Will Canadian boycott hurt local economy?
The local economy gets a significant boost from our neighbors to the north, but a recent survey shows a majority of Canadians are planning to cut back on visiting the United States.
"In response to the trade war nearly three in four Canadians are likely or somewhat likely to stop travelling to the United States." That's according to a poll put out by the Globe and Mail and CTV. Visit Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Patrick Kaler says he is concerned about what he's been hearing.
"We have had a few communications from some individuals who are seeing our message, in Canada, saying, 'We're not coming.' And it has everything to do with what is being said in Washington, D.C," Kaler said.
In the Town of Halton Hills, Ontario, about 90-miles north of Buffalo, a motion was passed encouraging residents to avoid American-made goods. But just across the Niagara River, there's been no such action by the Town of Fort Erie.
Its Mayor Wayne Redekop says, while "it is offensive to hear" that Canada is a security threat to the United States, many local residents have family, friends and other ties on both sides of the border.
"But people that live further away from the border they don't have those connections, they don't necessarily have the need to travel to the United States," Redekop said.
If the boycott takes hold, local restaurants, stores, hotels and more could suffer. Kaler says their latest study pegs the economic impact from Canadian visitors on the community at nearly $124 million.
"So, it is big dollars for us as far as our overall marketing for Canadians, making sure that they are coming to a very welcoming destination, that they are appreciated coming here, and spending their dollars, in Buffalo and Erie County," Kaler said.
They're also appreciated in Niagara County. John Percy, President and CEO of Destination Niagara USA, says Candians are the biggest contributors in the county's shopping districts.
"That business is important to us. And it's important to our taxbase here - all over Western New York, not just Niagara County. You know, Western New York has really benefitted economically from our Canadian neighbors over many decades here and we can't turn our backs. We have to show them that our borders are open here, and our arms are open, and we are very welcoming," Percy said.
So far, Peace Bridge General Manager Ron Rienas hasn't seen any impact from the boycott on bridge traffic.
"There's lots of talk and people do lots of things. But that has to translate into action and thus far we haven't seen that translate into any action." In fact, Rienas says, car traffic on the Peace Bridge has actually increased slightly.
"So, we haven't seen anything in terms of declines in traffic related to the Canada-U.S. issues. But we'll monitor it and see if anything comes of it. We hope not," Reinas said.
Ken Bieger, General Manager of the Niagara Bridge Commission, says they're also seeing more automobile traffic on the Rainbow and the Lewiston-Queenston bridges - especially over the past two months.
"So, when we've seen all the hype about buy Canadian, buy Canada, we've actually seen the opposite. We've actually seen more autos cross," Bieger said.
Ft. Erie Mayor Redekop says if there is a drop in visitors in Western New York, it could be due to the exchange rate. Redekop points out that it is more expensive for Canadians to buy goods in the U.S.
"But, people who want to go to the states are going to go to the states. They won't be dissuaded by any of the falderal that's going on. And so, I believe, that it's pretty much business as usual here. But, maybe people being a little bit more thoughtful about where they spend their dollars if they have a choice," Redekep said.