Supply management. An economic anvil on the necks of Canadians.

eggs

Supply management in agriculture is a policy in Canada that is harming consumers and producers from coast to coast. It is hard to believe that we maintain an economic policy that is so detrimental to Canadians as a whole. Part of the issue is that most Canadians don’t even know that such a policy even exists and I suspect if most people realized that they are paying hundreds of dollars a year due to this market control system that they would happily support dumping this primitive policy.

There are nothing but benefits to be seen for Canadians if we get rid of our supply management policies. People will spend less on food essentials and have more opportunity to eat healthier while Canadian producers will be able to expand our export markets and diversify our economy.

Supply management is a socialist market control policy that allows government to micromanage supplies of dairy, eggs and poultry products through a system of quotas and tariffs. This protects a small number of producers who have production quotas thus forcing higher prices on consumers. A dairy producer pays roughly $28,000 for the right to keep one dairy cow. That means a herd of 70 (not terribly large) has a quota value of $2 million. That price is of course forwarded to consumers. Quotas are restricted and it literally is illegal to produce milk, eggs or chickens over a certain number without a quota.

The waste from this system is brutal too. My wife grew up on a small dairy farm for example. Her father had a quota to sell a certain amount of cream but was not allowed to sell milk. The cows were milked and the cream separated and sold. The remaining milk that was not consumed by the household was literally dumped. It would have been illegal to sell it. Sounds rather Soviet doesn’t it? These sorts of examples abound in all supply managed industries and we are all paying dearly for it.

In dairy alone families pay an extra $276 per year due to supply management. When chicken and eggs are taken into account, families are spending nearly $500 per year for these policies. These are premiums paid on staple food items. If families paid regular (much lower) market cost for these items, they would be more encouraged to purchase them of course meaning a likelihood of less processed and unhealthy foods being in the cupboards.

In Canada we actually had organized crime participating in cheese smuggling because our cheese costs so much more in Canada than right across the border in the United States. This sounds like a comedy but it really is happening. When supply of an item in demand is restricted by government, smuggling is always soon to follow.

Some people lamely try to claim that these market controls protect the family farm which is utterly untrue. Supply management has actually wiped out small farms and led to larger factory style production as only large companies can afford to operate under our quota system. From 1971 to 2011 the number of dairy farms in Canada dropped by 91%! This trend has happened in poultry and egg industries too. So much for the family farm.

Market diversification and creative production is stifled by these horrible policies. Free range chickens are much in demand by consumers. Nobody is allowed to produce more than 300 chickens without a quota however which is not enough to live on while a quota application could take years and may never be granted. Quotas are usually in the range of 70,000 or more birds too which hardly helps a small producer. How does one get started in this foolish system? The same applies to eggs.

Small farms making specialty cheeses or types of milk are nearly impossible. I remember a story of a small ice cream producer in Ontario being shut down because the cream costs were simply too damn high. How many other small to medium sized enterprises are we missing out on because of supply management?

Our policies are costing us billions in lost exports as well according to one report. Tariffs and quotas get our producers barred from foreign markets thus costing us countless jobs and tax revenue. Our outdated policies have been a sticking point in many trade negotiations with other nations too so we are losing on import and export opportunities that range outside of supply managed products due to these disputes.

Supply management is a losing policy that costs us all and only benefits a tiny number of people who hold those precious quotas. Most nations on Earth have moved away from supply management policies and have seen nothing but benefits in doing so. New Zealand is now known as “the Saudi Arabia of milk” now that they rid themselves of their supply management and let their economy develop and expand. With the size of our nation with so much viable farmland, we really are missing out on huge opportunities here.

Rarely is a single policy ever doing so much damage. People fight back and forth about the merit of cutting taxes to put more money back in the pockets of consumers. Well, if we got rid of supply management we would put billions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers and it would not cost the government a cent.

The protected dairy, egg and cheese producers are price fixing in a way that would be illegal if any other industry tried it. They are a strong lobby and are essentially racketeers sliding under the radar of public perception. Government hides from the issue for fear of angering the producers with quotas while all consumers and most producers pay the price.

We need to inform the public of the price they are paying for these idiotic policies and then have government repeal them. There is nothing but benefit to us all in doing so. As far as I can tell only the Libertarian Party of Canada is promoting such a repeal.  We need common sense and open markets and neither Harper nor Trudeau appear prepared to give them to us.

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Is there anything Albertan that Alison Redford actually likes?

I think that most can agree that one of the main causes of Alison Redford’s downfall was that she didn’t endear herself to pretty much anybody. It is hard to imagine a person in public service getting into such a high position while being so abrasive to all but Redford managed to pull it off. What Redford proved though was that while a miserable person can manage to get to a high position in public office they simply don’t have a hope in hell of maintaining it in the long run. Due to countless incidents and clashes with staffers, press, opposition members and even her caucus members, when tough times came for Redford she found herself with utterly no allies. The race to throw Redford under the bus by her own compatriots was unprecedented. Nary a voice has been heard to try to make even a weak defense for Redford and this is not for lack of defenses (politicians can always come up with some excuse). The reason nobody is coming to Redford’s defense is simply that nobody likes her.

redbean

Some folks have tried to point out that Ralph Klein routinely abused the provincial aircraft as if this somehow justifies Redford’s abuse of them. It is a sad justification of the abuse and really only proves that Progressive Conservative entitlement has been alive and well in government for a long time. It does bring an interesting question though, how did Klein get away with such abuses with only minor critique when similar actions outright destroyed Alison Redford? The simple answer is that people liked Ralph Klein.

When Klein got himself into trouble (and he often did), he had a masterful knack of extricating himself with an apology and a promise not to do whatever he had done again. That tended to close the matter and we moved on to other things. The reason Klein could do so is that his caucus and a great many of the Alberta public genuinely and simply liked Ralph Klein a great deal. Ralph had allies when the crap hit the fan. Redford had positioned herself to be all alone and it cost her everything.

Politics is a popularity contest no matter how some may wish it wasn’t so. Policy is important but the person presenting that policy is even more important.

So why did people like Ralph Klein so much when Alison Redford earned herself almost universal provincial scorn? The bottom line is that it was clear and evident at all times that Ralph Klein loved Alberta and loved Albertans. It is much harder to dislike somebody when they clearly like you and it is much easier to forgive their errors when they do. Ralph was one of us for better or for worse.

Alison Redford never really appeared to like Albertans. She seemed to suffer the necessity of us at best. Redford never seemed to leave her UN roots behind and felt that her world was to be an elite one of diplomatic functions where Albertans were there to serve her rather than the other way around. This was evident in Redford’s constant incredibly expensive world travel and her efforts to make sure she never had to travel with the unwashed. Redford spoke repeatedly on how she wanted to change Alberta’s culture. I don’t recall Albertans as a whole really asking Redford to change their culture. The only cultural change that Redford brought about was a short term aristocracy with her at the top which thankfully is over with.

The reason I am off on this tirade is a small thing I noticed in the latest FOIP release of information from the Redford Regime. This was from the communications of Redford’s personal travel scout for her globe trotting missions. I feel that trade missions are important but they do have to focus on promoting Alberta and Albertan products as opposed to preening in the diplomatic world of luxury that Redford did.

While on her $450,000 trip to India (the government site still bullshits and claims it cost $131,000), Redford’s very expensive personal travel scout reported: “Getting some intel on India gifting. I think ammonite will work here. I know it may not be premier’s favourite but gemstones are very popular.” This is actually some valuable information from this travel scout. Gifting is an important part of these sorts of missions. It is a sign of respect and it is an opportunity to promote items unique to your nation. This has been done since the days of medieval ambassadors.

It can be seen that the scout made a point to ensure that the translator doesn’t talk to Redford at any time. That gets back to that issue of why nobody really could find themselves liking her.

What is odd here though is that it is clear that Alison Redford does not like Alberta Ammonite (ammolite). Jewellery preference is a very subjective thing but that applies to what one wears personally. When it comes to gifts like this though, one has to look at what you are representing and promoting. Alberta ammonite gems are a growing industry with First Nations involvement. These gems are the rarest organic gemstone on earth as they are only found in Alberta. What could be better to promote on such a mission particularly when gemstones are very popular in the place you are visiting?

Well despite this sage advice, Redford chose to give watercolor paintings of grain elevators to the dignitaries. Art is nice to promote too but I wouldn’t be surprised if the paintings were done by a relative of Redford’s. Why deviate from the advice of the well paid scout? Honestly, why does Redford dislike this stone? Either way, Redford let her personal dislike of ammonite lead to losing an opportunity to promote this Albertan product while on her mission. Why was she supposedly there again?

redpaint

I have to give full disclosure here, my family is involved in the Alberta ammonite/ammolite business. We in partnership with members of the Blood Reserve have been mining and retailing in a manufacturing/retail outlet in Canmore. This is of course what made my ears perk up as soon as I saw the gem mentioned. It has taken decades for Alberta ammonite gems to get recognition worldwide but it has been steadily gaining popularity. Government has never really done the industry any favors unfortunately.

I will take advantage of this issue to segue into giving some background on this great stone though as it is better known internationally than it is right here in Alberta (and of course I will plug the family business).

ammonite

Ammonite is a fossilized nautilus from the cretaceous period around 70 or 80 million years ago. While ammonite fossils are found throughout the world, it is only in small portions of Alberta where the fossils demonstrate the brilliant colors as can be seen in the picture above. The best fields of these gems are on the Blood Reserve in the Saint Mary’s river area. When the gem is harvested from these fossils, it is then called “ammolite” which is why we see both terms used at times. The gem makes stones and pieces such as these below.

cab

finished

Tours and sales of course are available at the Ammonite Factory in Canmore. It makes for a great day trip and you can’t beat the mining/cutting direct prices provided.

Ahh, there are few things more satisfying than giving a well founded critique of Alison Redford while making a self-serving plug for the family business. 😉

In summary, Redford’s abrasive personality and apparent dislike of most things Albertan led to her downfall and people should pop by the ammonite factory for a good deal on a unique gem.

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