Bernier makes supply management an issue

The future of Canada’s supply management system for milk, eggs and poultry has been thrust onto the national political agenda like never before by leading candidate for the Conservative party leadership, Maxime Bernier.
Bernier is calling for the abolition of the system after a new levy on dairy products builds up enough funds to reimburse farmers for the investment they have made in quota.
Bernier isn’t the first leadership candidate for a major party to advocate dismantling supply management. Martha Hall Findlay, a candidate in the last Liberal leadership contents was a vociferous advocate for the end of supply management. She still is, as president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation. Hall Findlay finished a distant third to Justin Trudeau’s landslide win, but Bernier is considered one of the leaders of the Conservative contest.
It’s not surprising that Bernier, a Member of Parliament from Quebec, would target supply management. His policies are based on classical libertarian economics. He’s calling for flat taxes, reduction in government and so a system like supply management would be challenging for him to accept.
Dairy farmers, however, are unimpressed with the way that Bernier is portraying their pricing and themselves.
“When he starts, the guy in the $1000 suit, and tells me I’m a millionaire and part of a cartel… anyone can tell you how hard to it is to make payments when you started,” says Mike Bechtel, who dairy farms between Cambridge and Guelph. “We’re a long way from being millionaires.”
Bechtel is like other dairy farmers who have taken out Conservative party memberships in order to vote for someone other than Bernier.
Bernier has called these one-issue members “fake” Conservatives, which is something that dairy farmers like Pete Van Hemert of Belmont, Ont., who have taken out a Conservative party membership, find insulting.
Although he has never been a member of a political party before, Van Hemert says “I consider myself a Conservative. I’ve always voted conservative.
“He’s made it awfully public against supply management and ran us down the tube a lot of times.”
Bruce Sargent is concerned with Bernier’s description of supply management in his speeches and on social media. Sargent, the son of dairy farmers, who runs the video production company FarmBoy Productions, questioned Bernier on his ideas around supply management at a Bernier open house in Guelph, Ont.
Bernier says Canadians are paying two to three times the price of milk that they can buy across the border in the United States and as such, they will save $500 per year. Sargent says Bernier is picking and choosing numbers for his story, as larger research projects, such as the Nielsen Fresh Milk Price Report that shows at the end of November 2016 Canadian average milk price in between the commodity U.S. milk price and the milk price paid for no-added-hormones and antibiotic-free milk in the U.S. The Canadian price is also in the middle of the pack of a list of 13 countries. Sargent points to the fact that large supermarkets in the U.S. sell milk as a loss-leader, especially in the border areas in order to attract Canadians.
“You have stats, but I have the reality,” Bernier told Sargent. “You cross the border, you will see that a litre of milk will be half the price. I can prove that. It’s easy.”
The exchanges in the videos from the event show the broad philosophical gulf between supply management farmers and those opposing the system.
The difference versus past debates is that Maxime Bernier is a leading candidate for the Conservative leadership with the eventual potential power to make the changes.
Bernier also doesn’t believe that dairy and poultry and egg farmers have enough political clout anymore to make a difference.
“In my riding I have 5000 people under supply management,” he said at the Guelph meeting. (In the 2015 election) “I won with 60 per cent of the vote. Maybe half of them didn’t vote for me. Maybe I lost 3000 votes. But I will gain more vote with the population because they know they can cross the border from Beauce to Jackson, Maine in the U.S. and they do their grocery every weekend.”
Where farmers could have in influence is in the leadership voting process, where each riding gets equal weighting in voting for a new leader. In some ridings with few members, supply management farmers could have influence. What could work against dairy farmers is the fact that there are 14 candidates still running for leader and splitting their vote among the 14 will mean little impact.
That’s a concern for Bechtel who has been discussing voting strategically with colleagues and on Twitter. Not only he, but other family members have joined the Conservatives.
There have also been some farmers who have reportedly signed up to support Bernier due to his stance against supply management, but they aren’t being as public about it.
In order to vote for leader, a Conservative party membership needs to be purchased by March 28.


  • James

    I think every farmer not in SM should join and vote Bernier let’s level the playing field. Maybe this would give younger farmers a chance to get into the industry or diversify. SM was to protect small family farms but it no longer does instead it stops the start up of small family farms. James M

    • baergy

      It never did help in the slightest it merely monopolized the manufacture and production of the Dairy Industry. I was personally a victim of supply management, shutting down our 2 year old 40 cow herd and forcing me to move to the city for a livelihood.

      • Stephen Daniels

        Supply management has nothing to do with rules regarding natural milk sales .That’s what you were a victim of.

    • Bruce Sargent

      James – the average dairy farm size in canada is 70 milking cows. The average in USA is almost triple and there are over 100 heard that are over 10K milking.

      Taking and eye for an eye makes the world blind. Then entire farming community need to stand together against Bernier. His ignorance towards SM will is the start. He has proven to ignore facts and do what he wants regardless of the outcome. Who knows what damage he could do to the ag sector as a whole.

      I would never wish harm on a fellow farmer. Wishing for the end of SM will harm 100 000’s of people.

  • baergy

    In an open market, the number of dairy farms could triple. Per Capita Dairy consumption has been reduced by 70% since the 1930’s due solely to increased prices and government regulation. Canada was always a net exporter of Dairy products until the introduction of supply management in the late 1960’s . By the mid 1970’s we became a net IMPORTER of dairy products.

    • Stephen Daniels

      That’s ridiculous.There is no way Canadian diary farmers can compete with dairies that don’t have winter and the costs associated with it plus cheap labour.Canada would have the same number of diaries as we have farms that produce oranges now.

    • Harold

      Before and during the early 60’s, we had milk, butter, and such, delivered door to door by our “milk man” and house’s had built in access compartment’s to receive those dairy products, leaving the home owner undisturbed during early hour delivery. Back then, milk would sour if it wasn’t used in about a week’s time, and the product came from a large local dairy employing many staff. Later when greed disguised as progress figured out a way to effectively “kill the Milk” enough to keep dairy on the shelf for a month or so, jobs and many Dairy’s disappeared. The health benefits of live milk were exchanged for the profits of dead milk. (i quit drinking milk but use dead organic milk for cooking; can’t buy from farmer) To keep the “faith”, the greedy lobbied the government to ensure that the consumer, or a private dairy, could not direct buy from a dairy farmer, and therefore effectively closing any open market. The public were fed lie upon lie and fears upon fears and the government and corporate then gained public support. All Dairy farmers are under the strict rules of servitude to the industry, but in doing so, it is consent, and they do not know that in turn, they are denying themselves their lawful right to contract with whomever they please. What the people, (farmers) have consented to is written into full force of the Legal system, and the removal of any or all of the writings and their force, is removed by the much simpler and easy to understand lawful system. (very different systems; untaught in schools although simple to understand 8-12) Lawfully, (law system) the government cannot at anytime interfere with any contracts between private parties. Consent to allow the government to interfere in a contract between private individuals, is written into the legal system. Lawful withdraw of consent removes the interference and its force. (Petition/Referendum; public fail only when they do not properly and lawfully execute) Any wonder why this is not taught in our government run school systems. ( I know!; what I said must be BS!; I haven’t heard that one before therefore it must not exist!) Nonetheless, the simple nature of Milk and other Dairy products are now treated akin to the handling of a narcotic if you get on the wrong side of corporate friendly regulations. All consent should come from a unified union of Dairy farmers and everything else is totally unacceptable. You would see your open market and Dairy farmer prosperity. Who has to do it?

      • baergy

        Exactly, Harold.
        Except that by 1950, no company was selling raw milk. I was able to buy raw milk here in Kimberley, BC by going out to the farm until the mid 1990’s! No one yet has successfully prevented a person from buying “illegal” milk through the courts; only by coercion and threat.

        • Harold

          Thank you for your comment. I know that you yourself are the evidence of the health and safety benefits of raw milk. While growing up we had occasion to experience raw milk until the Farm we visited was sold to another operator. I learned how to milk a cow the hard way while the farm cats behind me awaited their share. You’ve been lucky. In my neck of the woods the dairy farmers will not budge, and coercion and threat are more real than the Law is real. In an open system, Dairy Farmer’s could freely serve the Industry or a public system enterprise or both. I understand that in Ontario, if a consumer leases a cow from a Farmer, the Government or Industry can bring no charges against the Farmer, or the consumer of the cow’s milk. I further understand that there is a growing client base and absolutely no one is getting sick and that the cows are grass fed. (no GMO feed) Though no favor of government, the consumer has been forced to become the dairy themselves to meet their wants. We are to be the beneficiary of government and not the slave unto it. Milk is not an Illegal substance; only THE ACT of trespassing and taking milk away is Illegal. It is the Industry regulations and the government regulations that are we are made to trespass against, and incredibly they don’t own the property, product, equipment, people, or any another damn thing on the Farm. Once the Farmers fully realize that the Industry and government have trespassed upon their land, the consent to allow them to do so will be withdrawn. This action will receive full force by the Legislature or Parliament, and not by any costly multiple court proceedings. All Legal Laws receive cause and their effect and their force solely by the will of the majority, and all Legal Laws loose there cause and their effect and their force solely at the will of the majority. Majority silence is majority acceptance and secrecy and “dumbing down” the public promotes majority silence. By the signatures of a majority in wet ink is the undeniable proof of consent withdrawn and why there are lawful petition and referendum instruments.(they can be used to create laws)
          Proper procedures and the force of a properly executed instrument are not known by the majority leading the majority to believe that nothing can be done to withdraw their consent.
          Flawed protests such as recent to Alberta carbon tax, further cement this belief. I mentioned the school system and I wonder if anything that I have said so far could not be understood by a grade eight student? Is this not social enough to study? Apparently civil USA wars are.

  • bufford54

    Fuel prices in the U.S. are also half that of what Canadians pay. What’s Bernier’s solution to that?

  • J.D. Farmer

    Dairy farmers made an investment in quota many years ago, similar to how you invested in your home. Would you be happy being reimbursed for the price you paid for your home 10-20 years ago? I doubt it.