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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 09.20.04
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

"I went to Canada and all I got was mugged"

STANSTEAD, QC | A bus carrying several dozen seniors drove from the US into Canada yesterday to protest the high cost of American mugs.

Swinging tea bags and wearing coffee-filter hats, the protestors held a rally here at Canada Customs where they chanted "Make mugs, not war" and "We don't want to suffa, we just want a cuppa."

The Vermont and New Hampshire residents then got back on the bus they had dubbed "The Mocha-motion" and headed straight for the nearest souvenir shop, where they loaded up on mugs sporting Canadian icons like moose, beavers, maple leafs, and Lloyd Robertson.

The cross-border shopping spree was organized to shed light on the situation State-side where mugs cost up to sixty percent more than virtually identical mugs manufactured in Canada. Critics say the cost of mugs is being kept artificially high in the U.S. by mug companies and the powerful Styrofoam cup lobby.

"We don't care what's on them," said Julie Patchouli at Stanstead's souvenir shop. "We just want mugs at reasonable prices. Oh, and those little RCMP dolls."

Fellow mug-lover George Offenbawken was likewise steamed over the US mug policy.

"I go through about mug a month. I've got this shaking problem, see? SEE? And the mugs sometimes just fly out of my hands and break. Plus, I need special prescription mugs to fit my lips which were deformed in a freak milking accident, see? SEE? That costs me about $10 a month. I'm on a fixed income. And a fixed left leg, see? SEE?"

The US Federal Mug Agency, meanwhile, is trying to crack down on the importation of Canadian mugs, claiming that they may be "unsafe."

"We cannot guarantee the safety of mugs entering the United States from Canada," said FMA spokesman John Flakmeister. "There is no way to ensure that Canadian mug companies have not been infiltrated by terrorists who could sabotage the mug-making process. Some shoddy glue-work here, a hairline crack there, and you've got handles falling off left and right and hot liquid scalding innocent American laps. The American people have a right to care-free coffee."

The FMA also worries that Canadian mugs could contain subversive or even anti-American messages. At a recent press conference, Flakmeister exhibited two examples of Canadian mugs, one reading "Medicare Rocks!" the other reading "I heart" Osama." Critics subsequently questioned the authenticity of the latter mug, which appeared to have been handwritten with a Sharpie.

Critics say the real reason the Bush administration has clamped down on foreign mug imports is because the mug lobby is a major contributor to the Republican Party and is itself bankrolled by the tobacco industry - making up the so-called Coffee-and-Cigarettes Cabal.

This suspicion was not lost on the Stanstead mug-buyers yesterday. Some carried placards aimed directly at President Bush, reading "Thanks a latte, George" and "Voting for Bush is a mug's game."

In fact, the mug situation is becoming a major election issue. Last week, Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards spoke in favor of loosening mug-import restrictions, telling a crowd of supporters in Michigan, "This is a President who will allow Canadian trash into this country but won't allow the importation of mugs from Canada. He also lets in Jim Carrey and Céline Dion but not Smarties. Or Robertson screwdrivers."

Edwards was then reported to have said, "Wha'? Where am I?" before being hustled off stage by handlers.

However, considering the climate of protectionism and paranoia in the US, it's not surprising that not all Americans are in support of opening the border to Canadian mugs. In fact, on their return across the border yesterday, the New England mug rats were met by protestors of their own, some holding signs that read "Pull the plug on Canadian mugs" and "Get your ugly mug out of here."

Mugs are not the only import being hankered for south of the border. Next week, a convoy of cabs is expected to come to Canada to buy cheap Canadian rugs.

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