Right in the centre - Canada hit hard by U.S. bluster


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The recent comments by an official of the United States government about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are both disturbing and absurd.

Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to President Donald Trump issued a highly offensive slur against Canada’s prime minister and it should be grounds for his dismissal. The ongoing battle between President Trump and Canada, as well as everyone else is unlike anything we have ever seen on the public stage. For a representative of a government to speak in that fashion is beyond excuse or reason. When it comes to statements about others, especially about neighbouring countries, one would expect better language and manners.

It is ironic, that it has taken Trump’s bluster, backed up by his official’s insults, to make Justin Trudeau look like a statesman. Members of parliament of all political stripes have risen to his defence and rightly so.

If we look deeper into the roots of Trump’s scorn against Canada, there is some basis for the U.S. criticizing Canada’s agriculture and food policy. In Canada, dairy and poultry products are largely controlled by marketing boards or supply management. Producers can produce milk, eggs or poultry meat products if they own a quota. Quotas are bought and sold and have reached astronomical values because the producers are guaranteed a certain price for their product. Producing milk or poultry products can be a very profitable business. To keep the U.S. produced product out of Canada or at least minimized, there are indeed tariffs on U.S. dairy and poultry products that are about 250 per cent. You can buy those products in the United States for a lot less money and American producers would love to get at the Canadian market but can’t because of the tariff.

On the other hand, Canadian consumers would pay less for food products but there is a hitch. If Canadian producers were to be forced out of business by cheaper U.S imports and then at some point Canadians became heavily dependent on U.S products, would Canadians still get food or would the Americans look after their own people first.

It is a complicated examination all to show that what Trump says has some truth to it. Food security is what drives the Europeans to market boards and quotas enforced with heavy rules and regulations. Canada is more driven by economic stability for its farmers. Nevertheless Trump, (and US farmers) would still love to have free trade access to the Canadian grocery stores and that is what is driving Trump’s agenda, at least on the surface.

As usual, discussions such as the ones Canada is having with the U.S. are often veiled and convoluted. The truth is rarely brought out with clarity. The bluster and posturing are not a lot of value to us ordinary folks. Freer trade would be a very good thing and maybe both sides could do a lot better with fewer rules. At any rate, it would be really nice to see the goblet of truth handled with the glove of civility.