Dairy sector seems to have public support

At first glance, it looks pretty solid: an online Ipsos poll found 75 percent of Canadians “believe the Canadian dairy sector should be defended and that the federal government should make more effort to do so at the NAFTA negotiating table.”

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, surveyed 1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older at the end of April.

“Three Canadians out of four agree that the Canadian dairy sector should be defended in the context of the NAFTA renegotiation,” Ipsos said.

The last few words in that sentence gives one pause — “in the context of the NAFTA renegotiation.”

It’s possible there’s something else behind the poll results. That’s important because supply management isn’t all that popular with Canadians, and the dairy sector is regulated in such a fashion.

Back in August, an Angus Reid poll conducted just before the North American Free Trade Agreement talks began found that 45 percent of respondents would be OK with using supply management as a bargaining chip as a last resort, if negotiations got tough.

Safe to say, the talks are tough. In that Angus Reid poll, only 29 percent of Canadians were committed to keeping supply management in place, “even if it means facing retaliation from the Trump administration.”

Angus Reid said the poll “indicates these views are subject to a low level of knowledge about the supply management policy.”

Only four percent of respondents said they knew “a lot” about supply management, while the majority said they knew “nothing at all.”

Has Canadians’ knowledge of supply management changed significantly in nine months?

Likely not. But here’s the rub for the Trudeau government: In the Ipsos poll, six out of 10 Canadians said the “extent to which the federal government will protect the interests of Canada’s dairy industry will have an impact on their vote in the upcoming election.” A quarter of respondents said it would affect their vote “a lot.”

So, Canadians are dubious on supply management, mainly because they don’t understand it, but they want the dairy industry protected, come what may, in the NAFTA talks.

It would seem the “stand-up-to-Trump effect” is the dominant force. But it would also seem the supply managed dairy sector will survive if the Liberals want to get re-elected.

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