West whips up Quebec trade battle over dessert toppings, other oilseed products

Saskatchewan accuses Quebec of imposing improper trade barrier

REGINA – The Western provinces are whipping up a trade battle with Quebec over dessert toppings and other products made by oilseed producers.

Saskatchewan says it is challenging Quebec’s restrictions that prevent certain margarine, coffee whiteners and dessert toppings from being sold in the Quebec market.

The challenge is to be heard Jan. 8 in Quebec City by a dispute resolution panel under the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade.

Saskatchewan’s challenge is being supported by the governments of Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.

A ruling by the panel is expected by the end of March.

Saskatchewan Trade Minister Tim McMillan said Quebec’s trade restrictions are illegal under rules that prohibit governments from creating barriers to interprovincial trade.

“Saskatchewan believes in free trade, and our government is committed to knocking down barriers that harm our farmers,” McMillan said in a release Monday.

Statistics Canada said the 2013 canola harvest in mainly Western Canada reached nearly 18 million tonnes — the second record-breaking canola crop in three years.

Other oilseeds produced in Canada include soybeans, sunflowers and flax.

Sean McPhee, president of the Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada, said oilseed producers support the trade challenge.

“Our members look forward to the time when vegetable oil-based alternatives to dairy products can be manufactured and sold in all parts of Canada,” he said.

Quebec’s dairy industry organization, the Federation des producteurs de lait du Quebec, estimates its members make more than 42 per cent of Canada’s dairy products.