NAFTA: Will Quebec's Pontiac region get milk - - or milked?

Posted 9.19.17

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Do the Rohingya refugees affect your life? Do the hurricanes sweeping the Islands and Florida? Do Trump's daily antics? Does Korea?

So why are these our headlines? Why are ordinary Pontiac people talking about these, (granted, they offend our values and sympathies)? Meanwhile Canada is re-negotiating the NAFTA pact with the US and Mexico, and this "revision" will directly harm - - or help - - the Pontiac. Is NAFTA not news because Canada's farm supply-management system is not high on Ottawa's priority list?

Hey, folks, the Pontiac is where diary farming is essential (given our near-nonexistent economy). It's our future, our food supply, and our personal health.

There are other newsworthy NAFTA issues, of course. Protecting our fresh water, and NAFTA's "investor rights" powers slam the heart of our democracy. To allow corporations the right to sue us, our government, because our laws hinder their profit-making is not only cynical, it is anti-democratic. Individuals cannot do this, so this puts corporations above citizens. It is contrary to the rule of law and to the value of our judiciary. This "right to sue us" means corporations can sidestep environmental, safety, and labour laws. Canada is the most-sued nation on Earth, thanks to these 'trade' provisions. Investor powers must be limited, not strengthened.

But farm market-supply system(s) are the US target. Trump repeats them. Our own financial/corporate sector (hardly "ours", these multinational corporations) is also hostile to supply management - - it's a deal-maker they can throw to Trump to get concessions that benefit themselves.

\Canada’s history tells us that supply management has been positive for the whole country: higher-quality and fresher food, stable prices, steady supplies. Supply-management has been positive for not only for our households, but for farmers and their communities (us), for the diary industry and manufacturers, for distributors and stores. It angers US corporations whose products are restricted at our borders.

Before supply-management, the dairy industry was a roller-coaster of over-production and shortages, start-ups and failures, high prices and low demand, low prices and shortages - - ups and downs of business cycles. Farmers got together with processors and government and hammered out a system whereby milk producers are granted production quotas (which they can buy and sell on a free market) based on the goal of supplying a steady stream of milk. This aided producers by eliminating the boom-and-bust cycles, consumers by creating stable prices, and aided the second level of agriculture: banks, insurance, equipment suppliers, breeders, researchers, etc. Provincial governments were freed of bail-out subsidies, and could focus on research to improve buildings, breeding, feeds, etc. Governments could set standard health rules and limit additives. Benefits all around.

In opposition to this, think of industrial-scale, warm-weather (lower costs) farms in the US, supported by pork-barrel subsidies, who use chemicals to boost production with minimal health checks, many owned by investment firms. These are Trump's allies. The UPA and National Farmers Union have characterized NAFTA as not a trade deal but "a set of rules that limit governments, and empower corporations."

Our NAFTA worries should be put to our MP, Will Amos, during his public consultations. A government which shuts down supply-management does not deserve our support, even if many farm families have been Liberal for generations.

\We Pontiacers must insist our government - - and our MP - - protect supply management, no 'ifs', 'ands' or 'maybes'. We have to insist on protecting our rural communities and our families' health, nothing less. Otherwise, what are we, just pawns in a game played far away?


Copyright © 2017 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/9.17