National Newswatch

Opposition parties united in call for action.


Ottawa—Despite determined opposition prodding of the government, dairy and poultry producers are no wiser on when compensation to offset market share lost because of free trade deals will be paid.

While Bloc Quebecois MPs tried in Question Period, and then were joined by Conservative and NDP members in a debate on a private members’ bill calling for action on the compensation promise, hours of talking left them no wiser on when it might happen.

Bloc MP Yves Perron reminded Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau that other than a payment to dairy farmers last year, there has been nothing else for them as well as chicken, turkey and egg farmers and processors.

Bibeau and other Liberals said repeatedly the compensation would be delivered by the party that created supply management. “Less than a year ago, 11,000 dairy farmers received $345 million. We will follow through on our commitment.”

Perron said the government’s refusal to provide a timeline shows “why we need to make supply management inviolable so it will never again be used as a bargaining chip for trade agreements.”

The debate on the Bloc’s bill may be voted on later in the session. It would set a legal requirement that governments defend supply management, which was weakened considerably by the European, Pacific and North American trade deals

MP Luc Plamandon said, “Canada is opening an ever-widening door in our markets for foreign companies to sell their products here. On top of that, international trade standards are constantly seeking to reduce the tariff levels. Our largest trading partners would like to see these tariffs disappear completely, and thus abolish supply management.

“Without supply management, an American egg producer that produces one million eggs a day could overrun the Canadian market, cut prices and ultimately take control. Border controls are very important, and that is where the government always folds. It caves, often using supply management as a bargaining chip.”

Conservative MP Luc Berthold said his party leader Erin O’Toole has said “there will be no further concessions in future trade agreement negotiations. He will protect supply management.”

While he disagreed with the Bloc’s proposed protection of supply management, he said the Liberals gave in on it in the new Northern America trade deal negotiations “and Canada had to struggle just to remain in this important agreement for our economy. Dairy, egg and poultry producers paid the price as the Liberals modified the existing laws to be able to give up more of our market to the United States.”

NDP MP Daniel Blaikie said, “The agricultural sector is a very important sector, but the Canadian government has sold it out repeatedly during international trade agreement negotiations.” Supply management “is under attack for essentially ideological reasons.”

Parliament needs to be more involved in negotiating trade deals, he said. “Given that we have a government that regularly makes promises about supply management and then does not keep them, this bill will allow us to truly say that Parliament supports supply management.”

Nova Scotia Liberal MP  Kody Blois said supply management “allows smaller family farms to still be able to contribute in the marketplace.” It’s “a national policy that creates benefits.” Ending supply management would not lower food prices.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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