By Stewart Grant
With the Conservative Party Leadership vote coming up on May 27th, many Canadian farmers are concerned about the future if Maxime Bernier is elected the next leader of the party and possibly the next Prime Minister of Canada come 2019.
Maxime Bernier, a successful 54-year-old politician hailing from Quebec, is thought to be among the top 5 candidates most likely to win the Conservative Leadership vote. Many of his platforms, such as lower taxes, less government and fiscal responsibility are typical conservative views that resonate with rural voters, however his stance on Canada’s supply management is proving to be one of his most divisive and controversial topics.
Bernier’s position on supply management is outlined as follows on his website, www.maximebernier.com:
“All farmers need to be treated fairly. 90% of Canadian farmers derive no benefit from supply management. It protects a small cartel of dairy, poultry and egg farmers at the expense of everyone else. It also creates massive barriers to entry for new farmers. The cost of purchasing quotas is so high that it makes entry into supply managed sectors nearly impossible. It also drives up the grocery bills of farmers trying to feed their families. Phasing out supply management, and ensuring that those in supply managed sectors can transition is the right thing to do. I would follow the Australian model, with a gradual phase-out and compensation for farmers.”
Not everyone is buying Bernier’s carefully-crafted spin on supply management. Canadian pig farmer and agricultural advocate Stewart Skinner tweeted last week, “The level of misinformation Maxime Bernier is spreading about farming in Canada is disgusting. He should be ashamed for misleading Canadians.”
In a 2016 CBC feature, Bruce Muirhead, a professor of history at the University of Waterloo who studies food systems, reflected on how the Australian farming industry had been impacted by the types of measures that Maxime Bernier supports. Per Muirhead, Australian dairy farmers were “leaving the industry in droves while family farms were almost non-existent”. Meanwhile in New Zealand, a trade deal with China resulted in significant damage to their dairy industry that required a $550 million government bailout for Kiwi farmers.
A 2016 study from the Nielson research firm suggested that the prices Canadians pay for milk are comparable to those in many countries throughout the world.
To take part in the Conservative leadership vote and have your say, visit the PC Party website at www.conservative.ca and register by the March 28th deadline.