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Tom Kott is an editor of the Prince Arthur Herald.

Donald Trump is Canada’s useful idiot on supply management

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There are few controversial policy issues that unite Canada’s editorial boards, but when it comes to supply management, everyone is on the same page.

The National Post, Globe and Mail, Sun newspapers, and the Toronto Star have all come out in favour of abolishing the dairy and poultry cartels. The central impetus for all is the unfair burden it poses on consumers. The system implemented under Pierre Trudeau forces Canadians to pay twice as much for four litres of milk as Americans do. For Canadian families, the rigged price policy translates to $585 more doled out annually for groceries than under a fair market environment.

On this they agree, but opinions differ on the role the United States should have on getting this domestic policy abolished. The National Post’s Andrew Coyne, as one recent example, adopted the Montreal Economic Institute’s view that Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Canada are something we can milk for our own benefit. Ending supply management could be chipped in as an exchange for, say, ending the nonsensical tariff on softwood lumber. It’s a win-win, right? Supply management should be abolished regardless of what the Americans think, but there’s an opportunity to gain even more benefits now that Trump has decided to plop himself into the debate.

That opinion is not shared by the Toronto Star. The mere fact that Donald Trump – a man “not known for his enthusiasm for careful study” – is opposing Canada’s rules surrounding diafiltered milk is enough to call for resistance of America’s influence. Sure, supply management should end, they say, but “that move should not come as a capitulation to Trump’s extemporaneous extortions.” The ends do not justify the means.

Even a blind mouse finds some, err, cheese every once in a while. The bombastic reality TV star in the Oval Office is no exception. While the Star is vehemently opposed to all things Trump, the knee-jerk reaction should not be to cry wolf every time he opens his mouth.

Besides, the U.S. position on this issue is bipartisan. As the Canadian Press reported, Barack Obama made the exact same complaints on diafiltered milk and supply management to Justin Trudeau on two separate occasions. Would the Star still have staunchly opposed this foreign intervention if Obama had been the one belting out his mirrored opinion so publicly?

Jared Kushner’s last-ditch-effort call to the PMO may have saved NAFTA for now, but Trump is promising a “massive” renegotiation of NAFTA, and it’s still unclear how much of that is targeted at Canada and how much at Mexico. As some experts have recently warned, Canada is in a worse position than Mexico in the renegotiation of our quarter-century old trade deal. Our southern neighbour’s southern neighbour can threaten to levy steep tariffs on American corn. Canada, meanwhile, lacks such tactical advantages. Issues like supply management provide a small but meaningful tradeoff that we can use at the negotiation table.

Yes, Canada should drop its Soviet-era price-fixing policy on dairy and poultry for the benefit of Canadian consumers. The fact that Donald Trump wants the same for alternative reasons is no excuse to suddenly change our national tune.

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