November 14, 2019

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Taking a stand requires patience, persistence

Editorial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/6/2018 (510 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/6/2018 (510 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Last Friday, an Ipsos Poll revealed 70 per cent of Canadians plan to explore ways to avoid buying American-made goods in the wake of huge tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Two trending hashtags on Twitter, #Boycott­USA and #BuyCanadian, document the decisions of thousands of people to stop contributing to the U.S. economy, whether it’s by ditching Kentucky bourbon for Gimli-made Crown Royal or refusing to patronize Starbucks, Walmart or McDonald’s stores.

The trade war and Mr. Trump’s name-calling of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially raised Canadians’ ire; the president’s ongoing intransigence on the issue of illegal immigration has only hardened the resolve of many people.

The trade war and Mr. Trump’s name-calling of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially raised Canadians’ ire; the president’s ongoing intransigence on the issue of illegal immigration has only hardened the resolve of many people. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press files)

The trade war and Mr. Trump’s name-calling of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially raised Canadians’ ire; the president’s ongoing intransigence on the issue of illegal immigration has only hardened the resolve of many people. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press files)

The images of sobbing children, removed from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and kept behind bars, has probably engaged more participants in the anti-Trump movement than the economic vagaries of the North American Free Trade Agreement and who-will-blink-first tariff increases.

However, it’s easy to talk the talk — or tweet the tweet, as it were — but much tougher to walk the walk when it comes to eschewing U.S. goods.

Canadians purchase more American products than anyone else in the world.

To do otherwise requires more than lip service; it requires label-reading, research and sacrifice — the kind that doesn’t come easy in our consumerist society. 

Of course, there are simple ways to engage in pocketbook protest. With the dollar at its current rate, it’s economical to swear off cross-border shopping trips. And it’s summer, traditionally a time to swap Florida oranges for berries from local farmers markets anyway. 

Choosing French’s brand over Heinz? All but the most fervid ketchup aficionado can make the switch. An Ontario Pinot Noir instead of a California Cabernet? Bottoms up!

But how many of us are willing to vote with our wallets in ways that cut us a little bit deeper? What percentage of Canadians will cancel their Netflix subscriptions? Stop buying tickets for blockbuster American movies or having products delivered from Amazon? Choose a Chinese laptop over a more desirable MacBook, or forgo the enviable Whirlpool washer?

Are we willing to stop travelling to the United States altogether, even when the golf courses of Palm Springs or the beaches of Florida beckon?

Canadians purchase more American products than anyone else in the world. (Bill Sikes / The Associated Press files)

Canadians purchase more American products than anyone else in the world. (Bill Sikes / The Associated Press files)

The fact is, even if 70 per cent of Canadians were willing to put their money where their collective mouth is, their dedication likely wouldn’t last long. Boycotts burn hot but fade away as the population finds new things to be angry about.

However, as Mr. Trump seems at no loss to provide flashpoints for outrage, it’s important to recall those boycotts that actually implemented change, such as the United Farm Workers union grape boycott of the 1960s, and the painfully slow, but eventually effective sanctions against South Africa to end apartheid in the ’80s. 

Hashtags help raise awareness, a valid and useful byproduct of boycotts, but if Canadians want to make an impact, they should be prepared to swear off visiting the U.S., remove big-ticket American products from their shopping lists and make buying local goods — even when they cost more — a habit. 

Without that dedication, declaring a boycott is like using a pea-shooter to wound a rhinoceros. 

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

History

Updated on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 7:09 PM CDT: Updates target

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