By Mike Archer. If Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually intends to give away 32 percent of the Canadian fine cheese market in order to allow beef producers to gain access to the European market he will be solidifying his base in Alberta’s ranch country but he will be throwing his MPs in Ontario, Quebec and the Fraser Valley to the wolves.
As his Minister for International Trade, Ed Fast, the MP for Abbotsford, is going to have a hard time explaining to his constituents and financial backers in Matsqui and Sumas how giving away their market to European farmers represents looking after their interests in Ottawa.
Surely part of the idea behind supporting Fast both financially and at the polls was to help him protect dairy farmers’ interests as the Harper government went around the world seeking a trade deal … any trade deal to demonstrate their command of the economy.
Providing the Alberta ranchers with a leg up at the expense of BC, Ontario and Quebec dairy farmers hardly seems like the kind of politics likely to rebuild the Harper government’s standing in the polls, which has recently plummeted. So far Harper seems to have focused his domestic attention on Alberta oil and Alberta beef while the Ontario rust belt sinks into a long and protracted depression and agricultural sectors like the dairy farms and food processors of the Fraser Valley are left to deal with an enormous body blow to their economic prospects.
According to a September 23 Abbotsford Times story by Christina Toth, the B.C. dairy, egg and poultry industries (BCDEPI) ” … employed more than 31,700 people, including 11,800 directly working in the sector. Another estimated 19,900 people are employed beyond the farm gate, such as in processing plants.
Furthermore, according to Toth, “BCDEPI is estimated to be $5.6 billion in industry output, contributing an estimated $1.6 billion to B.C.’s GDP (which is roughly $196 billion)…”
That’s a big chunk of the economy of the Fraser Valley that our Trade Minister appears to be throwing to the wolves so that his boss can maintain his Alberta base.