Tech influx? New deal on NAFTA? Inside local impact of Trump presidency
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2016 6:28PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 9, 2016 6:46PM EST
From manufacturing to high-tech, there are plenty of big players in the local economy now trying to figure out how Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States could impact their businesses.
As Trump’s victory became imminent Tuesday night, social media lit up with claims by Americans that they would move to Canada.
The interest in relocating here was so strong that a surge in online traffic crashed the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
For Tony Brijpaul, a co-founder of Kitchener tech company Miovision, fielding queries from concerned residents of the United States didn’t require looking at social media – or even leaving his family.
His sister, who currently works in Silicon Valley, messaged him Wednesday morning to ask about the tech scene in Waterloo Region.
“She’s having thoughts about moving back home to Canada,” he said.
Wilfrid Laurier University political science professor Barry Kay says many of the people currently talking about leaving the U.S. for Canada likely won’t follow that talk up with action.
“When George W. Bush was elected, people talked about it as well, and I didn’t witness much of an impact in Canadian immigration,” he said in an interview.
Kay does see Trump’s election potentially affecting Canada’s population in a few specific areas, such as international students and tech workers – two groups Waterloo Region already knows pretty well.
He also suspects many of those who do end up making the move to Canada will be people who, like Brijpaul’s sister, already have ties to the country.
For Brijpaul – who had already seen friends take jobs in the U.S. and return to Canada prior to Tuesday – any suggestion of anything that could make it easier to recruit tech workers is a positive.
“For the expats, I would say ‘Welcome home, we’re happy to have you back,’” he said.
“For any Americans out there that want to move up north, ‘Great, come on in, we’re happy to have you.’”
The tech sector isn’t the only major part of the local economy having trouble attracting and retaining workers. It’s an issue for manufacturers too.
On top of that problem, manufacturing companies with suppliers or customers in the United States may suddenly find themselves concerned about the future of those supply chains.
During the campaign, Trump spoke about a desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement – Kay terms the president-elect “hostile” to the trade deal – and potentially scrap the deal altogether.
David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, signalled Wednesday that Canada would be open to taking a look at the agreement.
“The economic relationship between Canada and the United States is of benefit to both parties, and I think President Trump will want to continue that,” he told CTV’s Power Play.
Were that to happen, said MacNaughton – who was in Waterloo Region on Wednesday – Canada would bring its own issues to the table, such as softwood lumber.
“If the president-elect wants to have a discussion about improving NAFTA … we’re happy to do so,” he said.
“We’re certainly open to anything that will benefit the Canadian economy.”
There are few industries where the economies of the two countries are tied together closer than the auto sector. Cars made in Canada often contain parts made in the United States, and vice-versa.
Guelph-based Linamar is one of Canada’s largest auto parts manufacturer, and would thus be directly impacted by any NAFTA renegotiation that pertains to the automotive industry.
Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz sent a memo Wednesday addressing the election results and urging her employees to “be calm and not be overly concerned” by Trump’s election until more details of his stance on trade are known.
“I think the bottom line is let’s not panic, let’s see what the actual policy decisions are … and be ready to react and understand such at that time,” she said.
With reporting by Leena Latafat