Supply Management has to go

When I launched my campaign, I said I was running to give straight answers and put forward real solutions. I'm not going to hide from the tough conversations I think Canada should have about the future of our country. That's why I think it's time to talk about ending supply management.I grew up in rural Ontario, and I can tell you that Canada has some of the best farmers in the world. They work hard for their money and do not live extravagant lives. They are the backbone of rural communities. I think supply management is failing them, and Canadian consumers as a whole.Canada's supply management system is an elaborate network of licenses and quotas that limit competition, fix prices and block imports for dairy, poultry and eggs. It keeps prices for these basic grocery items artificially high, and reduces the choice of products available to the Canadian consumer. Anyone who has crossed the Canada-US border for groceries, or wandered into a supermarket while travelling abroad has likely noticed that almost every other country in the world has a far greater variety of dairy products available to them, and for far lower prices. Canadian supply management is the reason.A 2015 study found that supply management costs the average family $444 a year. For households with children, that figure rose to $585 per year. And that was before the Canadian Dairy Commission hiked their prices by 8.4% in 2022: the largest increase in dairy prices in Canadian history, ensuring that those figures are undoubtedly higher today. With the cost of living quickly rising, there is no way we can afford to have the Government of Canada enforcing policies that are literally designed to raise the cost of basic groceries.Defenders of the status quo argue that these costs are what Canadians are willing to pay to keep family farms in operation. But this is where the supply management system shows its fundamental faults: when the system was implemented in the 1970s there were over 100,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today there are fewer than 11,000. If the rationale to keep supply management is to save the family farm, it has failed.Even worse, it has blocked new would-be farming entrepreneurs from being able to try. That lack of innovation is readily apparent when you look beyond Canada's borders once again: global consumers are eagerly buying up Irish butter, English clotted creams, and French cheeses, but you won't find Canadian dairy products on the shelves of the world's supermarkets. Supply management's production limits and quotas stifle innovative producers, keeping them small. Eliminating these restrictions would give them the chance to grow and expand across Canada and the world.Supply management became a flashpoint in the 2017 Conservative leadership race. Its introduction into the race quickly made it a political tool to divide Canadians, and led to far too many knee-jerk reactions and unconsidered responses. I want to start a reasoned discussion. I'm not interested in pitting farmers against consumers, an approach that leaves us all poorer. Our tired old political debates need a fresh approach.Ending supply management won't be simple. The loss of supply management will be a challenge for farms in the system. We will help them adapt and grow in a new, international marketplace. Farmers must be compensated for the quotas they have paid for, and we can invest in value-added processes that will help Canadian dairy products stand out on grocery shelves around the world. We can grow beyond the days of fraught trade negotiations, in which supply-managed farmers fret over potential losses instead of seeing new opportunities. I believe our farmers are the best in the world. I know they can compete on the world stage and win.Ending supply management will benefit Canadian families today, and Canadian farmers for generations to come. It's the right approach.Scott Aitchison is the Member of Parliament for Parry Sound - Muskoka and running to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.     Lower Grocery Bills, End Supply Management