HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's premier is reiterating his support for Canada's supply management system in the dairy and poultry sectors, saying the province doesn't want it bargained away in trade talks with the U.S.
Following a cabinet meeting Wednesday, McNeil said his government's stance on supply management has been consistent because the system has worked well for Nova Scotia's dairy and poultry farms.
"Those are the agricultural sectors that have sustainability," he said. "We have seen some positive growth in those sectors, so we're going to continue to make sure our voice is heard at the national level when it comes to supply management."
The premier was asked whether farms would survive the system's demise as a result of trade talks.
"They would look very different for sure," is all McNeil would say.
McNeil said although President Donald Trump has said provocative things on the issue, he remains optimistic that an acceptable overall trade deal can be worked out in the end.
However, Trump has continued to denounce supply management in recent days as "very unfair". The system is meant to protect Canada's dairy, egg and poultry industries and levels tariffs of up to 300 per cent on American imports of those products.
In response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to defend the system.
Meanwhile, McNeil said his government is also keeping an eye on any potential developments in the auto sector that could have effects on Michelin Tire's operations in the province.
The French-based tire giant has three plants in Nova Scotia and employs more than 3,200 workers, according to the company's website.
"We trade a billion dollars worth of tires every year... so we need to make sure that product is protected," McNeil said.
He said growing concerns over cross-border trade were part of the reason he travelled to Michelin headquarters in France last November.
McNeil said he was reassured at the time of the company's continued commitment to the province.
As far as continued talks with the U.S., McNeil said he hoped a conversation at the table based on facts will "win the day."
"With 35 of the states, we are the number one trading partner," McNeil said of Canada's dealings with the U.S.
"You are now starting to hear voices of American citizens who are talking about the fact that we need to continue to develop a positive relationship between Canada and the United States."
Nova Scotia exports about $1 billion worth of seafood products alone to U.S. markets.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press