Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: Is the ‘Trump Bump’ a blip or a tsumani of talent on the move?

Michelle Madden and Paul Parker / January 30, 2017

Tags: , , , , ,

The Higher ED Blog: Is the ‘Trump Bump’ a blip or a tsumani of talent on the move?

That’s President Donald Trump now, and he’s wasting no time. On January 20th, the controversial businessman and reality star was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. In his first full week in office, he has issued orders to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, build a wall along the Mexico border, and restrict immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. That last order has created immediate chaos.

All of these decisions, and many others, have the potential to fuel migration out of the US and redirect immigration to other countries. The night of the U.S. election, as it become increasingly clear that Donald Trump might win the presidency, Canada’s immigration website crashed. Traffic to the website by Americans was five times higher than usual. This spike wasn’t entirely unexpected as Google searches related to moving to Canada peaked back in March (after Super Tuesday) and it remained a hot topic through the rest of 2016, even as immigration experts warned Americans that they can’t just pack up and move. On a more tangible note, American applications to Canadian universities are skyrocketing. Student visas can be easier to get than work visas, and many programs are conveniently four years long. Regarding immigrants from other countries, Canada has been quick to denounce Trump’s ‘ban’ and welcome those affected by it.

What does all this mean for Canadian communities? There is a growing pool of US and international migrants looking for information and opportunities in Canada. Several organizations have already started communicating with this group—and finding success—providing some evidence that there is potential for economic developers to attract a piece of this talented pie.

Cape Breton if Trump Wins

Cape Breton, a fairly remote but beautiful island on Canada’s east coast, gained an unexpected national profile after the website ‘Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins’ (created by a local radio DJ as a joke) went viral, drawing over 6 million hits and an estimated 6,000 real prospects with interest in moving north. The site’s founder reported in mid-January that traffic has dipped, suggesting that Americans are either overwhelmed by the immigration process or resigned to stick it out. Even if the island doesn’t see a lot of new immigrants, it has seen a measurable ‘’Trump Bump’ in tourism visits and home sales. So the unofficial campaign has still had a positive economic impact.

Go North Canada and the tech wave

Go North Canada, an initiative launched by a number of municipalities and companies invested in the tech sector, hopes to bring back Canadian expats working in Silicon Valley, and perhaps attract some of their American colleagues too. The timing of the initiative’s launch was excellent, with Google hosting a Go North Summit in early November and billboards appearing around Silicon Valley days before the election. Traffic to the site spiked immediately and qualified leads poured in daily.

Even without prompting, tech companies in Canada have seen a rise in applications from US residents. A Vancouver-based financial tech startup reported getting “literally dozens of resumes coming in from the States” in the days after the election. Part of this wave is anxiety about Trump’s promise to rewrite NAFTA. Many Canadian expats are working in Silicon Valley and other US tech centers under NAFTA visas and it’s unclear if they will be affected.  Trump’s Muslim ban may also drive talent to Canada. More than 150 tech leaders have signed a letter calling on the federal government to grant temporary resident status to those left stranded.

Pre-Trump Newcomer Attraction Programs

Of course, Canadian communities have been delivering newcomer attraction programs since well before Trump was a serious contender to take the White House. The Higher ED Blog has previously shared the Colchester Regional Development Agency’s strategy for welcoming immigrants, and the Economic Development Program has had the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre tell their story at our International Opportunities seminar in the past.

Other best practices can be found in FCM’s Immigration and Diversity in Canadian Cities and Communities report. The report is not new, but the cases from Vancouver, York Region, Edmonton, Waterloo Region, London, Halifax, Laval, and Saskatoon can still inspire.

If you want to incorporate the Trump Bump into your strategy, an immigration lawyer has identified four kinds of people who might move to Canada in the wake of his inauguration: 1) the ‘wayward Canadians’, 2) those ‘appalled by Trump’, 3) people with ‘grey status’, and 4) wealthy and looking to move. Read the article for a description of each group. These are a great starting point for audience profiles for your marketing plan.


Will the ‘Trump Bump’ be a gentle passing wave or a tsunami of talent looking for a new home?  It’s still hard to tell so early in Trump’s presidency. His first week in office has been eventful but it remains to be seen if the fear and frustration will continue to swell, or dissipate like a wave on a gentle beach.


About the authors

Michelle Madden is the editor of Higher ED. She is also the Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development program (now the Master of Economic Development & Innovation).  She has authored many Higher ED articles sharing information relevant to economic development practitioners. She has published several of her own blogs on as well. Follow her on Twitter at @michelle_mad.

Paul Parker is the director of the Economic Development Program and a professor in the Faculty of Environment. His research focuses on building sustainable communities by creating win-win opportunities for the environment and economy. Paul combines his research background with direct experience engaging local representatives from communities across Canada and overseas to envision and build local capacity, vitality and sustainability.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1987, the Master of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) is one of the only graduate programs in Canada focused exclusively on economic development. Students learn economic development theory and practice, and are exposed to leading edge knowledge, tools, and approaches to address contemporary challenges in cities and communities across Canada and internationally.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

Comments are closed.