Do you know the price of milk?

The back-pocket question of journalists looking for a gotcha moment, often used to determine whether politicians are the everyman or woman they claim to be.

Politicians around the world like to portray their “just folks” creds. But every once in a while they betray their often-cloistered lives on the campaign trail by failing to correctly guess the price of pantry staples. Ask them the price of milk and they sometimes curdle.

President George H.W. Bush, born with a Wall Street spoon in his mouth, famously gaffed in 1992 when asked about the price of milk. Years later, Rudy Giuliani – when asked the milky lob-ball question on a routine campaign stop – wildly underestimated the price of a gallon. Proving on this one occasion that he had done his homework, posh Prime Minister Boris Johnson turned his correct answer into a memorable retort, “I can tell you the price of a bottle of champagne – how about that?”

In Canada, the frothy politics of milk are stirred by opinions on supply management, a system that dictates dairy supply and thus prices. In the 2019 federal election, for example, Max Bernier lost his long-held seat in Quebec not long after virulently opposing supply management. Whether he knew the price of milk was secondary to the fact that he slammed the dairy industry itself. Not one to cry over spilt milk, Bernier next embraced an anti-vax crusade.

Milk hasn’t (yet) shaken up the 2021 federal election. But Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party, is never more than a breath away from exalting his middle-class roots. His upbringing is humble compared to that of Justin Trudeau, his biggest rival and son of Canada’s flashiest Prime Minister. Low-hanging fruit. 

One gets the impression O’Toole is itching to opine on the cost of milk, if only journalists would ask him the question. Trudeau, meanwhile, has spent more time dodging stones on a rocky campaign trail than chatting about pantry staples.

Early polling shows that the Conservative Party has made strong gains among older, working class voters. So, does O’Toole have it in the (milk) bag? Hard to say. But it’s clear that he will milk the “who wants an election?” question until the cows come home.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Londo1dw

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