Cheesy politics

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If you love European cheese, you’re in for a treat. Stephen Harper is about to let 15,000 extra tonnes of it flow into Canada, doubling the current quota.

If you love European cheese, you’re in for a treat. Stephen Harper is about to let 15,000 extra tonnes of it flow into Canada, doubling the current quota.

It’s a widely cited concession expected in the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe, about to be signed in

Brussels — an event that has conveniently drawn the prime minister away from the reopening of Parliament.

“Blessed are the cheesemakers?” a Monty Python character asks in the biblical satire “Life of Brian.”

In Europe perhaps, but apparently not here. The Canadian dairy industry is sour on the prospect, claiming it will put smaller producers out of business.

In this measure, at least, Harper is on par with longstanding Conservative policy on supply management. He doesn’t like it. That became crystal clear when he scrapped the Canadian Wheat Board last year.

But CETA also reflects an attempt to rebrand the Harper government, something that was heralded in Wednesday’s throne speech. The new mantra? We’re standing up for the consumer.

In many ways, Harper seems to be double-crossing some of his old allies in the corporate sector. He wants banks to stop charging for issuing paper bills, and to offer more no-cost banking options. He wants cable companies to unbundle their channel offerings to customers, which could hit them in the pocketbook and sound the death knell for poorly watched stations.

He wants to reduce roaming charges for cellphone users, and eliminate discriminatory pricing between the U.S. and Canada.

In fact, the speech was replete with little consumer-fight-back goodies and not a lot in the way of grand gestures. Even a dog will listen to an endless drone of rhetoric if you throw it a biscuit now and then.

It’s startling the Conservatives would even announce their devotion to the consumer, as if it were some wondrous new cause to rally around. Who, pray tell, were they representing before?

It’s old-fashioned politics, tossing out bones with no firm grounding in policy. Much of it is cherrypicked from the NDP platform, something Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair will waste no time capitalizing on.

So, there’s little likelihood anything in there will attract soft voters back into the Conservative fold. At most, it may help shore up some the party’s more self-obsessed base. That alone will not get them re-elected.

In the Toronto Star Thursday, columnist Chantal Hebert also wondered who the speech was really aimed at:

“It may be that there are voters out there who so crave a government that will get them a better deal on credit card borrowing or cable choices or roaming fees as to make it their ballot-box issue. That all depends on the fine print of the measures.”

One thing’s for sure: they’ve lost the cheesemaker vote.

Organizations: Canadian Wheat Board, Conservatives, NDP

Geographic location: Europe, Canada, Brussels U.S. Canada.In

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  • david
    October 20, 2013 - 13:39

    Milk here costs $9 a gallon, while Pepsi costs $2.50. You know who's happy about diary tariffs and subsidizing dairy farmers? Dentists.

  • Cashin Delaney
    October 19, 2013 - 18:03

    Oh my, pork bundle politics. If you only want plain cheese. You know, just a piece of hard cheese and enough tv to get sat nite 'ockey, the plain hard, working majority fare, then you must bundle it with dangerous, global free market agreements? The media must rally for the speciality channels, the farmers for the cheese. Who defends CETA and FIPA besides those who intend to prosper from it? What are we opening ourselves up to? The natural resource equivalent to slip and fall legal chicanery that allows closed door arbitration to award damage settlements to companies, paid for by Canadian Taxpayers, in restitution for not being permitted to damage the environment, or in spite of updating any legislation that hurts the well represented company. Canadian mining has a case going to go soon, a similar agreement is in place with Romania, a CA mining company wants to flatten a few mountains for a gold mine, people protesting. If the people win, the country gets sued. What if the mine was a dog, a goat, no way in hell to profit. What then. Oh my, almost like a fraud, a bluff. Like a muskrat falls, maybe the profit for the political engineers comes in the stoppage, not the operation. NALCOR will grow until it can't afford itself, then privatize, amid controversy, like the history of what is now Vale, in Brazil. NALCOR will privatize by 2020. This is my prediction.

  • Jerome
    October 18, 2013 - 09:43

    What about Fussells cream?