Bill C-234 on life support after Senate approves amendment in 40-39 vote

Courtesy Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

Bill C-234 is likely headed down a drawn-out path to its demise in the House of Commons after the Senate voted 40-39 in favour of an amendment to the bill that would have removed the federal carbon tax from natural gas and propane used on farms.

Senators still have to vote on the revised version of C-234 at third reading, but an amended bill must go back to the House of Commons. Since C-234 is a private member’s bill, the Liberal government could use procedural tactics in the House to delay it indefinitely until the bill dies when the next federal election is called.

The amendment that passed by the single vote margin late Tuesday removes the proposed carbon tax exemption for barns and farm buildings, leaving grain drying as the main activity that would be exempt. It was nearly identical to another amendment moved by the same senator —  Sen. Pierre Dalphond — that was defeated at the Senate’s report stage on November 7.

“This bill is now gutted,” wrote C-234’s sponsor, Sen. David Wells, following the vote (see X post below). “It is likely that this will now die by process back in the House. It’s difficult to think that some in power would have our key food producers carry this tax burden.”

Dalphond’s amendment was the latest in a series of attempts in the Senate to amend or obstruct C-234, which was approved in the House of Commons in March by all Conservative, New Democrat, Bloc, and Green MPs, as well as a handful of Liberals.

It’s rare to have amendments brought forward at the third reading stage in the Senate, but to have an amendment re-introduced weeks after its defeat at the final stage was seen as unprecedented.

Additional amendments that were in the works could still be brought forward in the Senate, although they may now be dropped if the intent behind them was to delay and derail the bill.

It is possible the bill could move ahead with the exemption for grain drying if Liberal leadership would support the policy, but both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault have said they do not want any more carve-outs.

More will be known on the next steps for the bill on Thursday when it returns to the Senate agenda.

More to come.

Related: Senate enters unprecedented territory blocking C-234

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