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Why not Canada?

Hailing from Canada here. Hey what did Canada do wrong?

The labor cost is cheaper.
The US Dollar is strong here.
Our first language is frequently english.
When it's 1 pm in California it's 1pm in Vancouver (so you don't have to spend 1.5 hours each day reporting on what you do to the people 1/3 of the way around the world picking up your work, okay there are cons too, but what the heck).
People don't exactly go to idiot schools in Canada, U Waterloo, U of T, and UBC are great comp sci schools.
Every year we have thousands of highly qualified technicians (more qualified to speak english) from India and China who immigrate to Canada--eager to be exploited to get a foot in the door and get their feet wet working in a new culture.

So how come all the tech parks are in India? What did the politicians or computer industry do wrong?...why aren't we driving the BMWs?

Any canadians here wonder the same? Or is it no mystery at all?

Li-fan Chen
Friday, April 30, 2004

"Any canadians here wonder the same?"

Errr...I don't think we're exactly downtrodden compared to India so I'm not going to cry into my pillow about this. On the flip side, that's precisely why we didn't become a fad outsourcing destination -- we may be marginally inexpensive compared to the US because of currency and competition differences, but we aren't third world inexpensive. I'm rather happy about that. I think we're doing okay.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, April 30, 2004

... because it's only half the price of the US, not 1/3, and people who are counting pennies want to count all of them.

That said, I agree with you... all else being equal Montreal, Toronto, and Vancover are some of the best places in the world to have a high tech company. And you forgot to mention government research subsidies.

Ontario has a lot of outsourced tech support, and I'm always overjoyed when I dial a tech support number and realize I've gotten through to Ontario, because you always get someone cheerful, smart, qualified, and fluent.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Friday, April 30, 2004

Asking as a prospective immigrant... Is the IT job market as bad as in the U.S.?

An immigration attorney told me 'programmer' was actually a 'wanted' profession and 'Canada needn't be the same as the U.S. in every regard.'

But who knows, maybe she's reading old magazines from '99-2000.

Ignorant youth
Friday, April 30, 2004

I was just wondering what the audience think here is necessary for Canada (as a government or group of professionals) to sweeten the deal furthur?

Maybe a special economic zone with even less restrictions than NAFTA between Seattle and Vancouver? How about one at the Niagara region?

Such a zone would encourage companies who like tax breaks to operate there. It would essentially be a separate country or at least an economic power on to itself. You don't have to do a salt lake city, this could be an existing city like Richmond, BC. If you look on the map, there's a large tract of land west of Delta and east of Richmond that clearly is begging for development in the next 25 years. It's still a short 2 hours drive from Redmond, Washington.

Wage control is more problematic, you can't expect Canadians to work for any less than they need to survive in great cities like Vancouver or Toronto, but if a special economic zone is done right, it will host a lower cost of living. This is kinda like the company parks in Asia where your company (Hitachi) would essentially help you save money for a real house someday by building apartments you can live in for a song if you work for them.

Li-fan Chen
Friday, April 30, 2004

Okay I apologize, you can't exactly build a special economic zone for no reason :-) It's particularly hard idea to pull off in the political climate we deal with here in the north. Any other ideas? :-)

Li-fan Chen
Friday, April 30, 2004

Joel, thanks for the compliment, you are making us Canadians blush.

Cheers, Paul


Friday, April 30, 2004

"why aren't we driving the BMWs?"

We are laid-back, environmentally saavy and don't want stinkin' freeways therefore riding bike is in order.

farid
Friday, April 30, 2004

Immigration lawyers primarily want to get your money, so they'll say whatever they can to convince you to come here. Once here, most find that there experience or education doesn't transfer, and they end up driving taxi cabs or working in a variety store. Just be very aware of the real job prospects, and not what a lying immigration lawyer claims.

Regarding the software development job prospects, I'd say that Canada and the US are about the same -- the image you have of the US is a false one (most developers are gainfully employed, and the total technology worker numbers dropped a tiny amount), just as the media image during the .COM boom was false (that every developer was a Ferrari driving millionaire).

Dennis Forbes
Friday, April 30, 2004

Everybody is flocking to India because the hype says India is "Where It's At".  A few firms are offshoring software development (or "nearshoring") to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, but the work isn't going there on a large scale because the hype isn't there.

T. Norman
Friday, April 30, 2004

She did say I would need to get my equivalency papers, but I can work as a "junior engineer" in the meantime.

I would appreciate your answer to one last question: she mentioned engineers are required to be in the "Corps d'Ingenieurs" or some such (Quebec). Does this apply to software engineers too?

Ignorant youth
Friday, April 30, 2004

> So how come all the tech parks are in India?

There are tech parks in Canada: in Ottawa (Kanata), and Toronto (Markham), for example. Perhaps there aren't any in BC, but you can't have everything. :-)

Software doesn't need a tech park, anyway. Well, perhaps it does, in India ... but, in Canada, it isn't only tech parks that have reliable electricity and telecommunications.

If I remember rightly, you previously asked about finding jobs for immigrant friends. Are you now saying you'd like convenient nearby tech parks with plenty of McJobs in a tax-free zones that you could send them to, where they'd willing work cheaply while living in company-sponsored housing until they found a better-paying job in the city? If so, why should the Canadian government, or any party, be interested in encouraging that?

> why aren't we driving the BMWs?

Because we're reinvesting in businesses? And yachts?

> Any other ideas? :-)

The R&D tax credit http://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/taxcredit/sred/menu-e.html can be sweet.

There's also http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSG/me00034e.html ...

Christopher Wells
Friday, April 30, 2004

> Does this apply to software engineers too?

That sounds like the old "is software 'art' or 'engineering' or what?" debate.

I'd think not: she's probably thinking of http://www.canlii.org/qc/laws/sta/i-9/20040323/whole.html

If you subscribe to a site like http://www.jobboom.com/index.html that advertises software jobs in Quebec, the ads don't mention that applicants must belong to a professional body.

Christopher Wells
Friday, April 30, 2004

Software development isn't really an engineering discipline in Canada, though you can be sure that the various monopoly professional engineer boards are trying their best to make it so. Currently you don't need to belong to any engineering society, and your credentials only need to be respected by the people who might hire you.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, April 30, 2004

The term 'Engineer' is not encouraged for use by the software profession in Canada.  I used to have the title 'Senior Software Engineer' but around the time of the MCSE stink* we were rename 'Senior Software Developer Analyst'.  The company I work for used to do a lot of contract work for US customers (near shoring) but we have since made the transition to more of an ISV.

* see http://www.apegga.org/whatsnew/peggs/Web05-01/microsoft.htm or http://www.microsoft.com/canada/media/releases/07_25_2002.mspx or all google results http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&safe=off&q=MCSE+designation&btnG=Search&meta=cr%3DcountryCA

O Canader
Friday, April 30, 2004

So we know what spaces and commas mean.  What does my continued lack of past tenses ( -ed e.g. renamed) say about my origin?

O Canader
Friday, April 30, 2004

Li-Fan:
Why do you want to eat the crumbs of some other country?  Canada has ZERO need of that.  Canadians are or can be every bit as innovative as Americans, maybe  more so. 
Ontario has the world's best call centers?  Waste of talent.
You want to be a place that jobs are outsourced from, not to.  You want to be the place where great companies are born, grow up, and then leave when they are mature and no longer innovating.  If you are renting booths at trade shows to talk up your low wages you have given up.  Don't get on that treadmill.     
"Canada - America's top branch office" ?? No way, man.  Fire up and start a company. 

Ethan Herdrick
Saturday, May 01, 2004

The question is - where did Canada go so right and India so wrong?  Why is Canada the way it is and India the way it is? 
Actually Canada has gone wrong in the past few decades, but it's the opposite of what you are thinking.  Something has gone wrong when such a talented, steady, cohesive and well educated people are holding themselves out as the bargain option.  You guys should be outrageously expensive. 
To keep this thread from getting off-track I'll not point out the political change that correlates with Canada's loss of parity with the U.S.   

Ethan Herdrick
Saturday, May 01, 2004

India has a culture of a corrupt upper class that would chase the money at any cost, combined with lots of people available to work at low wages. That's why India has a big outsourcing industry.


Saturday, May 01, 2004


A company I used to work for purchased a software development company in Toronto and subsequently shipped virtually all of it's software development business up there for cost reasons.

So, yeah, it does happen.

Mark Hoffman
Saturday, May 01, 2004


Ethan,

Since we're really talking about out-sourcing here, it makes sense that the work would come from somewhere else. Just by definition of the size of the US, there is gonna be a much larger potential of work that can be outsourced.

No reason why Canadians can't (or shouldn't) create strong, innovative technical companies. But don't look as outsourcing as the US throwing crumbs at Canada.

The only reason that work would be outsourced to Canada anyway is the cost of the dollar there. And that has very little to do with quality or intelligence of the Canadian tech worker.

'Eh?
Saturday, May 01, 2004

---"India has a culture of a corrupt upper class that would chase the money at any cost, combined with lots of people available to work at low wages. That's why India has a big outsourcing industry."-----

I thought it was the States that had the corrupt upper class that would chase the money at any cost, which is why they are outsourcing skilled jobs to India, and use all the Americains willing to work for low wages to ensure a big service industry.

The possible corruption of India's upper classes has very little to do with the success of outsourcing - the big outsourcing companies are led by first or second generation entrepreneurs, with a fair number of returnees from the States and Europe.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 01, 2004


"I thought it was the States that had the corrupt upper class that would chase the money at any cost"

Yeah, counter a stereo-typed argument with one of your own stereo-types.

Bravo.

Mark Hoffman
Saturday, May 01, 2004

Not mine Mark; just what I've picked up from the Americans posting here.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 01, 2004

to 'Eh?
>The only reason that work would be outsourced
>to Canada anyway is the cost of the dollar there.

That's just another way of saying that Canadians aren't as wealthy as Americans anymore.  My point is: they should be.
Don't let yourself be fooled by the monetary veil.

Ethan Herdrick
Saturday, May 01, 2004

"That's just another way of saying that Canadians aren't as wealthy as Americans anymore."


Um..no..it isn't. Not any more than when the pound sterling is higher against the dollar that the English are wealthier than Americans.

'Eh
Saturday, May 01, 2004

Thank you!

Ignorant youth
Sunday, May 02, 2004

'Eh :
You misunderstand me.  What I mean is that the change in relative value of currencies matters, but the absolute value does not.  Otherwise, British companies (holding valuable pounds) would be outsourcing their work to American programmers (paid in less valuable dollars).  Or both British and American companies would be outsourcing everything to Japan's millions of smart programmers who are paid in the tiny Yen - worth less than an American penny, and only about one British half-penny!

In the long run, the quality and intelligence of the Canadian worker have a great deal to do with his cost.  That, and the overall cultural and governmental environment, are supreme in this matter.  The money unit of the Canadian wage is not important.

Ethan Herdrick
Monday, May 03, 2004

'Eh :
I apologize for being unclear and for not responding for days!

Ethan Herdrick
Monday, May 03, 2004

There's an article about this in the May issue of the National Post Business supplement:

It says that there has been lots of outsourcing to Canada, especially of call centres ("contact centers"): especially to "small-town Canada" such as to Sault Ste Marie. They say that, in the Soo, contact centres can hire people for C$9 to C$14 per hour plus bonuses ... and that, for that money, they get college graduates ("you're dealing with a far ore intelligent person here") with North American accents, same time zones as the US, no health-care costs, less staff turn-over, little likely of currency swings and political upheaval, etc...

Established nearshoring companies want to work up the value chain (sic) to do IT work too. You can hire programmers for $60K-$70K, compared with U$80K-U$100K in the States. There is for example a company with branches in India and in the Maritimes that does "application outsourcing", which does the "front end" design and customer-relations work in Canada, and coding in India "behind the scenes" to reduce labour costs. Advantages of programming in Canada are the same as for ccontact centres, plus one or two other things such as the fact that Canada has some COBOL expertise (which newer economies haven't), and the fact that Halifax alone turns out 2000 IT graduates per year. Canadian high-tech cities mentioned include Montreal (software/multimedia), Ottawa (telecomms), Toronto (lots of people working in one of the world's largest IT centres), Calagary (mobile communiciations), and Vancouver (computers and video games).

Companies such as Wipro and Infosys are looking at setting up operations in Canada.

As for politicians, the only mention of them in the article was in the phrase "Ever since New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna began wooing call centres from the U.S. in the early 1990s, jobs have flocked to the region, a trend that has been well-reported. Besides India, Eastern Canada is one of the most cited locations for American outsourcing".

I might say that I went to a conference in Chicago last fall to do with call centres, and saw there a little Canadian government booth that was advertising Canada as a place for call centres.

Another reason for choosing Canada, that I heard mentioned in the year 2000, was that Canada has a more liberal immigration policy, which makes it easier to find and hire skilled workers.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

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