The hidden cost of food packaging deregulation?

Some in Essex County are concerned that the local food industry will suffer as a result of the Harper government’s decision to deregulate food packaging.

A move by the federal government to deregulate the size of packaged food will devastate the fruit and vegetable processing industry in Essex County, jeopardize 5,000 jobs and threaten the survival of small farms, politicians and industry officials are warning. Industry officials fear the Canadian market would be inundated with U.S.-produced food, forcing Canadian manufacturers to invest millions to retool factories to produce U.S.-size packages. Since most of the factories are owned by American parent companies, few will make the investment since U.S. factories have capacity to supply the Canadian market with U.S.-made food, experts say.

“For a company like Heinz or Campbell’s, if tomorrow morning we change packaging laws, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shut the Canadian plants down,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a University of Guelph professor in the College of Management and Economics. “Why would you keep them if you can produce the same product in the U.S. for half the price?”




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The hidden cost of food packaging deregulation?

  1. 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters:

    1) Anti Market Bias – I first learned about farm price supports in the produce section of the grocery store. I was in kindergarten. My mother explained that price supports seemed to make fruits and vegetables more expensive but assured me that this conclusion was simplistic. If the supports went away, so many farms would go out of business that prices would soon be higher than ever. I accepted what she told me and felt a lingering sense that price competition is bad for buyer and seller alike.This was one of my first memorable encounters with anti-market bias, a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of the market mechanism.

    2) Make Work Bias – the public often literally believes that labor is better to use than conserve. Saving labor, producing more goods with fewer man-hours, is widely perceived not as progress but as a danger. I call this the make-work bias, a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of conserving labor. Where non-economists see the destruction of jobs, economists see the essence of economic growth: the production of more with less.

    http://reason.com/archives/2007/09/26/the-4-boneheaded-biases-of-stu

    • So does this mean you’d happily pay less for goods made in off-shore sweatshops because the dictates of the vaunted market say they’re “more efficient”?

      • I do believe that’s EXACTLY what he is saying. Moreover, he somehow thinks this exporting of jobs is good for the Canadian economy…

      • Pittsburgh is shabby area, I agree, but it hardly can be described as off-shore sweatshop. Canadian jobs moving to America tells us that Canadian costs are too high.

        Also, buying products from third world countries is best way to spread the wealth from rich countries to poor. There are lots of dire jobs in third world, I understand that, but the only way to get wealthy and improve your lot in life is to start producing things. Sweatshop jobs are popular in third world because they are better than what currently exists in those countries. Jobs in third world countries will allow people to create wealth, improve their lot in life, and create better conditions for their children.

        • A new wrinkle on the old trickle-down bag of myths. Apparently you market freebooters can rationalize just about anything.

        • Especially if their children are working alongside them, sewing your Nikes or assembling your iPhone.

          “Arbeit macht frei”, v. 2.0?

        • Actually, many sweatshop jobs aren’t actually popular in third world countries. However they get taken because the people in their villages get lied to about what’s going to happen when they get on the bus. Then they get to the city, separated from everybody they know and any way of making any sort of living other than the sweatshop.

          Oh, they’re still free to leave and, with no way back to their community, starve if they like. But since, for some unfathomable reason, not very many choose starvation, we assume it’s because conditions are better for them there then they were at home.

    • Regarding the make work bias, your suggestion that conserving labour is the correct goal for society makes perfect sense to me, just as we try to conserve energy and other resources. Any labour that has been idled is of course available to be put to use somewhere else, making some other valuable product or providing some other valuable service.

      But there easily could be a lengthy period of idleness between the time that a unit of labour produces that last widget and produces that first thing-a-ma-jig, and in some cases a particular unit of labour (eg a 59 year old buggy-whip maker) might never be put to use.

      What does society/the economy do with that worker? That is my concern. And just to be clear, I’m not at all suggesting that existing jobs/man-hours need to be protected at all costs, just that there is a difference between a lump of coal and a worker, and we need to think about how to transition a worker from a falling demand job to an increasing demand job.

      What are your thoughts regarding how society helps labour make these necessary transitions?

      • I am big fan of guaranteed income – I think all underclasses, working poor and stay at home moms should have certain level of money regardless of their circumstances. Western world is moving into knowledge economy and that’s fine for people who were lucky to be born with decent brain but many others don’t have a chance in modern world. I am fan of globalization because it spreads wealth around world but we have duty of care to people who’s jobs we have shipped overseas.

        Also, North American unions have much to answer for and they are doing disservice to people they are supposedly serving. Unions in Asia and Europe work with management and keep working classes in jobs – particularly in Germany and Japan – but here in North America union officials think of management as enemy. It is ridiculous how many jobs Canada has lost just because unions are demanding more perks than company can afford.

        • The majority have a standard IQ of 100 ….what many don’t have is education.

          • a) Aside from the fact that you have an IQ of about 28, do you actually look in the mirror when you talk to yourself?

        • I’m open to this guaranteed annual income idea.

          Perhaps if it was coupled up with some freer trade/less regulation initiatives it could get broad support from left and right.

          My only quibble would be with your characterization of the union/management relationship in NA – agree that it is much more confrontational here than in (eg) Europe, but I’m fairly confident that NA management (perhaps enabled by righter wing governments in NA) should be allocated at least some of the blame for this situation. Too bad, IMO.

          Thanks.

    • Just imagine you learning about price supports when you were in kindergarten. You were a knowing little basket weren’t you?

      And your mother must have been as goofy as you are. Did she ever take you over by the carrots and tell you about the birds and the bees?

  2. More boneheaded ideology from the Harper Cons that is doomed to failure.

    The economy was saved by moves the Liberals made: fiscal responsibility and banking regulation while in power; demand for a stimulus package while in opposition. Since Harper has taken control, he has squandered the advantages left him and the economy is beginning to unravel.

    It’s an utter fallacy that right-wing ideologues are good economic managers. It’s nothing more than a sales pitch cooked up by sleazy con men.

    • Other utter fallacies: That the Liberals aren’t also right-wing, and that their cutting of transfers to provinces, felt to this day in most, was really such a great move. For that matter, the theft of $56 Billion from Canada’s workers through the EI surplus does not a “good economic manager” make.

      • That’s all nonsense. The Liberals cut back transfers for a couple years in the mid-1990s. But they restored them and brought in the Canada Health Transfers which guaranteed 6% health care spending growth over 10 years. Harper unilaterally killed this program and cut these transfers in half. So the provinces did very well under the Liberals.

        Harper is also the one who stole $54B from the EI fund. The reality is the EI fund was always part of the government budget. In 1993, the Liberals inherited a $10B EI deficit (then UI) which added $10B to the debt. They cut benefits and the fund grew to $56B by 2008 (largely because there was no recession for 15 years.)

        In 2008, Harper decided to make the EI fund separate from the budget. But instead of putting in the $56B workers paid into the fund, he only put in $2B — robbing workers of $54B!

        Soon after the recession hit and the fund went into a $14B deficit. Since then Harper has been raising EI taxes and cutting EI benefits. If he hadn’t stolen the money, the EI fund will still be in a $40B surplus.

        • I see you’ve got Justin’s junk firmly planted in your windpipe, so let’s just leave it there. Kthxbai.

          • Typical Con man response: resorting to sleaze when his position is blown out of the water.

          • Ron, the day you blow somebody out of the water will be the day they play hockey on a frozen pond in hell. You are incredibly selective in your (ab)use of statistics. And your partisanship is tattooed on your glutes.

          • Con cranks are such ignoramuses. I point out facts; they parrot it’s cherry-picking and partisan, yet they have nothing to back up their own position. As Andrew Coyne pointed out, it’s a know-nothing strain of conservatism…

          • Yes Ron, like all lefty partisans, you repeatedly point out how intellectually superior you are to all conservatives. I’m sure you pat yourself on the back on a regular basis.

          • For one, I’m a centrist Keynesian (Nixon, Diefenbaker were Keynesian, BTW.) Second, I’m not saying all conservatives are boneheads, just the fanatical Archie-Bunker types…

  3. Will the “US packaged food” be in both official languages?

    • Should be in at least 4.

      • What’s the official name of the fantastic gibberish you attempt to converse with?
        It’s not Udmurt is it?

        • You were the pathetic fake Emily, weren’t you?

          I mean, that’s really the only reason I can see for your continued obsession with nothing but personal attacks against her.

          • Tis The Sot as well.

          • Ah Emily, has Thwim ever told you that he actually never learned to thwim and also that he’s related to Lethter B Pearthon.

            Now, in your erudite opinion, would lithping talk like that of Lethter and Thwim, constitute one of your four (4) official languages for packaging purposes?

  4. Sounds like a prelude to ending supply management.

    • New Zealand ended supply management but the savings were not passed on to consumers. The reason? Since demand remains the same, so do prices. It’s the same thing which happened when there were cases of mad cow disease that killed beef exports. One would’ve expected the price of beef to drop in Canada. But it didn’t.

      Same thing is happening with the overvalued dollar. It increased purchasing power, which increased demand which canceled out any benefit. That’s why goods in Canada are still more expensive than ones in America even though the dollar is at parity. Subsequently, when the dollar sunk below 65 cents in 2002, this didn’t cause a sharp increase in prices. Inflation at the time was 1%.

    • This is an interesting point. Certainly if the intent was to remove supply management this would be a necessary step in that direction. It has the potential to increase competition within some sectors however it should also not be overlooked that many sectors already have this same competition now so in some respects it levels the playing field. From my perspective this will potentially benefit consumers but I can certainly understand the concern from some producers.

      One thing about business – nobody really likes competition getting in the way of profits and more so from a lucrative protected market.

      • Ahhh but the votes. Thousands of jobs are at stake, and that’s what usually makes the difference…..we’ll see if it holds true this time given our fragile economy.

        • Yes the votes….the sole reason why supply management continues to exist in Canada. Hence why my inner Liberal supports Martha Hall Findlay…

          • Yeah, she’s the only one with that policy. Garneau is telecom, Trudeau is pot…..I’d like all 3 in the one candidate, but…..

          • So far Garneau has been a bust. Trudeau effectively demonstrates the effect of “star power” and Martha has been somewhat drowned out. I am hoping to hear more for Martha and likely Garneau will come on stronger once he hit’s his stride. Tough to overcome the Trudeau factor though.

          • Well to get over that Justin ‘star power’ any other candidate is going to have to have some very splashy policies….something big, that everyone is immediately going to like. And while I personally like the supply management and telecom policies…..they aren’t exactly ‘grabbers’ to the public at large.

            I like ‘vision’ as a good start….and I didn’t think ‘vision’ would be a difficult thing to talk about….but so far all I’ve seen is boring.

          • That is the problem for Garneau, Hall-Findlay et all. Trudeau packs the House simply for showing up, says nothing, and get’s headlines. Garneau we are told wears a purple tie, and even Hall Findlay threats to raise the GST get barely a mention. Team Martha really has to wonder what it takes.

            I do agree with you about a “grabber” policy – but easier said then done.

          • Yes, how many other countries have an astronaut running for PM?? And a woman PM….again unusual, at least for the west.

            Trudeau’s policies are stodgy old things thus far….nothing in keeping with his age….yet he gets all the coverage.

            So far…totally boring.

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