Sask. premier suggests supply management trade-off

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall last week used a trip to Washington, D.C., designed to promote the Canada-U.S. trade relationship to muse about the end of supply management.

Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, which promotes conservative public policies, he talked about the products that flow back and forth between the two countries and the dependence that many states have on Canada.

His trade mission and appearance at the foundation were part of an ongoing Canadian effort to remind the U.S. that protectionism will hurt both countries because the economies are so integrated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers have also addressed American audiences to express concern about President Donald Trump’s proposed border adjustment tax.

It’s not yet clear if the tax would gain enough support in Washington.

Wall, however, said that perhaps Canada could look at its supply management system for milk, eggs and poultry if the U.S. would reconsider taxing Canadian imports.

“We in Canada should be having an open mind about what’s next. Maybe we should be listening to the Americans a little bit more about supply management,” he said.

“Trust me, here I’m not speaking for the entire country. My wife and I, we’re lucky to have a place in Arizona, together with my folks, and we get down there a little bit, and I catch myself staring longingly at the price of cheese at the local Fry’s. It’s 25 percent, sometimes, of what we pay.”

Wall said high prices for food produced under the supply-managed system disproportionately affect those with the lowest income.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay has repeatedly stressed the Liberal government’s support for supply management. Last week in the House of Commons, he said federal Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier’s plan to eliminate it would cost billions and not affect food prices.

However, Wall said recent trade deals have seen some movement on supply management. For example, the agreement with Europe will see more cheese coming into Canada.

“Maybe it’s reasonable that we would do that again. And on this side of the border, maybe it’s reasonable we would ask our friends in the United States to kind of avoid things like Buy American policies on procurement, for sure, but also on private sector projects.”

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