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Opinion

Supply Management a litmus test of political courage

Supply management is not the greatest issue facing the Canadian electorate this October, but it should serve as a marker if those professing to support people over government have the courage of their convictions.

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Soon into any would-be politician’s career, they will be faced with necessary compromises, and soon after that, ever-so-less necessary but more politically rewarding compromises.  This process continues until the distinctions between most parties contending for power are only the minimum required to keep their forgotten base in line.

The exceptions to this normally result in those refusing to compromise being relegated to a fringe in their parties, or in exile.  Where party discipline is weaker in the US primary nomination process it produces Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul.  In Canada’s party-dominated nomination processes, outliers are required to shut up or leave their parties altogether, producing Maxime Bernier and Judy Wilson-Raybould.

All successful political parties are by necessity a coalition of interests requiring compromise to bring and hold them together, but at what point does a necessary compromise become a sell out?  At what point does taking a position contrary to one’s core beliefs become cowardly?

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier

Rarely can a single issue help to define what side of the line a politician is on than supply management.

While most of the Canadian economy operates on a generally free-enterprise foundation, others operate within quasi monopolies granted by government regulation; and fewer still operate on the basis of Soviet-style command and control.  The sale of dairy, and to a lesser extent poultry, eggs, and maple syrup are all strictly controlled by government, requiring one to buy hugely expensive quotas to enter the industry, and agree to production levels and prices set by bureaucrats.  Dairy farmers can be seen from time-to-time, pouring milk down a drain when the government decides that there is too much supply in the market.

Supporters of the system claim that the government is needed to ensure that no one produces too much and floods the market, and that their monopoly provides a fair price to consumers and producers alike; a mechanism set by supply and demand in the free market.

On May 24th, federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer stated, “The difference between Liberals and Conservatives is simple: Liberals put their faith in government, Conservatives put their faith in Canadians.”  From those of us in the limited government camp, the statement deserves applause.  But does this statement jive with Scheer’s evangelizing support for Canada’s Soviet-style supply management regime?  The question itself should make the answer self-evident.

Despite his insistence that he unquestioningly supports supply management, it’s hard to believe that he truly does believe it to be the right thing in his heart of hearts.  There isn’t so much as a string to pull out of supply management to make it even vaguely connect to a belief in people over government.

In a way, leftist politicians that support supply management (that is, all of them) are more intellectually honest.  Supply management may cost the average family hundreds of dollars a year and cause our trading partners who close off portions of their economies to our exports in retaliation, but the idea of government strictly controlling an industry is not contrary to their core beliefs.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

Scheer knows that supply managed industries constitute the single most powerful lobby group in the country – even playing a decisive role in making him the national Conservative Party Leader – but it is almost impossible for me to believe that he truly believes that it is the right thing.

Most elections boil down to two less than perfect options – and there will never be a perfect option but for the mostly blindly loyal partisans – but voters should demand better than ‘slightly less terrible than the other guy.’  We should demand that the compromises necessary to form governing coalitions be made only within the broader philosophical framework of that party.

Supply management is not the greatest issue facing the Canadian electorate this October, but it should serve as a marker if those professing to support people over government have the courage of their convictions.

Andrew Scheer may lose a powerful lobby if he does the right thing, but he will earn the support of many more who value courage.

Opinion

LETTER: Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East

A reader says that Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East.

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In this ‘Era of Wokeness” along with the ascension of Black Lives Matter into the public consciousness, I believe that it would be detrimental to the Conservative Party of Canada to have Erin O’Toole as
it’s leader.

Mr O’Toole recently refused to use the word ‘racism’ and did not answer clearly when pressed on whether he believes it even exists. Erin O’Toole will hand the Trudeau Liberals an easy victory during the next election, should he become Tory leader. Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau. 

Like it or not, most people in Ontario and Quebec (where all federal elections are ultimately decided owing to their number of allotted seats), are very much ‘woke’ on the issue of racism, as well as
sexism, homophobia, ect. In my experience, this also includes most Conservative Party of Canada voters in Eastern Canada.

Right-wing populism and social conservatism does well in Western Canada – but centrist Red Toryism is all they are prepared to accept in most of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. CPC members in Western Canada need to keep this in mind when voting for their next leader. 

CPC members need to be sensible and realistic if they want to win the next federal election. 

Gila Kibner 
Edmonton, Alberta

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Opinion

LETTER: While Trudeau mislabels regular guns “military-style”, he is handing real assault weapons to the police

A reader says that Trudeau is militarizing the police while disarming Canadians.

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RE: Canada’s cops worried Liberal gun ban will hamper training

I enjoyed your article on the gun ban and how it will affect cops. A point of view the CBC would never share.

Perhaps another topic should be brought to the public is this: Although Justin Trudeau said there is no place for these weapons in Canada and Bill Blair said these  weapons have only one purpose – and that is for one soldier to kill another soldier – they gifted more deadly weapons to our local police forces through the Canadian Armed Forces., as was done recently in my hometown of St Thomas, Ontario.

What is the government’s agenda in giving true military assault weapons to the police and banning “military-style” (no legal definition) weapons from civilians. 

John Siberry
St. Thomas, ON

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Opinion

WAGNER: Don’t make the tent too big – the independence movement must be conservative

Michael Wagner writes that there is little point in pursuing Western independence if the new country looks like the old.

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In recent years some people have argued that the Western independence movement should encompass people from the entire political spectrum. Support for independence, they argue, is not a specifically conservative or right-wing phenomenon. To generate enough political support to achieve Alberta’s independence, people of all sorts of ideological positions will be needed.

For example, early in 2018, one well-meaning independence activist posted a message on Facebook stating, “We all need to remember that you don’t have to be a conservative to be a separatist. We will need people from all sides in this.”

Similarly, in a conversation at a meeting, one person seriously suggested to me that independence supporters could bring Millennials on board by telling them that the money Alberta saved from cancelling transfer payments to Canada would be used to offer free university tuition and free dental care for all Albertans. This is essentially the Bernie Sanders appeal – support Alberta independence so that you will get “free” stuff from the government. 

If that’s the direction the independence movement were to take, it would become empty and meaningless. Proposing an even greater role for government – that is, even more socialism – as the antidote to Eastern Canadian “progressive” liberalism, entirely defeats the purpose of a free West. If socialistic policies are acceptable, then Canada is already suitable and getting better every year. An Alberta version of Bernie Sanders is not an improvement on Justin Trudeau. In attempting to widen their appeal to the left, support for independence would likely shed far more fertile and dedicated support on the right.

Instead of offering socialistic goodies or opting for flimsy policies in an appeal to people from across the political spectrum, the independence movement should be clearly grounded in small-c conservative thinking that values free enterprise, private property, the family, respect for first peoples, and the historic virtues of Western civilization. That is, after all, Alberta’s heritage.

An independent Western Canada must protect property rights, and the protection of property rights will not appeal broadly to the left. An independent Western Canada must allow for the genuine freedoms that modern “progressives” too often to despise. Progressives often view conservative viewpoints and traditional Christian perspectives as “hate” that should be banned. An independent West that embraced such progressivism would be no better than the existing Canadian federation, and might even become worse.

When the Alberta independence movement first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no doubt that it was a right-of-centre phenomenon. In the early 1980s, the Western Canada Concept Party of Alberta – the Alberta WCC – produced a four-page document entitled, “Our Statement of Principles.” It contained 24 points. The first point was, “We believe in responsibility and self-reliance.” The second was, “We believe in private enterprise.” Thirdly, it declared, “We believe in smaller government.” 

The fifth point stated, “We believe in the right to own property.” The explanatory paragraph for this point was as follows: “The power of the state to occupy, seize or expropriate private property is a violation of personal freedom. Any limitation of the freedom of the individual to own what he or she acquires, reduces the freedom and prosperity of the whole society.”

Many of the initial points in the statement focus on individual freedom and entrepreneurship, whereas the subsequent points tend to focus more on the specific role of government.

The twelfth point is noteworthy: “The strength of the family is the strength of the nation.” The explanatory paragraph for this point states: “Healthy, close-nit, nurturing families assure the future of a society by molding responsible, self-reliant, hard-working citizens. Healthy families transmit healthy values – which strengthen the community and the nation.”

The Alberta WCC Statement of Principles cannot be understood as anything other than a small-c conservative document, and it provides a shining example of the kinds of principles any future independence organization or party should embrace. The pioneers of the Western independence movement had this right.

The goals of the independence movement are self-determination and greater freedom for the West, and these goals only make sense from a conservative or libertarian perspective. Therefore, watering down principles in order to appeal for wider support from the political centre or left would ultimately defeat the purpose of the independence movement. Achieving an independent West that favoured political preferences resembling Toronto and Montreal would be an empty victory not worth the fight.

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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