Mr. Rod Seiling, president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, is anxious over the loss of many American tourists to our largest city and to our country as a whole. It seems that Americans are choosing to go to tropical destinations such as Aruba and Cancun, and are shunning Canada in great numbers. While some of this obviously has to do with the rising loonie and the simple fact that we aren’t a tropical clime, there are many reasons that are thick in political overtones.
Mr. Seiling misses the mark when he states “Unfortunately, when they think of our country, they only see the age-old stereotype of the three M’s — moose, mountains and Mounties.” To counter this, Mr. Seiling is asking Ottawa to spend $100 million to market Canada. After SARS struck Toronto, all levels of government kicked in massive funding to restore Toronto’s international lustre. If anyone still sees Canada in the terms that Mr. Seiling claims, then they do not watch television or read newspapers and as such, are unreachable. Money is not the answer to his woes.
I believe that the reasons that Americans are shunning our country are very simple, and they are very political. For more than a decade, and especially the last few, Canadian politicians have used anti-Americanism as a campaign tool and a party platform. We have had politicians stand up in Parliament to use profanity against them, we have had an MP stomp on a George Bush doll, openly condemn them on the international stage, and now we have politicians at all three levels of government in Ontario trying to place our ongoing crime problems on their doorstep.
Our friendship with our neighbours has been cooling for a while now. In the last five years, those who do business with Americans have seen a profound shift in the attitude with which they view us. We are no longer their close friend, but simply another trading partner. From the largest exporter to the little guy on eBay, Americans have closed their wallets to Canada.
As a grassroots indicator of how they feel, one must only look at the many American eBayers who will no longer ship to Canada, resulting in a lower price for their own goods. These, for the most part, are the little guys, the ordinary guy and gal; everyday Americans. It seems money isn’t the deciding factor for them, nor should it be. If you will find a seller who will take the time to explain to you their reasoning, then they will explain that along with the customs problems and shipping costs, there is simply a dislike for the way Canadians look at them.
I don’t presume to tell people what to think of our neighbours nor am I passing judgment on them, but be sure of one thing. When you start to denigrate an entire nation, don’t be surprised when they take their business elsewhere. Actions sometimes have consequences despite what our politicians have been telling us. We cannot have our cake and eat it, too.
While many Torontonians do not seem to see the connectiveness of many of the issues facing them, Americans are quite different. For the most part, they are more patriotic. They not only sing their anthem at sporting events like we do, they feel it. While we assert our love for country, they wear their love on their sleeves and many of them carry their convictions into the marketplace, as they should. We, for the most part, do not.
With our dollar rising and our cities continuing to vote en masse for the anti-American liberals, I am afraid Mr. Seiling has his work cut out for him. The money he is requesting may alleviate some of the crunch, but as in most areas, it is not the answer. The answer is to treat our neighbours with a sincere respect, especially if we also want them to be our customers. Remember the maxim that states that the customer is always right? Well, we have personally insulted 250 million of them.
This problem will not be fixed quickly, but perhaps now with a new Canadian government and a new prime minister, our relations will begin to thaw. Even if it turns out to be a quick thaw, reparations to our friendship will take many generations to restore what we once had. Friendships are like that.