02:36:42 pm on
Thursday 14 Nov 2019

The Cucumber War
David Simmonds

There is nothing funny about a tariff war. Once it starts, as it has, each side tries to match tariffs imposed by the other side and so it goes. An economic slump results and people start losing their jobs.


Mildly amusing tariff targets.

All the same, there’s something mildly amusing in the targets selected by our government for a retaliatory ten per cent tariff on US goods imported into Canada. You must say it shows a certain level of chutzpah on the part of our government.

For instance, Canada has slapped a tariff on American whiskey, produced in the state of Kentucky, the stomping grounds of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. A tariff on toilet paper affects Pennsylvania Republican Lou Barletta, whose constituency includes a Procter & Gamble plant that produces Charmin toilet paper. This, by the way, is one instance where it is okay to squeeze the Charmin. Pennsylvania also is hit a second time with tariffs on chocolate and licorice, both produced by the Hershey Co in Hershey, PA.

Yet, that’s not enough for clever Canadian tariff-targeters. What of a tariff on US ketchup, made in Ohio; this is the heartland of Trumpology, and manufactured by the Pennsylvania-based Heinz Company? The list of goods similarly affected is far ranging: it includes US sourced cucumbers, aftershave, postcards, strawberry jam, sleeping bags, mineral water, dishwashers and more.

Of course, this tariff regime doesn’t mean prohibition of these goods from entering Canada, but that these goods will become more expensive, unless the US producer wants to cut back its profit margin. Canadian consumers must do their part by behaving in accordance with prototypical consumers in the Economics 101 model and switching their purchases to less expensive sources. Why not buy a made in Canada ketchup, instead of a product made in Ohio.


Tariff on souvenirs.

Why not buy made in China postcards, instead of cards made in the US, for mail homes when you’re on vacation? It can’t be that difficult; who would really get upset if they received a picture of the Great Wall of China as a fleeting souvenir of a visit to the Rockies. It may seem like a small gesture, but if thirty-seven million people also made the same determination, who knows, Donald Trump may just crumble under the pressure. Angry U.S. cucumber growers, who have seen the Canadian market evaporate on them, may prevail upon Trump to eliminate the big twenty-five per cent tariff on steel that started off this whole spat.

If you are unsure of your ability to behave like the fictional Economics 101 consumer, you may have to resolve to boycott the tariff completely. There is nothing as bracing as refusing to purchase after-shave to invoke that old Dunkirk spirit of doing good by serving your country. How hard can it be to live without cucumbers for a few years?

Another alternative is to boycott US goods entirely, if you can figure out what is a US good. It would be short sighted to pledge to buy your coffee at Tim Hortons, rather than at McDonalds; deciding which of the two is more Canadian could keep you up late. That boycott would anticipate an extension of the punitive hand of Canada to all manner of US goods, such as cotton wool, hip waders and marmalade, for example.


Extra-long neckties, tariff exempt.

I don’t see tariffs extended to extra-long neckties, however. The market for them is limited to a man whose style few want to emulate.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

More by David Simmonds:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.