Vancouver to Amazon: “Take Advantage of Our Low-Paid Tech Workers”

When Amazon announced last year that it planned to build a second HQ – aptly named HQ2 – cities clamoured for the right to be its new home.

After all, it’s not every day municipal governments get a chance to add 50,000 high-paying jobs to the local economy.

Earlier this year, Amazon released a shortlist of 20 cities still in the running. Toronto was the only Canadian city on the list.

So, where did other Canadian cities go wrong? Well, in the case of Vancouver, it could have something to do with throwing its tech talent under the bus.

Vancouver’s 50-page failed bid surfaced online last week, and there’s one “selling point” that had people particularly irked. “Our talent competes with the best, yet we have the lowest wages of all North American tech hubs,” boasts the brochure under a heading that reads “We are the best value option.”

Probably not something you want to brag about, especially in the midst of a housing affordability crisis.

In an interview with the National Post, Andrew Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, aired his grievance with Vancouver’s odd-choice USP (unique selling point). “Great, we’re now the Walmart of tech workers in North America — cheapest prices ever,” Yan said. “That’s a great place to start selling yourself.”

Many on Twitter echoed his sentiment.

It’s sad, of course, because it’s true. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, tech wages in Vancouver (and Toronto, for that matter, which has an affordability crisis of its own) are significantly lower than in cities South of the Border.

“As much as we are working with the region’s key stakeholders to increase wages in Vancouver, the reality is that we are the lowest-cost tech hub in North America, and it would have been a huge error not to include one of our strongest economic arguments in the proposal,” said James Raymond, manager of research and analysis at the Vancouver Economic Commission,  in an email to the National Post.

Without HQ2, that increase will probably come later rather than sooner.