Over the 20 years of my service as an elected official, never have I seen the policy of supply management become such a hot-button issue. Both foreign and domestic politicians seem to be chiming in on what they think is best for Canadians, without truly studying the effects of their proposals. Having spoken to numerous dairy farmers in Ontario and Quebec throughout the years, while also being an MP from Alberta, I understand both sides of the argument on supply management.
(Photo: Monty Rakusen via Getty Images)
While some politicians argue that supply management must be scrapped immediately, in order to "stand on principle for freedom," others say that if we even touch supply management, Canadian farmers will become impoverished within a matter of days. Both positions are drastically oversimplified, overstated and simply far removed from reality. Instead of throwing mindless rhetoric around, we should propose actual policy solutions to the problems facing us today.
Ottawa must protect the interests of Canadians first, and this includes Canadian dairy farmers.
My policy proposal is simple -- we must have a sensible solution to supply management that protects our Canadian farmers, while also keeping the consumer in mind. The viewpoint that by simply scrapping supply management will drastically reduce the price of dairy products is highly overstated. Such a policy would only marginally reduce prices, while systematically placing Canadian farmers into a position of economic hardship.
These farmers, the backbone of Canada's agriculture industry, who have spent generations in the business of producing high-quality dairy, would be banished to economic ruins with the stroke of the pen from Ottawa. That is not the federal government's duty. In fact, it is the very opposite. Ottawa must protect the interests of Canadians first, and this includes Canadian dairy farmers.
While some Canadian politicians talk about this scrapping of supply management, it is interesting to see that foreign leaders are taking interest at our domestic policy. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, took aim at our policy, calling it "very unfair" and demanding that NAFTA be renegotiated. What is unfair is the fact the U.S. subsidizes its own dairy industry -- providing their farmers with certain protections -- while demanding that our government cease to protect Canadian farmers.
In the context of international trade, it is clear that nations and their governments' top priority is to look out for the interests of their citizens. And why shouldn't they? It is, after all, the government's job to do so. But while the U.S. protects its interests and its farmers, so too should Canada. We must not give in and fold our cards, but rather work collaboratively with our American partners to find consensus on this issue, along with many others.
Having a long-term strategy to increase dairy trade with the U.S., while still protecting Canadian farmers, is a win-win situation.
The Canadian government should be receptive to renegotiating NAFTA to include gradual changes to supply management, but this must be done in consultation with Canadian farmers. Having a long-term strategy to increase dairy trade with the U.S., while still protecting Canadian farmers and their livelihoods, is a win-win situation.
By doing this, we will strike a fair and balanced trade policy with the U.S., while simultaneously protecting Canadian farmers, all while gradually reducing consumer prices of dairy goods. A sensible supply management policy for a 21st-century Canada.
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