A clear majority of Conservative voters willing to scrap the supply management system.
An Angus Reid survey shows that a clear majority of Conservatives support scrapping supply management to get a trade deal with the U.S.
The survey asked the following question: “What should be done with supply management? (If farmers are compensated for losses).”
56% of Conservatives picked “End supply management and trade related restrictions to secure a deal with the U.S.”
23% of Conservatives picked “Stand firm on supply management and trade related restrictions even if it means no deal.”
And 21% said they were “not sure” or “cant’t say” what their response would be.
These numbers put the Conservatives in a difficult position. Andrew Scheer has repeatedly said that he favour supply management, and has sought to silence any criticism of the supply management program from within the party.
However, he appears to offside with the Conservative base on this issue, something that led to the Bernier rebellion and move to form another conservative party.
The issue is also challenging for the Conservatives because it will make it tougher for them to criticize any (potential) concessions Justin Trudeau makes on supply management.
If Trudeau offers to lower supply management tariffs on dairy products from the U.S., many conservatives will think it’s the right thing to do – even while disagreeing with Trudeau and Freeland’s total overall incompetence on trade.
If Scheer then attacks Trudeau for making supply management concessions, he will be offside with the views of many Conservatives who support scrapping the system entirely to get a deal.
This shows the political danger in any leader going against the wishes of their core supporters on an issue getting lots of public attention, and Maxime Bernier will certainly bring attention to the gap between the Conservative base and the Conservative leadership on this issue.
Of course, the deeper issue on NAFTA is that Canada should never have been in such a vulnerable position. Canada almost certainly could have struck a bilateral deal with the U.S. a long-time ago – without making many concessions at all. But Trudeau rejected that opportunity, foolishly talked about “solidarity” with Mexico, and then went on a virtue-signalling tour that destroyed our leverage.
So, the real failure is the failure of Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, and that far outweighs any divisions within Canada’s conservatives.
Still, those divisions are real when it comes to supply management, and at some point that issue will need to be addressed in order to ensure that the true views of Canadian Conservatives are represented.