Dairy farmers flex some political muscle

As colleague Jessica Murphy reported, Liberal MP Wayne Easter – a former dairy farmer — sent a sharp letter to leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay pretty much telling her to back off on her call to dismantle the so-called “supply management” system which protects the Canadian dairy industry from foreign competition. (For more on the issue of supply managementand the fight for cheap cheese, see my blog post “The continuing fight for cheap cheese and innovation in agriculture”) Hall Findlay, above, responds to Easter’s argument on my program, Battleground, last night.

During our discussion, you’ll hear me refer to a paper Hall Findlay authored on the issue [“Supply Management: Problems, Politics and Possibilities”]. In that paper – and in the video clip — we addressed the political power the country’s dairy farmers appear to have, for no party in the House of Commons appears willing to end supply management.

My friend Steven Chase, writing in The Globe and Mail this morning, reports that Canada may be prepared to allow Europeans access to some of the Canadian quota but that’s still a long way from full-on free trade.

Last night at the Chateau Laurier, the Dairy Farmer’s Association of Canada held their annual reception for MPs, journalists, lobbyists. As I said to Hall Findlay in our interview, I attended that event. I sampled some terrific Canadian cheeses. I enjoyed a glass of wine or two from the association. I met and talked to many dairy farmers — was surprised, among other things, to learn how big the Alberta dairy industry is for I thought cows in that province were mostly raised for eating not milking — and I talked to many MPs (I must confess I saw only Conservative and New Democrat MPs there but while I was there, interim leader Bob Rae was giving a speech in the House of Commons on Mali and many Liberal MPs may have been there to hear him). I can report that, based on those discussions, there is reason to be confident that our supply management is unlikely to substantially change in the near future.


One thought on “Dairy farmers flex some political muscle”

  1. I disagree. I feel that the supply management sector is in the cross hairs of the Harper government. As Hall Findlay pointed out, the farmers don’t represent enough votes. The Quebec farmers vote BQ. The majority of SM farmers outside of Quebec are in strongly Conservative ridings.

    Ritz has gutted the wheat board and the tobacco board, I suspect the chicken board is next. The question is, will the chicken farmers be left with anything other than the mortgage on their non-existent quota?

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