Clark positions B.C. tech sector as inclusive alternative to inward-looking countries

Christy Clark speaks at the B.C. Tech Summit March 14 | Photo: Tyler Orton

B.C. Premier Christy Clark used the B.C. Tech Summit on Tuesday (March 14) to tout the province as an open, inclusive alternative for high-skilled foreign workers wary of trying to land jobs in the U.S.

“Around the world, we all see it every day, countries are looking inward and that is a terrible … trend. But it is also, for us as Canadians and us in British Columbia, an opportunity,” the premier said during a 20-minute keynote address to kick off the summit.

“While other countries are looking in, let’s be a country and a province that is reaching out.”

Clark told the audience that it’s “absolutely true” that Canada’s immigration system is better than the U.S. system.

“But it’s a low bar and it’s getting lower,” she said.

Many of the changes Clark said she wants to see in terms of attracting foreign talent to B.C. fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For instance, Clark floated the idea of granting citizenship to foreign PhD students on the day they graduate. She also said the provincial nominee program should allow as many tech workers into B.C. that the sector requires.

But Clark also touted the government’s plans to cultivate more talent through the education sector by doubling the number of co-ops from 7,000 to 14,000, as part of its B.C. technology strategy.

Last month, the province announced in its 2017 budget that it would offer tax incentives to the virtual reality and augmented reality industries focused on entertainment products like video games.

Clark said that tax incentive would be updated to include all applications for VR technology, not only entertainment. Such applications could include creating VR experiences for the real estate industry.

Later in the morning, Tesla Motors co-founder JB Straubel may have stymied the premier’s efforts to bolster B.C.’s talent pool when he asked for engineers attending the summit to come work for the California-based electric vehicle company.

“We need more talent and we are hiring,” he told the crowd.
Straubel said Tesla now has more software engineers than mechanical engineers.

“For a car company, that’s pretty crazy,” he said.

Straubel spent much of his keynote explaining the company has been tasked with trying to get consumers to “reset” how they perceive electric vehicles.

Some electric vehicles may have looked like concept cars pulled from The Jetsons era just a decade ago.

Today, Tesla’s luxury sedans now have 34% of U.S. market share, according to figures provided by Straubel.