The merger between Burger King and Tim Horton's has produced such a flood of melodramatic hyperventilating among the pearl-clutching pundits north of the border that one would think the Dominion was in grave danger unprecedented since the damned Yankees crossed the Niagara River at Queenston Heights in 1812. Judging by all the press, a double-double and a donut should be engraved on the back of the twenty dollar bill.
The craziest nonsense so far has come, predictably, from the NDP's industry critic Peggy Nash, who solemnly intoned on Monday that "we want to make sure those jobs are protected as well as ensure that the Tim Hortons brand and the Tim Hortons experience continue to be part of our Canadian society". Wait - we're still talking about donut shops, right? The "Tim Horton's experience" is a vital element of Canadian society that must be protected by the federal government? I suppose we could make sure that the nation's strategic reserves of coffee and Timbits are guaranteed in perpetuity by nationalizing the whole chain and turning it over to Parks Canada which would run "Tim Horton's Experience" historic sites across the land, in both official languages of course. Then we could sleep soundly at night. And by the way, isn't this the same Peggy Nash who complained earlier this year that the Conservatives' job strategy was woefully inadequate because "too many of the jobs being created are low-paying and part-time", kind of like the jobs at oh, I don't know, Tim Horton's?
That's OK, I thought - this kind of over-reaction is limited to socialist MPs and CBC reporters. The average Canadian blue-collar Timmy's customer probably doesn't care one way or another. That was until I had breakfast in an Ottawa diner on Tuesday morning, and my companion innocently asked the waitress what she thought of the merger. "I'm totally against it" she replied."I don't approve of American companies coming up here taking over Canadian businesses." When I pointed out that the newly merged company would in fact be a Canadian company with its headquarters in Canada, she seemed surprised to hear that. She rallied with the emphatic statement that "the Americans are just coming up here to take advantage of our low taxes." I wager that such an astonishing phrase has never been uttered in this country before this week. After a moment of surprised silence, I replied that this indeed was a good thing, since Burger King would be paying corporate taxes as a Canadian company, just like Tim Horton's already does. She didn't agree, and replied that it just wasn't right that a company should want to pay lower taxes, and she didn't want companies like that up here. Now that's a true Canadian sentiment if I ever heard one.
The hysterical over-reaction to the Burger King-Tim Horton's merger is embarrassing. Only an immature and insecure country would link its national identity to a chain of donut shops and worry that a strategic merger with an American hamburger company is a threat to our cultural sovereignty. It's time we grew up.