Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be taking a “cooler heads” approach to the barrage of insults from U.S. President Donald Trump and his top aides as Canada-U.S. trade tensions thicken, but consumers north of the border are proving less stoic.
Scores of shoppers and travellers are mounting strikes against America’s pocketbook by boycotting U.S. goods and trips to the States. On Twitter, hashtags including #BuyCanadian, #BoycottUSProducts and #BoycottUSA are spreading tips on using purchasing power to defend Canada’s honour.
Trump’s trade rhetoric turned personal after Trudeau’s closing news conference at the G7 summit in Quebec last Saturday. Trudeau said he had pushed back against the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, and insisted Canada would “not be pushed around” on trade.
Those comments prompted a Twitter tirade from Trump in which he referred to Trudeau as “dishonest” and “weak,” and later said Trudeau’s remarks would cost “a lot of money for the people of Canada.” Top Trump aides followed his lead. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said “there’s a special place in hell” for Trudeau. A remark he later called a “mistake.”
In response, one Ottawa man proudly tweeted a photo of a cart of “Trump free” groceries on Sunday. Others are refusing to buy Kentucky bourbon, California wine and Florida oranges, and ignoring major U.S. brands such as Starbucks, Walmart, and McDonald's.
Trudeau appeared to acknowledge the swell of support at an event for supply-managed farmers near Parliament Hill on Tuesday.
"There's a bit of a patriotic boost going on these past few days," he said to laughs from a table of stakeholders gathered under a tent.
Summer vacations have also been a focal point for patriotic protestors, with numerous commenters bragging about cancelled voyages to the U.S. in favour of keeping travel dollars at home.
“F*** you Trump. We just booked a $3,000 vacation to beautiful British Columbia. Happy anniversary to us. #Canadastrong #BuyCanadian #F***Tariffs,” tweeted one angry user.
The number of same-day and overnight trips to the U.S. by Canadian residents rose 2.7 per cent in 2017 to 42.1 million, according to Statistics Canada. In 2016, Canadian tourists spent US$19.8 billion on visits to the U.S.
“Patriotic Americans should vacation in Canada this summer and step up our purchases of Canadian products and services. #BuyCanadian #AcheterCanadien #VacationCanada #VacancesCanada,” wrote another user.
While Canadians may take pride in putting down their Jim Beam whiskey in favour of J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe rye from Windsor, Ont., a group representing Canadian retailers warns there are limits to such substitutions.
Still, there is little denying Canada’s importance when it comes to U.S. exports. Canada is the most important market for U.S. goods, importing a total of US$98.9 billion in the first four months of 2018, according data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The extent to which Canadians are willing to do without American products has yet to be seen. But if the online fervor for punishing Trump at the checkout line persists, it may serve as a reminder of Canada’s economic heft.
“Fellow Canadians. Now is a good time to #buylocal. Now is a good time to #boycottUSproducts,” wrote Twitter user Mary M on Monday. “It’s time to send a clear message to all the meek republican politicians and Trump voters #BoycottUSA #buyCanadian.”