A private member’s bill promising carbon tax relief for Canada’s farmers cleared a major obstacle in the Senate on Tuesday.
In a late afternoon vote, senators overwhelmingly rejected a controversial amendment to Bill C-234, a private member’s bill. The bill would amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to exempt propane and natural gas from the carbon tax if it is used to dry grain or climate control in barns and livestock buildings.
The amendment, introduced during Senate committee consideration, would have removed all uses except grain drying from the bill, a move that angered the agriculture industry, which says carbon taxes are already driving up their costs.
“This is an example of where legislative government is working, that we can still work under a minority government and have some of these bills pass,” said Mushrooms Canada CEO Ryan Koeslag — one of the many agricultural organizations advocating for the bill to pass amendment-free.
“We’re quite happy, and we’re hoping third reading goes smoothly.”
Koeslag praised the overwhelming co-operation across Canada’s agriculture industry in support for the bill and opposition to the amendment.
Only 28 senators voted in favour of the committee’s report, with 42 voting to reject it, and three senator abstaining.
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Had the report been approved, the bill would’ve returned to the House of Commons where many believe it might never be seen again. Some senators have accused the Trudeau Liberals of attempting to whip the bill in committee.
Manitoba Senator Don Plett, who was opposed to the amendment, told National Post that was why government business was re-ordered during Thursday’s sitting to allow for a speech by Quebec Senator Pierre Dalphond — who introduced the now-scrapped amendment — to convince his colleagues to support the amended bill.
“Even though the majority of House and now the majority of the Senate is not on their side on this, (the government) are continuing to dig in their heels,” Plett said, adding that he anticipates further amendments will be attempted when the bill begins third reading.
Tabled in February 2022, the bill passed third reading in the House of Commons in March.
The bill, now free of the controversial amendment, will go to third reading on Thursday.
Those Senate amendments sparked an uproar among producers, who say they’re already battling high prices and affordability issues — particularly since farmers are price-takers, in that they sell their product at fixed-prices and aren’t able to pass on cost increases to their customers.
Conservative MP Ben Lobb, who tabled the bill in House, said last week that many of the producers he’s spoken to are struggling against a tide of rising costs that he described as ‘punitive.’
One hog farmer in Lobb’s southwestern Ontario riding of Huron-Bruce said he pays $3,000 in carbon taxes monthly.
The bill’s Senate consideration happened to coincide with the Trudeau Liberals’ three-year pause on carbon taxes from home heating oil — a plan seen as shoring up falling Liberal support in Atlantic Canada, where the oil is mostly used.
In a speech delivered earlier on Tuesday, Sen. Dalphond urged colleagues to support the amendment.
“Carbon pricing is considered by top economists to be the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.
“The yearly rising price is a powerful signal to consumers that fossil fuels will become more expensive, and that decisions to adopt cleaner alternatives will result in substantial savings.”
A statement Tuesday evening from Grain Growers of Canada pointed out that producers don’t have viable alternatives outside of propane or natural gas to dry grain or heat their barns.
“The rejected amendment would have denied financial relief to tens of thousands of hardworking livestock, greenhouse growers, and farmers, placing undue pressure on their livelihoods and our food security,” said organization executive director Kyle Larkin.
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