OTTAWA — The Canadian Senate all but killed carbon-tax relief for farm grain-drying and barn heating during Dec. 5 deliberations in the red chamber, prompting a vow by the Poilievre Conservatives to filibuster the Trudeau government agenda unless the carbon tax is scrapped entirely.
In a tight 40-39 vote, the senators approved an amendment to Bill C-234, which stopped the original version from progressing to a third and final vote and becoming law. Instead, the now-amended private member’s bill must go back to the House of Commons for further debate where the governing minority Trudeau Liberals — who vehemently oppose the bill — will be able to keep it in limbo indefinitely. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois — plus 3 Liberals — passed the bill, sponsored by MP Ben Lobb (CON — Huron-Bruce), last March.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre promised to upend Parliament’s Christmas holidays in reaction to the loss in the Senate. “We are demanding that the federal government scrap the carbon tax on farmers, first nations and families or we are going to table thousands of amendments in committees and the House of Commons, votes that will run 24 hours,” Poilievre said in broadcasted remarks to the Conservative caucus on Dec. 6.
“We will never stop. We will delay the Christmas holidays of all politicians on Parliament Hill until they scrap the tax,” he said to cheers from his party.
Poilievre has also said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lobbied senators to support the recent amendment that doomed C-234, according to the CBC.
The amendment by Senator Pierre Dalphond of Quebec eliminates the bill’s carbon-tax exemption on fuel used to heat barns and other farm structures. But the content of the amendment was immaterial. Any official change in the text, right down to a comma or period, would compel the bill’s return to the House to be stymied by the government, confirmed Mark Choi, a policy advisor in the office of Conservative agriculture critic John Barlow. “These are just procedural games,” Choi said.
“I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, it is outrageous that the Trudeau-appointed Senators are playing political games with farmers’ livelihoods, Senate opposition leader Don Plett, senator for Manitoba, said in a statement released after the vote.
On the day of the vote, Senator Dalphond posted on X (formerly Twitter) the latest Statistics Canada numbers that show a 7.9 % increase in Canadian farmers’ cash receipts during the first 9 months of 2023.
The prime minister appointed five new senators to fill Senate vacancies in the weeks before the decision. The bill’s future became a supercharged political issue after Trudeau, under pressure from his Atlantic Canada MPs, suspended the carbon tax for three years on home heating oil, an embarrassing reversal of his party’s signature policy. He and his environment minister, Steven Guilbeault, have vowed there will be no more carbon-tax “carve outs.”
The Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada and the Grain Growers of Canada both expressed “profound disappointment” at the bill’s recent fate in the Senate.
“We look to the Senate for sober second thought, but not to reject the will of the House of Commons,” Grain Growers of Canada executive director Kyle Larkin said.