National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre

Why would a centrist conservative support the elimination of supply management? Well, first off, the push for a more centrist conservative party, and movement more generally, is not advocating for more of the status quo. The centrist position is, simply put, a focus on policy, avoiding the chaos politics we see on both the fringes of the left and right, and doing so in a way that speaks to voters across the country, of all political persuasions. So why is getting rid of supply management the way to go?

First, supply management hurts all Canadian consumers, but disproportionately impacts low income Canadians. Supply management’s mandate to limit supply and significantly reduce competition artificially inflates prices for Canadian consumers, adding upwards of $500 to the average family’s grocery bill each year. For low-income Canadians that artificial price inflation accounts for 2.3 per cent of their income, which in turn pushes between 133,000 and 189,000 Canadians below the poverty line. Supply management is a disastrously regressive policy. Given that we are in the midst of an affordability crisis, talking about the negative impact supply management has on the finances of ordinary Canadians is a message that should resonate for voters on both the left and right.

There is also a serious case to be made regarding the unfairness of supply management given that other farmers are not given these types of protections. Why do we have these special protections in place for a select group of farmers, when we don’t do the same for our beef farmers or our vegetable growers? The answer is a powerful political lobby capturing the ears of our elected officials. Again, special treatment for one group of farmers over others is something that both the left and right should agree is problemattic.

There is also the case for expanded trade, and economic prosperity. Some supporters of supply management falsely claim that eliminating supply management would kill our domestic industry, but would it? Not necessarily, according to research by Colin Carter and Pierre Mérel published in the Canadian Journal of Economics. Doing away with supply management would mean more competition for dairy farmers but it would also mean more export opportunities abroad. With globalization lifting hundreds of millions of people worldwide out of poverty and into the middle class, demand for these products has risen. Consumption of dairy, chicken and eggs have all increased over the past decade as a result of new demand from the global middle class that is only expected to continue.

In fact, increased export opportunities is exactly what is expected to happen if Canada properly lived up to its obligations under the USMCA. A U.S. Trade Commission report estimates U.S. imports of Canadian dairy products would actually increase by $161.7 million if the terms of the USCMA were enforced. Something both protectionists and progressives forget: Trade isn’t a zero-sum game. The benefits of increased trade would be enjoyed by both Canada and the U.S, or between Canada and any other country for whom we could export dairy to without supply management.

Ending supply management would drastically help calm food inflation in Canada, level the playing field across the agriculture sector, and help Canadian dairy export their products to an emerging global middle class who are demanding these products. Political favouritism and the status quo certainly isn’t the answer. The centrist position is clear, supply management needs to be eliminated.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
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