Monday, November 14, 2011

Stop Gouging Canadian Consumers

Stephen Harper is doing his best John Kerry impression, flip-flopping on his position on Canada's "supply management" program for dairy and poultry products.  Supply Management is one of those fancy terms governments use to avoid saying "gouge the consumer."  Stephen Harper claims to support the free market.  He even supports the free market for agriculture (when it comes to dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board), so why does he maintain a practice which costs Canadians thousands of dollars a year in food costs?  Canada's practice on dairy and poultry is to restrict the importation of dairy and poultry products through the use of a Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ).  A TRQ, for the uninitiated, is an update to the now outlawed quota system.  A quota system restricts the amount of goods that importers may bring into the country, full stop.  A Tariff Rate Quota system restricts the amount of goods that importers can bring into the country at a reasonable tariff rate.  After the quota is exhausted, the duty rate for poultry and dairy products is over 250%.  This TRQ system allows the government to artificially maintain a high price for eggs, milk, chicken, butter and cheese in the Canadian marketplace.

Under this system, a tiny number of dairy and poultry farmers (often large factory farms) benefit while Canadians pay prices well above the market rate for basic groceries.  It is the kind of classic distortion of the free market that should make red-blooded conservatives like Mr. Harper furious.  However, Canadian politicians are too scared to stand up to the farmers.  Yes,"Farms Feed Cities" but never forget that Cities Pay Farmers, Clothe Farmers, Build Farm Equipment for Farmers... well, you get the point.  There are large numbers of Canadian farmers, perhaps even some dairy and poultry farmers, that can prosper in a free market.  The government needs to stand up for Canadian consumers and put an end to this absurd relic.  It is bad for Canadian consumers, impedes the potential signing of a hugely beneficial free trade deal in the Pacific and contributes to the stagnation of developing economies who find their products barred entry from developed world markets by such prejudicial practices. 
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