After more than a year of build-up and preparation, Collision Conference has officially launched in Toronto, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory on hand to welcome tens of thousands of attendees from 125 countries to one of North America’s largest tech conferences.
“What people are looking for in a world of uncertainty are the things Canada is serving.”
– Justin Trudeau
Collision founder and CEO Paddy Cosgrave welcomed the crowd, noting his original reluctance to host the conference in Canada, but stated that after seeing what Toronto’s tech scene has to offer, knew that the city had “firmly arrived on the global tech scene.”
Trudeau looked to affirm Cosgrave’s sentiment with an elevator pitch on why Canada is the place for tech companies, pointing to access to global markets, access to talent, as well as quality of life, diversity, and “strong communities.”
In a fireside chat with Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV, the prime minister emphasized the federal government’s Global Skills Strategy, specifically the Global Talent Stream, a fast-track visa with a processing time of two weeks for “low-risk, high skills talent.” Officially launched in 2017, the two-year pilot program was made permanent in the 2019 federal budget.
— Douglas Tr0n Soltys (@tron) May 20, 2019
Trudeau stated that Canadians remain positive about immigration “at a time of anxiety” around the world. “Canada’s advantage is people and our talent,” he told the capacity crowd, noting that at a time when other countries are closing their borders, Canada is realizing that bringing in the best and the brightest talent can benefit the economy.
“In Canada, we are making room for people to succeed in tech…offering talent that global companies need to succeed,” he stated. “What people are looking for in a world of uncertainty are the things Canada is serving.”
When Rafati pushed back, noting that the program is limited to only certain jobs and sectors, Trudeau admitted that that program is small and targetted but pointed to the government’s overall immigration strategy, which he stated brought in 350,000 people over the past year, calling it one of the largest immigration programs per capita than any other country in the world.
Rafati also pointed to the gender pay gap that persists in Canada, with Trudeau stating that while he feels his government has done a lot, the gender pay gap, at somewhere between 13-16 percent, remains larger than one would expect when compared to other countries. He told the international tech crowd though that gender parity is “the smart thing to do,” pointing to statistics that show having 40 to 60 percent women on boards of directors increases outcomes for companies. He noted programs like VCCI that have built-in mandates to provide capital for women in tech.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) May 21, 2019
Coming on stage afterward to help officially open the conference, Mayor Tory also emphasized the importance of gender inclusivity, stating that the city refuses to attend or participate in events and panels that do not have or put an emphasis on proper representations of women following feedback from #movethedial founder Jodi Kovitz (who was also a member of the mayor’s re-election committee).
Mayor Tory expanded that message to a broader focus on diversity, noting that 51 percent of Torontonians are born outside of the country. The mayor stated that he wants to make sure the Toronto tech sector embraces everybody in the community.
The night ended in fireworks at centre stage, officially marking the open of the four-day conference that takes place across Toronto through to Thursday, May 23.
“In Toronto, we are trying to do things differently, that’s doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse just different,” Tory stated. “We wanted Collision to rub off on Toronto and also hope just a little bit of Toronto rubs off on Collision.”
Images courtesy Collision via Twitter.