If dairy was petroleum, the scene playing out in the NAFTA negotiations would be quite the sight to see. The Trudeau government would be rushing to emulate their ever so tactful strategy, a strategy based upon principles so perverse that you couldn’t make it up. Unless of course, you were talking about a regionalized power struggle in an already deeply divided country that can only lead to one thing.
One of the key principles would be to begin the phasing out of dairy production in Canada by progressively reducing dairy production quotas to ensure that imports are required to meet domestic need. There would be no compensation, no acknowledgement of the investment or risk that the producers have undertaken to purchase their quotas, establish their herds or invest in their facilities. Rather, the message to those so foolhardy to invest in dairy operations would be clear: invest at your own peril, the rules aren’t the rules and constant change will erode your efforts until your desire to invest is all but gone.
Increasing the burden of regulation would be helpful. Helpful in simultaneously pummeling the competitiveness of the Canadian sector against some of the world’s most talented capitalists. Competing with these capitalists tends to breed well-educated thinkers, the type it takes to win with the deck stacked against them; the kind of people sought the world over as the creators of new technology, leaders of environmentally and ethically sound production. But, none of this could withstand the imposition of tactically aggressive regulation. Actively limiting and precluding regional movement of product, and limiting the capacity for domestically produced dairy would be the modus operandi. This would ensure the export of consumer capital to foreign governments with less ethical practices. No bar would be too low for imported products, while Canadian products would be held to an impossible standard.
In this assault, the consumer would be dealt the strongest free market punitive measure: ‘death by taxes’. It would start soft, say 5-10% of the cost of dairy, but be set to increase for the foreseeable future. Oddly, the public would be somehow programmed to perceive this as a great step, a progressive one, one that could make Canada display global leadership. It would be sort of like tying both your arms behind your back and going about desk work and smiling while you do it. Those arms were an unnecessary gift that we shouldn’t be utilizing. This move would help sterilize any foreign investment and ensure that Canada ranked so near the bottom of options that only a fool seeking a loss would invest here. The cherry on top would be additional government revenue by which to enrich already bloated and regionally imbalanced spending.
The fact that 80-90% of production is focused on one region would be a serious political weapon. A sick national jealousy would feed the desire to ensure nobody does well, even if it makes us all weaker. An easy politically populist win would be achieved by regulating in a fashion than ensures consumer dollars are increasingly exported to a foreign economy. Be damned producers, you and your wealth should be aggressively assaulted, shame on you for trying to pull your own weight by using your natural gifts. The message would be clear, any poppy that stands taller than another is but an inconvenience to all those less gifted or driven poppies and should unceremoniously be lopped off.
This national gift wouldn’t really be a gift at all, not once the job was done, everyone would realize that despite the omnipresence of dairy production potential, the vast majority of the country wouldn’t even attempt to quantify their ability to produce. After all, why bother trying when a small portion of the country could be taxed to death in an effort to enrich the hands of all with the spoils of a few. This would be despite the simple truth that virtually every political jurisdiction in the country has the ability to produce. And strangely, nobody would realize that the single largest contributor to national GDP was slowly being killed, hastening a mass migration into a far lower standard of living, a place not many Canadians would be comfortable with.
An added negative could be an equalization formula that punitively hammers a region for producing dairy thereby disincentivizing the demonic free market behavior that can only lead to a darkening of the soul. Socialism in its purest form could guarantee a national mediocrity on a level unheard of amongst those gifted with one of the highest resource per capita nations on earth. Mayors, international activists and manipulative political disruptors would be invited into government’s inner circles to tip them off to the inner workings.
Dairy would be unceremoniously sacrificed during international trade negotiations, a very Canadian sheepishness over this national gift would seem an impolite subject to raise. The fact that the industry is the largest single enabler of an economy would be deemed worthless and irrelevant to a trade negotiation. Rather, silence on the issue would be utilized in order to save the automobile manufacturing business or other ‘golden geese,’ an eminently Canadian gift to a trade partner like the US. After all, we want these guys to like us don’t we?
Colin Anderson is a Calgary based geologist currently consulting on international shale gas development