As the holiday season approaches, giant factories overseas are shifting to high gear to provide us with piles of cheaply produced goods – goods that have been manufactured at the expense of Canadian labour. Let’s make this Christmas different.

This year, consider giving the gift of genuine concern for other Canadians. There are plenty of locally made products/services perfect for every name on your list. Need help thinking outside the wrapping? Here are some ideas.

We all need haircuts, so how about a gift certificate from a stylist or barber? A gym membership or yoga class card is good for anyone of any age who wants to experience better health. And who wouldn’t appreciate having their car detailed? Small, Canadian-owned shops would love to sell you a gift certificate – or a book of them.

Are you one of those extravagant gift-givers who thinks nothing of putting hundreds – or thousands – of dollars down for foreign-made electronics? Before you do, consider what the person you’re buying for might really need. It could be something as practical as having their driveway sealed or yard landscaped, and local tradespeople would be more than happy to provide these services.

There are tons of owner-run restaurants in Canada, all offering gift certificates. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal; plenty of people would appreciate half-a-dozen breakfasts at their local diner.

Remember, this isn’t about big national chains; this is about supporting local Canadian businesses so that they can keep their doors open year-round.

I don’t know many drivers who wouldn’t appreciate an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle done at a shop run by a Canadian. For a heartfelt gift for mom, why not hire a local cleaning lady (or guy) to tidy the house – even if only for a day? Looking for something more personal? Local artists and designers make jewelry, pottery, clothing and other one-of-a-kind gifts.

Gift-giving aside, plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. Support local venues by seeing a play or concert at the local theatre. Musicians need love, too, so find a company that showcases local bands.

Do you REALLY need to buy more foreign-made Christmas lights for the house? The truth is, when you buy a $5 string of lights, only a few cents stay in your community. Why not save the electricity and leave your mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice tip?

Christmas should be about caring about us, encouraging Canadian small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. When we care about other Canadians, we care about our communities, too, and the benefits come back to us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Let’s make this the new Canadian Christmas tradition.

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