A new poll by the Angus-Reid Institute shows a majority of Canadians are either willing to scrap supply management in NAFTA talks, or use it as a last resort bargaining chip.
Here are some of the key results:
- 26% of Canadians say Canada should offer to end supply management immediately, since it should be scrapped anyway.
- 45% say supply management should be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations, but only “as a last resort.”
- 29% say Canada should refuse any U.S. demands to end supply management, even if we face retaliation because of it.
Mixed views on supply management
The poll also points out an interesting three-way split on how Canadians view supply management:
- 34% support it.
- 33% oppose it.
- 33% have mixed feelings or describe themselves as unsure.
However, the poll also presented arguments for and against supply management, and then described how prices for milk, eggs, and chicken could be cheaper if the system was scrapped. When the price changes were mentioned, two-thirds oppose the supply management system, while one-third support it.
End the quotas, keep the tariffs
There are two key parts of the supply management system. The quotas that restrict production in Canada, and the tariffs on foreign dairy products.
There is an argument to be made for keeping the tariffs, as it makes sense to protect Canadian farmers (even if this called “protectionism,” an unfairly demonized idea).
However, the production quotas that restrict the productivity of farmers don’t make sense, and reduce competition within Canada – which also drives up prices.
Ending the quotas while keeping the tariffs would be the best way to deal with supply management.
Whether such an idea – or any version of supply management can survive NAFTA negotiations remains to be seen – but Canada will have to demonstrate toughness and a willingness to defend our interests. Conceding the end of supply management before negotiations even start would be a huge mistake, and we shouldn’t make any concessions whatsoever until we find out what our country would get in return.