By Craig Daniels and Anthony Reinhart

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. President Tuesday night appears to have ignited a groundswell of interest from U.S. tech workers and tech companies in moving to Canada.

From expat Canadian developers toiling in Silicon Valley to CEOs of startups and established tech firms, interest in crossing the border appears to be real and sustained.

“I’ve gotten serious emails [Wednesday] from developers who want to move,” said Toronto-based tech entrepreneur Dan Debow, scant hours after Trump, the controversial and polarizing Republican nominee, surprised pollsters by soundly defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton. “Two company CEOs have reached out about moving their entire operation to Toronto.”

And Debow wasn’t alone.

“Yes, there were a few emails this morning,” says Sortable CEO Chris Reid, whose adtech startup is based in Waterloo Region. “That was a bit interesting to find. There were a few cover letters specifically mentioning an interest in coming to Canada.”

The repatriation of Canadians working in the Valley and enticing international tech talent have long been goals of the federal government and the Canadian tech ecosystem. Evidence is mounting that those objectives got a considerable boost Tuesday night.

“I have some fairly close friends who are Muslim, Latino and LGBT,” writes one respondent on the U.S. tech site Hacker News, where stories relating to Canada sat at No. 7 and No. 17 on Wednesday morning.

“Trump has been quite nasty towards the first two groups, and his running mate makes no secret of opposing the rights of the latter group. This morning I’m hearing all of them express legitimate fear for their future.

“I’m not saying that running to Canada is the answer for them or anyone else, but this is not your typical ‘generic Republican vs generic Democrat, boo-hoo, my side lost’ post-election complaining.”

Widely reported Tuesday night and Wednesday was the crash of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website, presumably due to the volume of traffic, as Trump began taking a lead over Clinton. Internet searches for “move to Canada” and “immigrate to Canada” spiked Tuesday night as election returns favoured Trump. “Canada” was a leading U.S. trend on Twitter, with more than 1 million tweets. And Go North Canada, an expat recruitment partnership that includes Communitech, Google Canada, the City of Toronto and others, saw a corresponding uptick in web visits and social-media followers.

The question remaining to be answered is: Are those enquiries serious, and will they result in a talent influx?

“I think the reality is that nothing happens instantly,” says Reid. “If anyone is [actually] moving [north], it’s not because daily life being impacted, but because events have created an emotional response. I don’t know if that is sufficient for people to move.”

Still, Debow is convinced that Trump’s election has sparked a fire that won’t go out quickly.

“I don’t think this is an anomaly,” said Debow.  “Will Canada move fast enough to capitalize on the chaos?”

Just last week, Canada announced new immigration initiatives designed to make it easier to bring tech talent north. That, combined with Tuesday night’s events, could spell a tech immigration shift.

“My biggest fears are social,” said Lars Leckie, a Canadian expat and venture capitalist based in San Francisco.

In an email interview with Communitech News, Leckie, Managing Director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, said, “Many of the reasons we thought Trump was unelectable turned out to be the very things that got him elected. We will pay a heavy price for stepping back from the social progress that has been made.”

Leckie, who was in London during the recent Brexit vote, called the Trump victory “part of a larger global trend” that “represents a sentiment that exists and is real,” and can no longer be ignored.

California – and its tech community in particular – have long been at the vanguard of liberal progressive values in the United States. As such, they “have usually been able to separate themselves from the larger American situation,” he said. “I think that’s harder this morning.”

Reid meanwhile, wonders about the impact the U.S. election will have on trade and the free flow of information and ideas. Trump made no secret during the election of his desire for a more closed U.S. border and a suspicion of free trade.

“For me, the interesting broader trend is people rejecting the concept of an interconnected world, open borders,” said Reid.  “This is a macro global trend that we seem to be seeing. Canadians want to do business in America. That’s the real question mark. Is that going to impede the ability to do business there?”

Reid’s company, with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, took out ads in the U.S. last March to entice talent to come north, specifically playing off of fears about Trump. He has no plans for any followup.

“We have to be respectful of the [election] decision. A lot of people are unhappy with the establishment, and I get that. Our job is to be respectful and take note of this trend.”

Leckie, calling himself an optimist, said he thinks the growth of tech and the rate of innovation in Silicon Valley will outpace whatever negative effects the election might bring. For Canadians, though, an already-big opportunity to lure foreign tech talent to its booming scene just got a lot bigger, he suggested.

“The Valley was built on immigrants, the best and the brightest coming to start companies and go after big, audacious ideas,” Leckie said. “Canada can capture that asset with open borders and inclusive leanings,” though he cautioned, “that happens over years, not overnight.”

In the short term, Leckie does not expect a homeward stampede of expats, since “things like careers, real estate and kids’ schools are dampeners” on any sudden moves. However, expats might be more inclined to make a move when natural opportunities – a career break, or a change in schools for kids – present themselves, he said.

A bigger election-related boon for Canada might come internationally, from “people who don’t move here [to California]; who choose Canada instead,” he said.

“Canada should stay on track to grow its tech sector in every way it can,” Leckie continued, “including aggressively telling the world’s best that it is a place to call home, where you will be welcomed, inspired and protected.”