U.S. boycott gains strength as Canada readies tariffs on $16.6 billion in imports

A consumer boycott of American-made products and services is gathering steam as Canada counts down to this weekend’s imposition of retaliatory tariffs on $16.6 billion worth of American products.

Popular hashtags on social media include #BuyCanadian and #BoycottUSA, as consumers express their dislike of U.S. President Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum as of June 1 and threatened levies on Canada-made vehicles.

“I really don’t like Trump, that’s what it stems from,” said Beth Mouratidis, a 54-year-old from Barrie, Ont., who said she has been avoiding buying American products for about a year and posting her findings on Facebook, along with shared tips and information from her friends.

She said the trade war is costing Canadian and American jobs and she wants to help stop that by buying products like Chapman’s ice cream, which her research shows is proudly Canadian-made.

“It takes a lot more time because you’re reading all the labels,” she said. “The sad thing is, even if you read all the labels … you still don’t know 100 per cent.”

One consumer posting with the #BuyCanadian hashtag on Twitter said snack fans should buy only Old Dutch potato chips, pointing out the finicky family cat will only eat the Canadian-made product.

Others call for buying French’s ketchup instead of Kraft Heinz due to French’s use of Canadian tomatoes, whereas Kraft Heinz Canada closed its Leamington, Ont., works in 2015 in favour of U.S. production.

The ketchup boycott has been noticed by Kraft Heinz, legal affairs vice-president Av Maharaj said Thursday in an interview.

“While it is true we did move Heinz ketchup to Ohio, three-quarters of the volume from the Leamington plant is still there,” he said, adding the company is still a major manufacturer of food and beverages in Canada.

He wouldn’t say if Kraft Heinz plans to launch a Made-in-Canada advertising campaign to present its side of the story.

On Thursday, Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union introduced its “I Shop Canada” national social media campaign, urging consumers to support Canadian jobs by buying and promoting local products and services.

“U.S. trade attacks on Canada are a clear and present threat to our national economy,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias in a statement.

“I firmly believe that if aware and given the choice, consumers will gladly support Canadian brands and services and the jobs behind them.”

The campaign urges consumers, workers and companies to share information and images about made-in-Canada goods and services on Twitter using the #IShopCanada hashtag and @IShopCA tag. On Facebook, it is offering an I Shop Canada frame for profile pictures.

An online poll conducted by Abacus Data in the first week of June found that more than half of 2,200 Canadians surveyed said they intend to avoid buying U.S. wines and cross-border shopping.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

Mouratidis, who has a part-time job handing out samples in liquor stores, said the boycott campaign is winning followers.

“I did a product tasting that was American on the weekend and I had one person outright refuse to take a sample,” she laughed.

“He didn’t even want to taste it because it was American. Wow, that’s even more than me. I would have tasted it.”

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