Conservatives hope more US companies follow Burger King north
Industry Minister James Moore hopes more U.S. companies will follow Burger King north, seeking low taxes, a trading window on the world and the Conservative government’s warm embrace.
“I’m pleased to see that foreign firms, including some very high-profile American firms, like Burger King, like Microsoft and others, are looking north to move to Canada,” Mr. Moore told a Washington luncheon crowd on Wednesday. Burger King Worldwide Inc. bought Tim Hortons Inc., and a new home where corporate taxes are far lower, for $12.5-billion last month.
Firms “come to Canada to do business and to take advantage of our tax rates,” Mr. Moore said, but also told his business audience in Google’s corporate conference room not far from Congress that the Conservative government is wooing foreign firms with more than just low taxes. They can also take advantage of the fact that Canada – which has free-trade pacts with 43 nations – offers global opportunities.
Burger King’s decision to exile itself has irked President Barack Obama and stirred a hornet’s nest of customer protest for the fast food company. Many call it unpatriotic.
“I don’t care if it’s legal. It’s wrong,” Mr. Obama told a cheering crowd last month. He has dubbed firms that leave the United States seeking low tax residency abroad “corporate deserters.”
Mr. Moore was not impressed.
“I understand why some here, including President Obama, would rhetorically react in the way that he has, but I am certainly not going to apologize for having low taxes while also having a balanced budget,” he said, a not-so-subtle reference to monstrous U.S. budget deficits.
At a luncheon hosted by the Canadian American Business Council, Mr. Moore noted some U.S. politicians have high regard for the Canadian government’s record managing the economy.
He quoted Hillary Clinton, once Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democrat nomination, later his secretary of state and now widely regarded as a likely candidate in 2016 when the President’s second term ends, who said “Canadian middle-class incomes are now higher than in the United States,” in a speech last spring. “They are working fewer hours for more pay, enjoying a stronger safety net, living longer on average, and facing less income inequality.”
To which Mr. Moore added: “Hillary Clinton was right,” although he quickly distanced himself when asked if he was backing her for president.
During his speech, the minister made no mention of Keystone XL, the long-delayed pipeline project to bring Alberta oil sands crude to Gulf coast refineries and higher prices. Nor was the politically charged issue raised during a question-and-answer session.
But that does not mean TransCanada Corp.’s $5.5-billion project, which Mr. Obama has repeatedly delayed deciding on and has been kicked down the road until after November’s mid-term elections, does not remain the nastiest bilateral irritant.
“It is still a priority for Canada to get Canadian energy products to global markets,” Mr. Moore said at a brief news conference, adding that he would raise Keystone XL with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker during his two-day visit.
“We’re certainly disappointed by the length of time and the approach that has been taken thus far,” on Keystone XL, for which a permit was first sought more than five years ago. Environmentalists have turned the project into a test of Mr. Obama’s vow to take meaningful action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re going to keep pushing.” Mr. Moore said.
As for Burger King, the federal review of the deal will happen without delay. “There’s a ‘net benefits’ assessment, very often these assessments happen very quickly,” he said, adding a determination could be made “within weeks.”
And while Mr. Moore said, “I’m not going to pre-judge” the outcome, he noted that Burger King is “not a state-owned enterprise, and I don’t imagine there’s a national security question.”