Redesign DSC


Instruments to align demand and supply

Legal foundations
Information gathering and analysis by newly created institutes
Price setting
Ramping up production, processing and utilization of underconsumed foods
Downsizing excess production and processing
Rationing (the modern version)
Additional measure to assure food security for low income people
Information campaigns
Organizing labour



At this stage, many of the efficiency and substitution initiatives discussed under other goals have been implemented. DSC is based on self-reliance (or relative self-sufficiency). Redesign strategies, therefore, are based on the creation of self-reliance and the trading of surpluses once domestic needs have been met (see Frameworks).  As self-sufficiency is considered antithetical to free trade, at this stage Canadian governments would need to be withdrawn from the current trade agreements in order to implement DSC (see Goal 10).

Instruments to align demand and supply

What instruments and institutions are required to better align production and consumption, and what supports can be provided to food chain actors to assist the transition?

Legal foundations

There are three main options to create a legal foundation for DSC. The first is to create new legislation, for example, a Food Demand – Supply Coordination Act federally, and parallel legislation provincially. The second is to modify the existing legislation around supply management, and other existing legislation such as the Competition Act.  A third option would be to use the existing Emergencies Act. Within whatever avenue is pursued is the need to create two support institutes to conduct research and gather useful information, a Canadian Institute for Food System Information and a Canadian Institute for Food System Research, modeled on the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR).

Option 1 - A Food Demand – Supply Coordination Act federally, and parallel legislation provincially

The Act would be modeled on the Farm Products Agencies Act (FPAA), but with the following key differences:

  • Creates the National Food Demand-Supply Coordination Council, a body that establishes optimal demand and does supply calculations. This agency could be designed based on the lessons of similar structures and processes created during WWII to coordinate demand and supply, especially the Food Requirements Committee (Britnell and Fowke, 1962; Mosby, 2014).  It would have regional sub-units to reflect differences in demographics, food demand and production.
  • Membership in the Council would be larger and wider than the Council created under the FPAA, as the current council is at least 50% farmers by law, and frequently higher in practice. It would need expertise from across the supply chain and nutrition and consumption specialists.
  • Clause 6(c) would be modified as follows: (c) to work with agencies in promoting more effective demand supply coordination in the food system.
  • The Powers of the Council (see clause 7), and the agencies it guides (see powers under sections 21- 24) would be different. First, it would be responsible for helping to create agencies across the country to carry out demand-supply coordination, not relying on requests, but rather assuring that all commodity areas are included.  Second, it would review not just marketing plans, but demand-supply coordination plans of which marketing would be just one part.  In some cases, given population health needs, that would involve promotion of production and consumption, in others, reduction of both in an orderly fashion. The Council would play a lead role in facilitating changes across production areas and regions, given that other agencies would focus on rotational crops/animals and regions.  Third, consistent with the current clause 22(h), the Agencies could acquire essential infrastructure that helps facilitate demand – supply coordination including some of the resources outlined below.  Fourth, as part of the overall DSC plan, quota could be allocated based on domestic consumption requirements. Over-quota production would be permitted, within regional ecological limits, but it would have to go to export markets. The agencies would not set prices for over-quota production.  Fifth, adapting powers under current Part III of the Act, information and research agencies (the Canadian Institute for Food System Information and the Canadian Institute for Food System Research) could be established, but no plebiscite and majority vote would be required since most production areas (except certain minor specialty production) would be covered by the scheme.
Option 2 – modify existing supply management and marketing board legislation

What follows then are proposals to change existing provincial (Table 6) and federal legislation.

Rather than create new legislation as per option 1, at a federal level, the Farm Products Agencies Act would be modified along the lines described above and  the existing National Farm Products Council transformed into the National Food Demand-Supply Coordination Council (see option 1).  These amendments could come forward as modifications to the existing legislation, or could be an Act that amends the FPAA and other acts.

Similarly, the rarely used powers of the federal Agricultural Products Marketing Act could be employed.  An earlier version of the Act, the Agricultural Products Board Act was established in 1951 as a way of retaining certain WWII era powers that had originally been rescinded post - war.  The Act allows the government "to  buy, sell, store, transport, import, export,and transform agricultural products, as well as to serve as the agency for government-to-government commodity marketing." (Hedley, 2017:532).

Existing provincial legislation would be amended (see sample changes to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Act). Options 1 and 2 are consistent in content, but procedurally different.


Option 3 – use the Emergencies Act

The War Measures Act used in WWII is not a suitable vehicle for the redesign of regulations, but the existing Emergencies Act is a possible mechanism if creating and adopting new legislation was deemed excessive[1].  Using this mechanism depends on governments recognizing that food system change is urgent to address human health and environmental threats. This has happened in the past, with phenomena that might not immediately be considered an emergency, for example, the Supreme Court deemed the Anti-Inflation Act of 1975 constitutional, saying that federal government had the right to create new legislation to deal with a national emergency, in this case, inflation[2].

The Emergencies Act allows the state to intervene if there is a breakdown in the flow of essential goods, services and resources. The Competition Act could also be modified to force supply chain coordination (section 75(1)). Another regulation under the Competition Act implies that certain services, in the current language related to air transport, are essential to the operation of a market. This provision could be amended to include a range of services that require supply chain coordination to ensure environmental improvements.

This legal framework could also be used to establish instruments and tools comparable to those presented in options 1 and 2.

The provinces/territories are typically reluctant to see the Emergencies Act invoked because it allows federal actions to intrude in areas they see as their responsibility.  However, the provinces / territories also have emergencies legislation that could also be invoked in complementary way.  Pertinent to this discussion, typically, provincial / territorial legislation allows for control of business openings, closings and certain activities, use and procurement of goods and services, fixing of prices, requiring people with the appropriate skills to provide certain services, and requiring municipalities to assist in the efforts (see Instruments, Legislation, Provincial/territorial for details).

Information gathering and analysis by newly created institutes

There are significant data gaps to fill, some requiring extensive population and business surveys, others requiring empirical research.  Some are currently collected and acquiring the missing parts may require regulatory changes to make confidential business information (CBI) publicly accessible.  Acquiring and analyzing these data would be the mandate of the proposed Canadian Institute for Food System Information and the Canadian Institute for Food System Research.  Their work would be linked to the needs of the ecozone terrestrial planning boards.

  • Patterns of current annual consumption across regions, ethnicities and incomes (builds on earlier work from the 1970s and the Canadian Community Health Surveys)
  • Identification of optimal consumption patterns for different regions, ethnicities and cultures (builds on earlier work by VanBers and Robinson, 1993; Desjardins et al., 2010)
  • Aggregation of current and optimal consumption into provincial and national food requirements (builds on earlier work by VanBers and Robinson, 1993; Seed et al., 2014 for innovation in national dietary guidelines based on experiences in Qatar)
  • Detailed categorization of current imports and exports by product (raw and processed, units, weight/volume and dollar value), including origin/destination, variety/breed and price (builds on existing approaches by Industry Canada, see Econometric Research et al., 2015).
  • Careful assessment of regional biotic and abiotic resources and environmental degradation to determine production potentials at minimal environmental costs (builds on Canada soil survey, CLC system, and the Agrienvironmental indicators projects)
  • Detailed surveys of current farmer environmental performance (builds on Census of Agriculture, Farm Environmental Management Surveys (FEMS), data from Environmental Farm Plans, production insurance data, private certifiers, privately held surveys of antibiotic, pesticide and fertilizer use)
  • Potentially suitable environmental protocols supported by the state through transition planning (see Goal 5)
  • Based on all this information, set production targets for the regions to match consumption needs. Yield projections would be based on input minimization and ecologically sophisticated farm designs, including complex crop rotations, intercropping of many perennials with annuals and integration of animal and crop production.  Animal production yields would reflect new thinking around minimizing metabolic stress, appropriate housing designs and feed regimes based on the innate requirements of the animal (e.g, primarily hay and pasture for ruminants).
  • Regional land tenure arrangements would be catalogued to identify potential co-operative land use arrangements (e.g., land swapping amongst neighbours to enhance rotations or animal management, used for example by potato growers in some regions who collaborate with grain producers; also to reduce regional pest pressures and create larger pasture areas for rotational grazing).
  • Farm succession data to help with succession planning, including the need to identify and train new farmers with non-farm backgrounds and no traditional access to farming assets
  • Detailed analysis of current processing, storage, distribution and transportation, and retailing infrastructure on a regional basis to understand strengths and weaknesses with an eye to understanding new requirements as DSC is implemented. A key information requirement here is ease of access for low – income residents to a range of retail options (e.g., supermarkets, green grocers, farmers Markets, CSAs, coops and buying clubs, box schemes), given historical mobility restrictions.  For example, there is some evidence that access, walkability and health can be enhanced when affordable retail options exist within ½ mile of home (City of Charlotte, NC, 2003), but many towns and neighbourhoods are not designed to reflect this.
  • Current food prices / unit of nutritional value (Drewnoski and Barratt-Fornell, 2004)
  • Assembling all these data to create food flow analyses for main cities and regions. Such studies have been partially undertaken in Waterloo Region (HCA, 2005) and southern Ontario (ERL et al., 2015), but have been limited by weak data sets.  With more robust sets available from meeting the requirements set out above, such analyses help identify both inefficiencies in supply chains and new opportunities to optimize production, distribution and consumption within regions.
Price setting

Price setting functions would be designed to reflect both consumption and production requirements, with health the ultimate purpose. Many goods are under-priced with regards to health and environmental performance, other are overpriced.  Setting prices that address distorting forces and do not create secondary problems is difficult, especially in the absence of any modeling of health and sustainability scenarios.  Such modeling would have to account for:

  • The progressive removal of energy and related environmental subsidies from input, farming, processing and distribution processes;
  • Implementation of environmental protocols for producers and processors;
  • A reduction in corporate concentration at the input, processing, transport and retail levels;
  • Regionalization of food chains and construction of short supply chains that resulted in fewer actors handling goods
  • Innovation in distribution and transport (see above and below)
  • Shifts in labour and wages (see above and below)
  • Changes to consumer information, marketing and advertizing rules (see MacRae et al., 2012b), and as part of this, restrictions on permitted packaging to minimize consumer confusion

In general, given current consumption patterns and DSC objectives, price setting would be designed to create higher prices/unit for animal products, and lower fruit and vegetable prices / unit. Low nutritional value food and beverages would also be priced higher/unit.  High value fresh and minimally processed goods would be priced lower and highly processed items and meal replacements would be priced higher.  Low value restaurant meals would have higher price tags than high value ones.

3 options

Price setting is easier when farmers rely extensively on state assets, for example, when leasing government land, the conditions of production and price can be written into the leases. The US federal Cuyahoga Park in Ohio is one example of an approach that could possibly be replicated in the new urban park in the Rouge Valley on the east side of Toronto (Dempsey, 2013).  Other forms of urban production on government and paragovernmental assets would present similar opportunities.  Some provinces still own land used for community pastures[3].  However, these cases represent a small part of the current food system, so other price setting mechanisms would have to be employed.

Each option involves using a revised marketing board structure, and these options are not exclusive.

  1. Extend and merge mandates of marketing boards

Many marketing boards already exist for many commodities, and some have price setting functions, supported by federal and provincial regulation. Governments could extend the authorities of boards without price setting functions and the range of commodities covered.  Although price setting can vary by provincial conditions, there should be some uniformity regarding which products, which sizes and over what geographic areas.

Given the dietary shifts required, interventions must encourage producers to shift production of individual commodities, but also between commodity categories. The marketing boards have encouraged specialist production, which to some extent would need to be reversed, with supports available to help producers shift into new production areas.  Such shifts must be undertaken in ways that respect environmental requirements related to crop rotations, alignment with soil capabilities, and animal densities. A possible approach is to organize supply management around common crop and rotational groupings rather than individual commodities: small fruit and melons; pome fruits; stone fruits; field crops and potatoes; vegetables; beef; pork; goats; and sheep[4]. The existing supply managed commodities - dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey - would have their mandates modified to account for optimal consumption.  Recent shifts in farm organizations – for example combining corn, soybean and wheat grower organizations in Ontario – suggest some sympathy for this approach.  The boards would require that farmers use growing and processing protocols that meet resource efficiency requirements (organic, low input, animal welfare).  These protocols would also regulate production for energy and plastics crops. While human and animal crop uses would be governed by the boards (including crop by-products for animal feed), industrial uses would not.  However, industrial use contracts and sales would have to be registered with the boards for information purposes, and to ensure regional environmental limits are not being surpassed.

  1. Mirror institutions and regulations used in WWII

Food price setting, both ceilings and floors, at the farm, processor and consumer levels was widespread during WWII, led by the Wartime Prices and Trade Board (WPTB) and it served multiple purposes (see Lessons from WWII), including assuring that farmers and firms were compensated for extra labour costs.  A close study of WPTB documents[5] provides detailed lessons on construction of price setting regulations, and could be authorized by provisions in the Emergencies Act.  As of Dec. 1939, the Board

“was empowered to investigate costs, prices and profits; to license persons who deal in any way in necessaries of life; to fix maximum prices and markups ; to regulate the sale and distribution of necessaries of life; to take possession of stocks being withheld; to buy and sell goods; and to recommend embargoes on exports. The powers to enforce licensing, to fix maximum prices or markups, to prohibit exports, to buy and sell, and to take possession of necessaries of life, were exercisable only with the consent and approval of the Governor General in Council.” [6]

Establishing such instruments would require a modern re-imagining of a Food Prices and Trade Board.  Its construction could also be informed by the 1970s Food Prices Review Board, created under the Inquiries Act during the anti-inflation interventions of the Trudeau senior government. That board had primarily research, monitoring and inquiry powers, but did not have authority to control wages and prices as did interventions in other sectors during that period.  But among the interventions of WWII and that period, there are numerous lessons for the construction of a new Food Prices and Trade Board with a range of tools at its disposal for price setting (see Goal 7).

  1. Echo approach used in energy sector

Another possible model for price setting comes from the energy sector. Single desk energy sellers fix a minimum price for domestic suppliers and then everyone who wants to participate organizes to produce and deliver for that price[7]. This price reflects some cost internalization associated with environmental improvements and waste minimization . Those not wishing to participate can sell to international markets, although the national oversight body would have to ensure that domestic requirements were not compromised by export sales.  Revamped agricultural marketing boards would play a role comparable to energy single desk sellers.  There would need to be internal transfers to balance returns to producers, so effectively price pooling across single desk sellers, but this is something agricultural marketing boards already have considerable experience with.

But in this model, the marketing boards do not take possession or own distribution infrastructure, rather they create virtual market places where buyers and sellers meet.  All the deals go through their infrastructure which then allows for monitoring and research.

Ramping up production, processing and utilization of underconsumed foods

Consumption of fruits and vegetables, beans and oats is sub-optimal for population health and there are significant opportunities to improve the economic performance of Ontario agriculture and processing by shifting to a more optimal diet scenario (Desjardins et al., 2010). Econometric Research et al. (2015) found that there were significant deficits when comparing consumption requirements with domestic production for many crops and animal products.  These were being addressed with imports, but approximately 50% of imports could be produced and processed within Ontario, representing potentially lost sales of $10 billion.  The deficits grew in many cases with an optimal diet scenario, but addressing these required different responses:

  • Tomatoes, carrots, peppers and sweet corn: diverting current exports to domestic markets
  • Cabbage, lettuce, green beans: increasing production
  • Short storage fruit (e.g., peaches, berries): additional processing capacity (e.g., Individual Quick-freeze technology) to make use of increased production
  • Long storage fruit (e.g., apples, pears): increasing production

A wide range of supports would be required to make these shifts, including many of the interventions employed during WWII to shift population consumption, subsidies to increase production of certain foods, and research and varietal development support (see Lessons from WWII and Goal 5).

For some foods, however, increasing production is not the issue; rather, utilization is suboptimal.  Creating a sustainable diet is also about fuller utilization of nutritious foods we produce, but are often wasted.  Encouraging such consumption was significant in WWII.  Current examples would include: organ meats and meat from retired breeding stock (quality would improve with ecological production), smaller items that are currently hard to sell such as small eggs and small apples, by-products of dairy processing, such as cheese curds, and cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables.

Urban people can be much more involved in food system work.  WWII witnessed a significant migration of rural residents to urban areas, a pool of people with significant skills in food production, processing and preparation. Many urban people participated in planting and harvest on farms, cultivated Victory Gardens, modified their diets to address shortages and rationing, and extensively preserved food (see also Mosby, 2014).  Admittedly, the deskilling of the population creates new challenges relative to WWII (Jaffe and Gertler, 2006), but the rise of urban foodie culture, the expansion of urban resident interest in gardening and commercial food production (see MacRae et al. 2010b), and new policy interventions from municipal governments to support urban food production, processing and distribution (see MacRae and Donahue, 2013) all speak to the possibilities.  However, as with WWII, such urban engagement must be coordinated with wider food system requirements.  Among large urban areas, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are all well placed to participate in a wider, joined up strategy and their involvement with food sector councils will be important, but ultimately the federal government may have to use regulatory authorities under the Emergencies Act to facilitate such collaboration.

A small percentage of increased fruit and vegetable production can likely be derived from urban production, as in WWII. Increased interest in urban aquaponics suggests the possibility of some fish production contributing as well to urban consumption requirements (Weidner et al., 2019).  MacRae et al. (2010b) estimated that in Toronto, 10% of fresh vegetable consumption could be met with commercial urban production (and this did not include self-provisioning from backyards and community plots). This would require using less than 3% of surfaces (land and rooftops) for production.  MacRae et al. (2012c) proposed several mechanisms to assure that such urban production would be well coordinated with rural production, since it makes little sense to compete with the region’s producers.  However, they did not attempt to determine what percentage of urban production makes sense in a sustainable and cost-effective DSC scenario.  Estimates for other cities in North American have sometimes been higher than 10%, based on assumptions about high intensity, and often indoor, rooftop and vertical, production, sometimes including integration with urban organic waste streams as sources of nutrients,  However, such high-intensity production approaches usually have significant sustainability challenges related to synthetic chemical use and significant energy consumption (Weidner et al., 2019).

The key unknowns for integrating commercial urban production into a DSC scenario include (adapted from Weidner et al., 2019):

  • Greater technical understanding of emerging technologies, e.g. organic hydroponics, aquaponics, insect rearing, and new greenhouse types, especially those build on urban waste streams;
  • Better life-cycle assessment of resource impacts of emerging and integrated schemes especially when compared to rural landscapes
  • Fuller understanding  of food safety issues arising from  UA, such as run-off, microplastics and use of urban waste as nutrients
  • Better understanding of distribution logistic schemes to reduce emissions and reduced traffic associated with food
  • More work on effective policy measures for  UA
  • Understanding different business models and their ability to contribute to a sustainable DSC system
Downsizing excess production and processing

Creating a more optimal and ecological diet also means ramping down production and processing of foods that are over-consumed on a population basis, particularly animal products and many highly processed foods (Gussow and Clancy, 1986; Herrin and Gussow, 1989).  This means significant changes to farm production, processing, transport and labour. If 40-50% of potato production in Canada is devoted to processed French fries and potato chips, then significant reductions in the consumption of those items will significantly impact potato production. It also means curtailing exports. For example, production beyond domestic requirements of the dominant fowl and livestock cannot just be exported because there are too many of these animals on the landscape for optimal resource efficiency (see Weis, 2012).

Downsizing is challenging. Orderly downsizing in some of the animal sectors is currently possible on the farm because of supply management (see proposals in Substitution). For example, reductions in per capita dairy consumption have gradually been accommodated[8]. In some sectors, the processors also have quota, so orderly reductions in processing volumes are possible. Downsizing also can mean plants are too large for the reduced capacity and jobs mis-allocated across a supply chain.

Pork and beef processing are some of the big challenges.  The meat-processing sector “comprises livestock slaughter and carcass dressing, secondary processors that manufacture and package meat products for retail sale, and purveyors that prepare portion-ready cuts for hotel, restaurant and institutional food service. Products include fresh, chilled or frozen meats and edible offal (i.e. organ meats); cured meats; fresh and cooked sausage; canned meat preparations; animal oils and fats; and products such as bone and meat meal…..”[9]  All would affected by downsizing but  a current unknown is whether the shift to quality, environment, animal welfare and health, as proposed on this site, can generate more revenue / slaughter animal (CAPI, 2012).

Also affected is the pet food industry.  While it makes ecological and metabolic sense for lower quality, offal and "waste" products to be used in pet food, properly treated and processed, currently significant tonnages of quality crops (e.g., pulses, seeds), animal products and fish go directly to the pet food industry.  The retail pet food industry is worth between $1-2 billion annually (different sources provide different estimates) with over half of that total imported from the US and some domestic brands exporting to global markets.  It is estimated that around 14 million dogs and cats reside in Canada, with 1/4 of Canadian households having at least one dog, and 1/3 having at least one cat (Pet Food Association of Canada). Birds, fish and reptiles also require feed.  The pulse industry, for example, has set a target of increasing demand from non-traditional uses by 25%, a target that includes the grain-free pet food sector. A significant amount of the fish harvest goes to the pet food industry, and much of it is fish that humans consume (see Goal 5, Sustainable Fishery). Canada is a global leader in canary seed production, some 157,000 metric tonnes in 2018 on roughly 125000 ha, and almost all of it goes for birdseed.  Some percentage of the sunflower, buckwheat and flax market also supplies this market.

In a DSC redesign, such direct uses of human - edible foods or land that could produce other human foods must be substantially reduced which also means that significant reductions in pet populations will be required as food diverted to the pet food industry is reduced.  Many municipalities have by-laws limiting how many pets are permitted / household.   For example, in Toronto according to the Animals By-law, the maximum a resident can currently own is 6 cats and 3 dogs. The maximum allowable will have to be progressively reduced in line with food supply reductions and those municipalities currently without pet maximums will have to amend animal control bylaws to reflect such limits. Ideally, we arrive at a situation where only foods that humans are not consuming are part of pet food manufacturing, but what that level will be is not yet clear.  Clearly, this also has implications for farmers and processors who currently focus on these markets, with an orderly transition required.

What role for the state in orderly downsizing?  This is a downsizing to meet social purposes, so there is no point in having those purposes compromised by negative outcomes for workers and the economy. Using the animal industries as an example, what are the key challenges facing the state:

Production: Transforming  from large, industrial operations

Ideally, pigs play multiple roles on a farm, can spend more time outdoors and require reduced housing (Honeyman, 2005). For beef, the natural resource base supports cow-calf operations on grass.  Many breeds do well outdoors with minimal management requirements (Roberts, 2014, 2015).  Two kinds of transition subsidies are required, one to encourage adoption of new management practices as per environmental protocols (see Goal 5), and the other to encourage farmers to transition to different production areas where there are deficiencies in a DSC context. Such subsidies could be modeled on approaches used in Europe for organic transition (see Goal 5). Sustainable production protocols exist, with reduced animal densities. For both beef and hogs, breeding stock will have to be reduced.  At this stage, we don’t know what populations can be sustained on the landscape to meet ecological requirements.  We need to know how many we could manage and then see how domestic requirements and exports and imports might fit that situation.

Supply management:

Although they have resisted for years, pork and beef producers and processors would have to enter into supply management arrangements, with governments imposing agreements in the absence of successful negotiations.  In supply management, there are operations of significant scale, but they’re spread across the provinces because of production needs within each province. The kind of corporate concentration that exists in beef and pork processing would violate the regionality of supply management. A strategy would be required in beef and pork processing to regionalize plants and shift employment to other expanding food sectors or to regional meat processing locations. Plants that primarily focused on exports would likely close. Some reductions in production and processing would be gradual, based on yield declines as transition to environmental production happened, and as consumption requirements declined.  Part of orderly transition is to plan for such progressive reductions.

Compensation with allocation declines:

Firms with fixed assets and existing scale efficiencies lose money as they lose allocations. In addition to the measures outlined in Substitution, Governments, as they have done previously  (eg. recent programs in the hog industry where farmers have made significant investments in barns and manure lagoons), would provide compensation to farmers and processors to downsize. Such interventions can be justified as wealth transfers in exchange for a societal benefit (Wardhaugh, 2013).

Legislative amendments:

Changes to the Competition Act would be required to encourage orderly downsizing in the public interest. As part of this, it would be important to link downsizing to price controls so that the market isn’t increasing prices associated with shortages at the expense of low-income shoppers. During WWII, governments imposed controls to ensure orderly contraction of certain goods that were not deemed essential.  Section 45(1) of current Competition Act (that outlines conditions of collusion and price fixing) could not be applied to demand-supply coordination efforts in general  and to downsizing in particular. With DSC, since supply and prices are being controlled, an exemption is required. These circumstances would need to be added as an exemption under Section 45(6).

Exports: Although exports overall will have to be reduced, certain types of products might disproportionately be maintained.  Both hogs and beef are dependent on exports to maximize carcass value – offal, organs, by-products, cuts not so popular here. A plant product parallel situation would be sizes of apples.  Britain, for example, prefers small apples whereas Canadian markets tend to prefer large ones, so small apples are often exported to optimize yield value from trees, since most trees will produce a range of sizes. Unless there were dramatic changes in preferences, this  would continue for some period of time in a DSC environment.  In the short term, we could continue exporting feeder cattle and piglets for US barns, since the resource demands would occur more in the US than Canada, but over time this market would need to shrink. The federal government would likely need to use the Export and Import Permits Act to control how much was permitted for export during the downsizing transition period. Similarly, given imports of commodities we produce domestically during our production and processing seasons, import permits could be used to decrease importation of those goods to ease production declines related to consumption reductions.

Maintaining resilience: How to downsize without eliminating whatever resilience exists in a complex system?  In other words, downsizing shouldn’t just strip away complexity if it takes whatever resilience exists with it. If downsizing simplifies a system (for example, reduces the number of actors and the overall diversity of activity within the system as typically happens with corporate consolidation), then resilience is likely lost. There is an issue about whether institutions, companies and societies can actually undertake an orderly downsizing as the historical record is not encouraging (Tainter, 1988).

Long-term planning: Projecting regional long-term population needs is critical. This need must be integrated with proposed data gathering agencies and the ecozone planning councils proposed in Substitution.

Rationing (the modern version)

Unlike WWII, shortage is not generally a problem of the modern Canadian food system, except in specific situations. For example, certain kinds of fish are in short supply and at elevated price points due to over-fishing and further measures will need to be taken to preserve the resource (see Goal 5).  More commonly, for optimal health we have to restrict access to certain foods or processed items that are excessively available, containing such ingredients as sugars, salt, fat, caffeine, white flour, beef, chicken, pork, and dairy.  Some refer to the nutritional discordance of the processed food Western Diet relative to human evolution, particularly its negative  effects on  “1) glycemic load, 2), fatty acid composition, 3) macronutrient composition, 4) micronutrient density, 5) acid-base balance, 6) sodium-potassium ratio, and 7) fiber content” (Cordain et al. 2005). While certain processes and additives extend shelf life and product stability, there’s an argument that these are less necessary in shortened supply chains and therefore should in most cases be discouraged.

Part of the strategy, then, is regulating what processed foods may contain. Many statutes need amending, unfortunately, because of the convoluted regulatory environment that has emerged since the 19th century, including the Food and Drug regulations (FDR), the Pest Control Products Regulations (PCPR) and Canadian Environmental Protection Regulations (CEPR), all of which control  levels  of materials in foods with negative health impacts. These provisions would need amending to include additional ingredients, such as salt, transfats, certain sugars and caffeine (see Goal 4, Reducing nutrients of concern). The CAPA Processed Product Regulations (PPR) have been replaced by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and regulations.  However,  provisions of the PPR should be added to the SFCR to eliminate certain ingredients from the definition of the fruit or the vegetable, essentially making a food illegal to sell under that name with that ingredient. The PPR can also be used to simplify fruit and vegetable containers and sizes.  For grains, oilseeds and legumes, the FDR applies.  For meat, products are covered under the SFCR, under rules governing abattoirs.  For dairy, the dairy product regulations of SFCR apply (the regulations identify what ingredients are permitted and do set out conditions where standards are in place, though these are primarily about safety and identity of distinctive cheeses, describing the characteristics of  a registered facility and its need for a sanitation plan to which can be added performance standards regarding nutritional quality and sustainability), for eggs, processed egg regulations of SFCR (e.g., the characteristics of  a registered processed egg station to which can be added performance standards regarding nutritional quality and sustainability).

A related issue is favouring processing techniques that minimize nutrient degradation.  Part of resource efficiency and rationing is not wasting the nutrients that exist in foods. This was a key consideration during WWII. Given that voluntary processing protocols exist (e.g., organic, natural), such protocols could become mandatory, that processors would have to follow them in the same way as proposed here for producers. The protocols could be referenced in the SFCR, as had been done with organic regulations. The standards would elaborate on the descriptions and the rankings of foods, with a view to counteracting the nutritional discordance of the Western Diet addressed above. The regulations could set out a minimum requirement that all standards must surpass and then processors could decide the level at which they would surpass, with food labels reflecting the level of commitment (see Goal 1 Consumer Information Systems,  changes to food labeling). The protocols could also highlight suitable technology improvements that enhance nutritional value (Langelaan et al., 2013).

How do we drive down consumption of animal product? Significant regulation was employed in WWII to restrict manufacturing and distribution of certain products, including when and where certain foods could be sold, e.g., meatless days in restaurants. Recently, governments have been taking tentative steps to require more menu information for patrons (e.g., calorie and salt information). Given that almost 40% of total food purchases are for meals outside the home (AAFC, 2012), and that per unit, restaurant meals typically contribute a higher percentage of problematic ingredients than meals eaten at home,  the stage is set for more significant interventions in the menus themselves. Such measures would likely be through public health authority, provincially and municipally.  A combination of public health and workplace authority could be employed to also require workplace cafeterias to change menus, something that many private firms have already undertaken because of the savings in employee health payments (Roberts et al., 1999).

Additional measures to assure food security for low income people

During WWII, price controls across a wide range of core goods and services, and rationing were key means to ensure access of the entire population to a nourishing, affordable diet.  And such efforts were largely successful, especially compared with widespread food insecurity during the Depression.

Numerous other institutional programmes have been proposed, using the places where people gather and reside to increase access to a nourishing diet, including a national school food program, subsidized food in daycares, homes for the aged, and workplace cafeterias. The Toronto Food Policy Council (1996) proposed that the health care system pay for food for nutritionally vulnerable populations, using coded provincial health insurance cards to purchase food at retail (see Goal 3).  Others (see Rocha, 2001) have proposed  a variant on the ration shop approach, particularly effective in Brasil as expressed through Sacolao markets, where  the state sets the terms of trade, including prices and then allows the private sector to make arrangements to assure their profitability within the parameters established by the state.  The state owns and maintains the markets, usually located in low income neighbourhoods, but does not subsidize directly their operation.  The same approach could also be applied to virtual markets.

Information campaigns

As one food system analyst has stated, food companies have already aptly demonstrated that they can produce and market poor quality food, so they should have no difficulty producing and marketing good food with the same brilliance (Bittman, 2011).

Today’s information campaigns are significantly more sophisticated than those offered in WWII, but the ones from that period were highly effective. Led by the Wartime Information Board and the Consumer Branch of the WPTB, the population was inundated from all angles on patriotic efforts to change diets and use food-related processes to contribute to the war effort. Newspaper and radios blurred the line between journalism and propaganda to deliver the messages (Mosby, 2014). Schools analyzed household diets and provided information to children and parents on a diet suited to the conditions of the period. Eating in season was one of the messages.

The campaigns were successful at encouraging or reducing consumption of particular items. At the outset of the war, there were many items in surplus because European markets were cut off, so governments wanted Canadians eating the surplus. Apples and lobster were early examples. The focus shifted to restraint and conservation as Canada began to provide a larger share of the British diet, and imports were shrinking. The food industry had quotas for scarce ingredients like cocoa and sugar, and packaging materials like tin and paper. Permitted tin can sizes dropped from 116 to 9 and some foods like carrots, beets, apples and spaghetti were no longer sold in cans. Chicken, prepared and organ meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy (other than butter), and eggs were not rationed and there were surpluses in many things, in many cases driven by the market pull of full employment and increased family incomes. Some unrationed things were expensive. But the elevated purchasing power drove people to buy higher quality cuts of meat which cost more coupons because they had the money to supplement with expensive unrationed meats. The result was that unrationed goods were all consumed above pre-war averages. It was mostly wealthier Canadians who were forced to change their eating habits, whereas for low income people, diets were significantly improved relative to the Depression  (Mosby, 2014).

In those days it was the national nutrition program that helped guide rationing. Now it needs to be the sustainable diet (see Substitution). During WWII, there were many pamphlets, brochures, posters, and newspaper articles that were effectively propaganda. Mass marketing of low quality food was emerging (Winson, 2013), retarded during WWII by the regulatory environment. Government regulation of consumer information had been more limited prior to the war. Given modern information pollution, and the rise of low quality food, conditions are now dramatically different and creating information campaigns that penetrate the public’s consciousness is significantly more complex.

There are two parts to the strategy, one to curtail private firms’ abilities to promote poor quality food and create consumer confusion (see MacRae et al., 2012b). The other is promoting a sustainable diet approach, using modern communications techniques and embedding communications in public and private spaces where people congregate, eg., schools, community facilities, workplaces, food retailers.  These are what Howlett (2009) describes as,

“fine substantive government communication policy instruments [and] those policy techniques or mechanisms which rely on the use of information to directly or indirectly affect the behaviour of those involved in the production, consumption and distribution of different kinds of goods and services in society.”

Public health units do use social media and related means to influence behaviour (Newbold and Campos, 2011); however, it’s not obvious that governments have the skills or experience to implement the most sophisticated communications measures and it is likely that most of that expertise resides within food companies themselves.  During WWII, business expertise was integrated into the construction of new state interventions through the loaning of business executives to government service. Businesses are not likely to be so generous in a DSC environment, so governments will likely have to hire communications expertise from marketing firms or former food company employees.

Organizing labour

DSC requires significant shifts in labour to parallel the shifts in food system functions and priorities.  Labour force development and management in the Canadian food system is weak (see Problems).  Some key interconnected components of a more effective approach as it relates to DSC are presented under Goals 4 and 8.

A partial model of a labour transition approach can be discerned in the Government of Ontario’s attempts to coordinate demand and supply within the regulated health professions. HealthForce Ontario, Ontario’s Health Human Resource (HHR) Strategy, attempts to project health needs and then design HR recruitment, retention and training to meet those needs. As such, the program acknowledges that previous HR planning was supply-side driven and inadequate. As part of these efforts, they engage recruitment and regional advisors to help identify needs, define positions and recruit for them.  HealthForce also coordinates the filling of temporary gaps, especially in more isolated and poorly served regions.  They run a needs-based physician simulation model that projects health status by local health areas and then identifies needs among a range of physician specialties (Singh et al., 2010).  The model then contrasts need against supply considerations and makes recommendations accordingly.  

A co-ordinated national response, however, is required with the federal government playing an essential role, and directing the provinces, who have more constitutional authority over labour.  Having food system sectoral councils in each province and a national coordinating council is essential, comparable to mechanisms in WWII (Britnell and Fowkes, 1962:180), but in addition to those structures, regulations can facilitate the movement of people to under-represented positions.

Some positions will be so critical that they will need to be deemed essential. The term essential services is now associated with restrictions on the right to strike.  In this context, however, it is more useful to think of essential services as those that should be favoured with extra supports and incentives to assure a robust workforce in the designated area.  The Emergencies Act provisions (d) and (e) provide the authorization for such supports and incentives.

An Order in Council from May, 1943 (P.C.3620), passed under the War Measures Act, is of the kind to be modified. The Minister of Labour is to enter into agreements with each province

“for the purpose of making more effective use of the agricultural manpower within each province, of recruiting workers, whether male or female, suitable for farm work in one province, and of transporting the said workers to and placing them on the farms of another province” (Britnell and Fowke, 1962:180).

A more up-to-date version might read:

The Ministers of Labour and of Agriculture and Agrifood are to enter into agreements with each province for the purpose of making more effective use of critical food system labour within each province, of recruiting, training and setting conditions for  workers, including providing supports for the movement of said workers to critical locations in  another province.


DSC would also have significant impacts on how food moves around.  Regionalization of the food system has significant impacts on food freight trucking (Econometric Research et al., 2015), and if properly designed, reduces GHG emissions (MacRae et al., 2013). The proper design issue is, however, significant as it is feasible for regionalization to augment congestion and increase local emissions, in part because smaller vehicles typically have higher emissions per tonne-km of food transported (Edwards-Jones et al., 2008).  Strategies to improve the likelihood of good transport design are provided under Goal 5.



[1] In Canada, unlike the USA, legislation is used more sparingly and is frequently less detailed.

[2] Anti-inflation Act.  The Canadian Encyclopedia.

[3] SK is trying to sell many of its pastures, but few, if any, have yet been sold.

[4] Specialty production (including wine grapes since they’re primarily produced for alcohol in Canada) would not be included in DSC.  The input sectors would also be largely excluded from the process, but would have to adapt to adjustments imposed by DSC, for example changes to seed production, chicks, breeding stock and genetics.

[5] See for example, Report of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, Sept. 3, 1939

[6] Report of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, Sept. 3, 1939,

[7] Note that regulatory instruments to give authority to such approaches have been used in the past, see Britnell and Fowke (1962).

[8] Fluid milk, 25% decline in 20 years, but other dairy products up slightly last 20 years, so net 10% decline, 1989-2009.