Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, is taking a stand by refusing to accept an invitation to the U.S. embassy’s Fourth of July party in our nation’s capital. He has encouraged other invitees to do the same, too.
“The United States is acting as a bully to a smaller country and I think it would be hypocritical of me to sort of show up and accept their hospitality and free food and so on, when we are in the midst of this trade dispute that is going to have serious ramifications for the entire country and employment in this city,” he told a reporter.
No doubt many people support Mr. Watson in this. After all, the trade dispute in question was started by President Donald Trump when he put tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
As we’ve said before, the tariffs are an insult to America’s oldest and most reliable ally. They are unjustifiable and based only on the President’s lies and exaggerations. Worse still, Mr. Trump is threatening to impose far more harmful tariffs on Canadian-made cars, a move that would be ruinous to our economy.
And yet Mr. Watson’s boycott is wrong and counterproductive. The mayor of Ottawa should accept this invitation. So too should any other Canadian officials invited to attend.
The anger behind the gesture is understandable, but the rationale is wrong. While staying away will send a message of protest, it will be self-defeating. Its effect will not be nearly as positive as going and eating hot dogs, sipping bourbon and pressing the flesh with embassy officials and other Americans in attendance.
In fact, staying away contradicts the admirable and ongoing work of the Canadian government to maintain a dialogue with the many American officials who are on their side in Mr. Trump’s invented trade war. Ottawa’s efforts to reach out to Congress members, governors and mayors in the states that are already being hurt by the new tariffs are the best and perhaps only way of resolving the crisis the President has caused.
Staying home on the Fourth of July, an American holiday steeped in high patriotism, is a deliberately insulting gesture. In the context of a moment when Ottawa is trying to avoid such gaffes, it is spectacularly ill-timed.
The boycott also errs in conflating the occupant of the Oval Office with the United States as a whole. As much as he would like to think so, Donald Trump is not the entire U.S. government, and he doesn’t speak for all Americans. Not even close, especially when it comes to trade issues.
Canadian officials should also remember that Ottawa’s retaliatory tariffs will take effect soon, and that Americans whose employers depend on the Canadian market could be out of a job as a result. We are putting Americans in the crossfire of this dispute. Let’s not add insult to injury.
No, as much as it might sting, Canadian officials should extend their hands to their American counterparts over Canada Day and the Fourth of July. It wouldn’t hurt for ordinary Canadians to do the same with ordinary Americans.
Let’s remember that Mr. Trump has launched a trade war that is going to hurt Canadians and Americans alike. In that, we are allies. We should show our friends on the other side of the border that we are with them, and that we know where the real problem lies.