It’s too early for an or­ga­nized boy­cott of Amer­i­can goods

The Welland Tribune - - Opinion -

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.

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