Six years ago I walked down the steps of Parliament Hill in Ottawa with one thing in mind. I’d just lead two farm rallies, the 2 previous days. The 1st one was with 10,000 farmers in front of me and the 2nd rally was the next day where a few people left over listened to a few speeches on the Parliament steps. As I descended the steps that day, all I wanted to do was drive the 9 hours home and get my 2006 crop in the ground.
At the time the price of corn was about $2.30/bu. Soybeans were sub $6 and you might wonder why I was looking forward to planting a crop. Needless to say, nobody that was there could envision the great bull markets that were before us. We had been protesting for a Canadian agricultural safety net policy, which works. We never got that and today in 2012 I would argue that it is still needed but regrettably it is so far off the radar screen it’s pitiful.
Some of you may feel there is a tremendous dichotomy between then and now. I would agree with you if you feel that way. The last 5 years have been so mind numbingly different than turn-of-the-century agricultural pricing, a safety net policy for Canadian agriculture seems so retro. We have simply transcended into a new reality, which is so difficult for many of us to get used to. For those of you who had the vision to see this coming, I commend you. I did not. So we move on.
It is been such an interesting journey and one that I believe is changing right before our eyes in 2012. This past weekend, Canadians learned they would be joining negotiations to be included in the Transpacific Partnership, an organization composed of the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. With the inclusion of Japan and Mexico going forward, it certainly has some potential to benefit the Canadian economy. The only problem is we have been denied an invitation to this group over the last several years because we would not give up Canadian supply management on a plate to get in the negotiations. That all changed this past weekend. You might expect US and New Zealand ice cream on your shelves by Christmas of 2013.
Is that day here? No, it isn’t and hopefully it’ll never get here. However, when I was standing in front of 10,000 Canadian farmers on April 5, 2006, I couldn’t imagine the Canadian supply management system being negotiated away. In front of me were at least 6000 Québec dairy farmers protesting for a better safety net for all Canadian farmers. With the changing political environment in Canada, the specter to give up parts of our supply management system, which benefits so many dairy and poultry producers, is here. I believe it’s coming and coming fast. The Canadian supply managed agricultural sector is about to be bargained away. I can hardly believe it.
Of course our government is saying that this is not the case. However, I believe it’s all code, for in fact it is the case. There will surely be much gnashing of teeth regarding this policy and it surely may end up in front of Parliament Hill like it did for another fight 6 years ago. However, if it comes to that, Québec farmers will do it in a much bigger way and if they need me there, I’ll gladly show up.
What we have is a Canadian agricultural policy being driven by people that have a vision of skewed globalization. I don’t want ice cream from New Zealand, the United States or China. Of course nobody asked me my opinion and that is normal. Our agriculture minister Gerry Ritz is totally not a friend to Eastern Canadian agriculture and his policy reflects that. The conservatives will pay dearly at the polls in rural Ontario and Québec next time around for this mistake. However, maybe they have done the math and it doesn’t matter.
This is the real deal. I have put my opinion out on twitter regarding this and you can see that people simply do not want to believe it. They are setting up to fight the federal government, but you can tell they’re like deer in the headlights, hardly believing what is being said.
So the stage is set. I left the microphone 6 years ago in front of the Parliament Building. I tried as hard as I could that day to give us a voice. However, with Canada’s entry into negotiations for the transpacific, the baton is being passed. The next voices you will hear on Parliament Hill decrying the dismantling of Canadian supply management will be French Canadian voices. It’ll be a war and the sad part is the federal government can’t even see it comings.