'I am livid': After the Flight 752 disaster killed his colleague's wife and son, Michael McCain on Sunday night held the Trump administration responsible
The chief executive of Canadian processed meat giant Maple Leaf Foods Inc. drew international attention on Monday after using the company’s Twitter account to admonish the Trump administration over last week’s Flight 752 disaster in Iran.
On Sunday evening, Michael McCain launched a series of emotionally charged Tweets at the U.S. president, accusing him of setting off a “needless, irresponsible series of events” that led to the crash, which claimed the lives of 57 Canadians. Among the victims were the wife and 11-year-old son of one of McCain’s Maple Leaf colleagues.
“I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry,” McCain wrote on Maple Leaf’s official account. “U.S. government leaders unconstrained by checks/balances, concocted an ill-conceived plan to divert focus from political woes.”
Janet Riley, Maple Leaf’s vice-president of communications, said McCain “gave great thought” to his remarks.
“He asked us to post it and we did,” she said.
Though Maple Leaf hasn’t released details on the staff member who lost his family in the crash, Riley confirmed that McCain knew him personally.
McCain — a high-profile Canadian executive, whose family is behind the famed McCain frozen french fry empire — controls 38.9 per cent of Maple Leaf Foods’ shares, according to an April 2019 management circular.
Maple Leaf has been steadily pushing into the American market, growing sales of its meat products while also emerging as a competitor to California-based Beyond Meat in the plant-based protein category.
In his last quarterly update, in October, McCain said Maple Leaf was seeing double-digit sales growth in the U.S. market with its antibiotic-free line of meat products.
And Maple Leaf’s pivot from cold cuts and hot dogs to plant protein means a major expansion into the U.S. In the past two years, Maple Leaf has opened a new division in Chicago devoted to plant proteins, and has announced plans for a US$310-million manufacturing plant in Indiana.
We are mourning and I am lividMcCain Foods CEO Michael McCain
McCain also sits on the board of directors for Royal Bank of Canada, which has a significant presence in the United States.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of so many lives, and our thoughts and support remain with the victims and all those who have been touched by this unthinkable incident,” RBC said in a statement Monday. “We do not comment on the political views of independent directors, including Mr. McCain.”
On Monday, McCain’s invective against Trump drew a flurry of coverage from major American news outlets, including CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Without ever naming Donald Trump — referring to him instead as “a narcissist in Washington” — McCain criticized the president’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear agreement and the recent U.S. killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“The world knows Iran is a dangerous state, but the world found a path to contain it; not perfect but by most accounts it was the right direction,” McCain said in an apparent reference to the nuclear deal.
“A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart; destabilizes region. US now unwelcomed everywhere in the area including Iraq; tensions escalated to feverish pitch,” he continued. “Taking out despicable military leader terrorist? There are a hundred like him, standing next in line.”
Iran retaliated for Soleimani’s death with missile strikes on U.S. military positions in Iraq, then hours later fired on Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 on board, the majority of them en route to Canada via Kiev.
After initially denying any involvement, Iran admitted to shooting down the plane, calling it a “disastrous mistake” made while its air defences were on high alert following the missile strikes on U.S. targets.
“The collateral damage of this irresponsible, dangerous, ill-conceived behavior? 63 Canadians needlessly lost their lives in the crossfire,” McCain said. (The Canadian government has updated its figure to 57 Canadians killed from 63.)
“We are mourning and I am livid,” McCain wrote.
Maple Leaf Foods was trading down just under 1 per cent on Monday, to $24.84.