MPs vote in favour of bill that aims to block further concessions on supply management

A private member’s bill that aims to prevent further market access concessions for supply managed commodities in Canada was approved at second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and was referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Bill C-282, sponsored by Bloc MP Luc Thériault, would amend existing legislation to prevent Canada’s trade minister from increasing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) — and reducing over-quota tariffs — for dairy, poultry, or eggs through international trade agreements.

293 MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, voted in favour of the bill, while 23 members — mostly Conservatives from Western Canada — voted against. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith was the only Liberal who voted nay.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) also issued a statement on Wednesday in support of the bill, noting all political parties sitting in the House of Commons have voiced their commitment to not offering additional market access.

“It can be frustrating to watch promises fizzle when push comes to shove, and supply-managed farmers have seen successive governments renege on their promise to not allow further market access for supply-managed products,” said CFA president Mary Robinson, referring to concessions made by the Canadian government in negotiating the Canada-EU trade agreement, the CPTPP deal with Pacific countries, and the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement.

“By voting for this Bill, politicians will be able to show their true support for supply-managed farmers and allow those farmers to rely on the law rather than rhetoric,” continued Robinson.

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, meanwhile, is strongly opposed to the legislation.

“CAFTA members, who represent 90 per cent of Canadian farmers, producers, food manufacturers and agri-food businesses, strongly oppose Bill C-282…,” said CAFTA president Dan Darling, in a statement. “This legislation creates a dangerous precedent and diminishes Canada as a free trade partner. It contradicts established trade rules and severely constrains Canada’s ability to negotiate the best free trade agreements for all sectors of the Canadian economy, agriculture and non-agriculture alike. The end result is a less ambitious free trade agenda and less commercially meaningful outcomes for Canada.”

Darling said the bill puts Canada’s record of support for free trade in jeopardy.

“While Bill C-282 has passed second reading, we strongly encourage Parliamentarians of all stripes to consider the long-term damage that will be caused by this bill becoming law and ensure this is carefully considered before it moves any further through the Parliamentary process,” he said.

Thériault’s bill will now be reviewed by the House of Commons trade committee. It still needs to be approved at the committee stage, third reading, and in the Senate before becoming law.

Editor’s note: Updated with comments from the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance on February 9th.

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