Farm groups disappointed with Senate amendment derailing C-234

(Sharon Drummond, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Agriculture Carbon Alliance (ACA) and many of its farm group members are voicing strong disappointment with the Senate’s adoption of a previously-rejected amendment to Bill C-234 at the final stage before it would have become law.

The bill, which would have removed the federal carbon tax from natural gas and propane used on farms, was amended to remove any exemption for barns, greenhouses, and other buildings, leaving grain drying as the main activity that would be exempt if it becomes law.

The amendment that passed by a narrow 40-39 margin on Tuesday was previously rejected by both the House of Commons agriculture committee and the whole Senate at report stage, notes the ACA, in a news release following Tuesday’s vote.

“While the Senate is supposed to be the chamber for sober second thought, Canadian farmers are bearing the brunt of political delays driven by partisan interests. The reintroduction of a previously defeated amendment weeks later is unprecedented,” says Dave Carey, co-chair of the ACA, which includes 16 national farm and commodity organizations. “Seeing this outcome at such a late stage is profoundly disappointing.”

“We look to the Senate for sober second thought, but not to reject the will of the House of Commons,” adds Kyle Larkin, executive director of Grain Growers of Canada. “Members of Parliament from every political party passed C-234 in the House due to the fact that no viable alternatives exist for the use of propane and natural gas for on-farm activities. We are deeply disappointed that the Senate amended the legislation, sending it back to the House of Commons where its status will be unclear.”

With the amendment, C-234 must go back to the House of Commons, where the Liberal government can delay the bill indefinitely by having MPs speak to it when it rises to the top of the list of private member’s business, which itself could take months. Without a vote, it would then drop to the bottom of the list again, and since it’s a private member’s bill, there’s no way for Conservative sponsor MP Ben Lobb to force a vote on it unless there’s unanimous consent from all MPs. Without any vote, it would die on the Order Paper when an election is called.

“If the government is truly concerned about supporting a sustainable Canadian food system that people can count on, then they need to enact practical policies that benefit all Canadians,” notes Scott Ross of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and fellow co-chair of the ACA. “Farmers are seeing historic levels of debt and costs that continue to rise. Expecting producers to pay tens of thousands of dollars in carbon pricing annually will only delay investments in sustainability while waiting for technology to catch up. This is not a workable solution.”

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s analysis, the unamended version of C-234 would have saved farmers nearly a billion dollars in carbon tax payments within the eight year sunset period.

The Ag Carbon Alliance’s members include the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Cattle Association, Grain Growers of Canada, Canadian Pork Council, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Canadian Forage and Grassland Association, the National Sheep Network, National Cattle Feeders’ Association, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, Mushrooms Canada, and Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

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

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