Canada is a country in upheaval. In late 2014, Tim Horton’s, the de facto national brand ever since The Hudson’s Bay Company stopped stuffing Canadian coffers with beaver pelt money, was acquired by a Brazilian company that shares its name with outdated cellphone technology. Recently, Tim Horton’s started airing ads for Enbridge, a Canadian company that hopes to make hay destroying the Great Bear Rainforest. On June 4, Tim Horton’s bowed to public pressure and announced that it would no longer air ads for Enbridge. Everyone noticed.
An unprecedented combination of Twitter threats and a SumOfUs petition appears to have downed the ad campaign. This means that Tim’s either cares what people think or hasn’t yet realized that everyone is mad about everything and willing to sign anything on the internet. To their credit, countless people raged on Twitter and over 30,000 people signed the SumOfUs petition. That’s a solid showing.
What happened next was bizarre. The CBC and other media outlets reported that Albertans were planning to boycott Tim Horton’s for spurning the oil and gas industry. Yet, according to these same major media outlets, almost all the noise seemed to come from a couple of federal Conservative MPs, current and former Alberta Wildrose MLAs, and an oil and gas industry lobbyist. Was this uproar for real?
It pains me to cite BuzzFeed, but they deserve credit for figuring out that the #BoycottTims movement was rehashed by a Conservative Party hack consultant named Stephen Taylor. Mr. Taylor, who failed the first test of intelligence by praising McDonald’s coffee,
asked Conservative Cabinet Ministers Michelle Rempel and Jason Kenney to join him in his protest. Pierre Poilievre, a well-known man of the people (in the inner circle of the Conservative Party), hopped on board and offered his mildly racist support. The hashtag started trending, as pro-pipeline Albertans pledged to never again buy the coffee that almost all of them probably still bought the next morning when they saw their friends at Tim’s and forgot that they were ever angry.
Some say Tim Horton’s overreacted by pulling the Enbridge ads, but that isn’t the real story here. The real story is the difference between grassroots activism and manufactured dissent. Grassroots activism is like a fresh cup of coffee in the morning after a late night. It’s refreshing and exciting; it gives you hope. Manufactured dissent is like the cup of stale coffee you choke down when you return home hammered. It’s kinda gross, but you thankfully forget about it the next day. Did Tim Horton’s make the right decision when it pulled the Enbridge ads? Time will tell which side of this debate is drinking fresh coffee.