Canadian opinions on supply management vary; some say it protects commodities, while other say lack of competition drives up prices. But hopefully everyone agrees another country should not be telling us what we can do inside our own borders. That, however, is what’s going on right now — the U.S. has said Canada won’t be invited to be part of the Trans-Pacific unless we loosen up our borders. That means Canadian tariffs against foreign poultry, eggs and dairy must go.
Federal political party leaders have said they support supply management, calling it a part of our heritage and our right to do whatever we want within our own borders – but will they stand behind it if it means being shut out of the Partnership? Some Canadian agricultural commodity groups would be happy to see supply management gone, but strong supporters in Ontario and Quebec aren’t backing down. Recently, as Québec Premier Philippe Couillard was planning to address the Ontario legislature, Ontario also took the opportunity to remind everyone that it and Québec account for more than 55 per cent of the country’s total GDP – the largest economic region in Canada. If anyone is going to fiddle with the economies of their provinces, they’ll have to deal with the two most powerful premiers in the country, let alone the dairy, poultry and egg sector.
Think it’s time for a federal-provincial summit on supply management? I do. With this threat from the U.S. dangling over Canada’s head, Ottawa needs to come up with a solution likely to get the country into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while not turning some of our major commodities upside down. With a federal election in sight, the timing of such a summit would be ideal for the government to take a leadership position in agriculture.