National pride: soft, with ketchup on top

Canadians have a funny way of expressing our national pride sometimes.

Canadians have a funny way of expressing our national pride sometimes.

Of all things, French’s ketchup became a cause célebre across the country when it was revealed Loblaws was going to remove the brand from its grocery store shelves. Even more so, when it came to light later that the decision to do this was motivated by a desire to reduce choice and improve the sales of its President’s Choice store brand.

Because French’s ketchup is made from Canadian-grown tomatoes, you know.

Until then, ketchup nationalism was not so much of a thing. Even after mega-investor Berkshire Hathaway bought Heinz, and closed down its Ontario ketchup factory, consumer loyalties did not really move that much.

But a few tweets after the Loblaws decision (and then the reversal of that decision), you’d have to be a Trump-kissing Yankee turncoat to buy anything but French’s.

Never mind that competing brands use tomato paste made in Ontario (albeit from imported produce). Economic nationalism, like globalism, can be a complicated thing.

It might make Canadian consumers feel better to teach the big guys a lesson from time-to-time, but if this is an example of Canadian pride as expressed in the marketplace, we still have a long way to go.

Another Canadian institution in which we take great pride is Bombardier. We must take a great deal of pride in the company, because we sure do give it a lot of our tax money.

In fact, we are told must give Bombardier a great deal more tax money, or it will not be able to compete against other very large aerospace manufacturers, who themselves receive great amounts of tax money in their countries.

Canadian jobs are at stake, we are told, and Bombardier is simply too important to our economy to be allowed to fail.

So, while our national pride is being tweaked for a giant subsidy, Bombardier says it plans to outsource many of those very jobs to Mexico and China. If taxpayers complain about this incongruency (and they have), we are told the situation is … complicated.

But we’re still very proud of Bombardier, right?

We’re also very proud of our nation’s resource wealth. Not just for our energy, but forestry and mining. We’ve spent a lot of money protecting our softwood industry, and we may well be about to spend a great deal more — especially if a certain isolationist candidate wins the U.S. presidency.

But surely Canadian national pride is deeper than the coating on a hot dog.

If we can raise a furore over what brand of Canadian-grown ketchup we will buy, why can’t we get worked up about Canadian-developed energy?

Canadians have become indignant about selling a few billion-worth of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, for purposes outside our sworn standards of doing business.

So why don’t we question buying multi-billions-worth of Saudi oil to make fuel for our cars? This can’t be a human rights question, because Canada also imports oil from such human rights stars as Nigeria, Venezuela — and likely soon, Iran.

We have more than enough of our own oil for all the myriad purposes oil is used. Why won’t the Canadian market support Canadian suppliers?

It can’t be a greenhouse gas thing, because gasoline is gasoline; it all burns the same, and we’re not going to use less of it anytime soon.

Besides, Canadian producers are already onside to reduce the carbon footprint of their production — and our competitors aren’t. The producing provinces are already onside in attempting to reduce their carbon footprint overall, by as many means as prove practical (and according to some, even not so practical).

So why do Canadians glow, while driving their Saudi-fueld cars to the grocery for a single bottle of Canadian-grown ketchup? Ketchup delivered by great big Saudi-fueld trucks?

Do we support Canadian tomato growers more than we support human rights abroad, or Canadian industry at home?

Economic nationalism must be like paying Bombardier to outsource Canadian jobs … complicated.

Follow Greg Neiman’s blog at Readersadvocate.blogspot.ca