COLUMN: Okay, so, about this whole ‘buy Canadian’ thing…

Why does it take a trade war to make us think about our buying decisions?

COLUMN: Okay, so, about this whole ‘buy Canadian’ thing…

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion the last little while on ways to stick it to the U.S. by buying Canadian products instead of their American counterparts.

I have a few problems with this.

The first is that I don’t think abandoning U.S. products or businesses just because the U.S. has imposed tariffs on some of ours does anything but create a race to the bottom.

The Canadian and U.S. economies are so intimately interconnected that I think you’d be hard pressed to find a company or product that doesn’t rely, at least in some way, on parts, ingredients, transportation methods or workers in the other country in order for us to be able to enjoy it.

Even the so-called “lists” coming out on ways to do this, like the one recently published by McLeans entitled, “A patriot’s guide to shopping during a Canada-U.S. trade war,” cite things like buying French’s ketchup instead of Heinz, because Heinz moved its operations from Leamington, Ontario to Fremont, Ohio in 2014. French’s then announced it would source its tomatoes from Leamington, allowing many Ontarian tomato farm workers to keep their jobs.

Putting aside the fact that French’s itself is an American company, let’s say we all go ahead and buy French’s instead of Heinz. Let’s say we start buying only Godin guitars and Sabian cymbals. We only buy Veritas hand tools.

If we do that with every product, what happens when the Americans do the same with their products?

Let’s take it a step further: What happens when a whack of them don’t come up for their next vacation and go whale watching, mountain biking, chartering fishing guides, staying in our hotels and eating at our restaurants?

Like I said…that’s a race to the bottom.

My second issue with this whole discussion, however, is maybe even more important: Why does it take a trade war to make many of us into thoughtful consumers?

For years I’ve been paying attention to where the things I buy come from, I’ve consciously thought about the types of businesses I support and have considered the repercussions of “voting with my wallet” before doing so.

I don’t go to restaurants or stores that treat their employees poorly (people talk, you know, if you care to listen). I don’t buy clothes from companies who exploit sweat-shop workers in third-world countries (it has happened by accident, but at least I make a conscious effort not to and don’t do it again once I’ve discovered this fact). I don’t buy products from companies I can’t morally support for various other business practices (looking at you, Nestlé).

I buy as local as I can whenever I can, not because of trade tariffs or other political battles, but because I believe that the more money we keep circulating within our community, the more sustainable and stable our community is. I always have.

Sure, I turn to Amazon sometimes, add some things to my cart and find them on my doorstep a couple of days later when I get home from work, but those are things I either A) Can’t purchase here in Campbell River (or even the Comox Valley) at all or B) Can’t purchase here in Campbell River (or even the Comox Valley) without paying significantly more.

And when I say “significantly more,” we’re talking more than a couple of dollars. I’ll happily pay $42 for a jug of wood glue at a local retailer that I can get delivered to my door for $40, but if we’re looking at the difference between $40 and $58.99, I’m headed online. Sorry, local store.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’m all for expressing your values with your buying decisions, those decisions should based on considered, consistent forethought rather than knee-jerk political response.