Premier Wynne Suggests Canada Should Give the U.S. More Time to Fix COOL — Say What?

When Canada’s agriculture and trade ministers — as everybody expected following the World Trade Organization’s latest ruling against U.S. country of origin labeling — promised to retaliate unless the labeling rules are repealed, virtually all Canadian livestock producer groups and provincial governments who benefit from cross-border cattle and hog trade applauded the federal government’s swift action.

Conlin and Wynne

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (right) spending some time with cattle (file photo)

With one exception, it seems. While other premiers and ag ministers were welcoming the federal government’s threat of trade retaliation, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s comments stood out from the rest. Speaking from Washington on CTV yesterday, Wynne said she was “surprised the federal government would come out so quickly.”

“The ruling just came down yesterday. My position would be ‘let’s give the States a little bit of time to put in place legislation. Let’s assume that they’re going to abide by the ruling so we can foster that good relationship,'” Wynne told CTV Powerplay host Don Martin. (watch her comments here, at the 4:00 mark)

There’s been no shortage of Wynne-bashing in Canadian agriculture lately, so maybe this is just adding to the pile-on, but those comments won’t earn her any votes in the Canadian livestock crowd. Really, they’re a slap in the face for producers hurt by the discriminatory labeling rules. The U.S. needs more time? Really? Canadian producers haven’t lost enough money?

The federal government and Canadian livestock groups, including many producers in her province, have been fighting to end COOL through the WTO since 2009. Canada has expressed its opposition to COOL in less formal bilateral forums since the labeling requirements were first proposed for the 2002 Farm Bill. That’s over 13 years ago!

And a list of U.S. products that could face retaliatory tariffs coming into Canada was widely publicized in 2013, so the promise of retaliation did not come as a surprise to anybody in Washington on Monday. They’ve had plenty of time to begin abiding by the rules. Talk to any cattle or hog producer who has seen the value of their animals discounted since 2009 because they were born in Canada and they’ll ask why it has taken this long.

So why would Wynne say something like this? It’s difficult to come up with any excuse other than her and the people who brief her have not been paying attention to the impact COOL has had on Canada’s livestock sector.

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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