Most of us learned early that you need to keep your promises if you want to be trusted.
In politics, however, promises are rarely kept; instead, they’re wiggled out of, often after an election, giving politicians a terrible reputation in the trust department.
In the last several years, supply management has not prevented Canada negotiating trade deals, but instead has been used as negotiating leverage to gain ground in other areas and close deals. CETA, CPTPP and USMCA (CUSMA) all involved Canada providing dairy market access to trading partners. According to the DFC, 18 per cent of dairy products in Canada are from imports. The last two prime ministers of Canada negotiated away this dairy market access, promising compensation to Canadian dairy farmers for that lost market.
The government should keep its promise and immediately outline how the full trade compensation will roll out, right? Not necessarily. (Story continues below)
Now, I am not a fan of governments using COVID-19 as a catch-all excuse for avoiding doing things it doesn’t really want to do, but in this case I feel delaying the payout is warranted.
From an overall Canadian economic perspective, there are many industries other than agriculture that are struggling to hold themselves together. Whether it is airports, airlines, restaurants, hotels, or small business, the economic climate is terrible right now, and without government support many stakeholders are unbankable and will be insolvent.
Within agriculture, dairy is not the leading struggling sector, either, though the DFC did make it clear that this ask is about what was promised in trade deal compensation, not because of any losses due to COVID-19. Still, the promised compensation is not do or die for the dairy industry, and the government has so many other things to pay for right now.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Chrystia Freeland was involved in the negotiation of CETA, CPTP, and USMCA as trade minister or as the U.S. relations point person. She’s now the finance minister charged with writing the cheques related to the market access she was a part of negotiating away, which perhaps does work in dairy farmers’ favour.
Although the Canadian government has been spending money like it’s growing on trees to support certain sectors, it may be a good idea for the dairy lobby to just sit tight. The government will have to deliver on its promises regarding the permanent trade impacts, but I think that time is not now. A promise made is a promise kept, yes; but just not right now.