Is there anything more frustrating than trying to get ketchup to flow from a full bottle when you have a steaming plate of fries in front of you?
I was in that situation a few days ago, and I immediately thought about several hundred people in the southern Ontario community of Leamington who will not have a very joyous Christmas. A lot of them are looking for work, or thinking about moving because of a decision made by the folks at Heinz.
The company’s plant in Leamington has been bottling ketchup for more than a hundred years. It was their first expansion outside the U.S. but in 2014 those 740 fulltime jobs will move elsewhere. Some will go to a smaller Heinz plant in Quebec. More than half will go to the U.S.
In a carefully-worded statement, the company expressed regret over what the closure will mean to Leamington, and to the farmers who grow those tomatoes. They said almost nothing about the reasons for the move. No doubt there are plenty of factors that can be used to build such a case.
Taxes are higher in Canada. Electricity costs more in Ontario than just about anywhere in North America. The Leamington plant is more than a hundred years old, and probably not very efficient. If a major investment is to be made to upgrade or replace the plant, Heinz is probably under lots of pressure to make such an investment south of the border where their major shareholders live and new jobs will always be welcome.
In reality, the overall improvement to their bottom line will probably be relatively slight. The short version boils down to the same unspoken three word phrase that oil companies whisper when they crank up those gas prices .. because they can.
Maybe Canadian restaurants should think about putting a different brand of the red stuff on their tables, possibly one that flows a little easier.
I’m Roger Currie