The Gleaner
Agriculture

Ottawa protects supply management: private members’ bill

Members of Parliament adopted a private members’ bill in the House of Commons on June 21 that protects supply management from any further concessions during future international trade negotiations.

First introduced just over a year ago by Bloc Québécois MP Luc Thériault, Bill C-282 amends the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act to keep Canada’s supply-managed production of dairy, eggs, chicken, and turkey off the table during trade talks. Once approved by the Senate, federal ministers will no longer be able to sign trade agreements on behalf of the federal government that jeopardize the supply management system either by increasing tariff-rate quotas or reducing tariffs.

“We are delighted to see that the bill was supported by a vast majority of elected representatives from all political parties,” said Salaberry-Suroît MP Claude DeBellefeuille in a statement following the bill’s adoption. A total of 262 MPs voted in favour of the bill, while 51 members, largely from the Conservative Party, rejected the amended legislation. “By passing this bill, we are sending a message to our producers that their model is sustainable, that they can continue to invest in their infrastructure, and that their growth in our domestic market is guaranteed,” she said.

Martin Caron, the president of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA), referred to the passing of Bill C-282 as a historic day for all supply-managed producers. “A clear majority of MPs from all parties have recognized the importance of never again making concessions in these sectors,” said Caron, who is also a spokesperson for the Supply Management Movement, a coalition of partners in the agri-food industry, businesses, financial institutions, consumer groups, unions, elected officials at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, and individuals who believe in supply management as an economic and social policy that promotes strong agriculture and a prosperous domestic food sector.

The system allows dairy, egg, and poultry producers to earn a fair income from the domestic market without necessitating direct government subsidies. Significant concessions were made during recent trade agreements between Canada and the European Union (CETA), as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Jason Erskine, a Hinchinbrooke-based dairy farmer who represents the dairy sector at the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the UPA as well as English-speaking producers in the Montérégie-West region with the Quebec Milk Producers Association, says the bill is good for local producers. “I am very happy with the bill, and it was a great initiative of the Bloc Québécois to put it forward,” he said. There are a lot of issues outside the control of producers these days, he explained. “It is one less thing to worry about,” he added, while suggesting the bill will help to stabilize and grow the dairy market. “We are investing in that growth, and we are counting on that growth,” he says, noting that the amount of market share opened during trade deals will max out in a few years. The bill allows farmers to bank on market growth without worrying it will be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

The bill has not received unanimous support from the agriculture sector. Canadian agri-food exporters are disappointed with the legislation. In a statement issued by the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, President Dan Darling cautioned that the passing of Bill C-282 will make future trade negotiations more difficult. “Members of Parliament have chosen to entrench protectionism and favour one economic sector above all others!” he exclaimed.

The bill passed first reading in the Senate on June 22. If approved by the Senate, the bill will become law following Royal Assent by Governor General Mary Simon.

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