Edmonton mayor questions economic handouts associated with Amazon HQ2 winners

Edmonton was not favoured to win the bid for Amazon's second headquarters, but its mayor and a city councillor are standing behind the city's strategy.

The online shopping giant ended its 14-month-long competition for a second headquarters Tuesday by selecting New York and Arlington, Virginia, as the winners of 25,000 jobs each.

But Mayor Don Iveson finds the strategy those cities used questionable, as New York is forking over more than $1.5 billion in tax credits and wage subsidies to Amazon, while Arlington is offering $573 million.

"The City of Edmonton can't and shouldn't compete using existing taxpayer dollars ... raised by hard-working entrepreneurs and hard-working residents of our city to advantage one company over all of the other companies who have been paying taxes for a long time," Iveson said Tuesday.

Photo by Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Edmonton may have fared better if the competition was based on each city's strengths, and not incentives, he said. In September of last year, Iveson said the city wouldn't offer major tax concessions as part of its bid.

"We wanted to put a case forward for Amazon based on the strengths of the city rather than get into a bidding war with other cities with deeper pockets," said Iveson, who highlighted Edmonton's talent, affordable downtown real estate, and strong technology and research communities at the start of the bidding process.

"Ours is I think a better long-term strategy than sort of cherry picking incentive packages. But ... that's a very American model and I'm not surprised it went that way."

Still, he said preparing the bid was a good exercise to think about Edmonton's comparative advantages.

Coun. Mike Nickel said corporate charity isn't the way to do business.

"If you create the terms and conditions for all business to succeed, you shouldn't have to be writing cheques like this," he said.

"There comes a point where you just can't afford to buy the job."