You would have been called a cynic if you had predicted that, on the launch of a Canada-U.S. trade war initiated without valid cause by the larger country, Canada’s free-market Conservative Party would use the occasion to undermine its own government by supporting tariff-protected dairy farmers.
But then, politics has a way of breeding cynicism.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer did his part on Tuesday when he released a statement criticizing not U.S. President Donald Trump, who capriciously imposed levies on Canadian steel and aluminum last week, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the crime of announcing “flexibility” in his position on access to the Canadian dairy market.
Mr. Scheer called any weakening of the tariffs that shield Canadian milk, eggs and poultry from foreign competition “totally unacceptable” and accused the PM of being duplicitous for saying otherwise to an American audience.
The most galling thing about this attack on the PM was not that the Conservative stance on supply management is dead wrong. All three major parties have, in the past, steadfastly supported the antiquated and expensive fixed prices, production quotas and trade barriers that protect dairy and poultry farming in Canada, so Mr. Scheer is not alone in this.
As well, the hypocrisy of the Tories, Canada’s party of economic liberalism, backing a protectionist price-fixing scheme that costs consumers dearly is obvious enough.
No, it’s the way the party, and Mr. Scheer in particular, came to their wrong-headed position that is most troubling.
The party is led by a man who secured his job in large part thanks to the votes of insta-Conservative dairy farmers who signed up in key Quebec ridings to defeat Mr. Scheer’s libertarian rival, Maxime Bernier, in the 2017 leadership race.
Mr. Scheer even had the nerve to joke about his debt to this form of legalized corruption, taking a meaningful swig from a carton of milk at Ottawa’s press gallery dinner last year.
He can wink at the situation all he likes, but it has helped put him in the position of attacking free trade with the United States while the Prime Minister fights a tough battle to preserve the same.
On the bright side: vindication for the cynics.