Supply management policy: a non-negotiable Canadian institution

By: The Hon. Amina Gerba

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The combination of pandemic and climate change is forcing us to urgently review whole swathes of legislation, particularly when it comes to energy, the environment and the supply of all kinds of goods. That said, we need to preserve and consolidate those policies that meet the demands of the times. Supply management falls into this category. It is a non-negotiable Canadian institution.

Long before the pandemic, supply management—which benefits every region of the country—needed defending. But what COVID taught us is that supply chains are fragile and can be completely upended. These days, this has indeed been the case. India recently halted its rice exports, and Russia has disrupted global grain supplies. We need to protect ourselves against these unpredictable upheavals. We also need to protect ourselves from American and European agricultural competition, made impossible by their generous subsidy policies that put them in a class of their own. Unless we go down that road and hugely subsidize our own production, an option that is not being considered, it would be better for us to protect the supply management policy, which is fair and effective.

Supply management gives us a definite edge and solid guarantees. For more than half a century, our country’s milk, egg, and poultry farmers and markets have been protected by an effective, proven system that involves the federal and provincial governments.

Bill C‑282, which I am sponsoring in the Senate, aims to entrench this policy into law. Essentially, it absolutely prohibits anyone from tampering with this policy in future international trade negotiations. Simply put, the bill takes supply management off the table in any future negotiations. It explicitly requires the Minister for International Trade to strictly enforce this policy. This means that once the bill passes, this policy will be fully protected once and for all—Canadian consumers will be guaranteed high-quality supply, and domestic agricultural producers will receive a fair price for their work and what they produce.

In addition to these assurances of high-quality supply and fair compensation for agricultural producers, there are other reasons why I am advocating for Bill C‑282 in the Senate.

Supply management accounts for 350,000 jobs across the country, including 115,000 in Quebec, adds $30-billion to the country’s GDP and generates $7-billion in tax revenue. The economic dimension alone justifies maintaining such a beneficial policy for Canadian workers and farmers. However, there are social and territorial benefits as well. Supply management provides our rural regions with a volume of activity that helps maintain them not only as viable commercial, social and cultural spaces, but also as attractive and vibrant communities. It provides agricultural producers with a stable income. It provides them with the ability to forecast and invest at a time when digital technology and AI are invading their fields of activity. Last but not least, it shortens food trade channels and, as a result, considerably reduces CO2 emissions and global warming.

All of these are good reasons to protect our supply management policy. This bill is supported by 80 per cent of the MPs in the House of Commons, including the four party leaders. I am confident that the Senate will lend its support and protect our supply management policy from foreign governments and multinationals. That way, this Canadian institution will truly be non-negotiable.

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