Andrew Scheer in the milky way

July 19, 2019

The federal election will not be held for three months, but there are themes that are already emerging on the eve of the election battle that is shaping up to be fierce in several ridings. One of them is certainly support for the dairy industry, which has been hit hard in the last year.

The health of the sector will be an issue in several ridings across the country, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, where there is a majority of the approximately 11,000 family farms in the country.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is familiar with these statistics. He did not fail to flay Prime Minister Trudeau during his visit to the Annual General Meeting of the Dairy Farmers of Canada in Saskatoon on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Scheer accused the Trudeau government of mistreating Canadian dairy farmers by repeatedly missing its own deadlines to announce compensation to the sector for recent trade concessions.

“It’s not NAFTA 2.0. It’s more like 0.5”, said Sheer adding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t understand the need to provide “predictability” when compensation is necessary to offset expected losses from international trade pacts. “(This) mistreatment is unacceptable,” he told the audience, vowing that a Conservative government would “never back down from defending the (dairy) sector.”

The day before, Canada's Agriculture Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, reinforced her commitment to supply management at the Dairy Farmers of Canada AGM. She announced over $11 million of Government funding for the Dairy Research Cluster. She also touched on the Government's plan to compensate supply managed producers. The Government included a $3.9 billion compensation package in the 2019 budget, with up to $2.4 billion to sustain the incomes of producers, as well as up to $1.5 billion to protect against any reduction in quota value. This compensation commitment followed the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, also known as CETA. The Government has also committed to addressing impacts on the processing sector, and potential future impacts of the new NAFTA agreement.

Andrew Scheer has also vowed to review Canada’s food guide if his party forms government after the election, claiming the current version “seems to be ideologically-driven by people who have a philosophical perspective” and “bias” against milk. “The process was flawed. Complete lack of consultation,” Scheer said of the discussions that led to the revamped food guide unveiled earlier this year. The guide earned swift criticism from the Dairy Farmers of Canada after milk was replaced by water as a “beverage of choice.” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor responded the food guide has received an “incredibly positive reception.” She suggested the Conservative leader’s comments prioritize “pleasing big business and lobby groups” over Canadian’s health.

Scheer, who is MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle, is working hard to help his party to gain more seats in his province. Saskatchewan has long been a stronghold for the Conservatives. Ten of the province’s 14 federal electoral districts went blue in the 2015 election, and only a few seats are expected to be in play when ballots are cast on October 21. Those seats include Saskatoon West, which is held by the NDP’s Sherri Benson, and Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, which is occupied by the NDP’s Georgina Jolibois. Both MPs are currently threatened in the polls. Jolibois has 27.5% of support compared to 38.3% for CPC candidate. In Saskatoon West, Benson has 31.5% while the Conservative candidate is ahead with 41.5%.

These figures will certainly please Andrew Scheer as well as those from the last Ipsos poll showing that a majority of Canadians say they want change in Ottawa, with 37 per cent saying they’d vote Conservative if a federal election were held tomorrow compared to 31 per cent who would vote for the Liberals. The poll also showed Conservative leader picking up the approval of 36 per cent of respondents, compared to Justin Trudeau’s 32 per cent. Scheer was the preferred choice of women (35 per cent) and respondents aged 55 years and over (45 per cent), as well as people whose education had reached a high school level (41 per cent) or who had obtained a diploma (35 per cent). Trudeau, meanwhile, was the preferred choice of millennials (33 per cent), as well as those with a post-graduate education (36 per cent), but that was just within the margin of error.

In conclusion, in the battlegrounds of Quebec and Ontario, particularly in rural ridings at play in October, the issue of support for Canada’s dairy sector will continue to be a major factor.