NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stepped into the supply-management fray surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper should defend supply management "in its entirety".
Harper's most recent remarks on the trade talks have created uncertainty for Canadian egg, poultry and dairy producers, Mulcair writes in a letter to the prime minister.
"I am urging you to commit to defending supply management in its entirety and reassure Canadians that it will be protected in all future negotiations," Mulcair writes in the letter, sent late last week.
He says nothing about gains Canada hopes to make for export commodities, such as grain, beef and pork, but, then again, he's more interested in protecting the gains the NDP made in Quebec in the last election than in mildly offending grain and livestock farmers.
"Concessions in supply management sectors could have profoundly negative effects on our regional economies," writes Mulcair.
"In Quebec alone, nearly 7,000 family farms exist and prosper thanks to supply management, which also accounts for 92,000 jobs and 43 per cent of total agricultural revenue."
Last Thursday, Harper said Canada is "working to protect" the supply management system while it participates in the trade talks. That's about as mealy-mouthed as a politician can get.
"I believe these negotiations are going to establish what will become the basis of the international trading network in the Asia Pacific.”
Harper said “it is essential in my view that Canada be part of that — that the Canadian economy be part of that.
"At the same time, we are working to protect our system of supply management and our farmers in other sectors," he said without offering any details.
Dairy farmers are still waiting to see what compensation Harper will offer in connection with concessions on cheese imports from the recent trade deal with the European Union.