Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill Asks if the NDP Will Stand up for Consumers? October 25,2011

CFN – It was nice to see the NDP out there defending Canadians from the recent $5.50 US surcharge that will be applied to tickets sold to Canadian air and ship travelers who visit the United States.  When President Obama signed this into law on October 21st, he removed Canada’s exemption which had been in place since 1997.

This extra cost won’t stop Canadians from flying to the US for business or pleasure, and the Americans know that. I can see some justification for this user fee or surcharge as at least it goes for border services, unlike the different surcharges that airlines add to the cost of a ticket which are a consumer rip off. Most of those, including surcharges for extra bags just gouge the traveler. The airlines, like the American government know that we will grumble about them but still pay and fly. Will the NDP take on the airlines and government for all of the extra charges or fees that we pay to travel to the United States?

Obama’s $5.50 surcharge is pretty much what I would pay if I were to cross the toll bridge in Cornwall to go shop in the United States. If I were to buy a couple of pounds of butter or some eggs and milk, I have more than covered that $5.50. The same applies for anyone flying to the USA. There are quite a few items you can buy in which the price differential between Canada and the United States is such that buying the product there more than offsets the $5.50 user fee Obama has imposed.

And while the NDP are so concerned about what Canadians pay, what about all of those marketing boards that inflate the price Canadian consumers pay? There are over 80 marketing boards in Canada if we include both federal and provincial ones. Will the NDP push to eliminate those federal boards that artificially set prices or quotas? Will they push to eliminate boards that help to keep our egg, butter, dairy and chicken prices higher than those just across the river in the USA?  I doubt they will.

I doubt it, because like both the Liberals and Conservatives before them, they don’t want to lose votes, particularly in Quebec. It does cause a bit of head scratching though to see the Conservatives hell bent to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board while steadfastly supporting supply management in other areas. It seems for politicians of all stripes, political expediency always trumps consumer protection. Stand as they will in the House of Commons to rail at the government benches on this issue, the NDP will bow to the election gods in Quebec on supply management.

If the NDP wants an issue that will rally consumers behind them, they should be focusing on the price differential for the same products sold in Canada and the USA. This is an issue every Canadian voter can understand and there are many different examples the opposition can use.

The NDP are blowing smoke on this issue, if they really wanted to protect Canadian consumers, they have plenty of targets other than the Americans.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. If they don’t want to lose votes, they had better start working with and for the public. The difference in prices is atrocious! Butter – why pay $5.50 in Canada for something you can buy in the US for 1.99? Even the milk tastes better from the US at 1/3 the price. Don’t believe those stories about antibiotics and growth-hormone from the US. Containers are marked as growth-hormone FREE. We use more of these chemicals here in Canada than they do in the US. Notice also that theres NO declaration on our containers!

  2. Cornwall Harry, there is no declaration on the milk containers because it is against the law to use the r-BST growth hormones in Canada, not so in the USA. The US dairy marketing managers have identified the reluctance of the consumers to drink milk produced from cows that were given artificial growth hormones, but there is no law that says they have to label the presence or absence of it. It is the typical US smoke and mirrors marketing strategy.

    I am glad to see how much you support Canadian Farmers. Do you also buy your honey in the USA?

  3. Sorry, Reg, but I’ve got to agree with Cornwall Harry. All the milk I’ve ever seen down south is marked as being hormone free. It’s also half the price, and yes, it does taste better.
    It seems to me that the regulated markets here in Canada are just an excuse for keeping prices uniformly high, and to hell with the consumer. It’s not as if Canadian dairy farmers are making a fortune for their product. It all goes to the marketing boards and the other middlemen.

  4. It’s almost impossible to support local Canadian farmers because they charge too much for their produce. Ever go to the markets in Cornwall? Food grown in California, picked, packaged, shipped to Canada, warehoused here, shipped to local stores, is still cheaper that what the local farmers are charging for their stuff at the local market. Should we support greed, Canadian or otherwise?

  5. Has anyone done research on the cost to farm an acre in Canada and the US for the same product?
    Some competing issues that would require consideration towards cost – a longer growing season, cheaper machinery and fuel, access to cheaper migrant workers and associated governemnt taxes, insurance costs, tax rates, a reduced population consumer base are just some of the factors.
    But we still have fantastic beer! Or so I am told….

  6. I might be blowing smoke here, but aren’t American food producers heavily subsidized by their federal government?

  7. The NDP cannot and will not come to the aid of consumers be elimination or addressing additional fees added to financial dealings.

    For the NDP that would be biting the hand that feeds them. Many of the entities Keith mentioned as well as the many boards in Canada are all unionized. Would it be in the best interest of the NDP to place bumps in the road of your largest financial contributor? I doubt they would stand a ice creams chance in hell of maintaining the status they now have if they stand up for Canadians

  8. “There are currently more than 80 agricultural marketing boards in Canada.” All these marketing boards were put in place under either a Conservative or Liberal government. The Marketing here is by Kieth Beardsley.

    Directors of marketing councils are government appointed. Under the Agricultural Products Marketing Act of 1949 (Louis St-Laurent , Leslie Frost) the federal government can authorize boards established under provincial marketing Acts to regulate inter-provincial and export sales.
    Conflicts arising from efforts by some provincial supply-management boards to control inflows of products from other provinces contributed to passage of the Farm Products Marketing Agencies Act in 1972(Pierre Trudeau, Bill Davis). This Act provided for the establishment of the supervisory National Farm Products Marketing Council (now called the National Farm Products Council), for the development of national or regional marketing plans, and establishment and operation of national marketing agencies or boards. By 1986 (Brian Mulroney, David Peterson),national agencies for eggs, turkeys, broiler hatching eggs were operating supply-management plans in conjunction with the provincial boards for these commodities. National agricultural marketing institutions acting under separate legislation include the CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD (CWB), a marketing agency for major prairie grains which has been in operation since 1935(William Lyon Mackenzie King,Mitchell Hepburn), and the Canadian Dairy Commission, established in 1966,(Lester Pearson, John Robarts) which, together with provincial milk boards, administers the national dairy supply-management program for milk. The major objectives of marketing boards are to enhance producers’ prices and incomes.

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