What's New

Why the dairy industry’s defence of supply management is so flawed

Why the dairy industry’s defence of supply management is so flawed

The evidence against supply management is overwhelming. What are politicians waiting for?

Martha Hall Findlay

May 14, 2014

Martha Hall Findlay is executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a former Liberal MP. This is the second part in a series examining the problems caused by Canada’s system of supply management.

We’ve seen how supply management for dairy, poultry and eggs hurts a) consumers through artificially high prices; b) food processors (and the jobs they could be creating in Canada) because of their inability to compete internationally; c) exporters of all kinds looking for more international trade access, but which Canada is denied because of supply management; d) the majority of Canadian farmers (over 90 per cent)—those who grow and produce beef, pork, grains, oilseeds, pulses, and who are not supply managed—who would also benefit from more international trade access; and finally e) most ironically, dairy farmers themselves, also prevented from exploiting international growth opportunities. All for the sake of what is now a very small number of relatively wealthy dairy, poultry and egg farmers. The overwhelming evidence shows that supply management, although it may have been laudable in the 1970s when it was implemented, is now a big problem, and it must go.

So why do we still have it?

The extraordinarily well-funded Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), arguably Canada’s most powerful lobby, spends an estimated $80 to $100 million each year (ironically paid for by the higher prices consumers pay), promoting the following arguments:

“Canadian prices aren’t that high.”

Nonsense, of course they are—that’s why we have tariffs ranging up to 300 per cent, why a “cheese smuggling ring” was recently discovered and why Canadians all along the border, from East to West, make regular weekend driving trips across the border to stock up on milk, cheese and eggs.

“We can’t compete with the heavily subsidized U.S. dairy farmers without supply management.”

Note that this “argument” completely contradicts the first one. Historically, the U.S. has subsidized dairy, but not in a truly significant way for a long time. Those making the “argument” continue to use very old statistics. The calculations for the OECD producer subsidy equivalent (PSE) reflect real support given by countries, whether directly or indirectly, through regulations such as supply management. In 2013 the PSE for Canada came in at 15 per cent—almost all of which is attributed to supply management for dairy, poultry, and eggs (the other 94 per cent of Canadian farmers do not share in this largesse). Contrast this to the United States: only eight per cent, and almost entirely because of its subsidies for sugar, not milk. (In Australia, it was three per cent; New Zealand, one per cent.) The recently-enacted U.S. Agricultural Act of 2014 finally removed three dairy support programs: price supports; export subsidies; and the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC)—but all three had become largely irrelevant to prices. Price supports (through government purchases of excess supply) had already been cut in the 1980s, so their removal was largely symbolic. The MILC program, although it provided substantial support to smaller farms, did little for the large commercial dairies which supply most of the milk in the United States—and have been selling it at prices based on the market and on their own efficiencies and economies of scale, not the MILC subsidy. Third, U.S. dairy products have already begun competing successfully in global markets—the program of export subsidies had not only become irrelevant but, as a constraint on international trade agreements, was no longer desirable.

“It ‘protects’ the family farm.”

Not only does it not do so, the opposite is true. Consolidation (smaller farms combining into large ones for economies of scale) is a fact of agriculture all around the world, and Canada is no exception. But the statistics show that in Canada, the rate of consolidation has actually been higher—yes, higherin the supply-managed dairy, poultry and eggs sectors, than in most other agricultural sectors. In the 1970s, when supply management was brought in, there were approximately 145,000 dairy farmers; there are now barely more than 12,000—a staggering drop of more than 90 per cent. And supply management only applies to six per cent of Canadian farmers.

“It protects food safety and security.”

Another fallacy. We all want to ensure the quality of all of our food, not just dairy, poultry and eggs. And we do so by regulation, food labelling and food inspection. Some (including this author) would argue that we don’t do well enough in that regard, but the economic structure of supply management has nothing to do with it. The fear-mongers claim that without supply management, we will “let in U.S. milk that is laced with hormones.” It is true that some U.S. dairies use hormones for their herds—just as most Canadian beef farmers do. But the control for that is at the border—not pricing, but control over content. Note that in the recent CETA trade agreement with Europe, Europe insisted on the beef coming from Canada being hormone-free. There is absolutely nothing to prevent Canada from doing the same, either saying that we will not accept milk into Canada that has been produced using hormones, or by requiring thorough labelling so that people can make their own choice and pay whatever price is most appropriate.

“Farmers are hard-done by.”

Not only is this wrong, the opposite is true. Farming can be hard work, no question. But as of 2010, the average dairy farm’s net worth was well over $2.5 million, the average poultry/egg farm’s net worth was almost $4 million, and the net cash income of the average dairy, poultry or egg farm (over and above net worth of assets) was also far higher than that of the average Canadian family (in 2010, net income, including after family wageswas more than $130,000 for dairy and over $150,000 for poultry and eggs).

“It is not subsidized by the government.”

Technically, this is true—but it is paid for by all Canadians in their roles as consumers, instead of as taxpayers, thanks to the fixing of milk prices. The money comes out of the same pockets. And the international trade authorities have confirmed that, for trade purposes, it amounts to the same thing.

“It doesn’t affect Canada’s trade negotiations—see how many trade deals we’ve signed?”

Again, a fallacy. We are losing access to important international markets. Every trade negotiation is exactly that, a negotiation, with gives and with takes. International trade experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the WTO and other organizations all confirm that mandated consumer-paid support distorts trade just as much as direct government subsidies do. Canada thus arrives at every trade negotiation with, in effect, one hand tied behind its back, and it is forced to make concessions in other areas because of insistence on heavy protections for such a tiny group of people.

“We don’t have the votes.”

This is the most frustrating of all the arguments, because it comes from the politicians who have the opportunity to “make the difference” that most say is why they entered politics in the first place. Dismantling supply management would be the right thing to do for by far the majority of Canadians, but politicians are intimidated by the dairy lobby. If only they adhered to their stated desire to implement “evidence-based policy.” The evidence in this case is overwhelming. The irony is that their concern about “not having the votes” is also now unfounded. A recent study has shown that, given the dramatic decrease in the number of supply-managed farms, there are at least twice, often three, four or more times the number of non-supply-managed farms than supply-managed ones in every single federal electoral riding. Even in those with dairy concentrations in Quebec and Ontario, there are far more votes from those who would like it dismantled that those who want to keep it.

Supply management needs to go. But how?

To learn how Canada can dismantle supply management in a way that is win-win for all—based on Canada’s own successful experience with our once-protected wine industry—and on some of the extraordinary and positive growth opportunities for Canada’s farmers, visit www.macleans.ca/tag/supply-management/ over the following week for more from Martha Hall Findlay.


What's New

Why your milk costs so much and what to do about it.

Why your milk costs so much and what to do about it.

Martha Hall Findlay is executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a former Liberal MP.

There is a lot more to Canada’s dairy farms than the idyllic settings portrayed in the TV ads with the dancing cows. Dairy, poultry and egg farming, alone among all of Canada’s food production, is governed by supply management, an archaic, decades-old—and very costly—controlled-market system. We continue to artificially support this small group, barely six per cent of all Canadian farmers, by fixing prices, imposing extremely high tariffs to keep those prices high, and controlling production. This system, Canada’s very own regulated cartel, costs virtually every Canadian, sometimes in multiple ways—yet very few know anything about it, what it costs them, or why they’re paying so dearly for it. [For a full report, see “Supply Management: Problems, Politics – and Possibilities”.]

  • It hurts consumers. The average family pays over $300 a year more than they should for basic nutrition. Worse, it’s regressive, hurting the most vulnerable the hardest—low-income single parent families with small children, those who need access to affordable nutrition the most.
  • It hurts Canadian manufacturers and other exporters because Canada’s insistence on protecting supply management puts Canada at a disadvantage in every trade negotiation, hindering access to international markets. Even in those trade deals that Canada has been able to sign, we have had to give up far too much at the negotiating table.
  • We lose Canadian food processing jobs, because the food processors (the butter, cheese and yogourt makers) who sell internationally, locate their plants (and their jobs) outside of Canada because our milk is too expensive.
  • And for those who like the idea of helping Canadian farmers, supply management actually hurts the majority of them–the 94 per cent who are not supply managed—because by far the majority of Canada’s farmers produce beef, pork, grains, oilseeds and pulses—all products that Canada could sell more of to the rapidly-growing Asian markets, if only we stopped harming our trade options by insisting on protecting supply management for a tiny minority.

Ironically, and perhaps most frustratingly, it hurts many of the dairy farmers themselves—certainly the most efficient ones, as highlighted in “Reforming Dairy Supply Management: The Case for Growth”, a new report by the Conference Board of Canada. Roughly 25 per cent of Canada’s dairy farmers produce half of Canada’s milk. These more efficient, growth-oriented farmers could be reaping significant profit from exporting to international markets, particularly the rapidly-growing Asian markets. Unfortunately it is they who are denying themselves these extraordinary growth and profit opportunities. The report also analyzes how the better farmers are subsidizing the less-productive ones, and how the whole system costs several hundred million dollars a year in debt servicing costs, capital that could be better used to fund tangible and productive assets. In another ironic twist, dairy farmers are also losing sales to less-expensive (and less-nutritious) dairy substitutes such as butteroil/sugar blends (49 per cent milk fat, 51 per cent sugar). These products circumvent import tariffs and are brought into Canada by processors of ice cream and other products. The loss to farmers is estimated at more than $70 million per year.

How does supply management work?

The system is determined by supply, not demand. It is based on three pillars: fixed prices, tariffs, and quotas. The price for milk paid to the producers is based not on the market but on the costs of production (as determined by the producers themselves). High protective tariffs prevent competition from outside, and production is controlled through a regulated quota system.

Price Setting: Milk prices (for consumers as well as processors of butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream) are set by the dairy farmers themselves—based on cost of production plus what they determine is the appropriate profit.

Tariffs: To maintain these high domestic price levels, the federal government limits competition from other countries. For all imports (other than a small exempt amount) the tariffs range from 168 percent for eggs, 238 percent for chicken, 246 percent for cheese, to almost 300 percent for butter.

Quotas: This guaranteed price makes for a no-lose, very profitable, and thus attractive enterprise. To prevent overproduction, the government established a quota system that, in 1971, was based on each farmer’s existing production and is now transferable. Quota is currently worth about $30,000 per cow—over $2 million per average farm.

But times have changed.

Over the last 40 years the number of dairy producers has dropped a staggering 91 percent, from about 145,000 in 1971 to barely more than 12,000. There are fewer than 3,000 poultry farmers and fewer than 1,000 egg farmers. And the idea of consumers supporting hard-pressed farmers may have been a laudable goal decades ago, but it no longer applies: In 2010, the average dairy farm’s net worth was well more than $2.5 million; the average poultry/egg farm’s net worth was almost $4 million—far more than all other Canadian farmers, and far, far more than the average Canadian family. Yet governments in Canada continue to protect this small segment—less than one-half of one per cent of Canada’s economy—even though the system significantly, and adversely, affects much larger parts of the economy.

So why do we still have it?

Many politicians acknowledge, privately, that supply management should go, but they are loth to do anything because they feel that “they just don’t have the votes.” The well-funded dairy lobby spends a great deal of money (an estimated $80 to $100 million each year—ironically paid for by the higher prices consumers pay), persuading federal and provincial politicians that supply management “protects the family farm,” “ensures food security” and that, because these farmers are so numerous, doing anything to upset them would be political suicide.

These are complete fallacies. There has been more consolidation in dairy, poultry and eggs than in almost every other agricultural sector—even with supply management. So much for “protecting the family farm.” And food security is protected by regulation of what we allow as ingredients in both what we produce and what we import, which we do for all of our other food—not through cartel economics. Arguably we should be doing even more in terms of food security, but for all—it has nothing to do with supply management. And for the politicians: as shown, the number of farms (and therefore voting influence) has dropped dramatically. Something clearly should be done. The big question now is how.


For more on why the industry’s defence of supply management doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and how to dismantle the system in a way that is beneficial to all involved, visit www.macleans.ca/tag/supply-management/ over the following week for more from Martha Hall Findlay.


What's New

Jim Flaherty and the Importance of Public Service

Here is the speech former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave to students in 2011:

Ivey School speech on public service

Oct. 11, 2011

I am happy to be here. This is a room full of important people. You are the people our country needs in the highly competitive and challenging global marketplace of today and tomorrow.

Our future success depends on you.

You are the leaders of tomorrow.

I want to talk about tomorrow. But first I want to spend a few moments on yesterday.

I was raised in a household of eight children. Needless to say, my mother kept the house in order and ruled the roost.

My mother believed firmly in the benefits of cod liver oil for the treatment of various maladies, in fact, most maladies. It tasted awful. So, my seven brothers and sisters and I would resist at first. We would relent in the end for two reasons: it was actually good for us and, perhaps more importantly, mother was not to be disobeyed.

I am not your mother. I don’t have to be obeyed. But today I am here to urge you to consider something that will be good for you. I want you to consider public service as part of your career path. I recommend it, knowing from experience that public service will not be easy to take at times but it will be good for you in the end result. I can offer no greater assurance.

After taking the good advice of my mother, I eventually graduated high school and moved from home. I was fortunate to take my undergraduate degree at Princeton University. During that time, it was my privilege to attend a speech delivered by Robert Kennedy. His message to my own generation was crystal clear: “I need you. Your country needs you. The world needs you. You are the best and brightest of your generation.”

Today, about 40 years after I heard Kennedy speak, my message is the same: Canada needs you – your skills, talents, idealism, energy and enthusiasm.

Now, more than ever.

At the same time, you need Canada.

Because, as I can tell you, public service is good for you. It will give perspective to your life by expanding your horizons, your thoughts, and your view of the world. You will learn that some issues and concerns are more important than others. This leads to discernment as choices must be made. This perspective will be useful in all aspects of your life.

Public service reminds us all that there exists a genuine concept of the public good in the broad public interest. While we value individual liberty and protect it, as Canadians we also maintain a strong tradition of the public good, that is, what is good for society as a whole, on balance, taking into account disparate interests and adopting the longer view. In public service you will participate in advancing this public good.

Public service is good for you. It will give your life a greater impact on others and your country. My high school, Loyola High School in Montreal, has its motto: “a man for others” (It’s an all boys school). My alma mater maintains its motto of “Princeton in the nation’s service”. Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton before becoming President of the United States, had this to say in 1916 to the graduates of the U.S Naval Academy:

“I congratulate you that you are going to live your lives under the most stimulating compulsion that any man can feel, the sense, not of private duty merely, but of public duty also. And then if you perform that duty, there is a reward awaiting you which is superior to any other reward in this world. That is the affectionate remembrance of your fellow men – their honour, their affection.”

In many ways ranging from individual matters to community concerns to national and global issues, the opportunities to be a positive force for others in public service are both plentiful and fulfilling.

That will make you happier ultimately. We are, of course, not in the world alone and our lives here are finite. People seek to have an impact on broader public issues recognizing the intrinsic value of reaching out to others not only to maintain and reinforce shared common values, but also to create new initiatives and innovations. This societal public good is not incompatible with the private good. Our individual and family responsibilities are primary. Yet the desire to accumulate private goods in the end does not lead to satisfaction simply because, as we all learn, enough is never enough. On that train, some people will always be in the cars ahead.

If money was all that mattered to me, I would still be working as a lawyer in downtown Toronto. Because I can tell you, I would be making a lot more money than I am now. But I would have missed out on so many experiences that have enriched my life. And I would have missed out on so many opportunities to shape and implement public policies that, in my opinion, have enriched others’ lives and made our communities and country stronger.

Public service is good for you. You will have opportunities to change the world around you in varying ways and to different degrees, large and small.

You will get opportunities to use your talents to implement your thoughts and beliefs. In concert with others, accomplishments will follow. Great adventure this, for disappointments and failure will follow also. Boredom, however, is not on the agenda.

One little anecdote. One of the most testing times in my career in public service was the recession that began in the Fall of 2008.

In fact, we were in the midst of an election when it hit with full force. Had we been aware of the crisis on the horizon, the Prime Minister would have been unlikely to call the election.

Nevertheless, that was the situation. So I found myself campaigning for re-election in Whitby-Oshawa while juggling an increasing number of phone calls with the G7 finance ministers as we all became more aware of the breadth of the worldwide economic crisis.

One of the most surreal moments was Election Day itself. I was doing what we call in politics a Burmashave where you stand by the road and wave at passing motorists. While I don’t know if this technique actually gets you votes, I do know that it keeps nervous candidates busy and not bothering their campaign team, the ones doing the real work.

At one point that morning I had to run down from the side of the road into the Whitby Brick parking lot and get on my cell phone to discuss the latest twists in the crisis with the American Secretary of the Treasury and my other G7 colleagues.

When I was your age, had anyone ever told me I’d one day be speaking to an American cabinet officer and Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer while in a department store parking lot, I would have questioned their sanity.

But this is what could await you. In this room it’s conceivable that we could have future mayors, future Deputy Ministers, Chairs of School Boards, a Minister of Foreign Affairs, or perhaps even a future Prime Minister.

In order for this to happen, however, you have to answer the call – the call like the one I heard Bobby Kennedy make so many years ago. Being involved in the public service is an honour for me. I know that all MPs of all parties in the House of Commons, and members of the non-partisan public service at all levels, feel the same way.

Public service is good for you. It’s unlike any other career. It features long hours, relatively lower rates of pay than comparable positions on Bay Street, and it is often decades before you can witness the positive results of your labour.

Some of you might then ask: “If the hours are long and the pay low, why would I do it?”

The answer is simple: It is the most satisfying and personally enriching career you will ever find. This, my friends, is priceless.

Your parents will definitely remember Bill Davis. Mr. Davis served as Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. Quite rightly, politicians and commentators of all political persuasions consider him one of the great Ontario Premiers of the 20th century.

After his retirement from politics, Mr. Davis, a lawyer by profession, was offered a position at one of Toronto’s leading law firms. The job finally allowed him to realize a salary equal to what his fellow law school graduates had been making for years, while he worked at Queen’s Park as a young backbencher, cabinet minister and later Premier and party leader. The new job also came with an impressive office and fine view of Toronto’s downtown – much better, I might add, than the view from the Premier’s Office at the Ontario Legislature.

Two-years after accepting this position – which he excelled at – Mr. Davis was interviewed by Steve Paikin of TV Ontario.

“Steven, let me tell you something,” the former Premier said, “This job– on the most exciting, interesting day– can’t touch being Premier of Ontario on the dullest.”

So I return to my theme.

Public service is good for you. It will develop your character as you will need courage to act on crucial issues while rejecting the venality and self-interest that frequent public affairs. Character requires purposefulness, steadfastness and, as Sir John A. McDonald was fond of saying, “looking a little ahead, my friends”. Character contrasts with short term celebrity witnessing, as we do, the tendency of celebrities to under achieve in public service and to fail to stay the course.

Anyone in this profession will tell you that working in the public sector is more than simply coming in every day and finishing a series of tasks.

Rather, public service is a higher calling, one which can result in long days and little sleep, but rewards you with the knowledge that rather than working for the interests of a company, or a corporation, you work in the interest of every single citizen within this great country.

Therefore it’s with great pride that I can stand here before you and say “I’ve answered this call”. It is something that makes me truly happy.  But it’s important to know why this, more than any other career I’ve had, makes me happy.

I don’t mean to say that I’m “happy” because this job is easy, it doesn’t make me happy because I get to meet so-called important people, it doesn’t make me happy because I get to see my name in the newspaper, or my face on TV. No… it makes me happy because I know that making the decision to enter public service was right.

I know that it is right to want to serve your country. That it is right to want to help your fellow citizen. That it is right to want to work for a better, stronger, and more robust country. That it is right to say “we can do better”. And that it is right to stand up and be there for Canada.

It is good for me. And it will be good for you. You will be challenged in many dimensions. Your heart and mind will be engaged on public issues for the public good.

Public service will enrich your skills and your resumes  — even if you don’t decide to work your whole careers in the public sector. Public service offers valuable training opportunities such as the chance to interact with Canadians across Canada or to perform high-tech research alongside the top scientists in Canada. These are skills and experiences in wide demand in the private sector as well.

Now, politics in the sense of standing for or holding public office, is a form of public service but only one form.

There are many others:

  • Community groups such as local chambers of commerce or environmental organizations
  • Local service organizations like the Lions Club or the Knights of Columbus
  • Charitable organizations like the Red Cross,
  • Cultural entities like the local library or heritage association
  • The civil service
  • School boards, church groups, and local minor sports organizations.

My choice, in recent years, has been public office. So I will return to that. Oftentimes, the public perception of those who seek or obtain elected office is jaded.

Some of this pessimism is earned: the world of politics, like other occupations, does not exclude the self-absorbed or the narrow minded.

While there are necessary yet at least temporarily unpopular decisions taken from time to time by governments, and certainly there are some disappointing elected persons, the public good in my view would be served better if all of us in all walks of life sought more balance in our perspectives.

That is, the balance that comes with the acceptance of the realization that we are all in this together attempting to discuss the public good and that, with the exception of some scoundrels to be found in all walks of life, including politics, we share that goal. So, the paramount question for all of us, including the media, remains: What is the public good for the country?

Almost 100 years ago, one of Canada’s greatest Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, addressed a group of Ontario youth. It was less than a month before his death in February 1919.

He admitted that his generation had not solved all of Canada’s problems and was leaving much unfinished in their wake. Through public service, Laurier said, Canada’s young people would have to face these challenges themselves. And to do so, he left them the following words of advice.

“Let your aim and purpose, in good report or ill, in victory or defeat, be so to live, so to strive, so to serve as to do your part to raise even higher the standard of life and living.”

Just as in Laurier’s time, my generation doesn’t have all the answers. We have done the best we can. The levers of decision making will soon be in your hands. It matters little to me if you are, or end up, a Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Green party supporter. What matters most is when you walk out of this institution on graduation day you get engaged in your community, province and country.

Because your country is a land of opportunity for public service in these challenging times. Canada is looked to as an example of a country that worked during the recent global economic crisis and that has a plan to ensure the country continues to work into the future. Being part of shaping that future will be an amazing, enriching experience for any of you who choose it. Your country needs you. But it also has much to offer you.

So, one more time I will say: Public service is good for you. You may have noticed that I have not said public service is your duty or obligation. Whether it is or it isn’t – the choice is yours. I do recommend it as part of your career because public service will make your life exhilarating and satisfying for, among other things, the reasons I have stated. So, in your life plan as you consider your priorities and define your thoughts, create space for the fascinating world of public service.

I can promise you that if you do, you will be rewarded in ways no other calling grants you. You will become, as Theodore Roosevelt once said after his retirement from politics, one of those who, and I quote: “knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

That is the challenge I leave you with.

Answer the call.

You will never regret it.

Do it for your country.

Do it for yourself.

Do it to make your mother proud.

The cod liver oil is optional.

Thank you for inviting me here today.


What's New

Thank You Jim, For Your Friendship and Your Service

Jim's Last Tweet

Jim’s last tweet on March 18, 2014.  “It has been an honour to serve Canada.  Thank you for the opportunity”.


Jim will be missed by a great many people. First and foremost, our deep condolences go to his family and close friends — he was taken far too soon.

He will be missed by the legions of other friends that he developed over the years.

And he will be missed by his political colleagues — ally and opponent alike. He will be remembered with fondness, because that’s the kind of guy he was; and with respect, because he was tenacious, tough and very capable. He stood his ground because he believed in what he stood for. He was one of those too-rare politicians who entered public life for the right reasons, believing that his public service was just that — service.

Although we got to know each other through politics, my own favourite memory of Jim is entirely personal. Whenever we ended up at the same event, same function — as soon as we spied each other across the room, he’d smile a big grin, as would I. His eyes would twinkle, and we’d make our way over to each other for a big hug. Nothing partisan. Indeed, transcending partisanship. Just plain old respect and affection.

Thank you, Jim, for your friendship and your service. And thank you to your family for sharing you with us and the country for so long.


A Just Society, Government and Democracy, What's New

Hugh B. Hall, Joe Sullivan, Charles Dunk and World War II

This is a story about war, and certain Canadians who fought in World War II. Why? We’re half a year away from Remembrance Day. We’re a few months away from the anniversary of D-Day, or of any other significant military date in Canadian history. So why write something now about World War II?

Because this is a personal story, one to be told regardless of time. Recent events have prompted a whole series of emotions for me, my family and people close to us — regret, sorrow and sadness, in remembering sacrifices that Canadians made in World War II. Yet, some of those same recent events have created wonderful connections.

Let me explain…

My father, Hugh Baldwin Hall, landed on D-Day June 6, 1944.

He was all of 22 years old, a Lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, commanding a platoon of Stormont Dundas Glengarry Highlanders – the “Glens”. After surviving the landing in Normandy, they lived in trenches, in horrible conditions and under almost constant fire, for 56 days straight. They were the first Allied soldiers to enter Caen July 9, and they went on to liberate Holland.

But those who survived did so only after watching too many of their friends and colleagues die trying.

My father passed away over 20 years ago. He didn’t talk much about the war. And the relationship that he had with his six children (of which I am one) was difficult.

Being presented with the Military Cross by Field Marshal Montgomery

Being presented with the Military Cross by Field Marshal Montgomery

After he returned from the war, he became a successful businessman, but he also became an alcoholic, had a troubled marriage, and for many reasons our relationship was strained — at best. One unfortunate consequence was that we, his children, never really learned about his war experiences. We didn’t ask — he didn’t tell. He had been awarded the Military Cross by Field Marshall Montgomery – there were vague stories about motorcycles full of bullet holes and signal lines kept open, but we never knew much about what had happened.

This is where a wonderful woman named Cathy Ruch comes in, and an extraordinary man by the name of Joe Sullivan. You see, Joe was in my dad’s platoon. They both landed on Juno beach that day. (Joe was in the boat that you can see in the most famous photo of the Canadian landing at Juno beach – Dad was in a different one.) But we would never have known, or made the connection, without Cathy.

Photo of Cathy, Betsy, Joe and Martha 13 March 2014

Cathy, Betsy, Joe and Martha – March 2014

It is such a cliché, but it really is a small world. Cathy’s grandfather Charles R. Dunk, also a member of the Glens, had also landed on D-Day. A few years ago, curious, she began research on her grandfather and what he had done in the War, though he had passed away some time before. That research connected her with Joe Sullivan and they struck up a friendship. Separately, I had published a blog that mentioned my Dad, which Cathy had seen. She made the connection and wrote to me about her work, and about Joe.

After multiple emails back and forth, one of my sisters and I finally met both Cathy and Joe in Peterborough, where Joe still lives.

Joe Sullivan is 93 (he admits with a grin). He walks with a spring in his step, is as sharp as a tack, is wonderfully articulate, and has a memory worth a dozen history books. Although we missed the opportunity to ask our own Dad about what happened, and what he went through, Joe Sullivan told us stories that helped us finally understand – at least what one can without having been there.

It was awful. War is awful. The stories of the shelling, the shooting, the rain, the mud, the carnage, the dead and the maimed… Many, many people died. Good people lost good friends. Sons, brothers, fathers, lovers. There was immeasurable suffering. But Joe also has stories of deep friendship and the kind of camaraderie you can only develop in times of common danger. Some of those friendships lasted only a brief time amid the fighting because of lives lost – others have lasted whole lifetimes. It’s amazing what happens when your lives depend on each other.

We learned more about our Dad’s wartime experience from Joe Sullivan than we had learned from Dad. We regret not asking more when we had the chance.

Three of my siblings and I will be visiting Normandy this coming June to participate in the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. We do so out of respect for our father, for what he did, for what so many people sacrificed. We hope Dad will be watching and understands. And we hope that Joe and Cathy will join us.

We also hope that Canadians will always remember the sacrifices that too may men and women have made; we hope that, in remembering, we have learned from these awful experiences, and that we all work to prevent such damage from ever happening again.

What's New

Dad, Granddad, Uncle Bob and Uncle Don

Being presented with the Military Cross by Field Marshal Montgomery

Hugh B. Hall being presented with the Military Cross by Field Marshal Montgomery

Dad was imperfect – as every human being is.  He had good looks, great charm, was athletic and industrious. He was a Harvard MBA and ran a very successful business. He had 6 great kids and provided for us all well. But he had his personal demons, too. Who knows how many of them came from those few years, when he was so young, in France and then Holland. How could he not have been scarred?

He landed at Juno Beach on DDay.  He was the first Allied soldier in Caen. He was awarded the Military Cross for his work in laying and keeping open the signal lines under fire, and he went on to help liberate Holland. I am only able to tell this story because he was one of the lucky ones who was able to come home and build a family—of which I am one. But his demons led to a too-early death. He should have been a happier man.

Uncle Bob (Mum’s brother) didn’t bring demons home — because he never came home. The plane he was piloting went down in what was then called the Sea of Burma. The scars were left  to be borne by his family and friends. Granddad (Mum’s dad) was a pilot in WWI – he flew with Billy Bishop against the famous Red Baron. He came home, but to my knowledge never spoke about those years. He died before I was old enough to ask him about his experiences, but I’m not sure he would have told me.

Uncle Don (another of Mum’s brothers) was a pilot with the naval air force.  He was too young to go to war, but he made the navy his life’s career.

I am very proud of my family’s contributions.  I am very proud of the fact that, when called upon to help internationally, Canada and Canadians have not only stepped up to the challenge, they have done so with passion and courage — above and beyond. But war damages everyone – those who make the ultimate sacrifice, those who come home, but scarred, physically and emotionally, and the families and friends of those either gone or who will never be the same.

Today we remember, and we say thank you. Let us honour these men and women by doing all we can to to promote peace – to prevent the carnage in the first place.

What's New


November 1, 2013 — Newsflash!!

The Harper government has decided that its ongoing battle with Rogers, Bell and TELUS, our “big three” wireless companies, is over.

The telco lobbyists have convinced the government that the majority of voters – well, at least those in a half dozen or so ridings in Ontario and Quebec – actually like them. Therefore, in the interests of family values, motherhood and apple pie – and the voters in those half dozen ridings – the government has announced the following:

As of today, the government will stop all artificial efforts to force more competition – it will stop all subsidized spectrum set asides, and stop all efforts to artificially force prices down.

It has announced that, in the interests of Canadians, rather than encouraging more competition, it is henceforth closing the market for wireless service in Canada. After all, the prices currently being charged are necessary for the telcos to provide high quality service and earn a reasonable return.

The Harper government is going further: Rogers, Bell and TELUS are now to stop all efforts to compete with each other, whether on network coverage, data speeds, handsets, or prices. “Consumers derive no benefit from having the telcos try to outdo each other on any of those things – it would only be a race to the bottom,” a government spokesperson said. “Consumers will benefit more from cooperation and coordination among the big three.” The government has made it clear that it will legislate and enforce regulation to that effect.

However – the details of that cooperation and coordination cannot be left to just anyone, certainly not economists. Canadians need the people who “know” the business to make those decisions. The government is therefore appointing a board of industry representatives – people from Rogers, Bell and TELUS – who will determine what the “Canadian” wireless prices will be; determine the extent of network coverage; decide the maximum amounts of data they will allow across the networks; limit the speeds at which they will permit it to flow; and control what handsets will work on “their” networks and be available to consumers.

And from now on, wireless prices and rate plans will be based purely on what those Rogers, Bell and TELUS representatives, collectively, decide is the cost of providing the service – plus, of course, what they determine is an appropriate level of profit for their efforts. The government recognizes that Canada’s geography, subscriber usage and other factors have, to date, led to the highest wireless capital investment per subscriber in the world, so it is acknowledged that Canadian prices will now go up significantly to reflect that level of cost.

To ensure that these prices and this effort is protected, the government will, by way of our international trade arrangements and other regulation, stop all efforts to attract foreign industry players – indeed will prevent anyone, domestic or foreign, from setting up a new wireless company. After all, the only way the system will work is by way of a closed market. Each of the big three will be allocated a certain quota, and from now on, the only way anyone will be able to get into the wireless business in Canada will be to buy part of the quota that Rogers, Bell and TELUS already have, and join the system. Indeed, anyone who dares try to offer wireless service outside the system – for example with data speeds different that what the system decides – will be fined and shut down.

The Harper government has acknowledged that this will result in higher profits for the big three telcos, and will spark a significant increase in the share price for all three. However, the telcos have assured the government that they will use those greater profits, and enhanced access to capital, to innovate and become more efficient (other than, of course, the portion that will go to the telco lobbyists, who will need to spend a lot of money to keep the government on side).

Hmmmm.  A bit preposterous?

Of course. But that’s exactly the protectionist, market-controlled supply management system we already have in Canada with dairy, poultry and eggs – the artificial protection given to what is a tiny fraction (barely 6%) of Canadian farmers. It ensures that the average Canadian family pays upwards of $300 more a year for basic foodstuffs of milk, cheese, chicken and eggs than they should – which is bad enough for all of us, but it hurts single parent families living in poverty the most. Why is it that Canadians are so upset about over cellphone bills, but not artificially high prices for basic food necessities? Is it because we “like” farmers more than the telcos? Perhaps, but – ironically – by far the majority of the other 94% of Canadian farmers, those who grow and produce non-protected things like beef, pork, grains, oilseeds and pulses are in fact disadvantaged by the system that creates real impediments to their access to world markets.

This approach is so obviously ridiculous for the wireless industry. So why do we still have it for dairy? Maybe it’s the estimated $80-100 million dollars a year spent by the dairy lobby. The much-criticized ad campaign this summer by Canada’s large telcos was like the last drop of milk squeezed from a cow’s teat compared to the bucket-full of propaganda waged to keep Canadians paying far more than they should be for basic food.

For a full description of the supply management system, the challenges it causes, and, most importantly, positive recommendations for an exit strategy that is win-win – including for dairy farmers – see this report from the School of Public Policy.

What's New

Quite A Decade… and a Tough Decision

2013-10-24 – Newsletter – Quite A Decade… and a Tough Decision

 This newsletter is a bit more personal, and a bit more difficult than most, as I’m writing to let you know that I will not be running in 2015.Although the Senate scandals, the ultra partisanship in Ottawa, the political intrigue and the corresponding media frenzy all provide an appropriate backdrop for someone choosing to stay away, I’ve been deliberating for some time, and this decision is based on far more than recent events.

It has been 10 years since I entered the world of politics, and it has been quite the decade — for Canada, for the Liberal Party, and for me personally: 2 nomination battles, 5 general election campaigns, 2 leadership campaigns – all with a few twists and turns along the way…  I loved being the Member of Parliament for Willowdale. I loved my Shadow Cabinet roles in the Official Opposition, the work I was able to do on various House of Commons Committees, and my time with the Liberal Party. I loved working with constituents and different communities in Willowdale and beyond, doing what we could to help where needed — I was (we all were) terribly proud of our “Wall of Thanks” in the constituency office. I loved the many opportunities to meet, converse with and learn from Canadians — of all political stripes — all across Canada. I’m grateful for the vigorous debates; the challenges and the lessons learned; the friendships created — and the fun.

I have been very fortunate, and it has all been a tremendous honour and a privilege. It has truly been an extraordinary 10 years.

But… time with family and friends, exciting business opportunities and my work in public policy all beckon. Those who know me know how strongly I feel about engagement, about stepping up, about ‘not complaining if you’re not prepared to do something about it’, and there’s no question that I will still be very much engaged. I remain passionate about turning objective, economically sound, evidence-based policies into action. I have realized, however, that partisan politics is not the only, nor necessarily the most effective, path.

I will continue to research and explore, and offer opinions – how could I not?! – on ideas for improving our economic, social and environmental prosperity, in Canada and around the globe. You will continue to hear and read plenty of commentary on what I find, and I will continue to encourage others to engage with me in this effort. In that regard, for more events, op eds and viewpoints, please check out www.MarthaHallFindlay.ca.

I appreciate the encouragement I’ve received from so many people to stay in the game, but it’s time for a change. And to all of the people across the country who have helped over the years, financially, with your time, and with your personal support, please know that I have not come to this decision lightly, and that I am immensely grateful for everything.

Stay tuned …

Martha Hall Findlay

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Supply Management, The Economy, Viewpoints, What's New

Free trade with Europe’s a start, but we’re still overpaying for food

Read it at the Globe and Mail or below.

The ‘last stumbling block’, the ‘most contentious issue’, the ‘hardest to agree to’ part of the now finally-signed comprehensive trade agreement with Europe (CETA) turns out to have been not cars, not sub-national procurement, not drugs, not beef, not manufactured goods, all of which were important and contentious issues for sure. No, the last holdout was cheese, with Canada finally agreeing to allow a modest 17,000 more tonnes of cheese into Canada.  Cheese lovers hold on to your cheers – that’s barely 3.5% of Canadians’ total cheese consumption.

Right now the quota is only 20,000 tonnes (as is, only about 4% of the Canadian market), and the additional 17,000 are all being offered to the EU.  But the total amount of cheese allowed in under quota (without tariffs) will still be only a tiny fraction of the cheese available to Canadians – we have to buy the rest through the supply-managed, artificially high-priced Canadian dairy cartel. (Any imports over the quota face tariffs of about 250%, effectively keeping them out.)

To put a total quota of 37,000 tonnes of cheese into perspective: In 2009 there were 35,500 tonnes of skim milk powder sitting in storage, unused. That’s equivalent to more than 34 million litres, or more than one litre per Canadian. Thanks to supply management’s economic distortions, there is a chronic surplus of skim milk powder in Canada each year, which the Dairy Commission buys (with money earned through high milk prices), simply to protect the system.

The dairy lobby has wasted no time responding to the EU trade deal announcement – they claim that “dairy farmers will not support the Harper government agreeing to a deal with the EU that gives away the Canadian cheese market that Canadian dairy farmers and cheese makers have worked so hard to develop over the years.” “Gives away”? The Europeans are simply being allowed to bring in a tiny fraction more of the cheese that Canadians want to consume, at market prices.

The irony is that there are some wonderful cheeses that are now being made in Canada by innovative, entrepreneurial dairy farmers and small processors – indeed, Glengarry Cheesemaking’s Lankaaster cheese just took top prize at the annual Global Cheese Awards. But their ability to turn good cheese into economic success is severely hindered by the artificially high prices they pay for milk, and by our system preventing them access to other markets. I’m sure that many of our small cheese manufacturers – those the dairy lobby is so quick to “defend” — would do very well exporting, but at market prices and to the much larger markets that we might have access to, if it weren’t for our own protectionist policies. This was a tough enough hurdle for the EU trade deal — the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, offering tempting access to huge Asian markets, will likely be off-limits if we don’t fully dismantle supply management.

This concession on cheese was part of the effort to get the EU to allow more Canadian beef into their market. The Europeans clearly have their own protectionist forces at work, and, in a world where our supply management system forces Canada to make major trade-offs, this is one of the rare examples where supply management is held up as a tit for a tat. But even putting aside freer trade and greater access to markets for Canadian food, goods and services — Canadians should be up in arms over the high prices we continue to pay for dairy, poultry and eggs here at home: Over $200 MORE for the average family each year. And of course the people who suffer the most from these high prices include single parent families, too often living in poverty, with children who most need basic, healthy food.

How Thomas Mulcair and the NDP can continue to support a regressive system that hurts so many Canadians most in need is astounding.

Canadians are upset about their cell phone charges – they should also be insisting that their politicians take action to achieve market prices for basics such as milk, cheese and chicken. The Harper government is happy to be seen as pro-consumer for the one, but continues to show utter hypocrisy on the other.

Message to the Harper government and all politicians: too many of you are afraid of the dairy lobby.  Indeed, it used to be very powerful, but dairy farms are now far outnumbered – in every single federal riding – by the 94% of Canadian farms that are NOT supply managed. The vast majority of those other farmers want to see supply management go — including the beef, pork, grain, oilseed and pulse producers who could then gain access to other major world markets. In the 1970s, when supply management was brought in, there were about 145,000 dairy farms across the country. But that number has dropped a staggering 91% to barely more than 12,500 — nationwide.  They now represent far fewer votes than do all of the people, including the majority of Canadian farmers, who would benefit from dismantling the system. There are no more excuses. There have been proposals to dismantle the system in a positive, successful way for the farmers, and successful examples. It can be done, win-win.

For a full description of the supply management system, the challenges it causes, and, most importantly, positive recommendations for an exit strategy that is win-win – including for dairy farmers – see this report from the School of Public Policy,

The negatives now far outweigh the positives — Canadians need to start insisting that their politicians to get something done.  17,000 tonnes is a small drop in what should be a big bucket.