It’s too early for an organized boycott of American goods
To buy American or not to buy American?
That is the question confronting Canadians today.
The whole country is fighting mad after that wrecking ball of a U.S. president — Donald Trump — hit Canadian steel and aluminum with crippling tariffs, publicly insulted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, then threatened to make us all poorer just to prove who’s boss.
In the face of this blustering bully, Canadians of all political stripes — including federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier-designate Doug Ford — are standing together beside their Liberal prime minister and hunkering down for what could become a very nasty trade war.
But Trump’s reckless, relentless attacks on Canada have done something else. More than at any time in recent history, Canadians are actively talking about boycotting American goods, services and tourist destinations. Some have already adopted this strategy.
Tomatoes from southern Ontario greenhouses can replace tomatoes from Californian vines, or so the reasoning goes. Niagara wines pour as nicely as Oregon’s vintages.
Juice from Canadian apple trees quench breakfasttime thirsts as well as what’s been squeezed from Florida oranges. And the slots at Casino Rama thrill as much as Las Vegas gambling dens.
If we have to fight Trump in our grocery store aisles, shopping malls and online, so be it, some consumers have already decided. We will never surrender.
Under the circumstances, retaliation is a natural response. Why not hurt Trump’s economy when he’s hurting ours?
And when it comes to individuals freely making individual choices, shunning American products might even accomplish something. At the very least, Canadians who feel they have no power to stop Trump can feel empowered when they buy Canadian and boost Canadian farmers, businesses and workers.
But while no one should quarrel with these patriotic consumers, it is surely premature to call for an organized, highly-publicized and nationwide boycott of anything and everything American.
Canada must play the long game here. So far, it’s a carefully-calibrated game of tit-for-tat.
Trump imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum entering the U.S. Trudeau announced tariffs on some U.S. steel and aluminum products, American whiskey, maple syrup and, yes, toilet paper.
Canada’s tariffs demonstrate that while Canada’s economy is only a tenth the size of America’s, while we’re far more dependent on exports than they are and have far more to lose in a trade war, we will not be pushed around,
That’s an important message in the long game. But Trudeau has also taken pains to avoid one-upmanship.
Canada’s tariffs aren’t tougher than Trump’s. We won’t even introduce them until July 1 — which allows time for saner heads south of the border to prevail. And we aren’t escalating a fight that, if we’re brutally honest, we can’t win.
A wholesale boycott of American goods and vacations would definitely send a message to our neighbours. But it might unintentionally drive into the president’s camp many Americans who loath Trump and like Canada.
Right now, Canada enjoys solid backing in this dispute from many leading American business people, academics, media pundits and politicians in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
We shouldn’t alienate them. We should enlist them as allies. The rightful target of Canadian anger should be Trump — not the millions of Americans who find him as appalling as we do but who would suffer from a boycott.
This summer, if you prefer, quietly enjoy a Canadian strawberry or glass of Canadian beer. But stay cool.