The Canadian CEO who unleashed a diatribe against Donald Trump because of the Iranian downing of a Ukrainian plane, which killed the wife and son of one of his staffers, previously was an outspoken critic of the American president, having told an interviewer last year that he “abhor[s]” Trump.
“Damn the torpedoes, the consequences, the hate mail, the tweet storm—I don’t give a shit,” said Michael McCain, CEO of Mississauga, Ontario-based Maple Leaf Foods, in a July interview with David Herle, a Canadian self-described “back-room strategist” and pollster who runs a popular podcast. “I totally hate him.”
McCain this week again held nothing back when he took over his company’s Twitter account to blast U.S. leaders—including a certain unnamed “narcissist in Washington”—for a series of events that he called “needless” and “irresponsible” after it culminated in the apparently mistaken Iranian missile attack on a jetliner that was carrying the wife and 11-year-old son of a Maple Leaf employee. Sixty-three Canadians were among the 176 who perished on Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752.
It was a breathtaking, if not surprising, display of transparent disdain by a major business leader for the head of Canada’s biggest friend and ally.
“A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart; destabilizes region,” McCain wrote on Twitter. “US now unwelcomed everywhere in the area including Iraq; tensions escalated to feverish pitch.” McCain added that he believed Trump was “unconstrained by checks/balances” in his actions against Iran and blamed him for the “collateral damage” of America’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani as “63 Canadians needlessly lost their lives in the crossfire. We are mourning and I am livid.”
Yet McCain’s new remarks in the wake of the loss of the Maple Leaf employee aren’t that far elevated from the emotional pitch he struck about Trump in his interview last summer with Berle.
“I abhor what he stands for,” McCain said. “I’m not embarrassed by that … It’s sickening to see an environment where the character of an individual is sidelined for the purpose of a specific policy interest … and that is just sickening to me.
“Further, I believe—and this is where it gets very personal—[as] Canadians we’re bystanders … We get to look through the window of U.S. politics, but the reality is that everything they’re doing affects everybody else in the world. We just don’t get a vote. What is really, really bothering me … I’m a new grandfather … with the third one on the way. Everything they’re doing [in the U.S.] is threatening the security of my grandchildren and that makes it super goddamn personal. I really abhor that.”
Maple Leaf Foods is a $3-billion producer of meat, poultry and plant-based-protein products that is a major seller in Canada, but also has a market in the United States and is becoming a major U.S. producer of plant-based meat analogs. In 2017, Maple Leaf bought Greenleaf Foods, an Elmhurst, Illinois-based parent of leading plant-based brands Lightlife and Field Grain. Maple Leaf has committed $310 million to construct what it is billing as the largest plant-based manufacturing facility in North America, a 230,000-acre plant in Shelbyville, Indiana.
Berle mentioned Maple Leaf’s investments in the United States in his interview with McCain, and at first the CEO said he didn’t want “to get into specific Trump bashing,” acknowledging that the company does operate in the U.S., but then he took the bait. While his comments will likely alienate Trump supporters in the U.S., they may appeal to his detractors.
McCain is a long-time progressive who has made environmental stewardship one of the chief goals for Maple Leaf (the company calls itself “the first major company in the world to be carbon neutral”); has emphasized the concerns of multiple stakeholders beyond shareholders in his company, a la the recent statement by the U.S. Business Roundtable seeking a similar broadening by CEOs; and advocated to Berle and elsewhere that Canada begin experimenting with a “guaranteed annual income” for all citizens.