Kitchener-Waterloo

Brain drain: U.S. firms should pay Canada for top talent, tech CEO says

A Mississauga CEO who started his multi-million dollar tech company in his basement says American tech firms such as Google and Apple are taking advantage of Canada's subsidized tuition and should be required to reimburse taxpayers.

'American companies shouldn't be freeloading off the Canadian taxpayer,' Carl Rodrigues said

A group of Canadian ex-pats pose for the camera at a Canada Day event in Mountain View, California. Official numbers are hard to come by, but some estimates put the number of ex-pats working in the American tech sector at 350,000 or about one per cent of Canada's population. (UWaterloo alumni/facebook)

A Mississauga CEO who started his multi-million dollar tech company in his basement says American tech firms such as Google and Apple are taking advantage of Canada's subsidized tuition and should be required to reimburse taxpayers. 

Carl Rodrigues, 54, is the CEO of SOTI, a Canadian mobile software company with offices in Canada, the Middle East, India and Europe. 

Carl Rodrigues, 54, is the CEO of SOTI, a Canadian mobile software company with offices in Mississauga, Waterloo, the Middle East, India and Europe. (Carl Rodrigues/Linkedin)

Last fall his company announced it would spend $150 million to double its workforce of 450 over a period of three years, adding most of its new workforce in its Mississauga and Waterloo offices. 

"It seems reasonable that the American companies shouldn't be freeloading off the Canadian taxpayer." - Carl Rodrigues, the self-made CEO of Canadian mobile software firm SOTI

He told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday that finding the right people for the job can be tough, since many top grads flock to California's Silicon Valley, lured south where salaries are higher and workplace perks are more attractive. 

"It's really tough," he said. "These are big multinationals and the young kids graduating out of university are really enamoured by the big brands and they offer big bucks." 

He added, "If you work in the valley, a young kid graduating can get close to $200,000 US and the exchange rate really doesn't help us." 

Big brands offer big bucks

Rodrigues said new grads and the U.S. tech firms they work for in California's Silicon Valley are taking advantage of Canada's subsidized tuition. 

"We produce some of the best engineers and the people who are really benefiting from our talent going to the U.S. is really the big American companies, so it seems fitting to me that perhaps these companies pay some of that back," he said. "It seems reasonable that the American companies shouldn't be freeloading off the Canadian taxpayer."  

Official numbers are hard to come by, but some estimates put the number of Canadian ex-pats living and working in California at 350,000, or about one per cent of Canada's population. 

"If we just allow this to happen we're saying, 'Hey, we don't care about tech here in Canada," he said. "CEOs like myself who are proudly Canadian are saying, 'Hey, no, let's make sure some of that investment stays here in Canada.'" 

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