MPs tout supply management as fix for poor countries, aim to shelter from trade deals
By The Canadian PressNews Trade
Trade committee set to undertake final review of bill aimed at protecting supply management.
Members of Parliament are rallying to bolster Canada’s system of protecting dairy and poultry prices amid trade deals, and suggest developing countries do the same.
The House of Commons trade committee is set to undertake its final, detailed review Thursday of a Bloc Quebecois bill aimed at tying trade negotiators’ hands so that new deals don’t chip away at the system that controls quotas and prices for certain industries.
Since 1972, Ottawa and the provinces have regulated the supply and cost of eggs, dairy and poultry through steep tariffs on imports, with slight tweaks for trade deals in the last decade that have drawn the ire of Canada’s powerful agriculture lobby.
The legislation would make it harder for negotiators to give ground on a system that proponents argue keeps a stable supply of goods and protects farms, but which detractors say drives up the cost of grocery bills and leads to farmers dumping millions of litres of perfectly good milk.
In a Tuesday report, the House agriculture committee called on Ottawa to further protect the system, and to use it as a model to “give vulnerable countries greater food sovereignty” by being less reliant on imports.
The committee urged the federal government to “consider ways its international development programming can promote the exchange of lessons learned in the areas of production and price stability with farmers in developing countries.”
The idea stems from November testimony by Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food. He noted poorer countries’ desire for stable food, which can be achieved by stockpiling food and by manipulating its price in the market.
“Canada has been really good at maintaining stable prices through systems of supply management,” he testified. “The Canadian experience is something that can be shared.”
Supply management is widely seen as a sacred cow in Canadian politics, with the agriculture sector using its clout across the country to push parties to maintain the status quo.
Conservative leaders who advocate for less market intervention often shy away from changing supply management, with current Leader Pierre Poilievre and former party leader Andrew Scheer both arguing changes to the regime would hurt farmers.
The legislation aiming to protect supply managed sectors in trade negotiations, Bill C-282, passed the Commons in second reading by a margin of 293 to 23, with those opposing the bill consisting mostly of Conservatives from the Prairies.
Lobbyists for the cattle and lentil industries have opposed the legislation, saying it will make countries push for concessions in trade deals that target agriculture sectors that aren’t under supply management, particularly those that rely on exporting commodities.
Trade Minister Mary Ng says her government supports the bill, and played down the idea of retaliation.
“I believe we are able to negotiate strong agreements that provide good market access for our Canadian exporters while we protect supply management at the same time,” she told the House trade committee last month.
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