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


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.

Fighting reality and pushing growth out.

Well Calgary City Hall has been on quite the roll this week in demonstrating their almost religious-like obsession with urban density planning despite an utter lack of demand for such by the majority of the population of the city.

One of the main strategies over the years has been to strangle automotive access to our city core through choking parking availability and ignoring demand through spending our limited infrastructure funds on pedestrian bridges and bike lanes despite minuscule demand for these things. Hell, cutting vehicular lanes out alone and making those un-utilized bike lanes a priority-one for plowing was not enough, yesterday our luminaries at City Hall decided to sacrifice yet more parking spaces and more vehicular space by stuffing in bike “tracks” at quadruple the cost of bike lanes with plans to greatly expand that traffic and parking throttling next year.

City hall has purposely been refusing to allow developers to plan for adequate parking in our core for years in hopes of reducing automotive traffic for years. All this has done is given Calgary the dubious honor of being the second most expensive place to park in North America. People are still driving, but they are spending a great deal more to do it.

“Bike sharing” has proven to be a catostrophic and expensive failure around the world. Despite this reality, yesterday city hall set a timeline of 2015 to get a bike sharing program going. They claim it will not happen unless a private business steps up to do it, but rest assured that will change as the city chooses to subsidize a semi-private disaster like Bixi that Montreal sunk over $108 million into.

Now despite years of this effort in social engineering, Calgary’s growth has still been outward due to consumer demand. Business is retreating to the suburbs and even out of the city altogether in pursuit of our citizens who are moving ever farther from Calgary’s expensive and congested core.

Consumer choice will always win in the end but how much will the City of Calgary blow in fighting this reality?

It appears that our zealous city planners have realized that their density plan has been failing but instead of facing that reality and opening up our core again, they are fighting consumer demand and the free-market by stopping legitimate developments on the edges of our city! 

Look at the precedent that will be set if the commission (populated by extremists like Druh Farrel) decides to refuse to allow development in East Hills as recommended by our idealists in city planning. The site was zoned for this development years ago and investors have spent two years planning in good faith. If our idiots in city hall shut this project down it will demonstrate that Calgary is a terrible place to do business in!

Even if common sense prevails and the city maintains the go-ahead on this project, just the fact that they were so strongly considering shutting this down has shaken any considering investing in Calgary.

The idiocy knows no bounds though. The zoning demanded “big-box” style development so that small business on “International Avenue” may be protected. Considering that most of the business along 17th Avenue SE consists of pawn-shops, massage parlours and liquor stores, I don’t think there was much risk that a new development wanted to tap into those markets anyway.

Either way, through following zoning guidelines, the development now clashes with the pie-in-the-sky “Plan-it” framework that demands upward, high-density development. We should find out soon which ideal will win here.

The winners out of all of this idiocy will be landowners outside of the City of Calgary including our satellite communities such as Okotoks, Cochrane, Airdrie and Strathmore. Calgarians are never going to en-masse give up their backyards, sell their cars, move into downtown condos and ride bikes to work no matter how much pressure the zealots in City Hall try to force them to do so.

What really is happening is that citizens are retreating from the core. Now we are seeing head-offices and retail services following them out. We had better learn to plan for this reality or our development as a city will become more stunted than ever.

Shutting down a Wal-Mart on the East side of the city will not make the residents of Forest Lawn suddenly decide to go to Inglewood to buy a small handcrafted bookshelf for a few hundred dollars for their kid’s bedroom. The shoppers will simply commute farther in search of economical big-box purchases.

Calgary’s downtown will not become “vibrant” through this idealistic efforts. Small business in the core has already been heavily damaged by insanely high parking rates and inaccessibility. Further pushing up costs and access will not suddenly make consumers flock to the core to eat and shop. This again will simply push demand and development out. We will have a downtown deadzone populated by offices, some coffee shops and un-utilized bike share stations, This simple notion is apparently utterly lost on our current city council.

We are one year from the next civic election. I do hope that enough Calgarians wake up and vote for some realists on city council before we waste even more precious tax-dollars and mess up our city development. Vote carefully.

Prohibition just doesn’t work.

As is so often the case, people are often drawn to simplistic solutions for complex problems. At issue right now is the potential banning of retail pet sales within Calgary. I have posted before on dog neglect and puppy mill issues as Jane and I foster rescue dogs. There is a large and growing problem as puppymills and unprepared pet owners neglect, abuse and abandon dogs every day.

I am going to post a couple pictures below of “Rowdy”. He is a rescue dog that Jane and I rushed to the vet just last week. He is residing with us until he gets healthy enough to adopt into a proper household. Rowdy is an English bulldog and is only 10 months old.

At the vet, poor Rowdy was terrified and it was difficult to even coax him out of the kennel. His fear and mistrust of people was very evident. After examination it was concluded that Rowdy had an extreme case of mange. His eyes were both badly infected as were his ears. Open sores were weeping all over his body and his underside was nearly totally hairless and greatly inflamed. He had been terribly neglected.

Below is the pile of medications that we will be giving to Rowdy for the next few weeks from anti-biotics to painkillers to anti-fungals along with some other unpronounceable meds. He clearly could not have survived much longer as he was.


Below is Rowdy when we got him home and gave him a long and gentle bath. It nearly brought us to tears as large clumps of fur and skin came loose all over the poor little fellow. His nose wrinkle was completely impacted and infected and the rest of his body was filthy. It may very well have been his first bath ever.

Rowdy is doing well and with a few months of care he should be just fine. He is proving to be a very affectionate and mischievous puppy as he regains confidence in knowing that he is in a safe home. He is learning to be a puppy again.

Now back to my main point; Rowdy came from a breeder not a pet store or individual owner. Banning retail pet sales would do nothing to prevent this.

Rowdy is unfortunately typical of the kind of dog that comes into the Alberta Bulldog Rescue Society (and other animal rescue societies). Rowdy was in worse condition than most, but his story is typical as puppy mills churn out dogs with no consideration for the well being of their breeder animals.

The main group that has been pushing for the ban on retail pet sales calls itself “Actions Speak Louder” Their site offers some great tips on ethical pet purchasing and I don’t doubt for a second that they are generally well meaning. Unfortunately the group highlights the statement: “Puppies are not products!” While that is a nice fluffy statement it does say worlds about the group.

Puppies, kittens, horses and goldfish are all property and at one time or another can all indeed be products. Animals are property and when we exchange property it becomes a product. Animals are indeed different than inanimate property in that we have personal moral and indeed legal obligations to provide a degree of care for them and can’t abuse them. We can take a sledgehammer to our car for example but if we did so to a horse we would soon find ourselves criminally charged even though both were technically our property.

Over the years some of the more extreme animal activists have made repeated efforts to have the laws changed so that animals would no longer be legally considered property. If such legislation were ever to pass, we would immediately see court challenges by PETA and other groups of the sort against every livestock operation in the country. These groups know exactly what they are doing in the pursuit of this change in legislation and it simply can’t happen.

I would very much like to see laws against animal cruelty strengthened with better enforcement and stronger penalties against offenders. There was a federal bill that failed some years ago that would have greatly toughened our laws. The bill unfortunately died as there was a clause within it calling for animals to lose their designation as property in law. The activists managed to squeek that clause into our very parliament but it was thankfully rejected by our legislators at the time. The downside is that the activists did more damage than good in that the whole bill got scrapped as they pushed it too far. Activist consultation in the drafting of bills really is of limited value at best.

Calgary City Council looking at banning the perfectly legal practice of retail pet sales and it is the wrong way to go in a few ways. For one, it simply should not be the role of a municipality to ban legal sales of any product despite what activists claim. This would set a very ugly precedent from city hall and is offensive to free enterprise. The ban would be nearly moot as well as apparently there is only one pet store in Calgary that still sells kittens and puppies. Why all the discussion and time wasted to ban something that essentially isn’t even happening?

The reason that retail stores no longer carry puppies and kittens is simply due to a lack of public demand and due to good work on the part of animal activists. In exposing the abuses of puppy mills and in highlighting the need for adoption of animals, the market for pet stores has simply collapsed. Retailers have discovered that it is much more lucrative to supply products for pet care than selling pets themselves anyway so it hasn’t taken much to make them discontinue sales. Legislation for a ban was not nor is it required.

Some could see the banning of retail pet sales as something of a moral victory. What it really would be would be a form of greenwashing in that people at large would feel that a problem has been solved when it really has not.

The internet has changed the entire face of pet sales. Breeders no longer need to pump out puppies for pet stores as they can cut out the middle-man and sell at retail prices directly to consumers through the internet. This has had the effect of expanding abuses in the unregulated industry of dog breeding and I fear that it will only get worse. Essentially banning retail pet sales in hopes of ending abuse is as naive as thinking that banning street level pot dealers will end pot use and distribution.

Banning internet sales of pets or trying to ban breeders is pointless. What we need is a continued effort to educate and encourage consumers to adopt pets in need before going to breeders. For those who want a purebreed pet, people should be encouraged to demand high standards from breeders that they patronize. As I said in my prior post, customers should demand to see the breeding facilities or simply refuse to buy there. The whole thing is about money and if unprincipled and cruel breeders don’t make money, they will go away.

We have a serious problem with impulsive pet purchases and very unprincipled breeders. Lets work on this productively though. Rest assured my heart breaks and I would love to see change immediately. I understand though that it will take some time to get things right. Kneejerk bans and interfering in legitimate business is not the route to take here. We don’t need symbolic legislative victories, we need real and lasting change. That will mean changing the views and practices of people at large. It is much more work and will take more time but will be worlds more effective than any ban could ever imagine to be.

One last plug here. Alberta Bulldog Rescue really needs help from supporters whether though the donation of time or funds (medications are terrifically expensive) or people considering adopting. You can see updates on Rowdy’s progress among other foster dogs here.