“Drive-Thru Truths” | More on the Greenwash Drive-thru Campaign Now in Comox

“Drive-Thru Truths”

Did you know that

  • Critics of drive-thrus don’t have “any proof”; in fact, they don’t “make sense”
  • Fast foods — and drive-thru access to those fast foods — are “vital” “for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children”; access to these fast foods is not just a matter of convenience; “many people need drive-thrus”
  • All of “the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children” have cars — as well as money for insurance and gas; and all of “the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children” don’t have disabilities which prevent car-driving (as blindness does, for example); so all of these people have the option of using drive-thrus
  • Drive-thrus are the only way that we can improve accessibility for all of “the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children” — even for disabled people whose mobility is not impaired in any way
  • Cars only make people safer; no one is ever endangered by car driving
  • It’s fine to encourage people to eat and drink while they drive after leaving a drive-thru
  • The health of drive-thru window employees is not important; it’s OK that they inhale fumes from nearby exhaust pipes throughout their shifts
  • It doesn’t matter that all of the employees and customers in establishments with drive-thru windows are exposed to the exhaust fumes that come in through these windows
  • Drive-thrus are not an environmental problem in any way whatsoever; in fact, drive-thrus are an environmental asset
  • People don’t travel to businesses by bicycle, by bus, or by foot; every customer who doesn’t use a drive-thru either will leave their car in a parking lot, or they will leave it idling outside of the building; so without drive-thrus that is what’s bound to happen
  • Tailpipe emissions are the only environmental issue that is relevant here; other environmental consequences (e.g. ongoing oil spills) associated with extracting, refining, and shipping the oil used to make gasoline are a separate matter; and the materials (e.g. rubber) needed to manufacture and maintain vehicles (e.g. their tires) are not relevant either; so the extraction, transport, processing, and disposal of these materials also has nothing to do with drive-thrus; and the ecological implications of industrial manufacturing of vehicles and vehicle parts is unrelated as well
  • Concerns about how oil profits often end up in the hands of authoritarian regimes (e.g. in Saudi Arabia) are irrelevant
  • Drive-thrus don’t encourage additional car driving, so “banning drive-thrus won’t reduce the number of overall car trips”; drive-thrus thus have nothing to do with ongoing automobile collisions, or with other problems (e.g. increased obesity) associated with car driving
  • Eat-in establishments are of no value; “quick service restaurants” are ideal; it’s not important that we sit together as a community rather than eating and drinking more privately (e.g. inside vehicles); we shouldn’t be concerned about how there are fewer jobs and less tips in “quick service restaurants” with drive-thrus
  • It doesn’t matter that younger people who can’t drive cars on their own have less access to drive-thrus, and to establishments that are more accessible by car; poorer people who can’t afford their own cars — and everyone else who can’t drive on their own — also don’t deserve any consideration
  • “The public” supports drive-thrus; “the public” does not have any concerns about drive-thrus
  • Each name on the petition is actually from a separate person who has “read the facts“; there are no duplicate names on the petition, and no fake names were added to it
  • There is grassroots activism in the “Drive-Thru Truths” campaign — as the protest signs show
  • “The experts” dismiss concerns about drive-thrus and tailpipe emissions; “the experts” all agree on this
  • Tim Hortons and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association — the people behind these messages — just want to help us all, while contributing to environmental causes; profit-making strategies have nothing to do with their stance on these issues; unlike “special interest groups,” Tim Horton’s and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association are concerned about the general interests — of “the people,” whose voices and whose empowerment are considered to be very important

Those are the messages that you’ll find at drivethru truth .ca, a pro- drive-thru propaganda site (which I have archived here on my own web site). The above points are about what is said on that pro- drive-thru site — as well as what isn’t said on that site.

(Their banner image is at the top of this post; their original banner is a little larger, however.)

There are additional problems with drive-thrus that I could mention, but I’m just responding to the lobbying on and around that particular drivethru truth web site. In other words, this post is just a response to messages from a particular set of industry lobbyists (and without effort to come up with every possible point that could be raised against them).

Some of their propaganda also has been spread through pamphlets (which I’ve seen on Tim Hortons counter-tops), through mainstream media advertising, and through t-shirts worn at a public event the other day.

Here are a couple of photos of the t-shirts:

(Click to enlarge)

The mob wearing those shirts all seem to have been Tim Hortons employees. (In part, I say that because of how they collectively reacted to what was said during the forum on Tuesday.)

They might have been paid to come out to the forum wearing those shirts; or other pressures or incentives might have driven them there.
I’m not sure why exactly they were there, but I am certain that they didn’t have to pay for the shirts; and I’m sure that they didn’t have to create the t-shirt design and then produce the actual t-shirts.

The “Drive-Thru Truths” campaign is a ‘top’-‘down’ form of lobbying. Executives, managers, and marketers have been leading the way.

As for the lobbyists’ pamphlets, here’s the text from one that I picked up from a Tim Hortons counter –

“Banning Drive-thrus in London?

It’s a bad idea all around.

Fact: A drive-thru ban would hurt the less mobile.

Drive-thrus are a vital access point for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children.

Fact: ZERO Environmental Benefit.

Crowded parking lots create the same or more emissions”

Basically that pamphlet text is a condensed version of messages at drivethru truth .ca (which the pamphlet refers readers to).

On the pamphlet a hand is holding up a sign that says “4 KIDS IN A VAN. BLIZZARD. DRIVE-THRUS HELP.”
How ridiculous is it to highlight that situation? Why would someone drive to a fast food outlet in that weather? (when there actually are blizzards — which do happen now and then around here). Generally speaking, a parent who would be endangering their children if they drove them around in a blizzard; yet, the lobbyists are encouraging such behaviour.

On the pamphlet there also are two other hand-held signs — the “DON’T BAN DRIVE-THRUS” sign, and the one about using a walker (which also are on the drivethru truth site).
How many people with walkers also drive cars?

Messages like those insult the intelligence of humanity.

Here’s a web site which was set up in response to drivethrutruth.ca:

(Those campaigners don’t have the help or resources needed to make a more eye-catching and easy to navigate web site. That’s ‘democracy’ for you.)

On a barely related note, here’s a blog post (elsewhere) about Tim Hortons here in London, Ontario –
You’ve (do not) always got time for Tim Hortons – lady previously sacked for giving away a timbit

I’m only posting that here because I expect that, like me, others will enjoy reading this because they are frustrated with the industry propaganda, which Tim Hortons has had a huge hand in.

The case described in that blog post also symbolizes a lot of other issues I’ve been alluding to–issues which come down to sheer inhumanity (e.g. in exposing employees to car exhaust fumes).

The web site drivethrutruth.com now brings people to a Tim Hortons web site. (Drivethrutruth.ca doesn’t bring visitors to the Tim Hortons site, however.)

There are a few comments on the above “Drive-Thru Truths” piece here:
(where I had re-posted it)

Update (June 19, 2008) –

Tim Horton’s now has an almost identical drive-thru propaganda web site directed toward Comox Valley in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada –

(For instance, the phrase “Drive-Thru Truths” has been replaced with rhetoric about “Drive-Thru Facts”.)

(According to the Wikipedia page about Comox Valley, that area of B.C. includes: the city of Courtenay, the town of Comox, the village of Cumberland, the unincorporated settlements of Royston, Union Bay, Fanny Bay, Black Creek and Merville — as well as the “communities” of Denman Island and Hornby Island.)


(Drive-thrus also are called drive-throughs — which I’m saying so that search engines are more likely to find this post.)


Categories: Ecology · Ecology: Energy and carbon · Liberal individualism · Political Economy · Political economy: Capitalist commerce · Solidarity


“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008


Comox drive-thru ban no idle threat

Comox Valley Record

Comox drive-thru ban no idle threat

By Colleen Dane – Comox Valley Record

Published: June 25, 2009 6:00 PM

Comox councillors will have a few weeks to consider information about a proposed ban on future drive-thrus in the town.

A staff report on the proposal was received by councillors on Wednesday — but the decision on the tabled motion “that drive-thrus be permitted on parcels where they currently exist, and prohibited elsewhere” will not be made until July 15.

“I thought it was an exciting time for the Town of Comox to move forward,” said Coun. Patti Fletcher, about seeing the item up for discussion on this week’s agenda.

“We’re just putting something into place when I think a lot of us deep down inside know there’s an issue with … the idling,” said Coun. Russ Arnott.

The proposal for a ban on future drive-thrus was raised in April, following approval by council for the second stage of the Shopper’s Drug Mart development at the corner of Guthrie and Anderton.

That project includes two drive-thrus which are already instream and would not be affected by this resolution if approved.

While some residents and councillors say prohibiting any additional drive-thrus would help move the town in a more sustainable environmental and social direction, opponents say it would put them at a competitive disadvantage for economic development, not improve the environment at all and restrict people’s freedom of choice.

“I believe that the taxpayers in the Town of Comox are smart … and they can make their own decisions,” said Coun. Ken Grant.

Grant asked council to, instead of banning drive-thrus, consider an anti-idling bylaw.

The staff report prepared by council included feedback from 18 local governments. While a few had no experience with regulating drive-thrus, others had either limited where they could be built (like Golden, B.C., where they’re only allowed on the highway) or banned them altogether (Qualicum Beach, B.C.).

Staff note that none of the responses to their request for information commented on any economic implications.

Mark von Shellwitz, vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association, said a new quick-service restaurant generates more than $1 million in development activity and employees between 50 and 100 people.

John Brocklehurst, who with his wife Lynda, owns the Comox Valley Tim Hortons, said 55 per cent of their Comox business is through their drive-thru.

The environmental information they submitted, which says drive-thrus aren’t that bad, differ from the findings by Natural Resources Canada and the B.C. Climate Action Toolkit.

Mayor Paul Ives said the town’s discussion has been raising national attention. He said he’s asked for a copy of the Capital Regional District’s model anti-idling bylaw for consideration at council.

“I do agree that this is perhaps a bold step,” said Ives about the drive-thru proposal.

Because the original resolution was referred by council, it has to be brought back at a full council meeting. Wednesday meeting was a committee of the whole meeting.



“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008

Comox Drive-thru Issue | Industry’s Denialism Tactics Win Again

Exactly one year after the industry launched a glossy campaign in London, Ontario – industry has now duplicated the exact campaign in Comox, British Columbia in an attempt to ‘put out fires’ on an issue that garners more and more support as climate change continues to accelerate out of control. This strategy of “manufacturing scientific uncertainty” comes directly from the industry’s denialism playbook. The industry invests big money for public relations campaign to raise doubts about the increasingly definitive scientific evidence. They realize that if you could argue about the science, then you can stop municipalities from trying to address the problem. If the new ‘science’ which is bought and paid by industry doesn’t work, they fall back on the argument of ‘choice’ – whatever the risk to society, it the citizens right to do so. This is just another example of industry’s scientific consultants who specialize in product defense. Not unlike tobacco, oil and climate change. Corporate spin experts have recognized that manufacturing doubt works and if they do it well they can stop government legislation, or at least slow them down for years. This is a growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health. Organizations that support a ban on drive-thrus include organizations such as Greenpeace Canada and CAPE (Canadian Physicians for the Environment). Gordon McBean, appointed member of Mayor’s Sustainable Energy Council in London, ON and world renowned climatologist for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction urged the city of London to take action on all ways of reducing emissions as part of national and global efforts to combat climate change. Thousands of vehicles line up everyday in drive-thrus spewing unnecessary pollution into the environment.

Drive-thru report doesn’t recommend a ban

By Elaine Mitropoulos, Comox Valley EchoJune 26, 200

Town staff presented Comox councillors Wednesday with a report outlining some key trends that can be linked to drive-thrus, but stopped short of recommending a ban.

According to the report, it’s still unclear whether the fast-food fixtures pose a significant impact on the environment.

However, the report declared drive-thrus could have a wider implication on a community’s land use.

Instead of supporting pedestrian-oriented development, the report concludes drive-thrus foster automobile-oriented development, as they are convenient to only drivers.

“They may pose health and safety risks for pedestrians through increased vehicular traffic, noise and pollution,” the report reads.

It adds, with bright lights, noise from idling cars, queuing traffic, and people placing orders, drive-thrus generally don’t complement the residential character of a town.

To conclude, the report doesn’t recommend a ban.

Instead, it advises that any future drive-thrus in the town should adhere to LEED certification – a third-party ranking system designed to encourage sustainable building practices.

“This certification would avoid any ambiguity regarding environmental implications of drive-thrus and will ensure any environmental impacts are mitigated,” the report says.

The report comes in advance of a vote slated for July 15 to potentially ban future drive-thrus in the town – a topic that has sparked controversy in the community and beyond.

Should it go ahead, the ban wouldn’t take any existing drive-thrus away from the people who used them, like the elderly or disabled.

“It’s really about if we want to build our communities centred around people or centred around the automobile,” said Coun. Marcia Turner.

During the July meeting, the town will also review an anti-idling bylaw that has been adopted in parts of the Capital Regional District, a measure Mayor Paul Ives has been pushing for as an alternative to the ban.

In the meantime, the town is being flooded with phone calls, emails and letters from concerned citizens and businesses.

“There’s one theme that I hear very clearly through (the correspondence), ‘Don’t take our choices away,'” said Coun. Ken Grant.

“This is social engineering and we shouldn’t be (outlawing drive-thrus).”

Coun. Russ Arnott, who is for the ban, addressed concern that it could curb business and jobs in the town.

“When you move business from a drive-thru window, then you’re going to move it to the counter,” he said. “People are just going to shift.”

With a review of the official community plan slated to launch this fall, Coun. Patti Fletcher said the ban was a chance to be proactive in planning a more cohesive community.

“Personally I think anti-idling would be extremely difficult to enforce and monitor,” she added.

To come up with the report, staff contacted other local governments in B.C. and Ontario to learn about their experiences, if any, in regulating drive-thrus.

From the 18 communities that replied, the town learned that places like Qualicum Beach, Gibsons and Sidney banned drive-thrus in all commercial zones.

Places like Golden and Cranbrook, however, outlawed drive-thrus in their downtown core, but permitted them in highway and some commercial zoning.

Others had no experience regulating them at all.


© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service


“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008

CANADIAN WEBINAR | Gasping for Breath – Implementing Strong Anti-Idling Bylaws in Your Community

CHNET-Works! The Council of Canadians, and Canadians for Action on Climate Change announce a Fireside Chat:
(free-pan-Canadian discussion via telephone/internet for professionals from community health and issue-related sectors)

Gasping for Breath – Implementing Strong Anti-Idling Bylaws in Your Community
Thursday July 9 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern Time
For more information/registration: www.chnet-works.ca

This Fireside Chat will review and discuss the recent decision around changes to existing anti-idling bylaw in the City of London. If the London Council accepts the proposed changes (60 seconds removing broad temperature exemptions) – London will have one of the most progressive bylaws in Canada. Gordon McBean, world renowned climatologist for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, appointed member of Mayor’s Sustainable Energy Council in London, ON -urged the city of London to take action on all ways of reducing emissions as part of national and global efforts to combat climate change. What is happening in your community?

The issue on a drive-thru moratorium is a hot topic across the nation – what is industry’s response? Reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s response to anti-smoking efforts, ad campaigns are being run in London and Comox BC intended to question the science or promote ‘personal choice’ around drive-thrus. Are they hoping to sway pubic opinion and impede legislation? In the meantime, thousands of vehicles line up everyday in drive-thrus spewing unnecessary pollution into the environment.

Empowerment is as much about community mobilization as high-level political action. This is a local issue, with global consequences. Hundreds of leaders are gathered in Geneva discussing climate change. Many are from the developing world. The sense of urgency is palpable. We in the rich countries created the problem with our heavy use of fossil fuels, yet the people who will be most impacted will be the people in the poorest countries who had little to do with creating the problem. We need strong leadership at the federal and provincial levels, AND each of us need to make changes. Municipalities need to find the political will to effectively implement strong anti idling bylaws, to confront the enormity of Climate Change.

The most urgent need is to empower local government and local communities to understand climate implications and to take action. Health professionals and university academics have an important catalytic role. This fireside chat will provide stats, perspectives and inspiration to take on this role. We hope you will join in!

The topics of discussion in this Fireside Chat will be
1) Implementing a strong anti-idling bylaw in your community
2) The contribution to Pollution
3) The contribution to climate change,
4) Drive-thrus
5) Barriers: political partisan issues, denialism, lack of political will and leadership
6) The crucial role of the health and academic sectors re: taking action on Climate Change

Advisors on Tap:

  • Gordon A. McBean CM, PhD, FRSC | Professor and Director Policy Studies | Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
  • Dr. Quentin Chiotti | Climate Change Programme Director and Senior Scientist | Pollution Probe
  • John Howard, MD, FRCPC | Professor of Medicine and Paediatrics | Chair of CAPE | Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Cory Morningstar | Council of Canadians | London | Canadians for Action on Climate Change

Background: http://www.canadians.org/

Ontario’s smog causes 9,500 deaths per year, medical association says. Of these 1,000 occurred immediately after times of intense pollution.

The research on the human costs of pollution and pollution-related diseases estimated that around 21,000 people in Canada will die from breathing in toxic substances drifting in the air this year with 3,000 of those deaths due to short-term exposure to smog.

CHNET-Works! is a project of the Community Health Research Unit, University of Ottawa.
CHNET-Works! hosts Fireside Chats around current and pressing community health issues.
140 ‘chats’ hosted since January 2009 – no registration fees, no travel costs, no green house gas emissions!
contact: animateur@chnet-works.ca

July 9 2009 anti-idling chat poster.doc