Tom Mulcair: Facebook photo of Stephen Harper and the words “Target closing means 17,000 people have lost their jobs”
By: Jacob Schroeder on
Tom Mulcair, Leader of the Opposition and NDP MP for Outremont, in a Facebook photo posted on February 4, 2015
Tom Mulcair’s Facebook page has a picture that reads “Target closing means 17,000 people have lost their jobs” with Stephen Harper in the background. This is a case of guilt by association, and is misleading.FactsCan Score: Misleading
Target Canada filed for bankruptcy protection on January 14, signaling the American retailer’s exit from the country. In reaction to the news, this image was posted to NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s Facebook page:
Why is Stephen Harper in this picture? Is he somehow responsible for the 17,000 jobs lost?
Let’s begin with how Target Canada found itself in this position. In 2011, Target acquired the leaseholds of 189 Zellers locations from the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). This came after years of Zellers struggling against market rivals, with the chain reporting a loss of $107 million in 2006. Despite attempts at reviving the retail chain through changes in management, it continued to be seen as a drag on parent company HBC (which was purchased by the American firm NRDC Equity Partners in 2008). Zellers’ main worth was perceived to be in the real estate of its store locations.
When Target entered Canada, it did not buy Zellers as a business, but rather acquired the leaseholds, or the locations where Zellers stores operated. Yet critics called Target’s move into Canada a “takeover” approved by Conservatives.
What exactly did the Conservative government approve?
In 2012, Target’s proposal to enter the Canadian market landed under review of the Investment Canada Act. According to the Canadian Press, the government was examining if Target would be of “net cultural benefit to Canada.” The industry concern at issue was whether Canadian content would be included and promoted in Target stores.
Let’s come back to the NDP image. In fairness, there isn’t really a fact to check here because there isn’t an explicit accusation linking the closure of Target to the Prime Minister. But we’re assuming the NDP is trying to portray him in a negative way (as opposed to showing Harper saddened by the loss of Canadians’ jobs).
If we assume the NDP is negatively associating Harper with the loss of these jobs, an assumption that NDP statements in Question Period support, then the picture is misleading. Harper was not responsible for Zellers or Target failing as businesses. The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, for one, explained Target’s failure had to do with empty shelves, the shopping habits of Canadians, high prices, intense competition, and no online presence.
If the NDP thought Harper should be blamed for some other aspect in connection to Target’s closure, they should have stated this outright.