Adam Radwanski, a smart, thoughtful Globe and Mail political columnist and occasional guest on The Agenda, often writes things that make me stop and think — as happened the other day, when he tweeted about the idea of vacationing in the United States when relations between Canada and its southern neighbour are strained.
I emailed him to make sure I had understood the gist of what he was saying.
“Usually, a friend and I do a little road trip to a few major- or minor-league ballparks in the U.S. each summer,” he wrote back. “This year, we couldn't quite bring ourselves to do it … It didn't feel right to hop in the car for a celebration of Americana.”
Radwanski sharpened my own thinking on the subject: it’s been a Paikin family tradition for many years to travel to the U.S. for a baseball road trip with my dad and as many of my kids as can attend. We’ve done Boston, Cleveland, New York , Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and others.
We’re not going to do it this year.
I am not trying to make a big political statement here. Indeed, my job at TVO often demands that I avoid taking public positions on controversial subjects. But I feel, as Radwanski does, that it would be wrong to spend a large number of 75-cent dollars in a country whose political leadership has damaged a 150-year tradition of friendly relations with Canada.
This is not a comment solely on the occupant of the White House: many congressional Republicans seem to have lost their good sense about Canada as well. I remember a time when conservatives really stood for conservative ideas. I was grateful to see the clash of ideas on perhaps the most important public stage in the world.
But when President Donald Trump began slapping tariffs on Canadian goods for reasons of “national security,” it felt wrong. It was an intellectually dishonest move. How could the country that fought alongside the U.S. in World War II, in Korea, and in Afghanistan be a national-security threat? It makes no sense.
Even most Americans seem to recognize how misguided the tariffs are, given the negative impact they’re having on innumerable U.S.-based businesses. And when I saw the federal Liberal government and the incoming Progressive Conservative provincial government speak as one on the stupidity of this policy (with the support of all other major parties), I thought: Okay, that’s it.
America, you just don’t deserve our money.
And so, for the first time in many years, we will not do an American baseball road trip. We will find something else to do — somewhere else — unless you change your minds about Canada.
We will not spend hundreds of dollars on your baseball tickets. We will not spend hundreds of dollars on your restaurants and hotels. We will not spend hundreds of dollars on your gas. We will not spend hundreds of dollars at museums or at the theatre. We will not spend hundreds of dollars on souvenirs and gifts.
And the more I think about this, the more I realize I could — and perhaps should — do more. I love drinking Jack Daniel’s, for instance (Frank Sinatra was a big fan of it, and I’m a big fan of his). But I’m taking a break from purchasing that, too. I was thinking of replacing it with Canadian Club, but despite the brand name, that whisky is actually made by a company headquartered in Chicago. So forget that. Maybe it’s time to give some Ontario craft beers a try.
Frankly, I hadn’t given this much thought before. But now that I am, I think it’s time I looked at product labels of all kinds much more carefully. California wines? Not anymore. I’ll try some local brands, from Niagara-on-the-Lake or Prince Edward County. And maybe I should make the extra effort to purchase groceries at local farmers’ markets rather than buy American brand-name stuff at the supermarket.
I’ll need a new suit or two this fall, for our 13th season of The Agenda. There was never any question that I’d buy from an Ontario retailer. But now I’ll make sure my suits aren’t American-made. (Maybe I’ll go for something Italian or Canadian.)
Canada and the U.S. have been best friends for so long that I’ve always been happy to buy American. The car I drive is a great illustration of our friendship: it’s a Chevy, built in Detroit (no doubt with plenty of Canadian parts), purchased from an Ontario dealer.
I’m not kidding myself that this little protest will make much of a difference in the Trump administration’s thinking. I don’t even know whether this is the right thing to do. What would I think if Americans decided to boycott Ontario-made goods?
But this feels like the right time to take a stand — even if it’s a small one — against what so many of us seem to feel is inappropriate, unacceptable behaviour on the part of the U.S. Canadians aren’t supposed to say this aloud, but I will: I love America. Or at least, I love the idea of America. I love what America stands for on its best days, even if it doesn’t always (or, perhaps, ever) get things just right.
But as long as America’s political leadership insists on treating our country as a hostile party to be confronted rather than a friend with whom to solve the world’s problems, I will spend my money elsewhere.
May we have a moment of your time?
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