Andrew Scheer is going to bravely march to a staged death on the hill of Supply Management. Not because he wants to (though he does) but because he can. When Trump made clear he was gunning for Supply Management, Scheer was offered his first and only political coup since becoming leader of the Official Opposition; an opportunity to stand up for a powerful lobby group who will likely lose their official status as the Sole Suppliers of Dairy for Canadians.
While being in opposition allows an elected representative the ability to oppose government decision-making and policies, it also affords them the somewhat enviable ability to make powerless gestures of support for failing policies. However, being in opposition offers an additional opportunity: to display one’s leadership. My prediction is Scheer will take the former path. Trudeau has to take the latter. Bernier has a choice.
Supply Management has been a contentious issue. So contentious an issue that Maxime Bernier left to seek his own greener pastures without it. Trudeau has also come out in support of the policy but unlike Scheer, NAFTA talks rely on Trudeau’s willingness to negotiate. It’s unlikely anything less than fewer restrictions for US farmers to invade Canada’s market will suffice.
Trudeau will likely have to make concessions regarding Supply Management because the United States is our largest trading partner and Canada needs them. Plus, Trump’s policies are hurting American farmers too and we help our neighbours out. Scheer will be able to spout, sputter and rage about how the Conservative Party of Canada supports Dairy Farmers of Canada and that a CPC government would protect them from market intrusions.
It could be an Oscar-worthy performance but; it’s Scheer. It should be headline-worthy because it’s Hamish Marshall and if the Rebel taught him anything, it’s how to create news. And headlines, in rural areas at least, still sell papers (mostly due to unreliable internet connections).
Bernier should not be seeking to make his own stance against Supply Management bigger than it already is because this issue is going to be laid out on the table of NAFTA negotiations. He has an excellent opportunity to propose a compromise that is good for both dairy farmers and Canada. Which gives Bernier another edge over Scheer who needs to study his lines for that singular performance on the hill.
And Bernier is prepared; he has been thinking about this for a long time – much longer than the federal government. He will have the opportunity to put his recommendations together in such a way as to minimize Scheer’s appeal to the status quo by proposing reasonable and workable policy recommendations that will not obliterate the Dairy Farmers of Canada. This will be the first test of Bernier’s leadership abilities.
The fireworks are about to start and we have a fantastic preview of what 2019 will look like. Bernier and Trudeau both have an opportunity to drown out Scheer’s sideline cheerleading by focusing on an actual solution to a real problem facing Canada. Stock up on popcorn and a beverage of your choice; this is going to get salty.
This post is opinion. Or tactical advice. Whichever.
[email protected] @thisweekinAB on Twitter and Facebook