Politics

Bibeau unveils $1.75B in compensation for dairy farmers harmed by trade deals

The Liberal government is delivering $1.75 billion in compensation for dairy producers negatively impacted by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Spring budget earmarked $3.9B for sectors affected by CETA, CPTPP

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $1.75 billion in compensation for dairy farmers harmed by trade agreements. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government is delivering $1.75 billion in compensation for dairy producers negatively impacted by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The funding will roll out over eight years for nearly 11,000 farmers to compensate them for losses. About $345 million of that total will be paid out in the first year in direct payments according to their production quotas.

A news release said a farm owner with 80 dairy cows will be awarded compensation of $28,000 in the first year.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau gave details of the announcement Friday at a farm in Compton, Que.

"This will allow everyone to make the best decisions based on new market realities and their respective situations," Bibeau said.

The minister said the funding reflects the government's deep respect for dairy farmers and its "unshakable belief" in Canada's supply management system.

The supply management system controls the supply of dairy, poultry and eggs through production and import controls and pricing mechanisms designed to stabilize profits for producers and pricing for consumers.

Scheer criticizes timing

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused the government of dragging its heels on delivering the funding.

"The announcement that was made today [Friday] is the exact same formula, the exact same scale that the Conservatives have previously put forward," he said. "It's frustrating ... on behalf of the dairy sector, I know a lot of producers are concerned that it took this long.

"Essentially it took four years for the Liberals to come forward with the exact same plan that Stephen Harper came forward with just before the last election." 

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, a vocal critic of the supply management system, said the government should dismantle the "cartel" instead of paying out compensation.

Citing a Conference Board of Canada 2014 research report, Bernier said a buyout program would cost between $3.6 billion and $4.7 billion.

He said the announcement on the eve of an election is designed to buy votes.

"It's an unfair system and I think it's the worst solution," he told CBC.

Bernier concedes his position could cost him some votes in his Beauce, Que. riding, where there are a large number of dairy farmers.

"I'm pretty sure they won't vote for me, but that's OK. They're protecting their own interests and I can understand that."

Jacques Lefebvre, CEO of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, called Friday's funding a "significant commitment."

"We're quite pleased. It was a long time coming, and now we move forward and we'll make sure in any future trade agreements dairy is not being conceded to other countries," he said.

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