There is a foundation of neediness underpinning Canadian national pride.
Time and again, we watch international stars – both people and corporations – we foster (through investment, opportunity, education and inspiration) jump ship to the larger US market. And then we console ourselves by telling ourselves they are still Canadian.
There are plenty of examples. Molson, Neil Young, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Myers … just insert your favourite expat here ________.
And then, once in a while and to great fanfare, they return.
Some countries repatriate ancient artifacts and long-lost art. We repatriate long-lost artists and corporations. It’s what we do.
Take, for example, Tim Hortons, which is recasting itself as a Canadian corporation after spending 15 years in Delaware.
Apparently, that’s enough to fill most of us with a warm glow of validation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a nod to the significance of this event, skipped out on a special meeting of world leaders at the UN – climate change was among the items on the international agenda – to sip cocoa (he doesn’t like coffee) with Tim Hortons corporate leaders in Oakville, Ontario.
He cited the return of the coffee chain as evidence Canada is a great place to do business.
In fact, it’s really proof that Canada is a good place to dodge taxes.
By recasting itself as a Canadian company, Tim Hortons Inc. will no longer pay the US government taxes on its global profits. And it will not pay any more tax to the Canadian government than it already does.
In fact, there is little, if any, tangible benefit to Canada.
Tim Hortons has not pledged to boost its investment here. It’s business as usual.
And for Tim Hortons, business as usual is trying figure out a way to expand in the US. It only makes sense. The corporation is well represented in Canada, but is still trying to crack the American market. That’s where the growth is.
So, what’s happened is nothing more than a lawyer’s document swap.
And today, that’s enough oxygen to fuel the embers of Canadian nationalism. That’s why Harper skipped out on the UN.
It demonstrates, clearly, how far Canada has come.
Once, our prime ministers championed the UN, global peacekeeping, trans-continental trade agreements, human rights, an international criminal court and land-mine treaties.
We provided refuge for American soldiers opposed to the Vietnam war and our diplomatic corps in Iran rescued American citizens endangered during that nation’s revolution.
Today, Harper can spurn the UN to sip cocoa with businessmen and laud a tax dodge. And Canadians feel good about it.
My how far we’ve come. (Richard Mostyn)