Canadians need to stop being so obsessed with the ubiquitous “double-double” and the multi-national chain that serves it up. While some may consider what I’m about to say blasphemous, I’m not afraid to say it: Tim Hortons is not a Canadian icon. It never really was. A Canadian icon is someone like Terry Fox, Louis Riel or Tommy Douglas – not a coffee order.
This week’s talk of Timmies’ boycotts over unfair and disrespectful labour practises is a good start to a bigger dialogue: What if Canadians sought fresh baking and good coffee from the small independents?
I’ll own that I’m biased. I run an independent, fair-trade coffee shop in rural Ontario. Admittedly, I am irked when I see all the free advertising that Tim Hortons gets from the media while the small guys struggle to gain a foothold in the market. Every meme or story that suggests our national identity is somehow tied to those familiar brown cups are promoting a foreign-owned company. I’d give anything for that kind of support.
The media seems to forget that our country was built around the kitchen table – with a pot of perked coffee on the back of the stove and whatever fresh baking mom or dad could muster. Today, we’ve surrendered our taste buds to mass-produced frozen treats, defrosted by the tray full, and coffee brewed to the same mundane standard from coast to coast to coast. Such sameness has never been a Canadian value.
I will also own that my daughter works at one of the camps that the Tim Hortons foundation supports. By virtue of their size, the chains can support camps, sports teams and other charitable organizations, but the money they offer is money we’ve given them through our purchases and donations. Imagine the change that we could enact if we got to know the Rosses and Bonnies who run the local coffee shops? We could reinvest in our local community by helping local families in our local neighbourhoods.
Until this national obsession stops, none of us independents stand a chance. And the unsavoury business practices of prioritizing profit over people will only end when consumers begin to ask the tough questions.