IF WE aren’t yet in a trade war with the United States we are surely in a fight. It’s a fight that will be difficult to win, not least because our opponent — ostensibly our best friend and ally until Donald Trump stepped in — is a big bully.
Trump wants to rewrite trade deals with Canada and other countries. He claims that the United States is being cheated under trading arrangements negotiated in good faith. He singles out Canada and calls our prime minister names when, in fact, the U.S. enjoys a trade surplus with us.
He’s aiming tariffs at big targets like steel and aluminum which has prompted Canada to implement counter-tariffs in equal measure. This can’t end well unless someone in Washington can talk sense into Trump and we can all return to the bargaining table to rewrite NAFTA to reflect today’s realities. (NAFTA came into effect in 1994; the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was written a decade earlier.)
As governments jaw at each other, individual Canadians are itching to get involved in the fight. Seventy per cent of us are looking for ways to avoid buying U.S.-made goods and a majority of Americans even support us and oppose Trump’s bully tactics, according to an Ipsos poll this week. But the very trade deals that Trump opposes will make it difficult for Canadians to retaliate. Free trade means that manufacturing follows the money. Much production in Canada has been closed and moved to the U.S. or overseas where labour is cheaper and standards less stringent. We get lower prices in return but the jobs here are gone.
Still, there are steps that we as consumers can take that will be felt south of the border. On Twitter, hashtags including #BuyCanadian, #BoycottUSProducts and #BoycottUSA are spreading tips on how to use purchasing power to hit America where it hurts. The more people that participate, the more effective this will be. Canada is the largest market for U.S. goods, importing $99-billion in the first four months of this year alone.
The Retail Council of Canada has come up with some suggestions that are tied to states with mid-term elections coming up or that are economically tied to specific industries. So, for example, don’t buy Florida orange juice but do buy Minute Maid which is manufactured in Peterborough, Ont.; Kentucky and Tennessee whiskies are not nearly as good as Canadian whiskies like Wiser’s and Crown Royal; avoid Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio steel products including lawnmowers made in Ohio — which apparently makes a lot of them.
Remember the ketchup campaign? Heinz took the free trade lead in 2014 and moved its long-standing ketchup operations from Leamington, Ont., to Ohio. (It was at about the same time that Caterpillar closed its Canadian plant and moved south, too.) Canadians were miffed and U.S. ketchup maker French’s seized a market opportunity by announcing it would source its tomatoes from Leamington. So buy French’s and reward a friend to Canada.
In its Patriot’s Guide to Shopping During a Canada-U.S. Trade War, Maclean’s has more ideas. Instead of chocolate, liquorice and other sugary treats made in Pennsylvania, home of Hershey, buy from Nestle which makes its Coffee Crisp, KitKat and Smarties in Toronto. Mars make its Mars Bars, Milky Way and Three Musketeers in Newmarket and Ferrero has a plant in Brantford where it makes Fererro Rocher and Tic Tacs.
Chances are your favourite toilet paper comes from Pennsylvania where Scott and Charmin are made. You have an option in Cascades which has plants in Quebec and Toronto.
Most yogurt in Canada is made here (thanks to the dairy supply system that Trump abhors) which makes it easy to boycott yogurt from Wisconsin, the home state of U.S Republican House Speaker and Trump apologist Paul Ryan who calls our NAFTA negotiators “really frustrating.”
Wisconsin also produces a lot of cucumbers for pickles but if you can find them, Lakeside Packers in Harrow, Ont., maintains one of the last pickle plants in Canada. Or make your own since cukes grow so well right around here.
Kikkoman soy sauce is another popular product from Wisconsin. Why not buy President’s Choice instead? It’s made in Canada. PC products are available at the Real Canadian Superstore in Thunder Bay. Consider shopping there, or at Metro, or Safeway instead of at Walmart — an American company.
Trump is also annoyed with the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact and is threatening to add cars and trucks to his tariff list. The pact has resulted in a large expansion of the Canadian industry (we’re the world’s fourth-largest auto manufacturer) which means that you can pick vehicles made here instead of in American plants. Examples: Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Edge and Flex, GM’s Chevy Impala, Cadillac XTS and Silverado and Sierra pickups. Still, these are American companies. Canadian-made options other than the Big Three include Toyota Corolla, RAV4 and Lexus RX, and Honda’s CR-V and Civic.
Musicians can consider Goden or Heiden guitars over Fender and Gibson, and Sabian cymbals instead of Zildjian.
Hockey players should look at CCM and Sherwood sticks before buying from U.S. makers Bauer and Easton.
Then there is travel. We in the Northwest love our trips stateside for shopping and fun. But if we’re serious about this fight that we’re in we should restrict our travel to our own provinces and territories. Which is hardly a burden. Our breathtaking natural beauty can be found from coast to coast to coast and our cities and towns are brimming with culture, entertainment and fabulous food.
Trump’s tariffs mean Canada’s economy will slow, jobs will be lost, prices will go up. A lot of people will be hurt. “So, if this president insists on punching you in the nose and eating your lunch, why would you continue to pretend he’s still a great neighbour and go over to his place to spend your time and money?” writes Ryerson University journalism teacher Mark Balgutch. It’s summer in Canada. Explore it, and buy local.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.