With trade deal, Liberals again fail rural Canada
The federal Liberals have had no end of difficulties dealing with rural Canada during the past several years.
The ill-conceived, poorly implemented long gun registry showed that rural folks will not vote for a party that ignores their best interests in such a cavalier way.
Things won’t get any better now the Grit government has thrown dairy farmers under the bus to get a new North American trade deal.
The deal opens almost four per cent of our dairy market to U.S. imports.
The fact it’s only four per cent provides scant comfort to those worried about the future. It’s another nail in the coffin of supply management.
Previous trade agreements also have infringed on our dairy industry. A total of 1.5 per cent domestic market access was given away in a trade deal with the European Union, 3.25 per cent went in the Trans Pacific Partnership and now the biggest chunk, 3.6 per cent in the new North American deal.
The government is talking about compensation for those farmers most affected by the deal.
That’s all well and good, but what does compensation do to protect our agricultural sector going forward?
New farmers who get into the dairy business — if anybody’s interested in doing that — will see no benefit from such compensation.
Supply management controls overproduction, such as the over-supply U.S. producers are facing, partly because of subsidies to the industry. The quota system also assures a meaningful bottom line for dairy farmers and generally provides a floor for the economies of rural Canada.
Due to the production controls, it also helps to guarantee the quality of the product consumers purchase.
When supply management disappears — and obviously this government’s lack of backbone in these trade talks illustrates it could be coerced into making it disappear — our food supply, farm economies and all of rural Canada will take a big blow.
U.S. President Donald Trump had a bee in his bonnet about supply management, particularly as it applies to dairy.
So, what is going to stop him from seeking more concessions down the road? He’s a bully and bullies don’t just give up and go away. If they get away with stealing your cookie today, they’ll take your entire lunch tomorrow.
The new agreement is being called the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), a name favoured by Trump, even though it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
But the name is not important. After all, a thorn by any other name would prick you just as bad.
Trump also had trouble with our negotiating team led by Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister.
Freeland does not exude the kind of gravitas the negotiations required.
In addition, Freeland doesn’t elicit the confidence Canadians would like to see when it comes to a situation as delicate as free trade.
But that’s beside the point now. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is not exactly bursting at the seams with confidence and gravitas.
If the government keeps making deals such as this one, the faces around the cabinet table are likely to change in the 2019 election.