Sunday, October 20, 2013



You always have to check your wallet after the feds do a deal with anyone,  but the Tory trade deal with Europe sounds like a win-win even as the usual suspects scream foul.
Actually I wish they were screaming fowl, since chickens are one of the long list of foods where Canadians pay too much because our governments care more about farmers than they do shoppers.
Of course we don't know the details yet. That's the way governments work. The devil is in the details, so we have to wait to find if we are in heaven or hell when it comes to this trade with the EU.
But let's concentrate on what we know now about removing some trade restraint on cheese and sea food. So we may get a break on some fine cheese imports, and pay more for sea food because our fishermen can now export more to Europe.
And some imports from the EU will be cheaper here, which is great if you're into perfume and fashion and sauerkraut. We're promised that it's the biggest trade deal ever, but all the delicious hints for a year that Canada may be forced to give up its protectionism of farmers to get this deal has turned sour.
And that really bothers me because it appeared there was a slim chance that one end result just might be that you and I would be able to pay a reasonable price for all the foods that the marketing boards have in their evil clutches like goliath squid from the deep.
To me more important than the price for Chanel.
The galling fact for someone like me who likes milk and yogurt and loves cheese is that Ottawa has always cared more about the dairy farmer than about you and I, and not just because Quebec has more dairy farmers than almost the rest of Canada combined.
I remember the smug demand from the separatists that bugged me the most.  Quebec dairy farmers expected to keep their protected and preferred deal on their industrial milk even after separation, and couldn't understand the concept that if you leave a country you can't expect to keep all the special deals and benefits that you got from the country.
All you have to do is slip across the border and buy chicken, eggs, bread, beer, cheese, beef, pork, lamb  etc. and find that due to such red tape monstrosities as supply management and marketing boards, we pay more because you just can't keep some chickens or cows these days and expect to sell to the public like in the old days of the 100-acre mixed farm.
Oh no, we may have agribusiness today, where corporations have taken over many of the old family farms and are growing most of our food, but the agriculture lobby continues to demand that Torontonians pay more for our eggs and bags of milk and roasted chickens. Even our beer and bread because Ottawa insists that our brewers and bakers buy their ingredients through Canadian marketing boards which ensure the price is higher than our brewers and bakers would pay if they were allowed to import their raw materials. And any newcomer to the food business learns about quotas and inspections and other devices that make it costly and aggravating for the outsider.
Once I was at the annual meeting of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair where I was a director that the fair did its best to ignore, not even telling me about meetings.  The speaker was the federal agriculture minister. I wasn't paying much attention until I noticed that if you prodded the figures in his official state-of-the-farm message, there was no gain from agriculture to the national economy after you deducted all the grants, subsidies and special programs given the agricorps and farmers. And there wasn't even a calculation for all the billions that Canadians overpay in the price of their food thanks to the red tape quota crap that protect the agri business from genuine competition.
I wrote that and expected demands for corrections, and perhaps my head, but there was silence from the farm lobby which didn't want to dwell, I guess, on the bald facts of sweetheart deals.
I would have been more impressed recently if the Ontario premier had decided also to be a food consumer  minister. But the backroom boys gave her the agriculture portfolio, which basically ignores the people who buy the produce, because if you have a lesbian from the Big Smoke of Toronto who is very much a city person, you need to make her more palatable to the rural voter.
Oh yes, the rural voter! In Canada, the rural voter has more clout than the urban voter because predominantly rural ridings have fewer voters than the big ridings of the cities. So it's just brute politics that means the farm vote is more important than the city vote.
If the Harper Tories really want to win the next election, I know a lot of people who are just like me and would like them to spend less for starters and then kick the marketing boards into the Great Lakes.
Before you dismiss all this as the rantings of a city consumer who cares little about the poor farmer, I would like to point out that I have lived on a small farm and had many farm relatives, including brothers-in-law, who defended marketing boards and think city folks are spoiled when it comes to food prices.
Hardly! We've been gouged for so long, too many of us have become accustomed to the robbery.

No comments: