OTTAWA — An Eastern Ontario mushroom farm that pays about $100,000 annually in federal carbon tax — a cost slated to quadruple to $400,000 by 2030 — got little sympathy from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a heated exchange in the House of Commons.
In one month alone the natural gas bill at the Medeiros family mushroom operation for Nov. 9 to Dec. 6 was $72,050 for 129,500 cubic meters of natural gas. The bill included $16,000 in carbon taxes. The farm operates in the riding of the leader of the official opposition Pierre Poilievre (CON – Carleton) who, in a December 13 back-and-forth, asked the prime minister to explain the high carbon tax costs. Prime Minister Trudeau blamed Carleton Mushrooms for being too successful and using too much natural gas, instead of using alternative energy.
Trudeau argued that the farm’s higher-than-average carbon-tax charge only proved that it must change its ways.
Polievre pounced: “I will ask the same question I have asked the Prime Minister now about a half a dozen times: When he finally gets around to talking to Carleton Mushroom Farms’ owner, how will he advise them to pay their forthcoming $400,000 carbon tax bill? Will it be by raising prices on Canadians or by cutting back and bringing in more dirty foreign food?”
Replied Trudeau: “Mr. Speaker, 97% of farm fuel emissions are exempt from the price on pollution. The average farm across this country pays a little less than $1,000 on natural gas emissions through the price on pollution. Therefore, one can only imagine how much natural gas this successful mushroom farm must be using for their cost of the price on pollution to be that large. We will happily work with the farmer to switch toward a lower-emitting approach to doing their business well and protecting future generations.”
Poilievre, however, pointed out that the farm had no option but to use natural gas and must compete with American producers who are not charged a carbon tax.
While Trudeau called the farm a “multi-million-dollar” operation, the average Canadian farm is, in fact, a multi-million-dollar operation with a projected net worth of $3.8 million in 2022, according to Statistics Canada.
Poilievre also brought up the plight of well-known tomato-growing operation SunTech Greenhouses, of Manotick. The carbon-tax paid by the firm “means that its produce is more expensive in the village of Manotick than a Mexican tomato is in the village of Manotick, sending a price signal for consumers to buy the tomato that had to be transported by truck and train, burning fossil fuels, right across the continent,” the Conservative leader said. “Why does the Prime Minister not axe the tax so we can bring down the cost of farm production and bring home more clean, green Canadian produce?”
But the prime minister didn’t budge from his position that the tax “is a key part of actually making things more affordable for the long term for Canadians by pushing and encouraging innovation.”
Backdrop to the most recent debate was the failure of the Senate to pass immediate carbon-tax relief on propane and natural gas consumed on farms. Those fuels are used especially for drying grain and heating poultry and hog barns. Bill C-234 was passed by a majority of MPs last year but was derailed in the Senate after the Liberal Party lobbied the Liberal-leaning senators.
C-234 would have levelled the playing field for operations like SunTech and Carleton Mushrooms by exempting both from the carbon tax entirely. Currently, a greenhouse operation like SunTech pays a 20 % carbon-tax rate, but Carleton Mushrooms pays 100 %. The inexplicably unequal treatment comes down to a Canada Revenue Agency ruling.
Other agricultural operations are feeling the carbon tax pinch. Cornwall-area MP Eric Duncan (CON — Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry) drew similar attention to the $1,000 carbon tax imposed daily — yes, daily — on local cash-cropper Berny Dirven’s propane bill during the grain-drying season.
“There’s thousands of farms like this across the country that deserve the same carve-out and exemption from the carbon tax,” Duncan said in a Nov. 20 video post from Dirven’s farm. Two recent daily propane bills were $6,056 and $6,362, including respective carbon-tax charges of $975 and $1,008. That’s a 22 % tax on the farm’s propane bill when you include the HST that is also collected on top of the carbon tax, Dirven said.
The carbon tax on a litre of propane currently sits at 10 cents. That’s set to rise to just over 12 cents on April 1, with a series of increases scheduled to bring the charge up to 26 cents per litre in 2030 if the Trudeau Liberals remain in power. In the case of Berny Dirvern, his recent pre-tax price for propane was 45 to 46 cents per litre.
The carbon tax on a cubic meter of natural gas will rise to just over 15 cents on April 1, up from the current 12.3 cents. It’s slated to hit just over 32 cents in 2030.