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Shopping is Patriotic, Leaders Say
Published on Friday, September 28, 2001 in the National Post (Canada)
Shopping is Patriotic, Leaders Say
by Jill Vardy in St. John's and Chris Wattie
 
ST. JOHN'S - Western leaders, worried about the possibility of a recession fuelled by terrorist attacks in the United States, are urging their citizens to spend money, take vacations and buy new cars and homes.

Jean Chrétien, George Bush and Tony Blair yesterday all called on consumers not to be spooked by the cataclysmic attacks of Sept. 11.

Mr. Bush urged Americans to "get on the airlines, get about the business of America" as he announced improved security measures on commercial flights.

Mr. Blair used a news conference at 10 Downing St. to appeal to the British public to return to everyday life, including their usual spending habits, to fend off recession.

"People in this country ask what should they do at a time like this," Mr. Blair said. "The answer is that they should go about their daily lives: to work, to live, to travel and to shop -- to do things in the same way as they did before Sept. 11."

And Mr. Chrétien urged Canadians to face down terrorists with their wallets.

"Don't cancel your plans ... we have to keep the travel and tourism industry alive. It is the way to fight back," the Prime Minister told almost 500 people at a Liberal fundraising dinner last night in St. John's.

Mr. Chrétien observed that interest rates have been cut to the lowest level in years, "so it is time to go out and get a mortgage, to buy a home, to buy a car."

Some American officials are even calling a trip to the mall an act of patriotism as the United States tries to rebound and rebuild.

Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York, has said that his battered city needs "the best shoppers in the world" to return to restaurants, Broadway shows and shops.

And local officials in Florida have declared this weekend "Freedom Weekend," a time for people to do their patriotic duty and spend money.

"Go out and contribute to the economy," Alex Penelas, the Miami-Dade County Mayor, said at a news conference yesterday. "As my wife said, it has never been more patriotic to go shopping."

Mr. Chrétien told delegates at a telecommunications conference in St. John's they showed "courage" for travelling so soon after the attacks. "You have come from 20 countries to St. John's. You deserve compliments and thanks because this is extremely important," he said. "The economy of the world needs people to go back to their lives."

"We will not get spooked by these incidents," Mr. Chrétien said. "We're not in bad shape because I know the resolve of the Canadian people in difficult circumstances."

Mr. Blair yesterday played down concerns that terrorists could be preparing to attack Britain or the United States with chemical or biological weapons.

Mr. Blair, who told Parliament immediately after the U.S. attacks that terrorists might be prepared to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, said some subsequent reports had been "alarmist."

But while he acknowledged these are difficult times, the British Prime Minister said: "We must not let these events shake our confidence in ourselves, in our country and in our way of life."

He said the fundamentals of the British economy have not changed, and there is no reason why people should not "carry on being confident in the strengths of our economy and in the things we normally do.''

Americans are being reminded the U.S. economy, badly shaken by the attacks and teetering near recession, could do with some consumer exuberance.

Bob Graham, a Florida Senator, stopped short of a call to the mall, but said this week that everyone could play a role in bolstering the economy by getting on with their lives and "living like Americans."

Several letters in U.S. newspapers have urged people to keep spending.

"The patriotic thing to do is: Hold your stocks and buy more; get on an airplane and get on with doing business; start shopping again,'' said one letter to The Miami Herald this week. "America, you love to shop, so get going."

Miami, like many U.S. cities feeling the effects of slumping air travel and tourism, could do with some ''shopping for America.'' The city's Dadeland Mall, one of the busiest retail outlets in the country with more than 200 shops, was nearly deserted yesterday.

Copyright © 2001 National Post Online

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