Martha Hall Findlay Maverick Watch


Perhaps on the eve of another leadership run, former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay calls for an end to supply management.

Dairy farms are governed by a byzantine system that prices milk based on intended usage, locks out most foreign products with exorbitantly high tariffs and even determines how much farmers can produce. Everyone suffers. First in the line of people harmed by supply management are consumers – Canadians are forced to pay two to three times as much for whole milk as Americans.

It is simply untenable that Canadian families pay upwards of $300 more a year than they need to, for milk alone, let alone higher prices for other products like cheese, yogourt and ice cream, to subsidize a tiny number of relatively well-off farmers. Worse, it’s regressive, which means that the ones who suffer most are the low-income families – the very ones who most need affordable access to nutrition. Many others, including processors and restaurants, have been calling to an end to supply management for years.

Kate Heartfield cheers. Mike Moffatt sees an opportunity.


Martha Hall Findlay Maverick Watch

  1. Farmers don’t vote Liberal anymore anyway, I guess.

    • No longer a worry for Libs

  2. I have noticed Francos in France and Que seem to revere farmers/farming much more so than other countries do. Meddling with supply management will probably cost party votes in Que but surely electorate elsewhere would appreciate cheaper, and wider selection, of dairy products.

    Much of Canadian business is supply managed by government in way or another through subsidies, tariffs, tax breaks, bailouts – how about Liberal party that is against all types of supply management and not just people worried about poor selection of cheese at their grocers.

    Trudeau admin put supply management into place, dismantling one of PET’s programs will not be warmly received by many Libs.

  3. Well, of course. She is proudly paid by the U of C these days. It works
    by osmosis. What else would she say ?

    • And the U of C is an unmitigated nest of evil, as all progressive people know.

      • Still just the one device eh Bean?

        • So you agree with BGLong that the U of C is a malignant entity and that anyone associated with it is ispo facto suspect? Wasn’t that the obvious upshot of BGLong’s comment?

          • it ain’t doing any favours for itself. I;m sure a lot of decent basic scholarship goes on there but when Brodie and Morton become associated with your name you’re not going to get the best rep.

          • I assumed he was referring to the ‘Calgary School’, the unofficial faculty which has turned out the likes of Danielle Smith and Ezra Levant. It’s done a lot of damage to the university’s reputation. My favourite cousin, who is originally from Saskatchewan, and has been in the business faculty for 30 years complains about them. He is what I consider to be conservative, but in the old fashioned sense – he has little use for the Reformers.

          • You people should get your facts straight. Hall Findlay’s study on supply management was written for the Jack Mintz School of Public Policy at U of C. That has nothing to do with the so-called “Calgary School” thinkers. Check out Jack Mintz’s resume, for Christ’s sake. The guy is hardly some hard-right ideologue. He’s one of Canada’s leading tax policy experts, and spent a good deal of time at the CD Howe Institute (you know, C.D. Howe, the Liberal Party icon and all).
            In any event, re the actual “Calgary School”, I love your (and your cousin’s) attitude — God forbid that we should have diversity of opinion in Canadian academia.

      • You used to have interesting things to say, now it’s all lazy sarcasm. What gives, OrsonBean?

  4. Good for MHF, and hope she runs for the leadership. I thought she was the bright light amongst the last batch of leadership aspirants and was sorry to see that she didn’t do better.

  5. An obvious easy target for a potential Lib leadership candidate. I guess in keeping with the Liberal party facts are far and few between as they continue their attack on the Canadian farmer. How about taking on the price of oil or is that too close to her own back pocket.

    • The price of oil is set by market forces, at least compared to what happens via supply management. It is neither subsidized for consumers, nor is it artificially high (unless you’re advocating cutting gas taxes, which I thought these days would be considered a bit questionable from an environmental perspective).
      Anyway, congratulations, you get today’s false equilvanency award.

    • She’s not speaking for the Liberal party, they still support SM. Her point is that no party, no matter whether they believe in it or not, dares take the political risk of taking on the dairy lobby.

      • … as per Jeffrey Simpson’s column in today’s Globe & Mail, which I found a rather depressing read.

  6. canadians would never accept a 150-300% markup on pop or potato chips – there’s no way we should on milk and cheese. I could vote Liberal for that especially if I was unimpressed by the Conservative campaign.

    I worked on an average size dairy and one of the uncles is worth 2 mill thanks to buying some land before a value jump… and even if it were important to subsidize dairy owners it shouldn’t be done off the backs of direct consumers through quotas and tariffs.

  7. Sorry Martha…..Id rather pay more for my milk and cheese and have family farmers have a decent living…..or do we want to go back to the days of dairy farmers struggling, and pouring milk down the drain to keep prices at least to the point where they could break even…..No I’ll support quotas, and management to allow the family dairy farm to thrive…..I dont want huge agribusinesses providing my milk…..its bad enough its processed by mainly one company already. Next thing theyll be allowing bovine growth hormone like they do in the states because the “big boys” want it……Anyone ever tasted American supermarket cheddar cheese, anyways?…..aside from Tillamook(which doesnt use bovine growth hormone milk) its, by and large, crap……

    • Enough of the faux sentiment. This isn’t an attack on dairy farmers, this is about righting the inequity between the supply managed sectors and beef/pork/horticulture/etc. They HAVE been struggling for years, and are looking for improved access to foreign markets, which they can’t get, because we can’t negotiate trade agreements, because supply management remains a non-starter.

      Call it like it is, this isn’t politicians against farmers, this is well-off dairy farmers against disadvantaged farmers in the other sectors.

      • What if we took subsidies off the table? After all, they’re an issue between a government and it’s citizens. If a nations citizens are willing to spend their tax dollars supporting some specific industry, isn’t that their business?

        If other nations want to compete, they can provide similar subsidies on their end.

        Free trade should really just be about ensuring no taxes are put on any products that are imported if we produce and sell the same products locally.

        Let nations subsidize the hell out of an industry if they want, and then let that industry sell those products cheaper in other countries. That basically gives the consumers in the other country an advantage paid for by the subsidizing nations tax dollars. How is that a bad thing?

        That way, instead of a race to the bottom, where economies of scale will dictate monopoly power and corporatism, we get a race to the top, where public will dictates successful production and democracy.

        • “Let nations subsidize the hell out of an industry if they want, and then let that industry sell those products cheaper in other countries. That basically gives the consumers in the other country an advantage paid for by the subsidizing nations tax dollars. How is that a bad thing?”
          How is that a bad thing? Suppose we have Canada and Australia. Suppose after dropping supply management, Canada instead massively subsidizes dairy production such than Canadian milk is cheaper than Australian milk.
          What happens? Two things happen to Canada:
          1) By exporting cheap milk to Australia, Canada is essentially subsidizing Australia’s improved cost of living. Why is this smart on the Canadian government’s part?
          2) By subsidizing milk production, the Canadian gov’t is skewing production towards dairy, when perhaps in the absence of subsidies Canada may have a comparative advantage in other sectors (e.g. pork) that may be a more efficient use of resources. Again, not smart policy. We are moving the markets away from the most competitive equilibrium.

          • Either to subsidize or to concentrate in other markets. Yes. Again.. your point? Either way, the consumers of the products are the ones who benefit, and the subsidies only last so long as the taxpayers are willing to provide them.

            Banning subsidies and taxation simply means that the guy who gets biggest fastest is the one who’ll control the supply. The public gets no say as to whether they want a local market or not.

          • I’m speaking as someone with a background in economics.
            You seem to be speaking as someone with a poli-sci bent.
            There’s a reason they usually put us on different floors of the social science faculty buildings. :)

          • I understand the economics of what you’re suggesting just fine.
            I just don’t see the problem.

          • As you can see in this scenario, if Canada subsidizes, Australia’s best response (in the choice of to subsidize or not) is to subsidize Australian production in retaliation, bringing the same effects on the Australian market.
            I’ve basically boiled down 100 years of agricultural policy in the last couple paragraphs. The TPP and other world trade negotiations (e.g. Doha round) are trying to undo hundreds of similar examples of what I’ve just described. It’s difficult because it’s a Prisoner’s Dilemma – if either country reneges and implements subsidies, the other country’s best move is to also subsidize.

          • Disqus did some weird things here.. my first response in this thread was supposed to be down here.

            That said, I was under the assumption that various trade negotiation rounds were primarily about duties and taxes being applied to products. I’m absolutely on board with eliminating those. Country of origin is no reason to increase costs to the consumer.

    • Even if dairies should be subsidized doing it by doubling or tripling the cost of milk with the quota – putting it out of the price range of people and their kids who really need it is insane.

      • This I agree with. Subsidies should be direct. They should flow directly from the government to the producers, not be ways to force the consumers of the product to pay more than competition would dictate.

  8. I think I understand the original purpose of having supply restriction in dairy products, where prices can fluctuate quickly and both the end product and the capital goods are perishable.
    But couldn’t this be solved with a mix of insurance and the ability to hedge? Could a futures market for dairy exist in Canada?
    I know that we don’t currently expect dairy farmers to manage these risks, but is that a reasonble situation?

    • I’m not sure you can insure yourself against business losses from price changes in most siutations. If it is true that more production would decrease the price until farming became unsustainable, then that is what would happen.

      • What you say does make sense. I guess I thought one would hedge against losses (by shorting milk) and then insure the cows and capital equipment, not the losses.

        • If rapid price fluctuation was the problem, then yes, that sounds like it’d be a reasonable strategy. However, I think the problem is more that mass production of milk and increased technologies have brought the actual per unit cost of production down so low that most farmers simply don’t have the capital to get the machinery/herd sizes that would let them be profitable.

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