OTTAWA — A private member’s bill that would exempt grain-drying and barn-heating from the federal carbon tax continues to work its way through the legislative system.
Sponsored by MP Ben Lobb (Conservative — Huron-Bruce), Bill C-234 was due to begin second reading March 25 in advance of a second Commons vote sometime in late May, according to an official in Lobb’s office. A majority of MPs must also support the bill in a later third vote before it can move on to the Senate for final passage.
Approval can’t come soon enough for Brendan Byrne, president of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, who says the ongoing impact of the carbon tax “is on the tip of everybody’s mind.” The tax ratcheted upward again on April 1.
“Our concern is that escalator,” Byrne says. “Every April it goes up until 2030, and here we are at only ’22.”
Unless addressed, some farmers could end up paying $50,000 to $70,000 in annual carbon tax this decade, a GFO study says.
Passing C-234 would be “a big win for our farmers if we can do it. But we’ll see how it goes,” Byrne says. “We are more than willing to do our part with getting that message out to whoever needs to hear it.”
He’s optimistic because a similar precursor bill received majority support in the last parliament (with the exception of the governing Liberals) before dying in the Senate as a result of last summer’s election call.
Byrne is not impressed with the Trudeau government’s alternative, a proposed carbon tax rebate not individualized to what the farmer pays out and covering only a small fraction of the cost in many instances. “In this case, you could have some farmers not paying the tax and still getting the rebate, and in other cases getting only 15% of what they were actually charged in carbon tax … it doesn’t give back what is spent.”
Better to just exempt the fuel used for drying grain and heating barns and that’s what C-234 would do, Byrne says.
Official Opposition Agriculture Critic MP John Barlow (Conservative — Foothills) expressed optimism that Lobb’s bill would enjoy the same broad support among the opposition parties as its precursor. That includes the NDP, Barlow said, even after that party’s newly announced alliance with the Trudeau Liberals. Barlow told Farmers Forum that his ag critic counterpart on the NDP benches has indicated the NDPers will again be free to vote against the Liberal position and support the bill.
Ironically, the Liberal-NDP deal to keep the Trudeau regime in power until 2025 also means C-234 is more likely to make it to the finish line without risk of interruption by an election call, Barlow conceded.