealth finding cheaper pastures.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/05/pf/oregon-unaffordable-calif...

https://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2018/01/10/austin-ho...


1/4 acre is a large amount for a 3 bedroom house - where I live in the UK a typical plot size in a semi-rural area, from the 70s is about 1/10th acre, for new houses it's about half that.

The best solution to high demand is a land value tax. That applies not just to houses, but to offices, shops, parking lots, etc. This means that land owners have to use their land efficently. If parking triples in cost, so be it. If road tolling is required, c'est la vie.

The proceeds of those tax must then be pumped into the local economy - funding services and improvements, like new bridges, or metro lines, or higher wages for central services (like schools and police)


1/4 acre is pretty normal for middle-class neighborhoods in much of the US. A land tax would have to be pretty drastic to force people to knock down houses, split/combine plots, and build new houses repositioned to be more dense than they are now.

I think a better solution would be relaxing zoning/making new development easier in areas of high scarcity.


A land value tax would make it easier to convince people to do zoning differently.

It's also a feature that it would have a larger impact in areas where land value is high and less impact in areas where land value isn't high (so "most of the US" doesn't really matter).


It would also ensure users of land like wide roads (with on street parking), parking lots, etc, pay their way

The money goes to the local administration, who then can spend it on truly public places like parks, offering tax breaks to businesses they want to attract, subsidising housing, etc, which everyone benefits from.


The value of land is the opportunity cost of not putting it to its best use withing existing planning regulations/zoning.

Its is also the loss of opportunity suffered by those excluded with left uncompensated leads to a net transfer of incomes, capitalised into rental incomes and selling prices, and a misallocation of resources. Housing issues are purely a symptom of this economic injustice.

A Land Value Tax ends that net transfer, which is why the selling price of land falls to zero.


Towards zero, but would never reach zero unless the land was worthless.

If you can make an acre of land in SF generate $1m profit a year, even with a 10,000% LVT it would still be worth $10k. With a more realistic 2% LVT, it would be worth $980k.

However if your acre of land makes $15k a year in profit as a parking lot, a 2% LVT means that you'll sell it to someone who can utilise the space in a better way, rather than make a $5k loss.

That person may build a house, and pay $20k a year in tax, setting a rental value of $1700pcm. Or they may build a 5 home building and pay $4k a year in tax per home, setting a rental value on each home at $350pcm.

If they want a $36k a year profit, then those prices mean renting out a single home for $4700pcm, or 5 homes for $850pcm each.

Zoning laws vary the value of the land of course. Land zoned as 'a park' is pretty much worthless (but not valueless). Land zoned as 'single story house' is worth at least $8m an acre ($2.5m for a house on a 1/4 acre plot). Land zoned as 'multi story' may be worth say $20m an acre.

However at 2% LVT, the single story home will be paying $160k per acre per year. The multi story with 40 homes will pay $10k a year per acre per home. Far cheaper, thus able to attract more buyers.

On top of that, there's a large incentive for residents in single story homes to rezone their area to multi story -- land price increases 150%, they sell up their (current) $2.5m home for $5.5m, making a cool 3M in profit.


You’re welcome to try passing one in California. It’s unconstitutional and most people with appreciated home values can’t afford to pay it.


How is tax unconstitutional?

If you allow a 1% LVT to accrue as a charge on the value of the home, that's only paid on disposal, there's no affordability problem either. Own a $2m piece of land at age 18, each year 1% of the value gets added as a charge. Die age 108 and 80% of the land value is then taken to pay the back-charges, leaving 20% for the estate.


> How is tax unconstitutional?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_13_(197...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_218_(19...

Proposing it as a sales tax might avoid Prop 13, but continues the problem where new buyers fund the state budget and homeowners/Baby Boomers get everything for free.

Also, schools and local services might not get funded every year, I assume the rate of sales isn't constant.


Got it now, thanks.


Depending on how broadly you define "coastal cities", you'd be including a huge proportion of the US population. Might it even be a majority?

If it's a majority, then I think it's safe enough characterize the individualistic attitude as American.


> Investors in Canada just don't have that kind of money to play with.

The ecosystem [1] that provides dollars to high-risk investments (like tech startups) just doesn't exist on the same scale in Canada. The only players with that kind of money are the federal and provincial governments, which are by nature very conservative.

[1] For example, one source of funding is large pensions and endowments, who take a tiny percentage of their overall portfolio and put it into "high-risk" investments. The funds are so large that the tiny percentage amounts to millions and millions of dollars.


There is the new Canadian SBIR analog (Innovative Solutions Canada [1]) which looks like a big step in the right direction.

It's having some issues getting off the ground though, it just kicked off a few months ago and I think they are way behind handing out funding. There's only been a handful of challenges and not many applicants (I submitted a proposal, which was serialized as a submission number just over 300). They are supposed to be distributing about $100M/yr, or 1% of the federal R&D budget.

[1] http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/101.nsf/eng/home


> Or, they made their money in an old-school industry, like resource extraction, and they flip out at the risk levels in tech startups.

Fuck, ain’t that the truth. Or their great-grandad made the money and each subsequent generations job is to not fuck up the gravy train.


The idea of being an entrepreneur, in the GTA especially, is buying a second house in the suburbs and hoping the housing market continues rising.

That had me LOL because I think it’s so true. If you were to suggest perhaps to start a business that innovates you’d be considered crazy. Although of course the new tech out of the USA will be adopted by all immediately.


You'd be considered crazy, because you can't throw a brick, and hit a VC that will give you money for a no team, no product, no idea startup.

You'd also be considered crazy if you expressed those ideas in Chicago or San Diego, or Charleston, but that doesn't mean that we stereotypes about America not respecting 'changemakers' are accurate.


> Those that do are constantly questioned by everybody.

My exposure is more western Canada than eastern Canada, but I find that your statements couldn't be further from the truth. People here are constantly trying new things and exploring and experimenting with new business ideas. I see great optimism and people who see potential.

And in terms of being constantly questioned, I just don't see that where I am, but I also don't view being questioned as a bad thing. When it comes to launching any new idea, it seems that being questioned is the very least of the difficulty you need to put up with.


Originally from Calgary and I concur with the poster above. Canadians tend to think small. For venture the culture has been so burned by pump and dump penny stocks that there is no patient capital. Canada needs an enormous influx of venture capital. The problem is, is that the crown corporations who can make those bets are limited to investing in Canadian funds. If they could invest 10% into a US fund and the US fund agreed to invest 10% of the portfolio into Canada it could really open up the market.


Are we talking about entrepreneurs or investors? I was talking about entrepreneurs, myself, and I think my point stands. I agree that the market for capital and venture investing is far different in Canada than in the US. But as far as that is concerned, couldn't it be argued that the market for venture capital and investing is far different in Silicon Valley than in most other places in the U.S., even?


Both. If I am talented and I’m confident that money is available I’ll start a business. If money is scarce I’ll work at BigCo or move to SV and start a company. That leaves you with less than stellar talent. I’ve seen the same thing happen in the agrifood tech space. As more money has come into the sector we’ve seen more high quality entrepreneurs.


I have to say, Brandon, in spite of all of my criticisms in other comments under this larger thread, that I agree with you.

Ambition toward innovation is not tightly coupled with remuneration here, but it does not mean that Canada is averse to innovation. America has loved that myth since the Avro Arrow and has sought to suppress it after that, or at least it can seem that way.

It's not just western Canada, though western Canada is no small contributor (after having lived in Alberta, and loving and longing for return to BC but originating from rural Ontario and now living in the "center of the universe"/Toronto).

I grew up with farmers, and they were/are consistently more liberal in all regards than what I hear in American news and forums. Those were the first places I saw solar panels and wind farms popping up to contribute to the larger energy grid as well as supplement extraneous local power consumption by isolating supplies to certain devices. They never seemed to care so much about asserting their opinions about how society should run except that people should generally treat each other with decency no matter who you are. I liked that. I could go on for hours. It's not to say conservative types (as expressed in this thread—against change) exist, nor other groups of social conservatives, but they don't occupy the majority. That's another subject altogether...

I also agree that being questioned isn't a problem. It can reach a severely challenging point, but most decent people will hear you out as well. It's a challenge— it challenges you to be better. Just as you've said.

Refining an idea isn't a problem, nor is it censorship, nor is it an aversion to innovation. It's fundamental to science.

I only wanted to speak up because of the majority comments opposing your own.


I believe you are comparing your Canadian upbringing, which reflected an adolescent perspective on a broad spectrum of society, to your adult experiences in a tech bubble. This is a pretty obvious fallacy (the tech bubble is a highly self-selected population of intelligent, well-educated people who like to build things).

I grew up in suburban Minnesota. It's not exactly ambition central, but it's miles ahead of small town America. You're talking about a country that elected Trump here. It's afraid of immigrants, "foreign" religions (as though American Christianity weren't a shambling syncretic nightmare), doesn't believe in evolution, and believes overwhelmingly in hell. We incarcerate more of our citizens per capita than any other developed country. We're not exactly free-wheeling dream seekers, at the median. We ridicule weird people, we spit on people who fail, and we hate anyone who is ugly, awkward, old, or otherwise socially disadvantaged.

Getting ahead is seen as fine - be ambitious! - but only because we think our friends are "winners" and won't be hurt by the risks they take, which is nonsense. We also don't prize reflectiveness as a culture, so when people gain sufficient experience to learn that this perspective is idiotic, they don't internalize it.

I'm not a giant fan of American culture, and I'm sad to see that anyone from Canada (I watch your Supreme Court proceedings for entertainment, full disclosure!) would idolize anything about they way Americans do things.


> You're talking about a country that elected Trump here.

A move clearly demonstrating the willingness to take a risk.

That kind of boldness is not a thing in Canada.

> It's afraid of immigrants

And is that unreasonable? Why?

It's obvious immigration can do serious harm to the lower and middle classes.

What's surprising is how open they are to immigration despite the risk.

For example most of the western world enforces stricter skilled visa requirements.

> "foreign" religions

And again is that unreasonable? Why?

Even so the US is incredibly accomodating - just look at the Amish for a good example of tolerance.

> We incarcerate more of our citizens per capita than any other developed country.

Because Americans are more willing to take risks. Good and bad.

> and we hate anyone who is ugly, awkward, old, or otherwise socially disadvantaged.

Who is we? I certainly don't think that's true. Maybe you could argue indifference?

> I'm not a giant fan of American culture

You seem to only see the negatives. Why is that?


Agree completely. Born and raised in Toronto. Canadians are nice and the diversity is great. But San Francisco was a breath of fresh air I didn't even know I needed until I came here. Toronto feels so rigid in comparison. I don't want to ever leave California.


stay there for long enough and you will start to see the cons also.

There is a lot of pros for moving fast and getting things done, jobwise. Weather also is amazing.

Now for personal life, the older you become, the more I realize that this place (the bay area) is really not the best quality of life you can get. People all think the same way, diversity is only visual, and there is not that much diversity of thought. Everything gravitates around work and tech. People are happy to work a crazy amount of hours and feel cool for doing so.

I loved it for a couple years then started to become bored.


I'm not really in the tech bubble tho. I work in tech but it's just a job. Most of my friends are not in tech and most of them have never met anyone else working in tech other than myself.

The tech industry only makes up a small percentage of the bay area population.


Is "Toronto the Good" still thrown about much?


"""The idea of being an entrepreneur, in the GTA especially, is buying a second house in the suburbs and hoping the housing market continues rising."""

... or a condo to put on Airbnb.

You are definitely onto something when you say that there are some deep cultural issues within Canada; Look at RIM, the company believed that its central business customers cared more about security and efficient communication and that the iPhone presented no threat to them. The iPhone was just a crazy idea to them, who would want to use that clunker with a horrible battery life and browse the net on it?

Canada has talent, without a doubt, but it also keeps people subdued as you stated because they are constantly questioned by everyone else. Canadians are a lot like accountants, they want to buy that fancy Harley and take it out on the road and live a little, but only on the weekends. :)


> Aggressively encourage/fund/facilitate startups.

They tried that a few times. I know because I was an advisor to one of the biggest incubators in Canada. The government even gives cash grants to startups.

But as soon as the company gets big, they either 1) open an engineering office in the Bay Area or 2) Sell, and the move to the Bay Area because they were just acquired by a Bay Area company who is making them move (or they just want to move now that they can afford it).

The startup scene in Canada has huge demand from Canadian engineers who want to start startups there, but they have a really hard time attracting local capital. Most of their capital comes from SV VCs who like the fact that it is cheaper to start a company there because of the low salaries, and a lot of the successful exits leave.


> They tried that a few times. I know because I was an advisor to one of the biggest incubators in Canada. The government even gives cash grants to startups.

This is news to me. I tried have tried talking to an incubator several times and every time they tell me to come back when I have $10k/mo in revenue. Sorry but I have a full time job and I can't grow a business to 10k/mo without some help. Seems to me like they didn't try very hard.


Unfortunately that is the nature of the Canadian beast which fears risk hence why we have the brain drain problem.

It's also very telling when you see American incubators/investors tie directly into universities to get people funded; They clearly see the talent and opportunities and want to get into it very early on while the Canadian incubators and governments want to be risk averse and then cry foul when people move south. Sadly I don't think this will change anytime soon.


> But as soon as the company gets big

FTA: 'A lack of successful “scale-up” tech firms in Canada has been cited as one of the reasons research development spending and productivity here have lagged other developed countries.'

> but they have a really hard time attracting local capital.

So is the problem, then, that "trying" has, so far, involved running incubators and grants and what's necessary, in addition, is incentivizing local capital to invest?

Other commenters have suggested tax breaks, which I personally believe is a state's greatest incentive "lever". Perhaps a lower (maybe even zero) capital gains tax rate on startup investments?

Otherwise, it doesn't seem like there's been any aggressive encouragement/funding/facilitation, as proposed by the parent comment.


This resonates with me. In a recent stint with a Canadian startup, an exorbitant amount of attention was paid to strengthening and increasing the number of ties we had to Silicon Valley. It seems so often that the end goal is to be able to move to California.


- Canada is already pursuing non-American engineers, even advertising along the 101 [1], and it's working [2].

- Canada does offer some tax breaks [3] and grants to startups, but more is also welcome.

- Agreed that there should be a bigger focus on startups. I wonder if having provinces create VC funds (like Investissment Quebec [4]) tailored specifically to startups would help here.

[1] http://mgalligan.com/post/52327738889/canada-h1b

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-20/h-1b-work...

[3] https://www.investinontario.com/incentive-programs-and-servi...

[4] http://www.investquebec.com/international/en


> and it's working

While I agree that the efforts are working, this is very much like using a tea spoon to bail water out of the Titanic. You also have to consider that given a choice between the US and Canada, very few people would pick Canada so many of the people that arrive would leave the minute an opportunity in the US opens up.


Don't want to pay any taxes, and maybe hire 1 person within 5 years? Try NewYork: https://esd.ny.gov/startup-ny-program


Hiring anyone in new york is a bloody nightmare. Strongly avoid if possible.


Because the market is too competitive, or for some other reason?


Actually was coming from the perspective of staying on top of all the regulatory agencies and bureaucracy, all of whom are very aggressive relative to ither states to take their pounds of flesh


> - Aggressively pursue the brightest non-American engineers, who are hesitant to move to USA because of immigration restrictions.

This is an interesting point. I feel like Canada does do this, but it sort of backfires on itself. Something my wife once pointed out is that a lot of immigrant tech talent in Canada is inherently risk averse by virtue of being primarily chinese and indian tech workers, whose cultures are heavily conservative cultures that tend to celebrate social status over risk-taking innovativeness


I agree that it's a common perception, but the data in silicon valley does seem to disprove it.

https://venturebeat.com/2012/10/15/how-indians-defied-gravit...

"Twenty five percent of the nation’s startups and 52% of those in Silicon Valley were founded by immigrants. Indian immigrants were the leading company founding group. They founded 13.4% of Silicon Valley’s startups and 6.5% of those nationwide."

Regardless of cultural differences, I recall reading that immigrants as a whole are far more entrepreneurial than similarly positioned natives. A lot of this is through self-selection: saying goodbye to all your friends and moving to a whole other country/continent is extremely "scary". Hence by definition, the average immigrant is far more comfortable heading off into the unknown and taking the plunge.


> a lot of immigrant tech talent in Canada is inherently risk averse by virtue of being primarily chinese and indian tech workers

Aren't a lot of immigrant tech talent in Silicon Valley Chinese and Indian too? Or maybe even the majority?

Besides, China has a very vibrant VC culture, second only to the US. Therefore being Chinese and being risk taking are definitely not in conflict.


There's definitely a significant difference in cultural strength between chinese immigrants in SF and in Toronto. Basically what I think it boils down to is that the Toronto chinese community is extremely self-sufficient - insular, even.

My chinese in-laws can comfortably live there without speaking a word of English because there's that much chinese cultural infrastructure - from church groups to supermarkets to gardeners, handymen, doctors and real estate agents whose _entire clientele_ is 1st-gen chinese. Chatting with the neighbor in chinese about so-and-so's grandson is a fairly normal thing.

In contrast, my wife would consider the chinese community in SF heavily "americanised" - Similar to how Sao Paulo has "nihongakkous" (immersion schools for 2nd/3rd gen japanese), some schools in SF have "immersion" programs. These basically indicate that the community as a whole doesn't have cultural momentum to imprint onto new generations. By contrast, at my kid's kindergarten in Toronto, the teacher would at times actively have to discourage kids from speaking chinese in class (when it would be disruptive/exclusionary to the minorities - caucasians - of the class)!

WRT VC culture, my understanding is that in China, there's a great deal of literal politics (IIRC, Didi and many other prominent startups were owned by family members of prominent politicians), but that culturally speaking, "success" tends to be narrowly defined as doing well in school and getting a socially desirable job after that. I'm told that indians have similar cultural pressure to raise to management positions. (Women have it even worse, with pressure to get married in their 20s, give their parents grandchildren, etc). I feel like in SF, tech workers are heavily immersed in liberal ideas (e.g. risk taking, individualism) and tend to "detach" from their birth culture to a much higher degree than in Toronto.


That isn’t true. A friend of mine told me that Kai Fu (the Paul Graham of China) said something to the effect that Chinese VCs for a long time had focused on copying because they were much more risk averse than western VCs (copying an existing business model was a more sure bet than doing something new). It has only been in the last few years that they have been breaking away from that.

As for Chinese taking risks, I think you have to look at the alternative safer investments that basically don’t exist, you have no choice but to take risks in China, or in most other developing econonies for that matter.


> Therefore being Chinese and being risk taking are definitely not in conflict.

I think the author is pointing out that being a Chinese/Indian immigrant is in conflict with risk taking.

You don't have to look too hard for this. Most Chinese/Indian immigrants gravitate to low-risk jobs, specifically at larger companies, usually for visa/immigration related issues.


> Most Chinese/Indian immigrants gravitate to low-risk jobs, specifically at larger companies, usually for visa/immigration related issues.

Seems to me that the risk-aversion is caused by their (not-yet-)immigrant status, not their cultural roots.


I am Indian, and would love to take a risk. But I am stuck on greencard backlog and not allowed to start a company, probably for the next 10-20 years


No Canadian companies need to pay more. I suspect that Canada has inherited from the UK the attitude that STEM (apart from the Medical profession) is basically for greasy engineers who shouldn't be allowed to get to above themselves.


Working for the government one can get that feeling that tech is a waste but there is an unlimited desire for phd's in unrelated fields getting hired in positions that sound great title wise but involve more technical skills. They wonder why these people keep leaving.


Warning that your first sentence means the opposite of what you probably intended. I'm not trying to nit-pick grammar, but that's a kind of mistake that people wouldn't know was a mistake without the following context and you'd be completely misunderstood.


And improve the weather.


Vancouver weather is amazing. I know that’s hard for Californians to believe, but it’s true.


You beat me to that comment! I grew up in California (and still live here), and I believe it because I've seen it in almost every season. To be fair, I do prefer things a bit cooler than most, but not necessarily "real" freezing winter. Of course, for those who want snow, the skiing mountains are closer than they are here in the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, this is offset by very high housing prices relative to salaries, inadequate or absent freeways, and significantly higher fuel prices, making even a "drive 'til you qualify" strategy for housing unattractive.

Is there adequate apartment stock near public transit? That could make it attractive enough for workers of a certain age, but, at least in the US, suburbs are remarkably popular for raising kids.


Quality of life definitely seems terrible in Vancouver, but only because of housing costs. Everything else seems amazing.

I live in Portland, Oregon, which has weather that is essentially identical to Vancouver. It is amazing here. Winters are gray, which I have actually grown to enjoy, but not cold. And it snows a couple of times of year, which is the perfect amount of snow. But spring, summer, and autumn are so much better than what I grew up with in California.


It's good for Canada, that's for sure.


I grew up in Los Angeles. IMO, Pacific NW weather is so much better. One season is arguably worse (Winter), but the other three are so, so much better.


Vancouver's weather is very much to my liking.. and I live in the SFBA!


I see trouble with pursuing non-american engineers. They might move south anyways later if the opportunity comes up because the salary difference is still huge.

Lucrative perks sticks because of tax breaks like you mentioned.

I would be going all-out on #3. Having local businesses has benefits beyond just avoiding brain drain as well.

This is why it blows my mind at how little funding there is for early stage companies in Canada. I personally tried twice now already, as have several friends, and we didn't get anywhere because local investors here want you to already have a finished product with a validated business model and 10k/month in revenue. I'm sorry but the only way you stop a promising new grad from turning down a huge salary is by giving them the chance to work on their passion.

Expecting them to already have a 10k/mo business is just a big F-you. Might as well go to the states where I can at least make enough money to take some time off. And heck, while I'm there someone might even fund my idea anyways.


It will be hard to get startups to be based in a Canada if their target market is the US. We’re talking a difference of 36 million people vs 300 million. When it comes down to it Canada looks big but is a really tiny country.


35 million but whatever. (edit: this was in response to it having 25 million people, not 36 million) It's kind of like saying that California is a really tiny state.


That's a weird comparison, I guess you say that because California's population (39 million) is close to that of Canada's (36.3 million)? No doubt California is diverse, and by no means homogenous, but Canada... is physically huge, and relatively speaking, very sparsely populated. This naturally leads to more diversity within an already "small" population. To develop a business with a target market of "all of California" would be much easier than to develop one with a target market of "all of Canada."


Not really. The vast majority of those 35 million live in 3 really small areas. Just like the vast majority of california lives on the coast. California is a physically huge state by the way, that is fairly sparsely populated in big swaths of the state.


Unlike Canada, California benefits from a pool of ~290 million other people who self-select to move there with 0 barriers other than having a few dollars to buy a gray hound ticket.


Is the cost of housing a barrier?


If you're asking this seriously... yes it is a barrier, but not as great as Immigration/moving to a completely new country.

Which is not to discount California's tremendous housing crunch. I am merely pointing out that its a much lower risk for a young single US citizen to just move to CA, try it out for a few months, if they can't get a job or make it, then just drive back. It is much harder for people from outside the country to do the same.


Not really. The cost of housing is huge and a barrier if you are not in tech, But if you move for tech you can definitely find a place and pay the crazy rent with your new salary.


That's very true.


As per the comment below, the population between Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal is about a third of the total population (about 12M).

Bit pedantic but this really is a far cry from being the "vast majority" of Canada's population.


Golden Horseshoe is 9.2 million alone. So 12 million is definitely on the low side.


Yeah, I guess (I was curious, and you're right, about 1/3 live in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montréal metro areas), but (to me) the culture varies a lot more between Toronto and Montréal than between SF and, I don't know, some of the more rural parts of California. Thinking like a business, the difference in regulations is much more significant as well.


California is similar in population but is part of the US. So if you base your company in California you have easy access to the rest of the US, whereas if you're in Canada you do not have the same easily addressable market.


I'm left wondering how important a company like Facebook really is to the US though.

I mean really, it creates about 10k high-paying tech jobs, okay... but Walmart employs 1 million. A lot of the support staff, e.g. in moderation, are distributed around the world.

Then it generates tons of revenues and profits for its shareholders, but FB is a public company, it could in theory be completely owned by non-Americans who profit off of the American company.

Then it provides a service to people around the world.

And then it has strategic value, but it appears it was misused by foreign powers to manipulate domestic elections, rather than furthering American interests.

FB does pay quite substantial federal taxes, far greater than it does in the rest of the world, you can't easily disregard that. The rest of the world is missing out on that, but that's also a question of the rest of the world not using its tax mandate fully.

It doesn't appear like Facebook is tremendously more important to the US than it is to the rest of the world. Of course brain drain is always an issue we should be concerned about, but one feature of publicly-owned digital companies is that their benefits aren't as restricted to their locality as traditional companies are.


> who are hesitant to move to USA because of immigration restrictions.

Where does this perception come from? Canada has stricter immigration rules than the USA.

EDIT: Specifically what I'm talking about is that Canada only allows in immigrants who are economically desirable and speak English or French.


Given the current H1B lottery, even someone with excellent credentials will most likely be denied the visa, purely due to random chance.

Also, even if you get the H1B and apply for Permanent Residency, the wait time can be obscenely long depending on where you were born. If you were born in China, you'll have to wait for 6+ years. If you were born in India, you'll have to wait for 12+ years.

Ironically enough, if you're a not-very-qualified applicant, you'll likely have a easier time applying here in USA. The Canadian system might be more stringent, but rolls out the red carpet for those who are truly qualified, and in greater numbers too. The American system is the exact opposite.


To add to the above post. For people born in India the wait time is estimated to be more than 20+ years, since the queue is going to get longer and longer, and there are only fixed number of people who leave the queue every year. Unless you are on EB1, it is better to basically forget about getting a green card. Talking to my friends from India, the options are:

1) Do a PhD and hope to produce original, well cited research that qualifies you for EB1.

2)Similar to above, but if you are in a research team and can get good papers out that qualify you for EB1.

3)Wait and hope for promotions that qualify you for EB1.

4)Move back to India after a couple of years.

5)Try to move to Europe or Canada. Everyone is kinda fuzzy on this since no one really has clear idea of immigration laws in other countries.

6)Get enough money from some IPO to pay for investment based green card and hope for the best.

This is if you currently qualify for EB2 i.e 5 or more years experience or a Masters from US. I don't even know what is the condition for people in EB3. As one of my friend put it memorably, there is a person whose parent's haven't even met, that will get a green card faster than me, if born anywhere but India, China, Mexico and Philippines.

I know, barring a recession, I'll be in US for the next couple of years, but after getting a family, I think my tolerance for having my residence in the country coupled with my job would drop and I'll look and see if one of the above option works for me. Plus ageism in tech is something I fear as well.

I would love to settle here, but barring a law change, it is right now impossible for me.

EDIT: Separate line numbers for the numbers points.


The legal immigration system is long overdue for some reform. Especially w.r.t the long waiting times for people from India. I expect it to change in the next couple of years but who knows.


Why? Especially when you can buy foreign skilled labor (H-1B) with no long-term obligation.


I don’t understand what you mean by this. Every company that hired H1Bs also (usually) sponsors their Permanent Residency as well ( well, at least the ones that don’t abuse the system, like FAANGs). They absolutely want to keep these workers on for a long term basis.


> well, at least the ones that don’t abuse the system, like FAANGs

It's unclear whether you mean that FAANGs do or don't abuse the system. I've heard both sides of that.


I guess citizens of all other countries fall under a single category? I could only find dates for the countries you mentioned. There is no delay for Canadians or say Australian citizens?


There is no delay for other countries, at least for Employment based green cards.

There is some fixed number of employment based green cards that are awarded per category(EB1,2,3) with rollover between categories. The reason why there is a delay is that there is a country-wide cap on a percentage of total green cards awarded that year. So countries with higher number of people immigrating have a queue. If there were thousands of Australians immigrating, there can be a queue there too.

I am not sure about Canada though, as there maybe some other category for it.


H1B isn’t an immigrant visa, so of course the wait times are long — it’s the wrong visa for immigration.


> H1B isn’t an immigrant visa, so of course the wait times are long — it’s the wrong visa for immigration.

The wait times referenced are the wait times for an immigrant visa, whether you are applying for it as an already-resident H-1B holder (as permitted by it's dual-intent nature) or as someone who is not yet resident in the US.

The wait times have nothing to do with the H-1B not being an immigrant visa.


My wife and I both have PhDs in electronics (her’s was 50% neuroscience) I have run a successful business for 7 years and she works for a high end car manufacturer in electrical design as a manager, both are native UK.

We can get a permenant residency Canada visa straight off the bat without a job offer (quicker with a job offer though granted).

We can’t work out how to get a US visa for love nor money and have basically given up thinking about it.

Canada certainly seems easier from where we are.


L1A New Office via your company?

Start a US business with a partner so you own just 50% then petition for an H1B for yourself every year until you win.

E1 or E2?

You have a fair bit of options if you really want it and are willing to jump through hoops.


Yeah, that's the point. If you're wealthy, highly employable, and culturally compatible it's easy. Everyone else gets a big fat "no". Trump's gotten flack for suggesting the USA do the same.


> If you're wealthy, highly employable, and culturally compatible it's easy. Everyone else gets a big fat "no".

From what I can US the US still says no even if you meet the above criteria.


In the US work-related visas have no cultural or language requirements. In addition, the USA has an immigration lottery which has no education, wealth, or employability requirements, especially for people coming from under-represented countries.


I am an European that has immigrated to both countries at different points, and my experience couldn't be farther from what you describe. And my stint in the USA was 20 years ago, which was the wild west compared to today. What do you mean by stricter here?


If it was easy for you it's because you're economically desirable and culturally compatible. Canada only accepts immigrants who have a high probability of financial success and "integration", along with a limited number of refugees who have sponsors.

The USA on the other hand has a relatively open employer-backed system in addition to the wealth/education-agnostic quota system.


I don't know, one of my euro immigrant friends in Vancouver was a window cleaner. IIRC she basically showed up at the border with some education certificate (some non-fancy arts degree), her intent to make a living and proof she could sustain herself for a few months; definitely not sponsored by a tech company or anything like that. A few years later she was a citizen. OTOH I know two very capable (although not "rockstar" level) tech people who have lost the H1B lottery several years in a row.

In that sense the USA seems more random, but not more open. But I guess we're just using different criteria.


I'm pretty sure there are some important details missed in your story, because you either don't know them, or don't understand why they are important. My European, but non-EU, friend is a software engineer with certified knowledge of both En, and Fr, clean records, and all that stuff, decided to go to Canada for some not particularly economically rational reasons (like love of northern nature). This year it's going to be the 5th year since he applied to Can immigration service, and he still waits for a decision. Meanwhile, a number of his coworkers landed in US with quite poor English, and worse qualifications.


The window cleaner probably got the working holiday visa. You have to be under 35. After a year of experience at a job requiring a degree or a job in management, you can get permanent residence with CEC. Even managing at a coffee shop would qualify.


Funnily enough, your post is also missing some important details. The Canadian system is very transparent with its scoring. Unless you're from a natively English/French speaking country, you need test scores to validate your proficiency in English/French. Certified doesn't mean much. Also, you need degrees from accredited/verifiable institutions to really rack up points - if your friend is self-taught, it may be no good. Which does speak to the original point of Canadian conservatism.


I'm not sure if he's self-taught (most likely not), but as for languages he did exactly exams required by Canadian immigration service. In any case, my point is that it is observably easier for a CS professional to move to California than to Canada. I don't blame anyone/anything, because frankly I have no first-hand knowledge. Probably, the system is transparent but inefficient.


> my point is that it is observably easier for a CS professional to move to California than to Canada

Pretty sure you are missing some key details, you can get a Canadian permanent residency if you the required number of points which are based on your education, language, work experience etc.

For majority of the cases if you have the points you will get the PR visa. Once you get the visa you can move to Canada and look for jobs you cannot do that with the US.


You missed the moment when I mentioned the guy has been waiting for reply for 5 years. It is inefficient if the goal is to attract more qualified professionals. It would be easier for him to find a job offer from US, or Swiss, or German-based company, and settle in one of these countries in about a year. I'm not talking about getting citizenship, of course, but live&work permissions. Maybe, it's getting harder in US now as political moods are changing, but five years ago it was exactly so.


> You missed the moment when I mentioned the guy has been waiting for reply for 5 years.

As I said you are missing some details, people get a resident visa in 1 year even if they are outside Canada, so either you dont know the full story or your friend is probably misleading you.


What is the race of your friend?


White. Why do you think it could be important? I don't expect a country like Canada to racially filter qualified applicants.


Kinda unrelated to immigration, but I've heard Canadian border patrol is actually more harsh than American border control. Anyone with experience that can verify?


I've always faced much tougher scrutiny coming back across to the American side. Had lots of friends and family in Quebec, and we went fishing and hunting up there multiple trips a year, usually with a truck loaded for a week or two of being out in the woods. Even bringing firearms across, you just step inside the office and fill out the paperwork. Usually when we told them that we only had the legal limit of one case of beer or bottle of wine per adult, they'd joke and ask us if we were going to get thirsty while we were fishing...

The one thing that is a little sticky is that you can't get across the border if you have had a DUI within so many years. An issue for some of my dad's hunting buddies.

The US side coming back was always a bigger pain in the neck. Part of that is because of the way Border Patrol rotates their agents. You could always tell the ones that had recently rotated from the Mexican border because they were twitchy and kept a hand on their holster at all times. I'm sure it's a hard habit to break, but not really appropriate at a backwater crossing in Northern Maine where 95% of the traffic is log trucks and local Canadians coming over to fill up their gas tanks or pick up things they've ordered online.


Dual citizen, crossed the border probably 50+ times both by air and land.

The only two times I've been aggressively grilled including accusations of smuggling and personal questions that were intrusive were coming back into Canada.

Even when I only had a green card, most of the time the US CBP just said "welcome home" and waved me on.


During my years in Vancouver last decade, crossing the border to visit my brother in Seattle was such a stark contrast... Entering the USA I always felt like I was this close to being kicked back. From the faces, tones of voice, type of questions to the general atmosphere, all seemed intended to make me feel dominated. Crossing back to Canada was always fast and efficient, half the times the guards would even joke in good taste.

I don't think it was the difference between being a visitor (to the USA) vs a resident (in Canada), because the couple of times I went abroad while I was a resident in the USA were very similar.


(British passport.)

Straightforward business trips for both countries for me, but Canada is a little more casual than average, but otherwise uninteresting. The officials smile, ask a straightforward question ("where are you staying?"), and stamp the passport ("enjoy your stay in Canada").

In the US, I feel like I'm being interrogated. "You don't look like a software developer" "who is paying for this trip?" and lots of scowling.


That's funny because I had the exact opposite experience. I think it just depends on the mood of the border officer.


I have found this to be the case with the customs. This is mostly because Canada’s custom thresholds are absurdly low in comparison to other countries. Both when entering the country but also when posting something in, see: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-comme...


Back when you only needed a drivers license to cross the border, the Canadian border person looked at my Texas driver's license and said, "Texas, huh. Where are your guns?"

That would be considered unacceptable and unprofessional at U.S. border control.


Hah, I had exactly the same experience crossing into Ontario in either 2003 or 2006.

We had six people and a ton of luggage and they seemed to be seriously considering searching all our bags just because of Texas IDs. :|


They were probably trying to slip you up and see if you would say in the trunk or something.


a us border guard once asked me if i hated america because i hadn't visited it in nearly 18 months


Well, do you?


I am constantly hopping back and forth between Chicago and Toronto to be with my boyfriend. I have never been seriously questioned on either side, though I think I get a slight bit more side eye on the U.S. side when I mention the same-sex partner thing. But I could be projecting.


Yep, far worse.

They were very nice when I activated my PR card though.


Most countries do. But the groupthink is that the USA is hostile to immigrants. Which doesn't explain all the immigrants (legal and otherwise).

There's also the cliche (spread by the internet and political groups) that conservative/Republicans/etc... are against all immigration. This is 90% incorrect.

I worked as support staff during a conference in Seattle of conservative business leaders around 2010. Their #1 topic of discussion was how to get more people into the country because they couldn't find enough workers with the right skills domestically. And no, it wasn't the tech sector that was hurting the most.

Apparently the problem the conservatives have isn't immigration as an umbrella policy. It's legal versus illegal methods (though some of the speakers advocated for both). Kind of eye-opening. I no longer believe the regurgitated talking points from either party.


> But the groupthink is that the USA is hostile to immigrants. Which doesn't explain all the immigrants (legal and otherwise).

I don't know what groupthink you are talking about, but there is a wife perception that the US has recently become hostile toward immigrants. Which is reflected not only in fuzzy attitudes, but concrete policy, and it does explain changes in immigration, both legal and otherwise.

> There's also the cliche (spread by the internet and political groups) that conservative/Republicans/etc... are against all immigration. This is 90% incorrect

It would be more accurate to say that there is a wide (and accurate) perception that conservatives are generally more negatively inclined to immigration, and that this is generally correct on balance (though obviously not a reliable guide to individual attitudes.)

> Apparently the problem the conservatives have isn't immigration as an umbrella policy. It's legal versus illegal methods

That's what they usually say, but they also usually oppose policy which would make legal immigration easier and relieve pressure that creates illegal immigration, and frequently support policies to restrict legal immigration. And it's not just 10% of conservatives supporting this kind of policy.

This reveals that the rhetoric that it it is only illegal immigration that is the concern is not reflective of the actual concerns.


> That's what they usually say, but they also usually oppose policy which would make legal immigration easier and relieve pressure that creates illegal immigration, and frequently support policies to restrict legal immigration. And it's not just 10% of conservatives supporting this kind of policy.

Look, I'm a liberal but I will call out the Dems when I need to. Most of the reforms to legal immigration have always been a sort of addendum, or a two-part deal with relief for the illegal immigrants included in them. Democrats haven't proposed a bill which purely targets legal immigration. So its a little unfair to say that conservatives are opposed to all kinds of Immigration.


> Democrats haven't proposed a bill which purely targets legal immigration.

Perhaps, but conservatives have frequently put forward bills (or, when in the executive, instituted executive policy without Congressional action) that further restrict currently-legal immigration and non-immigrant entry and privileges, which is more significant sign of opposition to legal immigration than merely voting against expansions to legal immigration, whether pure or not.


I agree with what you're saying and I don't think what I say next matters as much because the outcomes seem similar. But I think it needs to be pointed out.

Maybe it is just posturing and lies, but the conservative viewpoint has been to have a merit-based system for permitting immigrants into the country, as opposed to immigration based on familial relations. Every country gets to decide what kind of people that they want coming into their country and I think its perfectly fine for conservatives to feel that way (it is a different matter that I don't agree with that idea). My perception (again, which might be wrong) is that that is essentially what Republicans have been getting at for the past couple of decades (perhaps more).

Now, that being said: these are the same folks who were about Family Values, Fiscal Purity etc. So, like I said before, I don't think the arguments are being made in good faith. But the argument does have merit.


They have also frequently put forward bills that would relax restictions, and allow more HIGH SKILLED labor to come into the country.

Go look up the stuff that Orin Hatch and Rubio sponsored with regards to H1B visas. The stuff that they sponsored would double the number of H1Bs and was majority sponsored by republicans.


  further restrict currently-legal immigration
In fact, it was never-legal immigration that just was not enforced under the prior administration. The executive branch lacks those powers.


The policies I am referring to include the executive policies of the current administration on visa processing and the proposal of the current administration and it's legislative allies to reduce total legal immigration by cutting total visa alotments focussing on reductions in permitted family-based immigration, among others. These are either additional administrative barriers to or outright reductions in currently legal immigration.

This has nothing to do with debates over executive authority to choose how to prioritize enforcement and to make transparent commitments regarding that (which the executive clearly has in some cases, outside the obvious pardon power, since literally every grant of immunity from prosecution, or plea bargain to reduced charges, is an enforceable commitment by the executive not to enforce some law in some well-defined circumstance based on policy priorities.)


Why is this being downvoted? It’s a valid point. For being so “open minded” and “innovative,” it seems like there is a lot of closed-mindedness here.


I don't know why you are being downvotes, but it is the truth. Trump admin has raised the hostility towards high skill immigration towards a different level


Trump decides to excite his base and draw attention to himself by threatening to or actually banning immigrants from your country this week

difficult to plan for the future where this is a possibility


Trump's actual rhetoric revolves around tougher controls on immigrant backgrounds and cracking down on those who immigrate illegally, neither of which policies are any less strict in Canada.


and people from Iran or Syria?


https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/05/01/iranian-immigrat...

Maybe Trump's mistake is being vocal about it while Canada maintains plausible deniability.


I feel like I'm not getting the whole story here. You don't need a security clearance to become a permanent resident.


Security clearance not as in the kind that you need to work government jobs. Security clearance as in "basic" background checks.


Spot on!

The Obama admin did the same thing. Sure it was technically possible to get a visa but in reality it was impractical and deliberately so.


I think they are.

Canada is importing talent from Hong Kong and Shanghai to work for American and Canadian companies, at salaries that are below market in US tech hubs, but appealing enough for those who wish to move to North America. At the same time, Canada is exporting talent to the US because of those same good-but-not-good-enough salaries.


and France to Quebec..


Those are reasonable ideas, but they'll involve a lot of effort to move policy makers around. A simpler solution may be to rely on media sources that report a preferred reality. For instance:

4/20/18 Bloomberg: Engineers Are Leaving Trump’s America for the Canadian Dream

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-20/h-1b-work...


The is anecdotal, but it has happened often for me to meet people in Canada doing non-engineering work even tho they have an engineering degree from their home country, something about their education not being recognized in Canada, thus they end up being cab drivers.


Sorry, your strategy by asymmetry of the monetary forces involved can not work out for Canada.

What really prevents braindrain on a large scale is stationary opportunity's.

Take Shenzhen for example, it is one ocean away from California and should be constantly bleeding out towards it. The contrary is the case, due to the relatively cheap and flexible factories of hardware- being opportunities for which California cant or wont any longer compete.

But shouldn't all these Chinese hardware founders create fab-less hw-design companies and mass-migrate? No, because connections and opportunities would not migrate with them.

Such opportunities are usually created by long-term protectionism and clever industrial policies.


> I've always admired Canadian culture/values

What is canadian culture? What are canadian values? I've never heard anyone mention canadian culture or values before.

> would love to live in Canada one day.

You are one of the rare individuals. Most canadians I've met want to live in the US. Especially those with money or skills to make money. Better food, weather, culture, history, life, etc.

> - Aggressively encourage/fund/facilitate startups. Unlike salaried employees, startups aren't turned off by the low-engineering-wages. Once Canada can grow 5-10 startups into major established companies with Canadian HQs, that will really boost the local engineering ecosystem and job market.

But they can't compete because of scale. Canada isn't large enough and it certainly has too little internal talent to compete with the US. California by itself can out compete canada by itself. Thrown in the other 49 states.

Even if canada retained all its "brains", it wouldn't matter. We outnumber canada 10 to 1 and outrank canada in every economic facet from resources, ports, infrastructure and foreign talent.

Foreigners with skills, from china to india to the middle east to eastern europe, all want to come to the US to study and work.

It's almost impossible for canada to compete with the US. They have nothing going for them vis a vis the US and their internal market isn't large enough to compete with the US.


It's because of the pay and type of opportunities.

You either take below market rate (like myself) or you work in something like one of the 300 ad-tech or we'll-build-your-website/app dev mills (more often than not it's both).

There are a limited number of opportunities for truly interesting or innovative work if you don't want to work for "we're changing the world by creating the next uber/airbnb/cryptocurrency/coupon app!"

There are some seriously good and interesting companies here, but many exist out of the popular eye and/or usually located in the suburbs. (at least around Toronto)

But mainly I suspect it's the pay and career trajectory. Get a gig at FAANG? You can write your ticket after that. Work at a major Canadian company? You won't get a call back from other Canadian companies at a pay cut...


> You either take below market rate (like myself) or you work in something like one of the 300 ad-tech or we'll-build-your-website/app dev mills (more often than not it's both).

This is probably feeding the problem. You need good engineers to create high-value products in order to afford to pay high salaries for good engineers. Economies can't get ahead when they waste engineering talent developing trivial software that doesn't build long-term growth.

Canada should probably have a massive advanced military project that aims to produce state of the art technology. Pay qualified people great salaries and let them use their inventions in the private sector after some period of time.


That sounds good. I'll take it. Then send me to astronaut training and I'll do systems. Then I'll move to Vancouver Island, semi retire, tinker and teach the kids.

But otherwise, I'm trying to figure out how I can possibly save or make some more money on the side without running myself ragged or ruining my relationship—and feel human all the while.

I don't want to exaggerate but something is definitely off. I've seen companies resist hiring engineers at almost all cost (except for at 35-60k) but will pay "Technology Procurement Managers" 300k+. Don't get me started on some of the outcome of those practices...


Avro Arrow cough


Canadian tech worker here. Base salary is 120k CAD in Calgary which is far above market rate but I am educated, experienced etc. That is 93k USD.

I am looking to move to the USA because of higher salaries, but I am not 22 years old anymore and moving a family (with 2 earners) is no easy task.

It falls on deaf ears though, 120k CAD is a good income, I can afford a house, cars, no debts etc so there is very little understanding from others how I could not be satisfied with pay.


I do remote work for this reason. Although I did manage to recently find a contractor position that pays competitively here in Canada, I find that very rarely. If you do remote contract work, mostly for US or Swiss companies, you can make 2-3x a top Canadian salary. Just throwing that out there as an alternative to moving to the US.


Well this is interesting..

Based on my own experience of finding remote work for US companies.

I usually get lowballed on the offers because I am based in Canada.

In other words, US companies pay average salaries calculated based on my local salary rates.

In fact I just had a phone interview with a SF startup for a remote position and they were shocked to hear that I was asking for an AVG salary rate in SF instead of Canada.

Not sure if this is the norm for everyone.


Yes that happens. I explicitly exclude any US company with a presence in Canada - as that implies an HR department in Canada with Canadian salary guides. I got an offer from IBM that made me laugh. On top of that they wanted to own anything I did on my own time. Stay away from IBM.


How did you find your way into rates like that?


Without really planning it or advertising myself much. I don't have a website even. So I'm not the right person to ask. All I can say is just be persistent, don't sell yourself short, and most importantly always do an excellent job that wows your client. Work harder than your peers. I've always worked 6-7 days a week (always working challenging side projects after work), and after 15 years of doing that I'm better than most of my peers - it's like making a slowly compounding investment in yourself.

I haven't enjoyed life as much as my peers perhaps, although I do have a good time and I love what I do. But I'll retire early in my fourties and spend the rest of my life working on whatever I find interesting, traveling, or whatever else catches my fancy.


Can I ask what sector and languages/frameworks you use?


Not the person you're responding to, but C++ for me. I make a normal Seattle salary while living in Toronto. Which after conversion seems to put me higher than people with 3x my experience in much better paying sectors than I'm in... It's stupid, and it sucks, I wish my company was local, I don't prefer remote. I do much prefer making literally double than I'd make locally though. :/


I hear you, I don't really like remote either. I go to local programming meetups to get some of the socializing I miss out on with colleagues. But at the difference in income, I can't justify doing it any other way.


I do full-stack but focus mostly on backend. I work in any language, platform, or framework the job requires. There aren't that many remote jobs, so being flexible on the technology side helps me get the best. I find Go to be very much in demand right now. C++ is making something of a comeback ever since C++11.


How do you find remote work? I have 15 years experience, and pretty darn good at what I do. I just find it so much easier to get in-person work.


Do Canadian companies make that much less money than American ones? Why should they get to pad their profit margins because 120k CAD is "good income"?


A lot of the tech industry is about burning through investors' money in search of new profitable ideas. I'm guessing there's much less investor money in Canada.


"Burning through investors money in search of profitable ideas" has nothing to do with it. There's this huge misconception on HN about the size of the venture capital market. Start-ups are a miniscule portion of the tech economy by any measure of value.

The reason engineers make so much money in the US is the public market giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, etc. The combined market cap of FAANG is fluctuating around $3 trillion right now. That's about 2X the entire GDP of Canada...in just 5 American companies.

No large-ish tech company in Canada is near that level of profitability or size. Combine that with currency fluctuations and with the greater tax/regulatory burden of having a full-time employee in Canada, and you will never have a Canadian company that can afford to pay engineers $250K+ en masse like FAANG can.


> The reason engineers make so much money in the US is the public market giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, etc

The reason engineers in the US make so much, is because four to five decades ago US tech companies combined with globalization and scaled out into the entire planet as a market. That premise has remained intact, while the global economy has gotten a lot larger and richer. That's something most other nations have failed to do at a large scale (S.Korea has Samsung but not many other companies that have gone hyper global for example).

Go all the way back to Fairchild, Intel, HP, IBM in the 1950-1980 era. Nobody has done globalized tech like the US, probably only Japan got close (and they've largely missed out on the huge margins in software).

Without the ability to tap into the rest of the planet, Netflix wouldn't be able to pay what it does. The rest of the planet is half their market now, and will be 2/3 or 3/4 of it in the near future.

Europe only has three or four major tech companies that managed to go substantially global (eg SAP, ARM, Spotify, or Booking.com which got swallowed by Priceline). ARM & Booking got taken out, Spotify will be acquired next. The same kind of problem Canada often faces with its tech companies (Shopify is very likely to end up in the belly of a US tech or retail company, especially once their valuation normalizes).


I have a hard time understanding the comparison of aggregate market cap (a valuation) to GDP (an annual output). These seem like two very different quantities, with different units. How do you intend for us to interpret that comparison? Wouldn't it make more sense to compare the aggregate revenues of those companies? (I'm not an economist, so I'm not sure those two quantities are comparable either, but they seem closer at least.)


It's several hundred billion in revenue per year - i.e. about half the Canadian GDP for the FAANG companies.


FAANG can only hire so many engineers, the positions tend to be highly competitive, they pull them from all over the world, and the drop-off in compensation at the next level is pretty significant.


But they push other tech firms to make their offerings more palatable.


Can Canadian programmers good enough to be hired by FAANG be paid similar salaries in Canada?


No, that's the whole point of this discussion.


It's a rhetorical question.


they can work for FAANG in canada at a 30-40% discount (well not FN, but AAG)


They have an anchoring effect.


Lots less, but the big problem is a lack of competition. We don't have the big companies sucking up devs at an insane rate, or startups doing the same.

So they just pay what it takes to fill the spot.

Of course they are also incredibly resistant to changing this, preferring to complain about how we need to fix brain drain and/or make immigration easier.


> Lots less, but the big problem is a lack of competition. We don't have the big companies sucking up devs at an insane rate, or startups doing the same.

So it seems like they're not losing devs at a fast enough pace to warrant increasing dev salaries? Or perhaps there are just enough developers for the Canadian market, to not have to increase compensation to attract better talent?

From what I've seen, American based companies with offices in Canada do seem to pay very well, but Canadian companies are unabashedly poorly compensating. I talked with a few hiring managers at some Canadian startups and what they were offering would be less than what I made right out of college. It left me wondering how talented folks can continue to work for Canadian firms?


You can replace "Canadian" with almost every other country on earth and the question stays the same.

I live in Germany, which has similar wages for software engineers as Canada. And in a 2 hours train ride I can be in Poland, where software engineers earn 1/3 their German counterparts.


I guess that Germany and Poland do have problems similar to Canada, except that their brains are harder to be drained by America due to the distance.


Also Canadians have a much easier visa to get.


This isn't due to any failure in Poland. It takes money to make a person choose Germany over Poland. Poland is really really nice.


It really depends, but if a Canadian company operates in the US market and charges US prices, that puts them at a huge advantage.


The primary source of revenue for every Canadian software company I worked for came from the US.


Engineer/technical/science-type people tend to have this belief that wanting to reap the value they create makes them "bad people" or at the very least not a "good engineer/scientist/etc."

Apparently, only business and finance people are allowed to want money because they provide a useful service or just because they want money.

I personally believe that in a capitalistic society, it is imperative that everyone tries their best to extract as much of the value that they create. Otherwise we end up with massive inequality.


So there is very little understanding from others how I could not be satisfied with pay.

Have you calculated what salary you'd have to earn to afford an equivalent configuration of {house, cars, debt, schools, commute, sanity} in the BA?

That may be where the lack of understanding comes from.


I would think the experienced engineer contemplating moving their entire family to another country has done the basic math.

I really do get tired of this "but the cost of living!" argument being tossed out. People get it. It's not complicated.


Yeah, it's a knee-jerk response that's been trained into people to help them rationalize staying in Canada. I explain to friends/family/etc.: "I was offered 3x my salary to move to Seattle [from Vancouver]" and every goddamn time I hear "Oh, but I've heard Seattle is very expensive these days, so it probably cancels out!" Yes, Seattle is more expensive than Vancouver! About 25% more. And I make 3x as much money. I put literally 10x as much money into savings every year than I did when I lived in Vancouver.


I think people don't understand how their cost of living can be different then someone else's. Your COL calculation will be very different based on what standard of livings you want to preserve (house vs renting, downtown SF vs commute, sending kids to private school). So the COL delta is different for everyone.


Definitely be aware of the current value/cost of CPP and OAS and the difference typical medical expenditures (both the normal ones things that contribute to out-of-pocket maximums, and catastrophic care risks). Not to discourage you, the pay difference might cover it and then some. Sounds like you know what you're doing, but just in case.


There is a totalization agreement between the US and Canada for social security:

https://www.ssa.gov/international/Agreement_Pamphlets/canada...


I left Toronto Canada 25 years ago. Earned more in the first 10 years than I could have earned in my entire life in Toronto, Canada. The USA is the Land of Milk and Honey.


In Silicon Valley, most likely you are not going to afford a house anyway.. .


Well you can't afford a house in Vancouver either so why not go to the USA and earn more.

The spot with the best balance seems to be Seattle. High salaries and housing relatively affordable when compared to Vancouver or SF.


Seattle's housing market is going up really quickly, though. Last time I moved, I definitely noticed higher rents and more expensive purchase prices compared to a few years ago. It's not yet at the level of Vancouver, and far from SF/NY levels, but its trajectory isn't great.


Sounds like a good time to buy a house in Seattle then, if you can afford it.


No. it's the worst. don't come here.


As a Canadian in Vancouver who owns a home, the sad state of Vancouver is even the suburbs are ridiculously expensive.

If I want to sell my downtown townhouse and buy a detached home or upgrade in any way I'm looking at a 1.5 hour commute easily and still not getting much. And once you're outside downtown , entertainment etc rapidly drops off.

Alternatively in the bay area, where I may soon be moving, the suburbs have a strong drop off in cost from the hotspots while still maintaining a reasonable commute and quality of life.

The issue is, Vancouver's infrastructure drops off so dramatically as you get further from downtown.


Sunnyvale (current ground zero of Apple) median is close to 2M - that is only 5x of $400K which a lot of FANG and other engineers pull yearly (and that is the main reason for current SV home prices as, during such low mortgage rates, the market is naturally self-adjusting to 5-6x of prevalent salaries. In 2008 those houses were $700-800K+ - the 5-6x of those $120K-150K salaries back then).


If only there were some way to put more houses on a given plot of land, perhaps by stacking one on top of another, we could somehow break this dynamic. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/11/san_francisco...


i'm yet to see a high-rise development resulting in cheaper housing, at least in US. No that i'm against it - i like it, when it is done right, for different reasons though.

The housing prices are rising across the globe - one has to put somewhere all this money sloshing around. So, even to just stabilize the prices, one has to build faster than the money are printed - like Alice in Wonderland where you have to run fast just to stay at the same place.

Basically all that NIMBY vs. YIMBY fights is just 2 poor hobos fighting for a penny and completely distracted with that fight while a nice rich gentleman sells them both to slavery and makes away with the money and all the rest of their possessions.


> i'm yet to see a high-rise development resulting in cheaper housing, at least in US. No that i'm against it - i like it, when it is done right, for different reasons though.

It definitely won't be one or 2 developments; there has to be a systematic increase in the housing stock. Which is why the latest California plan (which was shot down in committee) to increase the density around mass transit by default was so amazing.

SF is NYC in the making. I know SF folks don't want to change the character of the city but something has to give; its attracting way too many people and we still need affordable housing for middle class folks.


Right. Only by building up will San Francisco finally achieve New York City's cheap rents.


Replacing large swaths on single story single family houses with multiparty rentals does not necessarily involve any high rise buildings. Paris and Barcelona have proven that very high density can be achieved with four to six stories or less.


are you suggesting that Paris is [more] affordable for software engineers? Quick check shows that the prices in Paris are about E10K per square meter - basically SV prices while salaries as far as i know are significantly lower there.

I have only vague idea about Barcelona - quick check shows like it may be on the scale of E5K per square meter (it was $100K per 2-3 bdrm 20 years ago, so 3x-4x today seems reasonable) So you need to have like at least $60K salary - do they have that there?

Again, i'm not against high[er] density. I'm against it being suggested as the panacea for housing affordability crisis - as far as i see it looks like it may even worsen the crisis (at least for some less fortunate people - like relatively affordable low income communities being displaced by upscale new construction like we have happening everywhere in SV).

Please just show where higher density did help to alleviate the affordability crisis. I think even the massively empty apartments in all these massively constructed ghost towers in China aren't falling in prices.


What evidence exactly are you looking for? If you compare two different cities with different housing densities, you're not only changing the housing density but (likely) also the value of the housing (since it increases availability of services and so on). It's not possible to magically adjust one variable while not touching the others.

However, if the prices in silicon valley were, say, 30% lower than they are now due to zoning which allowed more housing, would that constitute as evidence? You could still say that the "prices are high, higher density housing doesn't work!" - even if the higher density housing would've decreased prices by non-trivial amounts.

In any case, it's weird to see people objecting to basic supply and demand when it comes to housing.


The vast majority of engineers in the valley do not get FANG levels of compensation. Non-engineers earn even less. FANG employs a small fraction of all engineers, also. Using their salary as a baseline to analyze affordability introduces a strong bias towards one extreme of the tail. If one wishes to analyze affordability in general starting that bias makes the analysis not fit for purpose.


What percentage of FANG employees pull 400k yearly? The ones i know who work there make half that.


I agree. The thing with salaries is that you have a minority that is extremely well paid at FANG companies, and love to brag about it, given a false feeling that everybody is in that range.

A good reminder that nobody brags about being paid 100k in tech,


Is 400k really for a lot of engineers? How many years of experience?


Seems way too high to me (I even used to work at Netflix as an engineer years ago).


all the Netflix engineer salaries i know about are larger than $400K. And it may give you nightmares when/if you hear what Netflix offers when it gets into an offer bidding war with a compensation-comparable company :)

To GP questions - there is a lot of info available around about FANG compensation. Wrt. other companies - several guys around have recently landed new jobs - between 250K by a junior guy with 12 years experience and 0.5M by the guy with 20+. Only one went to FANG, a junior with about 10years and he got close to 300K.


I like how juniors are 10-12+ years lol

This may be true, but again these are outliers - most people here are not cranking down 400K. Netflix hires the best of the best so these people are the top 10% of engineers probably... Not the avg joe


Its not true. Most engineers are in the 150-200K range at the most. It is true that some companies like Netflix do pay much more, but Netflix goes for the best of the best. This is the not the majority of engineers. So realistically if you are talking 80% of engineers, then no, they are not making 400K (so they can easily buy a 2million dollar house in SV) they are making about a 1/3 of that.


Ehhh, IF you are at Google/Facebook/Uber, AND you are an L5 senior engineer (6+ years of experience probably), then you might be making close to this.

It is certainly DOABLE, and within reach to get a job at google and stay there for 3 years. But thats the population we are talking about here.


  Sunnyvale (current ground zero of Apple)
The Sunnyvale housing market may be "ground zero" for Apple due to supply, but Apple's "Spaceship" HQ is in Cupertino. Homestead is the border, except for a small chunk just west of Wolfe.


FANG engineers pull $400k WITH RSUs. Base+Bonus won't be that high.

And ... guess what... Bank uses Base (no bonus, no RSUs) to calculate your mortgage.


>And ... guess what... Bank uses Base (no bonus, no RSUs) to calculate your mortgage.

you have obviously never taken a mortgage in US. What bank typically uses is 2 last W-2s. In case if you don't know what W-2 is - it includes base + bonus + FMV of the vested RSUs as of the vest date.


If you made $400k a year I think you can convince a private banker to do something with them.


Yeah, the argument is a bit ridiculous.

You shouldn't go to the bay area because you will never be able to afford a 2 million dollar house on 300k a year.

Stay in Vancouver and just buy a 1 million dollar house on 90k instead.


Where in Vancouver did you find this magical house that only cost 1 million dollars? Are you sure you weren't in Burnaby, or Coquitlam?


You are probably earning a better income than $250k in silicon valley where housing is $700-$1600 a sq ft to buy.


Wait what. 120k base salary? That's wayyy better than Montreal. Base salary in Montreal is probably between 50k and 60k...


Get ready to spend a good deal of the difference in pay on healthcare.


My insurance costs me personally about $250 per month covering a family of 6. My employer pays the rest — AND I make 2-3x a Canadian salary excluding stock.

The health argument is completely invalid when it comes to Canadian salary comparisons because the Canadian employer doesn’t have to pay health insurance costs — so they should have more money available for salaries.


It'll be almost entirely covered by your employer, and that number doesn't show up in the headline salaries they're looking at, anyway.


Health care is not that expensive for upper middle class earners. We are a family of five and insurance costs us $11k/year in premiums and, worst case, another $16k/year in out of pocket maximum. And you’re also forgetting that stuff costs less in the US. Groceries, gas, etc. are all much cheaper down here.


But the differences in taxes reflect not covering health care. If you include that 20,000 a year spent on health care doesn't feel like a great deal anymore


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