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Trump's insults, tariffs inspire Canadians to organize boycott of U.S. goods

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Natalie McLellan no longer stocks Heinz ketchup, Florida oranges or any other foods that come from the U.S. at her home in from LaSalle, Ontario.

The 42-year-old autism consultant is one of a growing number of Canadians who are boycotting U.S. products, a decision motivated by President Donald Trump's anti-Canadian sentiments and tough trade stance.

"I really don't feel comfortable supporting our neighbors," McLellan said. "It seems Trump and the politicians and the people of your country who stand behind him don't want to have a global community."

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber, steel and aluminum. As Trump left the Group of 7 meeting of industrial nations in Quebec last week, he criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a tweet, calling him "very dishonest & weak" for pushing back against the tariffs.

Trump withdrew the United States from a joint document that summarized what was agreed to at the G-7 summit.

Now, hashtags like #BoycottUSA, #BuyCanadian and #VacationCanada -- and their French equivalents in the bilingual nation -- are bubbling among patriotic Canadians. Some in the nation known as much for its politeness as its love of hockey are avoiding everything American, whether it is fresh and packaged food, U.S.-based retailers and chain restaurants, appliances, cars and travel destinations.

For household staples, McLellan either opts for similar Canadian-made products or does without.

She's turned to the Internet to help her find non-American products. She canceling plans for trips to see Detroit's major-league teams like baseball's Detroit Tigers, NFL's Lions and NHL's Red Wings.

Canada is the U.S.'s second-largest trading partner behind China.

U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaled an estimated $673.9 billion in 2017 -- $341.2 billion in exports and $332.8 billion in imports -- according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The U.S. is Canada's biggest trading partner, so a boycott risks veering into "this will hurt me more than it'll hurt you" territory. Yet some Canadians are determined to see it through.

For Toronto property developer Vivienne Grace Ziner, the commitment to avoid American building materials and plumbing fixtures for her real-estate projects spending as much as 50 percent more. Her purchases include Canadian-produced goods targeted by the U.S., like steel or lumber.

"Trump changed the rules. He started slapping on tariffs. It’s illogical and its detrimental to all of us," Ziner said. "The more intransigent he would get, the more intransigent I would get."

The results of mass boycotts are mixed, but they certainly can draw attention to an issue. The bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., pointed to the civil rights struggle in the mid-1950s. The United Farm Workers union made an impact with its grapes boycott in the late 1960s. The anti-apartheid boycott of South Africa lasted for years and a boycott was organized around last year's transgender bathroom-bill boycott in North Carolina.

Others fail to make a real difference.

"They tend to be short-lived, passion-of-the-moment affairs. They certainly do perform an important expressive role," George Loewenstein, a Carnegie Mellon University behavioral economist, said.

Tony Woodcock of Salmon Arm, B.C., hopes that he can make a dent on behalf of Canada.

He has been looking for a new car and a new computer. But instead of purchasing the Jeep and the Microsoft Surface laptop he has been eyeing, the 70-year-old insurance broker is considering a Toyota or Nissan SUV -- "but not one manufactured in the USA." -- and a Lenovo computer from China.

"I will put off my purchases until the Trump administration deletes the tariffs on Canadian goods," he said in an email.

He also is avoiding Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and Starbucks and thinking about replacing the Hawaiian vacation he has planned at year's end with a trip to Cuba.

Robyn Berry, 56, of Courtenay, B.C., is shopping for a washer-dryer, but brands like GE and Whirlpool are now off the table.

When she recently couldn't find nationally sourced blueberries, she opted for blackberries grown in Mexico. Berry buys strawberries produced in British Columbia for $6.99 -- instead of containers twice as big from California that retail for $3.99.

"I'm not very happy with what’s going on," said the retired bingo caller. "The only way I can speak is with my dollars."

There's even talk of more countries joining Canada in a more generalized boycott.

"Trump is playing a dangerous game. He’s getting the world angry at the U.S.," Loewenstein said. "Canada might not be able to unilaterally act against the U.S., but if a lot of countries unite against the U.S., they could do some real economic damage."

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