The man tasked with leading Ontario's bid to land Amazon's second headquarters knows there's one big wild card at play in the process: Donald Trump.
Speaking in an interview with BNN Wednesday, Ed Clark, the former TD Bank CEO who now serves as a business advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, said the province has some competitive advantages. But he's mindful Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, might not want to risk incurring the American president's wrath by building its so-called HQ2 north of the border.
“We’re doing this on the basis of a realistic view that [Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos] has to take [Trump] into account,” said Clark. “This would be a major political statement in the United States of America if Amazon stood up and said the next 50,000 jobs we create are going to Canada and not the United States. That would be a major political statement and we don’t really know whether Amazon, when it comes right down it, is prepared to make that statement.”
Not only has Trump’s time in the White House been mired in controversy, he has also taken multiple swipes at Amazon (AMZN.O), Jeff Bezos himself and the Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos.
At least seven cities across Canada and many more in the United States have thrown their hats into the ring to land the e-commerce giant’s second headquarters, dubbed “HQ2”, which will be a multi-billion dollar facility.
Politics aside, Clark says Ontario has much to offer the online retailer in terms of location, a talented workforce and a diverse, welcoming society
He says he’s also on board with offering incentives to the company in order to secure the investment, but won’t go much further beyond that.
“There are states in the Unites States that play what I call ‘the bribe game’ and say well you just tell us what check you want us to write and we’ll write that check…and Ontario won’t write that check.”
“So I think we have to be realistic that what we’re going to be pitching them is step back and say you, as Amazon, what you should be worrying about most for the next 20 years? Where are you going to get the supply of labour to keep growing and there’s no place in the world better than Ontario.”
Regardless if Toronto wins the race or not, Clark is convinced putting together a proposal won’t be wasted energy in the long term.
“Just putting this effort in is going to teach us a lot. When you look at acquisitions in the business world, even if you don’t get it, you learn a tremendous amount. So going into this and finding out what it takes, what are the issues people have with Toronto and how to solve those issues is important,” he said. “The fact that I think we’ll in the running towards the end here will put a name on the map where people will say we should look at Toronto too because [Amazon] looked seriously at Toronto.”