Senate enters unprecedented territory blocking C-234

The Senate chamber (photo by Paulo O, Flickr.com, CC-BY-2.0)

Senators intent on blocking Bill C-234 re-introduced an already-defeated amendment hours after a separate amendment was voted down on Tuesday.

It’s the latest move by senators aligned with the Liberal government to obstruct the private member’s bill that would remove the federal carbon levy from natural gas and propane used on farms.

First, Senator Lucie Moncion’s proposed amendment, which would have made it more difficult for a future government to extend the exemption beyond the eight-year sunset period, was defeated by a 42 to 36 vote, with two abstentions — a result that was applauded by farm groups, including the Agriculture Carbon Alliance.

But just a few hours later, Senator Pierre Dalphond tabled an amendment that would remove the exemption for natural gas and propane used in barns from the bill — the same policy the entire Senate rejected at the report stage just three weeks earlier, on November 7th.

While it’s rare to have amendments brought forward at the third reading stage in the Senate, to have an already-defeated amendment re-introduced at the final stage is unprecedented, according to multiple people on the Hill who are closely following the Senate proceedings.

It’s possible political science classes will be taught about C-234 in the future as an example of senators actively blocking legislation that has been approved by the majority of MPs in the House of Commons. Ironically, the senators blocking the bill on behalf of the minority Liberal government are so-called “independent” senators appointed by Trudeau.

These senators have the ability to continue introducing last-minute amendments to delay the final vote at third reading. Each time an amendment is proposed, it only dies if there’s a vote against it or if there’s no debate or movement on it for 15 sitting days. Every time it gets debated or debate is adjourned, the 15-day countdown starts back at zero.

And, as has already been pointed out by C-234 sponsor Senator David Wells, Conservative ag critic John Barlow and others, if an amendment is approved by the Senate, the entire bill will have to go back to the House of Commons. Since it’s a private member’s bill, the government could delay it indefinitely, allowing it to die on the Order Paper when an election is called.

There’s no question the government and some “independent” senators are willing to break convention to prevent this bill from becoming law. By introducing an already-defeated amendment and not coming up with a new angle, they’re not even trying to disguise their actions.

As long as senators in favour of C-234 continue to show up for work to defeat these amendments, it’s a question now of how long the government will want to continue investing political capital and time in delaying C-234 when it could be using those resources to advance other legislation, with polls projecting a change in government before the end of 2026.

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