On October 17, Canada became the second country in the world after Uruguay and the first developed country to legalize the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis. Under the new law, adults will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis—available for purchase only from government stores—and in most provinces will also be allowed to grow a maximum of four marijuana plants per household. Many of the details of regulating legal marijuana have been left to Canada’s 13 provinces and territories to decide for themselves, however, leading to potential variation from province to province in key regulatory issues such as the rights of employees who use the drug and their employers.
Smoking marijuana in workplaces remains illegal (as is smoking of any kind), but questions remain over whether Canadian organizations will be able to regulate their employees’ cannabis use off the clock and off the worksite. Workers in some fields will still face strict standards, the New York Times explains:
Employees who handle dangerous products or operate heavy machinery may face stepped-up or new drug tests. Airline pilots face tough restrictions on how near to the start of shifts they may use marijuana. The armed forces will have specific orders for its members and the Calgary Police Service has banned pot use by off-duty officers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Toronto’s police force will ban most officers from using marijuana within 28 days of reporting for a shift.
Impending legalization had raised anxieties among employers in safety-sensitive industries, who were unsure of what measures they would legally be able to take to prevent employees from working while high. Part of what makes these claims difficult to adjudicate is that there is no simple metric for measuring marijuana intoxication; the chemicals in cannabis remain in the body for several weeks after it is used, and current drug testing protocols can’t determine precisely whether an individual smoked an hour ago or two days ago.
Microsoft is planning a new, $570 million Canadian headquarters in Toronto, GeekWire reported last week, becoming the latest in a series of major US tech companies to announce large-scale investments in Canada:
The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.
Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.
The very next day, Uber also revealed plans for a new Toronto office, announcing that it would spend around $154 million to build a new engineering hub there, doubling its Toronto-based tech workforce to around 500 employees. The ride-sharing startup will also be expanding its self-driving car operations there. These latest moves will further boost Toronto’s profile as one of Canada’s leading tech hubs, particularly for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Major tech companies have been investing in Canada at a steady clip over the past year, also including Salesforce, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and Facebook. Toronto is also the only non-US finalist for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
The latest annual survey of the tech talent market from the commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE finds that Toronto was the fastest-growing market for tech jobs in North America last year, Natalie Wong and Stefanie Marotta reported at Bloomberg last week:
The city saw 28,900 tech jobs created, 14 percent more than in 2016, for a total of more than 241,000 workers, up 52 percent over the past five years, CBRE said. Downtown, tech accounted for more than a third of demand for office space.
Canada’s biggest city took fourth place in “tech talent,” a broad measure of competitiveness, pushing New York down a notch and coming in just after the Bay Area, Seattle and the U.S. capital. CBRE ranked 50 markets across North America, using measures such as talent supply, concentration, education and cost as well as outlooks for job and rent growth for both offices and apartments.
Ottawa is also on the rise, CBRE found, ranking that city highest in terms of growth potential based on its concentration of tech talent as a percentage of the total workforce. The Canadian capital city, situated in the urban corridor between Toronto and Montreal, is currently home to over 1,700 technology companies and more than 70,000 technology workers. Ottawa is home to some of Canada’s most prestigious universities and boasts among the highest living standards in the country, so it’s no surprise to see a tech scene take root there.
Even as Canada is working to make itself a hub for cutting-edge technologies and attract investment from global tech companies, much of its own homegrown tech talent is looking for work abroad, a new study finds. Led by the University of Toronto’s Zachary Spicer, the study found that one in four recent Canadian STEM graduates from the country’s top universities were working in other countries, mostly the US, the Globe and Mail reported earlier this month. Figures like these, Spicer warns, are enough to raise concerns about brain drain:
The numbers were higher for graduates of computer engineering and computer science (30 per cent), engineering science (27 per cent) and software engineering, where two out three graduates were working outside Canada, mostly in the United States. Nearly 44 per cent of those working abroad were employed as software engineers, with Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon listed as top employers. …
“I think policy makers should look at this as a bit of a wake-up call,” said Mr. Spicer, who said the study was the first scholarly effort to map out Canada’s tech brain drain. “When we see certain fields where upward of 65 per cent of a graduating class are leaving for the U.S., I think there should be concerns there that our homegrown companies aren’t even going to be able to access some of that talent. If we found in the 1960s that 60 per cent of our auto workers were leaving to work in other countries … we probably would have held a royal commission.”
This study’s findings may comes as a surprise, considering that Canada’s tech sector is by all accounts on an upward trend.
Google’s powerful new job search feature, launched in the US last June, has begun its global expansion and is now available in India and Canada. The India expansion will aggregate job listings from over a dozen partners, the Economic Times‘ Surabhi Agarwal reported last week, including some multinational partners like LinkedIn and IBM Talent Management Solutions, as well as India-specific job search sites like QuezX, QuikrJobs, and Shine.com:
Rajan Anandan, Vice President India & Southeast Asia, said in the last quarter of 2017, Google saw more than a 45% increase in the number of job search queries. “SMEs are the largest job creators but are often unable to make their listings discoverable. This new job search experience powered by our partners and our open platform approach attempts to bridge this gap,” he added.
With “Google for Jobs,” as the feature is commonly known, the search giant does not host job listings itself but rather directs search traffic to partner job boards using its sophisticated search algorithm, promising to more efficiently connect job seekers with positions already being listed in their geographic area and professional field.
Canadians can also now use Google’s powerful search tool to find their next job, the company has announced. Partner organizations in that country include the Canadian government’s Job Bank/Guichet-Emplois, BCJobs.ca, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster.ca, Jobillico, and Jobboom.
Boston Seaport (Helioscribe/Shutterstock)
Amazon announced this week that it was opening new offices and expanding its footprints in the North American tech hubs of Boston and Vancouver. While neither of these announcements represents the highly anticipated selection of a site for the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters (Boston is on the list of 20 finalists; Vancouver is not), both plans envision creating several thousand jobs and stand to have an appreciable impact on the local talent and housing markets in these cities.
The Boston Globe‘s Tim Logan reported on Tuesday’s announcement of a new facility in Seaport Square, a major new development in the South Boston Waterfront neighborhood, which will be primarily dedicated to developing its voice-activated Alexa technology, along with cloud computing and robotics—already focal points of Amazon’s existing offices in the highly-educated city:
The company has long based much of its Alexa and Audible teams at a growing office in Kendall Square, and has beefed up its Amazon Web Services and robotics development teams here in recent years. Its new building, set to begin construction later this year and open in 2021, would mark the company’s biggest presence to date, and comes as Amazon opens a new office in nearby Fort Point.
Along with an office in the Back Bay, a robotics facility in North Reading and a massive distribution center in Fall River, the company has added 3,500 jobs in Massachusetts since 2011, with these 2,000 more to come. They have an option for a second building — with room for 2,000 more jobs — at Seaport Square should they want to expand further.
Amazon is also opening a new office in Vancouver, one of Canada’s primary tech hubs and a short hop from the company’s Seattle headquarters. Taylor Soper covered the news for GeekWire:
Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock.com
Toronto is the crown jewel of Canada’s growing tech sector and a centerpiece of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ambitions to make the country a leader in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. The city boasts a high-quality research university and a highly educated talent pool. Unfortunately, it’s also starting to experience the same problem faced by other major cities in North America: a shortage of housing, leading to high living costs for young professionals.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade has warned that rising housing costs and a short supply of decent apartments in the greater Toronto area risks harming the city’s ability to attract and retain talent, according to the Star’s real estate reporter Tess Kalinowski:
A survey by the business group last year shows 42 per cent of young professionals would consider leaving the region because of the high cost of housing. That has prompted the board to publish a Housing Policy Playbook in advance of the June provincial election with five recommendations for how the next government should tackle the housing crunch. The proposals range from building condos over transit stations to expediting construction permits. …