An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel)

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Philip Lawrence  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Third reading (House), as of June 2, 2021

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to extend the exemption for qualifying farming fuel to marketable natural gas and propane.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 24, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel)

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

moved that bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to be in this House. It is an even greater privilege to be here with respect to Bill C-206, which of course is my private member's bill. Although I misspeak when I say it is mine. It really belongs to the farmers. That is what this bill is all about.

Our agriculture workers are tremendous. They produce some of the best agriculture products in the entire world. They work so hard every day. They get up early, go to bed late, and in between, continue their fantastic work.

Of course, we have all been challenged by the pandemic, and farmers are the same. Farmers have pushed through, even through the pandemic. Through all the barriers and challenges of the pandemic, they continued to plant their fields, tend their crops and take care of their animals, so we could always have a full belly here in Canada. During the pandemic, and really at any time in the recent past, farmers and Canadians have never had to worry about their food supply, and that is because we have the best farmers in the entire world.

Talking about the importance of agriculture, it is more than 7% of our GDP. More than that, farmers are really the heart of our community. They are the engine of our economy. Nearly one in eight Canadians are employed in agriculture and agri-food. That is an important statistic. That is the type of impact this industry has. On the whole, it employs more than 2.3 million Canadians.

We are one of the world's largest producers of flax seed, canola, pulses and durham wheat. We have some of the best beef, poultry and pork in the entire world produced right here in Canada, the greatest country in the world.

However, farmers have done this not in easy circumstances. In fact, in 2019, they had to go through what was dubbed, and I excuse the language, the “harvest from hell” when their crops were incredibly difficult to harvest due to the moisture and rainfall of 2019. This was an absolute challenge. Farmers had to run their grain dryers for nearly 24 hours straight at some points to save as much of their agriculture product as they could.

In 2019, the rain out west was not the only weather condition that farmers faced. That year a hurricane flattened fields in Atlantic Canada. Fields in Quebec faced unprecedented rainfall during harvest and planting times. There were snow-covered fields out west earlier on. Manitoba was in a state of emergency. Alberta and Saskatchewan faced drought.

In my riding, the fabulous riding, and I might say, perhaps the best riding in the entire world, Northumberland—Peterborough South, we faced an almost unprecedented late frost. Generally, after May 24 is the frost-free zone, but we had frost in our riding, and in other parts of southern Ontario, and if farmers had planted, they had to deal with that as well. As we can see, farmers are not without their challenges.

It goes beyond weather. There are issues that farmers are facing such as global trade issues. Currently, there are various trade issues where farmers in Canada are not getting appropriate, equitable treatment. They are often at the short end of the stick and in a highly subsidized industry. It is subsidized nearly throughout the world, in the EU and the United States. During the pandemic, the EU and the United States of America stepped up for their farmers. They gave millions, if not billions, of dollars to farmers to help them get through the pandemic.

In Canada, I would love to say it was the same, but that is just not the case. Unfortunately, the current government went through its tried and true strategy of making an announcement, having that policy or platform item fail and then reannouncing it again. It recycles failed announcements over and over again, and our farmers got precious little compared to other farmers around the world.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am so passionate about Bill C-206. When we boil it down, it is about giving farmers a fair shake. They need to have the same opportunities as farmers around the world. The carbon tax here in Canada is not imposed internationally, and because of that, they face barriers that other farmers in other countries simply do not face.

Bill C-206 would give those farmers a fair shake, an opportunity to compete globally. What would it do?

Currently, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act absolutely exempts certain types of fuel. It exempts gasoline and diesel, but it does not currently exempt natural gas and propane. In the spirit of team Canada and non-partisanship, I would like to give the government the benefit of the doubt that perhaps this was an oversight. This is the government's opportunity to correct that oversight. In fact, I would like to invite it to do so.

There is no logical reason why natural gas and propane would not be exempt when gasoline and diesel are. Natural gas and propane are cleaner fuels than diesel and gasoline. In fact, in my humble estimation, natural gas and propane are actually part of the solution.

For example, if we were to take all the coal-producing power plants in China and convert them to natural gas, the savings from that, the amount of carbon savings, the reduction in output, would be dramatically more than if we were to take Canada to net zero. If we were to convert China completely to natural gas from coal, that would be much more beneficial to the environment than even if Canada went to net zero tomorrow.

Natural gas and propane are a part of the problem and they are arguably cleaner than the exempt fossil fuel equivalents, which are diesel and gasoline.

When I look at natural gas and propane, who do we impact if it is not exempt? We are affecting a wide range of farmers, but particularly our grain farmers. As I said, we are among the leaders in grain farmers in the entire world. Those prices are set by international markets.

By having this bill in place, we will give those grain farmers a break. The Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions, the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies and the CFIB have various numbers, as does the PBO, but those numbers range anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in costs for farmers. I saw them. I was emailed droves and droves receipts for the carbon tax, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Then to add insult to injury, they are charged GST on the carbon tax.

When I was at the public accounts committee, I asked the assistant deputy finance minister how the government could justify charging the GST on top of carbon tax, that the carbon tax was punitive enough. He said that it was not. He was wrong. The government does not even know how much damage it is inflicting on our farmers. To me, that is so damaging and so challenging.

When we look at this, we know farmers want to, and I definitely want to, fight climate change. Is there a more environmentally friendly way? Is there a better way than burning natural gas and propane?

We had session after session of expert witnesses. While they said that perhaps there were fledgling technologies and that there were opportunities for the future to perhaps burn biofuels or use other types of more environmentally friendly fuels and energy, right now there was not. The Grain Farmers of Ontario said, “there are no readily available grain drying technology replacement alternatives that are cost effective. Drying grain is essential for marketing grain.”

From these witnesses, we learned that farmers greatly care about the environment. For those folks who maybe are not in an agriculture setting, like I am, a one degree difference in temperature can make the difference for a season. An entire year, whether it is profitable or not, can be based on whether there is frost or not. That can be the difference of one degree.

There is no one more sensitive to environmental changes, to environmental concerns than our farmers. That testimony came out again and again. When I think about the environmental impact, and I will talk a little about that, it really affects them.

I was actually sleeping at six a.m. in my house. I rent out my property to a farmer. Of course, farmers, because they work immeasurably harder than politicians, were not asleep at six a.m. I heard a “rap, rap, rap,” and I came down to the door in my pyjamas, with the farmer knocking at my door. He rents the field from me. He said there was a tree down and asked if I have chainsaw. I asked him to give me five minutes so I could get changed and get my chainsaw. We went ahead and cut up that tree. In there, I started off a conversation with one of our local farmers, a great guy.

Members might wonder what we talked about. Did we talk about the fact that the Leafs are definitely going to win and that this was their year? No, we did not talk about that. Maybe we talked about Montreal and that maybe it would be their year. No, what we talked about was actually the GPS in his tractor and how he had two different GPS options, and he picked the one that was one inch as opposed to five inches. It was calibrated to one inch, and he said he had to do that, because it made his farms and fields more productive and because he did not want to use one extra ounce of chemical or fertilizer that he did not have to use. This is how much our farmers care about our environment. I think that is a bit of an undersold issue.

Of course, farmers are some of the first stewards of our lands. They protect so much. Other technology they have been involved in includes no-till technology, precision agriculture and satellite-driven agriculture. The farmers want to get this right. They want to do everything they can to preserve that land, because, quite frankly, their livelihood and the livelihood of the coming generations depend on it.

There is great news, too, with respect to farmers. They are actually ahead of the curve. What do we hear about from industries, even the oil industry and, of course, the government here? It is net-zero, and this is a fabulous concept and something we can all drive to, but most industries say “net-zero, 2050; net-zero 2060; net-zero 2040,” or, maybe if they are really ambitious, “net-zero, 2030”. How about, “net-zero, now”? That is what farmers are. They are net-zero now. They plant millions of these little devices, these terrific, amazing little carbon-capture devices. I like to call them “plants”. There are millions of them every single year, and they sequester this carbon. It is unbelievable. It is such an advance in science. They sequester this carbon in their fields, and yes they burn some fossil fuels in their tractors and in drying grain and keeping their barns heated, but overall they are net-zero and above, and farmers want to do even more.

I am so passionate here, I am happy to hopefully get through half of my speech here. I just could talk about this PMB all day.

When we look at the overall picture, we see farmers who want to do the right thing. We see Canadians who want to do the right thing and protect the environment, but we have to do it in a way that makes economic sense, as well. First, we have to make sure that farmers stay competitive in the global market and that we do not make our farmers pay an undue burden, as opposed to other industries and other countries around the world. The other part is that farmers want to do the right thing. The challenge is that agriculture has been, and is even more so now, an undercapitalized sector of our economy. In testimony at the agriculture committee, one of the the individuals said that if money was not an object, they would put in high-efficiency grain operation tomorrow, but they simply do not have the capital. Farmers are stretched out more thinly than they ever have been before, so that is why.

The idea of the carbon tax is that we are going to make less environmentally friendly solutions more expensive, so that we will naturally be pushed, in a free market system, to those that are more environmental. However, in this situation the reverse is true, because farmers want to do the more environmentally friendly thing. Members can trust me, as I was talking to my farmers on Saturday morning. They want to do that; they just do not have the money, so when we take more money from them, and it can literally be tens of thousands of dollars, they do not have the money to invest.

Farmers want to do the right thing. We want to do the right thing. Let us collaborate together. Let us vote together. Let us pass the PMB, Bill C-206.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank again the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for highlighting the key role that our farmers play for our economy, our environment and indeed our very well-being.

However, since this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to speak in this House since the finding of 215 bodies at the Kamloops residential school, if you will permit me, Madam Speaker, just for one moment I would like to touch on that. I have three indigenous communities in my own riding, including Sipekne'katik, Annapolis Valley First Nation and Glooscap, with particular emphasis that the Shubenacadie Residential School system was the largest in Atlantic Canada.

I had the opportunity to join members of the indigenous community in my riding on Sunday. We know that we had an important emergency debate yesterday. I was not able to be recognized, but I look forward to speaking on this in the days ahead, including, perhaps, tomorrow with the opposition day motion. I continue to work in concert with our indigenous communities, as I know all members of this House will do with their respective constituents.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and our farmers are on the front lines. Canadian farmers are both innovators and environmentalists at heart and they farm their land with an eye to future generations: farmers like Jacques Lamontagne, who is working with researchers to explore the benefits of planting trees along the river that runs through his dairy farm in Quebec's Eastern Townships; or Manitoba's Robert McNabb who was inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame for being a pioneer in zero-tillage; or Alberta's Deer Creek livestock winners of the 2020 Environmental Stewardship Award for their efforts to conserve species at risk and use solar-electric fences to keep cattle off riverbanks and preserve grasslands. Let me also say that my own farmers in Kings—Hants are doing tremendous work to ensure that they are being environmental stewards of the land and to reduce their respective environmental and GHG footprints as a result.

Thanks to innovators like the ones I have mentioned and others, over the past two decades, Canadian farmers have doubled the value of their production while stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. In that time, the amount of agriculture emissions per dollar of GDP generated by the sector has dropped by half.

However, we know that there is more work to be done and we have to be there to work with industry in the days ahead. Our government has ambitious emission targets, with the goal of cutting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2015.

One of the things that I asked my hon. colleague about during his remarks was the fact that he did not touch on the budget investments that were made in budget 2021. That is an important nuance for members to consider. This well-intending legislation was introduced, but really our government has responded in a way to try to ensure that there are mechanisms and tools in place to support our farmers in their transition to reducing emissions. I want to highlight some of them for the members of this House.

Grain drying was one of the key central points that was raised by the member opposite as being a raison d'être of his PMB. Our government recognizes that there are emerging technologies, but we are not at the point that there is a whole host of opportunities to be able to move forward.

That is why, in budget 2021, we are investing $100 million to be able to rebate farmers who are in the federally backstopped jurisdictions, such that we can make sure that money is returned to farmers and we can still maintain the price signal of the price on pollution, which was deemed very important by a number of witnesses in our committee study on this particular piece of legislation. There is also $50 million dedicated solely toward supporting innovative technologies around grain drying, and I will speak more to that in a moment.

The clean agriculture tech fund is $165 million of support that the government has, in the days ahead, to roll out. One of the key elements in this is the opportunity to work with farmers to adopt renewable energy on farm as a way to offset fossil fuel practices. We know farmers are already doing good work. The member opposite talked about the means to be able to make this transition. Farmers want to be part of this, but we want to be a government that is working with farmers to be able to help make this transition. Programs like this are going to matter.

Finally, the agriculture climate solutions program will have $385 million dedicated to it over the next 10 years to help farmers transition to do this important work. This includes programs such as the living labs, where there are opportunities for farmers, researchers and innovation experts to come together to make important investments and do important research on what else can be done.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about some of the opportunities that exist. I know the debate in the House will include measures that farmers are already doing. We as a government agree. We look at things such as the clean fuel standard and the opportunity that exists for the canola sector. We look at the offset mitigation efforts, essentially the offset credits, that Environment and Climate Change Canada is working toward. This presents an incredible opportunity for our sector to reward the practices that are being adopted. It is important that we continue to support these practices and ensure that farmers have the opportunity to benefit from the environmental stewardship they are already taking on.

I want to give some reflections from my perspective as a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, where we had conversations with experts on Bill C-206. One of the elements in a lot of testimony that I thought was particularly important was the importance of maintaining a price signal. The member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford introduced an amendment that is reasonable, but misses the point that we want to keep that price signal now to continue to make innovation possible and help drive technology and innovation in this space.

The member for Northumberland—Peterborough South mentioned in his remarks that farmers would make the transition to the most efficient grain dryers today if they had the means to do it. Our government is focused on maintaining that price, being able to hub the support programs that are in place, such that we are able to help farmers make the transition today because we need to continue to move in this regard. That is is extremely important.

I would also talk about the fact that the agriculture committee is doing a study right now on environment, agriculture and the intersection between the two. One of the things that was pointed out yesterday by witnesses is that there are opportunities for things such as wood pellets to help drive the energy that is necessary to support grain drying.

This is something that the ECCC is looking at in conjunction with the industry because the life-cycle analysis of these types of products is significantly lower than fossil fuels. These are the types of innovative practices that we can continue to do to help support farmers, so they are able to get around the price on pollution and lower their own costs and support rural industries at the same time.

I mentioned in my question to the member opposite that one of the things we heard loud and clear was that, although it is laudable in its intent to open up natural gas and propane as eligible fuels, because this was about grain drying, at least as I understand it, there is no explicit mention in the proposed legislation that would change the definition of the eligible farming activity. I take notice that the member opposite feels that, under the interpretation he takes, this would be included, but we have heard from the Department of Finance Canada that they do not share that view. That is one part of the fatally flawed elements in this bill.

Simply put, our position as a government is that we are going to continue to maintain a price. We are going to rebate where it makes sense, where it is difficult to find the innovative technologies that exist. The intent of this particular legislation was well-meaning, but it was introduced before the government made significant investments to partner with industry to get to the outcomes we all know are so crucial and important.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to once again speak to Bill C-206. For those who are just catching the debate tonight, this bill would make an amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and specifically broaden the definition of what a qualifying farm fuel would be. In this case, it is about adding natural gas and propane to the definition. This is important, as I will elaborate later on, because propane and natural gas are two fuels that are quite important to farmers for specific uses.

As I made mention in my second reading speech on the bill, it is also important to underscore the challenges that will be faced by our agricultural sector in the decade ahead from the effects of climate change.

I have heard from farmers both in my own riding and at committee about how they are on the front lines of climate change. I represent a rural riding. The riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is roughly 4,700 square kilometres in size. It is a beautiful piece of real estate on southern Vancouver Island. Also, the Cowichan Valley has a very long and storied history in agriculture. We are very proud of the climate we have, which allows us to grow an abundance of amazing produce and fruit. I know the farmers here are very cognizant of the effects of climate change just as they are right across Canada.

It is important that when we are crafting policy, we keep in mind what is going to be the greatest challenge of the 21st century and we really start to focus our efforts on combatting this great threat. It is not just having environmental concerns, not just causing environmental damage, but it is going to have significant impacts on our future tax dollars. The amount of money that we are going to have to pay out of future tax revenues in dealing with the damage from climate change, in trying to adapt to it and mitigating its effects, is going to grow if we do not significantly reduce our emissions. I understand the purpose of carbon pricing and I, for one, am absolutely in support of it.

I also want to acknowledge that too often in debate farmers are treated as bystanders and that is a gross mistake. Farmers are not only very well aware of what the effects of climate change will be, but are also one of our greatest tools in fighting climate change.

I have heard some of my colleagues make mention in their speeches on how good agricultural practices can be a major source of carbon sequestration. We need to take carbon out of the atmosphere where it causes havoc and put it into the soil. When we put it into the soil, we have healthier soil, we need less input through better agricultural methods and we get better yields. We also have soil that is better able to withstand droughts, flooding and it just builds a resilience into the system. There is nothing but positives with healthy soil management.

We have to look at those agro ecological practices and regenerative farming techniques. I am glad our committee is engaged in this study, but we really need to focus federal government policies, and I acknowledge the budget is starting to do that, on making this a priority and putting farmers front and centre as one of our greatest allies in combatting this threat.

I want to take time to acknowledge the important work that our agricultural sector is already doing and the potential it has not only in renewable energy generation and the significant possibility on farms of harnessing the wind, the sun and biomass, but also what farmers are doing with their careful soil management.

The bill is back before us after spending some time at the agriculture committee. I have been a proud member of that committee for over three years now, and I will echo the previous speaker's comments. It is a wonderful committee of which to be a part. We are probably the most non-partisan committee in the House. A lot of what we do there is reached by consensus, and it is always a very respectful dialogue.

I think every member of the committee realizes that no matter what our partisan political stripe is, we all represent farmers in our ridings. We have New Democrats, Conservatives, Bloc members, Liberals and Green Party members. We all recognize the importance of the sector, not only to our individual ridings but to our country as a whole.

It was one of those rare moments when we as a committee finally got to study a bill, and we did a thorough job in investigating Bill C-206. We had six meetings and heard from 29 witnesses, and eight briefs were submitted. These witnesses included quite a variety of people from across the spectrum. We got to hear from several federal departments, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, Farmers for Climate Solutions and the Grain Growers of Canada, just to name a few.

I have heard a lot of the debate about the intention of the carbon price. It is meant to establish a price signal to encourage people to change their ways to a less expensive and more environmentally friendly method. The focus of today's debate is the subject of grain drying, because that is where propane and natural gas are used quite frequently.

I mentioned this in my second reading speech, but it was confirmed time and time again: If the intention of the carbon price is to change behaviour, we need a viable alternative that we can change our behaviour to. I only recently made a switch to a zero-emission vehicle, and I know that many people in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford are doing the same. They made the switch because there is a price signal. It is a lot cheaper to operate a zero-emission vehicle, an electric car, than it is to operate a gasoline-powered one. However, they also made the switch because there were viable alternatives. We have so many options to choose from in the zero-emission vehicle market right now that it is quite easy, especially with government rebates, to find something that is practical for day-to-day use.

When it comes to grain drying and alternative technologies, farmers do not have that option. We did hear that there are some emerging technologies with respect to electric heat pumps and possibility the use of biomass from crop residue. However, we also heard that those technologies are still many years away from being commercially viable and efficient enough to actually replace natural gas and propane. If we have no viable alternative to force farmers into and are simply levying a carbon tax on their activities, the price is not going to do what it is intended to do.

I do respect the fact that the government is offering rebates, which I think were placed in the budget on page 174 in response to Bill C-206. Bill C-206 did have an impact, I guess, in helping to rewrite a part of the budget. However, we did hear from farmers that they would prefer not to have the price in there at all until we have viable technologies.

That brings me to the amendment. I would like to thank members of the committee, because the one and only amendment that was passed to the bill was brought forward by me. I was trying to find a reasonable halfway point between the two sides to this argument by establishing a sunset clause of 10 years, after which the definition in this bill will revert to the original. I felt that 10 years was a long enough time to allow for these emerging technologies to become commercially viable so that hopefully by the year 2031 farmers will have a choice to go to. I think that is incredibly important when we put it in the context of carbon pricing.

I would like to thank my colleagues again, reflecting on what a joyful committee it is to be a member of, for agreeing to the amendment and allowing us to get to a stage where hopefully we will see the bill passed in the House and sent to the other place.

In conclusion, I think we need to remember, as has been detailed by the National Farmers Union, that Canadian farm debt has nearly doubled since the year 2000. It is made up of billions of dollars and, increasingly, farmers are paying more and more money in fertilizer costs, machinery fuels, new technologies, credit services and so on. They are really only left with a very small portion of gross farm revenues. I think the measure contained in Bill C-206 is going to help them out, and it gives us an opportunity to give them some price relief on a very important aspect of their business.

I appreciate the time. I look forward to hearing other speeches on Bill C-206.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2021 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Epp Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Madam Speaker, be it through the use of more intensive use of cover cropping or rotational grazing, recently we had officials from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada testify at committee. They acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have remained steady since 2005, despite increased production.

By my own personal experience farming in a sandy vegetable production area, it was not uncommon to experience sandstorms in spring as the soils were being plowed to prepare them for potato, tomato and other vegetable seedlings. Having to turn on headlights to drive at midday happened more than once, I am sorry to say, in the mid-1980s. That does not happen anymore. Windbreaks have been planted, cover crops are managed far more intensively, and the use of strip tillage has virtually removed wind erosion as a concern.

Third, ag has a strong record of innovation, of adopting new technologies, such as the use of GPS technology on the farm, the growing adoption of variable rate application, both in seeding and in crop protection products, robotics in our dairy sector, automation and climate controls in our greenhouse sector and many other innovations.

Why is this? It is because farmers know they have to compete. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, this industry has often been described as one of the few that buys their inputs retail, sells their outputs wholesale and pays the freight both ways. This leads me to my final framing point.

By and large, farmers are price takers. They cannot effectively pass along imposed cost increases to their buyers. Let these four points set the stage for my remarks of Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel), adding propane and natural gas to be exempted qualifying farm fuels from the carbon tax.

We have heard much in this House about the harvest from hell in 2019. Particularly, in Western Canada, this very difficult harvest, which saw extensive and prolonged rainfall, as well as early snowfalls and frost right before and during harvest, necessitated the use of natural gas and propane to dry the grain into a storable condition. Farming in Ontario requires the use of grain dryers every year, particularly for grain corn, though it is often also needed for soybeans, wheat, barley, oats and canola.

During a recent conversation with Dr. Alan Mussell, he reminded me that farmers have been extremely focused on their use of energy since the very beginnings of organized agriculture. They have focused on maximizing yield and quality, and maximizing the feed conversion as plant energy is converted to protein. They have been focused on the 99% of the energy used on the farm, the energy received from the sun, solar energy. By maximizing the efficiency of this energy, by maximizing yield, quality and conversion, and by achieving greater plant growth per hectare, as a consequence, they have also increased carbon sequestration.

In fixing CO2 as a consequence of driving yield, it is heavily influenced by the management techniques employed by progressive farmers. It has only been in the last decade or so that there have been whispers about agriculture as being a dirty industry. Since the use of electrical and fossil fuel energy sources comprises only a small component of energy use, farmers have rightfully been historically focused on maximizing efficiencies through increasing the yield and quality of their crops by maximizing the use of the sun, by driving yield and consequently, sequestering carbon.

Incidently, the movement to reducing or eliminating tillage provided improvements in moisture retention and a reduction in erosion and, of course, increased sequestration, all without the imposition of a tax, something also not acknowledged in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. However, then to increase agriculture's focus, even on the relatively small use of energy from fossil fuel sources, does it not make sense that adding a carbon tax would drive a reduction in its use? The answer is no for three reasons.

First, imposing a carbon tax on farm fuels used for grain drying could induce a logical response by the industry that reduces yields and then is at cross-purposes with the goals of the tax. Particularly, with respect to the growing of corn, farmers have chosen varieties that require the most growing degree days that can be grown in their region with acceptable risks to maturity so as to maximize the conversion of solar energy into yield, which then also maximizes carbon sequestration.

They could choose to grow shorter-season varieties, which would be drier at harvest, to avoid carbon tax costs. This would require less energy to dry the crop into a storable state. However, this comes with a corresponding reduction in yield, less fixing of CO2 and requires more land to grow the same amount of grain for their markets.

Second, commercially viable, scalable alternatives to using natural gas and propane simply are not available today. Because there are not any viable alternatives, the demand for fuel tends to be unaffected by price, making additional fuel charges in the form of an additional tax an ineffective policy tool to lower emissions. The additional fuel charge as presently applied is punitive. It taxes our farmers, with little to no benefit for the environment.

It has been mentioned that the recent budget did contain some funding, with $50 million for research to explore and develop viable alternatives. This initiative can be supported. If and when viable alternatives are commercially available, they are usually more expensive than the status quo. Incentivizing their adoption rather than taxing a present practice with no alternatives is a far better policy tool.

If possible, use the carrot rather than the stick. As mentioned earlier, farmers cannot pass this additional cost on to consumers, and this leads me to my final point, which is basic fairness in the market.

Our Canadian grains compete directly with American grains and are priced off the Chicago Board of Trade. Our own farm is primarily a processing-vegetable farming operation, but Lycoland Farms also produces grain and oil seeds. Because our volume of production is too low presently to warrant an investment in drying and storage facilities, we deliver our grains to Tec-Land, a farming operation and elevator in Wheatley, and receive a price based in U.S. dollars off of Chicago plus a local basis.

This basis takes into account the exchange rate, local supply and demand factors and freight considerations to market. Tec-Land has options for marketing to customers such as Hiram Walker or ADM in Windsor, Greenfield Global, an ethanol producer in Chatham here in my riding, Cargill in Sarnia or Ingredion in London, but none of these customers will pay more basis to Tec-Land to cover the carbon tax and drying cost. Why is that? Each of these end-users can also buy American corn or soybeans, and they often do, and these grains do not incur a carbon tax on the drying or on the farm fuels used to produce them.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act did exempt gasoline and diesel fuel, and Bill C-206 is looking to correct the oversight regarding natural gas and propane used for drying.

Many of my neighbours and most farmers in our riding, unlike Lycoland, have grain and oil seeds as the focus of their operations. Many have invested in their own drying and storage facilities. I recently spoke with neighbours, such as Paul Tiessen, Tom Dick, Walt Brown, Doug Mills and many others, who have all had the same experience as Tec-Land: When they were marketing last season's crops, they were unable to pass along any additional carbon tax costs to buyers.

Recent research from the Grain Farmers of Ontario has estimated that by 2030 the carbon tax on fuel used for drying will cost the average farm an additional $46 an acre. On an average 800-acre Ontario grain farm, it is a tax of $36,800 that cannot be passed along.

In conclusion, I urge all members of the House to support passing a bill that would remove the potential of being at cross-purposes with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Please support the removal of a tax for which users have no viable options, and please support basic fairness in the market for the ag sector.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to be able to address the chamber.

This morning I would like to provide some thoughts in regard to Bill C-206. Its intent is to ultimately expand fuel charge relief provided for farmers by making some changes to the definition of “qualifying farming fuel”. Specifically, I understand the bill would add natural gas and propane to the eligible fuel list.

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is really important to recognize that we are not in a position in which we can afford to ignore the real and immediate threat that climate change poses to our environment and our economy. I think it is important to recognize that fact, even in these very trying times.

We will continue, as we have in the past, to work to support Canada's farmers as they attempt to also fight climate change. I think it is also important to recognize that our farmers, and the farming industry as a whole, have contributed so much with they way they are fighting climate change. The modernization and technology that is being used on our farms is absolutely incredible, and every year it continues to get better.

I can recall the days in Saskatchewan of running on to the fields with the big John Deere tractors and cultivators. When we compare the way farming was back then to today, we see some significant changes in the way farms operate. We need to acknowledge that. We will support farmers, ranchers, food businesses and food processors because we recognize the important role they play in our economy, our society and our lifestyle.

It is also important that we recognize that pollution pricing is the most effective and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change, and we have been saying that since the very beginning. In fact, all the direct revenues from the price on pollution go back to the jurisdiction that it came from.

That has been the goal of the government, and Manitoba has benefited from that significantly. We are getting into the tens of millions of dollars. The majority of the constituents I represent get a net gain as a direct result of the price on pollution.

I think if we look around the world, we would see a huge amount of support for having a price on pollution. We can look to the Paris Agreement or talk about other provincial governments. In fact, British Columbia's government has led the way. Ironically, we would have to go back probably over 15 years to see when even the Province of Alberta initiated the idea on some form of price on pollution.

Instituting a price on pollution across Canada has been a priority of this government, and it has been, for the most part, very effective. For those jurisdictions that do not have something of a similar nature, Ottawa steps in to ensure that there is that sense of equity, in that all Canadians are contributing. We saw legislation that was brought in earlier with regard to net-zero emissions. This legislation is a first of its kind and was introduced by this government.

Again, we are very sensitive to the farmers. We will see what happens when this bill goes to committee, but the government, even during these trying times, has been there to support our farmers. We can talk about the $5 billion in additional farm credit that was unlocked, or the $100 million for the new agriculture and food business solutions fund. We also increased the Canadian Dairy Commission borrowing capacity by $200 million.

There was also an additional $35 million to improve health and safety on farms. We spent well over $100 million for agricultural recovery initiatives, which will ultimately support a national approach to responding to some of the huge additional costs people in farm businesses have had to incur. Also, from what I understand, we launched a $75-million emergency processing fund to help modernize and automate some of these facilities.

Our government knows and understands our Canadian farmers. They are a part of the climate change solution, and we will be there to continue to support them in the months and years ahead.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this morning to participate in the debate at second reading on Bill C-206, which is sponsored by my Conservative colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South.

I want to stress how pleased I am, because I consider this colleague to be not only a friend, but also an ally in our work on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I know how much energy he puts into defending his constituents and all taxpayers, because of how rigorous he is when it comes to our committee work. His bill reflects how much he cares, which is very admirable and does his constituents proud.

I also want to point out that he takes a collaborative approach in all his undertakings, which, despite our profound political differences, allows us to engage in courteous discussions and, above all, to move forward on issues that are important to us. That is ultimately reflected in the work we do for the good of the population in general.

Bill C-206 proposes to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which is currently referred to as the federal carbon tax.

We all know what the Conservative caucus thinks of this act. Even so, my colleague's goal is a worthy one deserving of our attention. His bill would directly affect the agricultural sector, which the current government believes is firmly on side despite all evidence to the contrary.

My colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South's Bill C-206 contains one single clause, one simple, short amendment to the existing act that would allow a whole lot of our farmers to stop paying huge amounts of money to the state just so they can run their farms and feed the people of Quebec, as well as people in the rest of Canada and even around the world.

As it stands, the act mandates a blanket charge on fossil fuels to be paid to the government by the supplier at the time of delivery. Sales that meet certain criteria, such as eligible fuels sold to a farmer, are exempt from payment of that charge.

Technically, for all those watching us, the current legislation defines qualifying farming fuel as any “type of fuel that is gasoline, light fuel oil or a prescribed type of fuel”. This is where my colleague shows some real foresight.

Bill C-206 seeks to amend this definition by adding marketable natural gas and propane. Anyone who has ever used a barbeque knows what propane is. Marketable natural gas is a fuel that consists of at least 90% methane and that meets the specifications for pipeline transport and sale for general distribution to the public. It is the same natural gas that heats and cools thousands of homes, buildings, and facilities of all kinds.

My colleague's bill is crystal clear and deserves to be passed by the House. We hope that the Liberals will take the time to study it properly. We will also find out at the last minute where the NDP stands. They might yet again betray their principles to ensure their survival. We will see what happens when they vote.

That said, I remind members that all farmers, without exception, depend on propane and natural gas to run their operations. Grain producers are even more reliant on these fuels. I would remind everyone of the CN strike in November 2019, when rail deliveries of propane to eastern Canada were interrupted creating a crisis that the Liberal government utterly failed to resolve. Grain must be dried quickly so it can be stored in silos without rotting. That is pretty obvious, and every day counts when trying to save an entire harvest.

Although some grains are grown in Quebec, agriculture in that province focuses on other products. In Quebec, we produce the best milk in the world, the most delicious pork on the planet and the most nutritious eggs, not to mention the plump and tender chicken that our farms have been producing forever.

No matter what they produce, all farms rely on propane and natural gas fuels. If the government keeps forcing farmers to pay a fuel charge for these fuels, there is no question we will all lose. In my view, this bill needs to be passed because farmers' profit margins are already too low for the hard work they do.

Farmers need this tax exemption so that they can get us the highest quality products, which are envied around the world. All we need is for the Liberals to step up and amend a few words in the existing legislation to give the entire agricultural sector a little breathing room and to ensure the sustainability of family farms.

Farms are a key economic sector, key even to our very survival. I have a strong relationship with farmers in my area, the Lower St. Lawrence, so I know the farming sector well enough to know that, despite the ideological considerations that guide the Liberals, they should admit they were wrong and fix things while there is still time. My colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South is giving them the opportunity to do just that. I hope they will recognize the huge sacrifices made by grain producers in particular and farmers as a whole.

Before closing, I want to point out that the carbon tax is a tool for action meant to incentivize all industries to change their behaviour, but that means technology needs to be accessible and affordable in rural areas. It is not, so propane and natural gas are still the only options.

We have a common duty to support all of our farmers, but the Liberal government does not currently have the best track record in that regard, to be honest. However, we have an opportunity to fix that, and a simple amendment to the existing legislation, as proposed by our Conservative colleague in Bill C-206, would be a step in the right direction.

I could talk for hours about specific farmers in Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques who would benefit from this measure. All of them would say that the environment is a daily concern because it is essential to their work. These people live off the land and its bounty. We have a responsibility to help and support them. The current markets are fiercely competitive, and a simple tax break to support them would show that we appreciate everything they produce and their contribution to our economy, not to mention the food they put on our plates.

Because the Bloc Québécois supports farmers, because we are extremely proud of their work and because they are as reliable as we can be, we will support Bill C-206. The Liberals should do their part. If not, they will have to answer for it.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. It is the private member's bill of my Conservative colleague, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South.

First, as the official opposition shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food, I want to congratulate the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South and thank him for this bill. The member is well aware of the challenges faced by farmers and producers in his riding and is clearly in touch with their concerns. I believe his constituents can look forward to his long and fruitful service on their behalf.

I have heard many concerns from farmers and producers in my own riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and how the carbon tax negatively affects their cost of production and puts them at a competitive disadvantage against imports coming from our neighbours to the south, especially given our close proximity to the U.S. border.

I turn now to the bill itself. If the government refuses to support this bill, it will send a clear a message to Canadians generally and to Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers in particular. The message the Liberals will send is that they do not care how their carbon tax negatively affects Canadians and our domestic food security and production. The Liberals will also show how sadly out of touch they are with Canadian farmers.

I want to point out to this House the current situation with the Liberals' carbon tax and producers. Farmers are already exempt from paying the federal carbon tax on gasoline and fuel oils, which includes diesel fuel, where these are used for agriculture production on the farm. Let me be clear: This bill is only proposing to extend this existing federal carbon tax exemption for farmers to include propane and natural gas.

Last March at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and again on a video conference last June, the agriculture minister suggested that the farmers' federal carbon tax payments on propane and natural gas are less than 1% of their expenditures and insignificant, but that is just not the case. As one might imagine, the Liberals' carbon tax on propane and natural gas is far more than that. Many farmers and producers use propane or natural gas to heat their barns and dry grain and oilseeds.

Last November, the parliamentary budget office released a report on the carbon tax showing that farmers, ranchers and producers would pay $9 million for the remainder of just this fiscal year, plus $226 million over the next four fiscal years, for using propane and natural gas in their operations. For that period of time, that is a total of $235 million. It appears the Minister of Agriculture has a problem not just with math but with arithmetic, so let me press further on the arithmetic and math.

The profit margins for most Canadian producers are very narrow. For most Canadian farmers, there is very little room for error or additional input costs. For Canadian farmers, the Liberals' carbon tax is an input cost on their production, and most producers are price-takers, not price setters. That means farmers have no way of recovering what they pay in the Liberals' carbon tax from the next stage of the supply chain. To be clear, the Liberals' carbon tax takes from most Canadian farmers' profits and from their families' standard of living.

Canadians count on a reliable supply of food on their grocery shelves, and this just in: Food must come from a farm. If a farm is not profitable, the farm must shut down and the farmer must leave the land. As Canadian farmers are driven off the land and out of business, less food is produced here in Canada. A reliable supply of food must be found elsewhere and Canadian food sovereignty is put in doubt.

By bringing forward this bill, my colleague has shown he understands the challenges farmers face, but the minister's resistance to extending an exemption to the Liberals' carbon tax shows just out of touch she is with farmers.

The Minister of Agriculture's problems do not stop there. The minister has recently suggested that farmers should innovate so as to avoid using propane and natural gas in their production, but for many farmers, using propane and natural gas is the only option. Propane and natural gas are widely used by producers and farmers for heating their barns and drying their grains and oilseeds, and there are no other options available currently.

Ironically, at a recent meeting of the Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba, the minister indicated that farmers could finance the purchase of a new, more efficient gas or propane grain dryer using the climate action incentive fund, so on the one hand she is telling farmers to find a viable alternative and on the other she is proclaiming that her government will pay for it. Which is it? Could the minister be any more out of touch with farmers?

The existing federal carbon tax exemption for farmers' use of gasoline and fuel oils raises another question. Compared to gasoline and fuel oils, both propane and natural gas are very clean fuels in respect of their emissions.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the carbon dioxide emissions from diesel and heating oil are 16% higher than for propane. The CO2 emissions for diesel and heating oil are 37% higher than the emissions for natural gas. The CO2 emissions for gasoline are 13% higher than for propane and 17% higher than for natural gas.

According to the Canadian Propane Association, “Studies have found that propane can emit up to 26% fewer GHGs than gasoline in vehicles, 38% fewer GHGs than fuel oil in furnaces.... Propane's end-use GHG emissions are significantly lower than gasoline, diesel, coal and heating oil. When upstream life-cycle emissions are taken into account, the case for propane becomes even stronger.” That is the science.

Here is the question: Why is the government refusing to extend the federal carbon tax exemption to propane and natural gas when they emit less carbon dioxide than gasoline or fuel oil? This is clearly not a science-based decision. Not only does the government have trouble with mathematics and arithmetic and not only is it out of touch with farmers, but it has trouble with the science too.

Let me draw to the attention of the House the wider consequences of the government's failure to be in touch with Canadian farmers and producers. Let me underscore the problems with the Liberals' inability to understand the issues around farmers' profit margins.

As farmers' profit margins move toward zero or cross over to become losses, it becomes more and more difficult for farmers and ranchers to stay on the land and in the business of producing food and feedstocks. How many times on this side of the House have we heard from farmers and ranchers whose families have been on the land for generations, but who now can no longer afford the uncertainty of knowing whether this year would see profit or loss? How many farm families who have been on the land for generations have shut down operations because their children saw little future in staying on the land with losses year over year? How many farm families have seen their standard of living gradually fall as costs pile up and the market prices for their commodities are static or in a downward trend?

Some of these Canadian families have been on the land for three, four, five or more generations. Despite producing a reliable supply of food for all Canadians, Canadian farmers are faced with a Liberal government that seems to think that food security is only about food banks. The Liberals are wrong. They are putting the ability of Canadians to produce food and Canadian food sovereignty in doubt.

Despite being prudent managers of the land they hold, Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers see little recognition from the Liberal government for their contribution to maintaining a safe, clean outdoor environment. Despite being conscientious taxpayers who contribute to the treasuries of their municipality and their province and the federal treasury, Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers are faced with a government that believes they should pay even more in the form of the Liberals' carbon tax.

On this side of the House, we say, “Enough.” On this side of the House, Conservatives believe that the challenges Canadian farmers face should be top of mind. Conservatives know that agriculture producers may be Canada's most important natural resources producers. Conservatives know Canadian families rely on Canadian farmers for a steady, secure and reliable supply of food on grocery shelves. Conservatives understand that farming is both a way of life for many Canadian families and their business.

Conservatives understand that the way of life requires that farming be profitable. Conservatives understand that ranchers pay property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes. Conservatives understand that agricultural producers cannot afford to pay the Liberals' carbon tax on fuel used for production, including propane and natural gas. Conservatives offer Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers a bright future for their families and for the generations that will follow in their steps.

For those reasons, as the official opposition's shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food, it is my honour and privilege to support the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South and his bill, Bill C-206.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to take part in the second reading debate on this private member's bill, BillC-206. The bill proposes to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act in order to modify the definition of what qualifies as farming fuel. It would further modify and expand the definition to include marketable natural gas and propane, in addition to gasoline and light fuel oil.

The sponsor of the bill hopes to provide relief to grain drying farmers. While I appreciate the goal of the bill as written, it would not provide relief for fuel costs of grain drying while also balancing the importance of executing Canada's climate action plan.

Allow me to explain. The bill adds natural gas and propane to the eligible fuel list, but does not add grain drying as an eligible farming activity under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. Because of this, it would not provide relief for grain drying activities. This is why I think it is important that we take a closer look at the implications of the bill.

Our hard-working farmers are an integral part of our economy and indeed cultural fabric. They do important work in helping grow, store and sell crops that Canada and indeed the world rely on. Our government will continue to support Canadian farmers as they work to bring their goods to market.

As it stands, this act provides relief for farmers for gasoline and diesel, subject to certain conditions. In particular, to qualify, all or substantially all of these fuels must be used for eligible farming activities. Relief from the fuel charge generally applies to the operation of farming equipment and machinery, such as a combine harvester. Only limited emissions from the agricultural sector are covered under the federal pollution pricing system, such as those resulting from the use of natural gas or propane for heating or cooling a building or similar structure.

During the past year, as we have been fighting the pandemic, we on this side of the House have not forgotten the serious implications of climate change. It remains one of Canada's and indeed the world's most important long-term challenges. We continue to see the impacts of climate change through extreme weather events.

Right now, Texas has been dealing with winter storms that have posed severe problems to its power grid. In the Indian part of the Himalayas, the melting from a glacier has resulted in several deaths and many more missing because of floods. From the threat and after-effects of wildfires in western Canada, California and Australia to the increasing powerful hurricanes, typhoons and storms that batter communities around the world, these continue to have an impact. It is not increasingly a question of whether or not an extreme weather event will happen; it is a question of where it will happen.

Our government is serious in its commitment to confront and address this generational challenge. Canada needs to play an important role in this global fight. We need to act now to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air to breathe and a strong and healthy economy.

Canada's work to combat climate change is built on four pillars: pricing pollution, complementary actions to further reduce emissions across the economy, measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience, and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.

Pricing pollution is central to the government's pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. A price on pollution reduces pollution at the lowest overall cost to businesses and consumers. A well-designed price on pollution provides an incentive for climate action and clean innovation while protecting business competitiveness. It is efficient and cost-effective because it allows businesses and households to decide for themselves how best to reduce their emissions.

The federal pollution pricing system has two components: a regulatory charge on fossil fuels and an output-based pricing system for large industrial facilities, which provides a price incentive to reduce emissions and spur innovation.

All direct proceeds from pricing pollution under the federal system are being returned to the jurisdiction in which they have been collected. Returning proceeds from pollution pricing helps Canadians make more environmentally sustainable consumption choices, but does not change the incentive to pollute less. Every time a consumer or business makes a purchase or investment decision, they have a financial incentive to choose greener actions.

Our government has been clear that it should not be free to pollute in Canada. In addition, I want to be clear that the federal pollution pricing system is not about raising revenues. Indeed, as I have said many times, this is not a tax. The government is not keeping any direct proceeds from the federal pollution pricing system. A pollution pricing system is about recognizing that pollution has a cost, encouraging cleaner growth and a more sustainable future.

Canada has been a leader in this regard. In its most recent article IV mission report for Canada, the International Monetary Fund noted that pollution pricing “is the most efficient policy for reducing emissions while returning the revenues to households in transparent tax relief helps with acceptability.” The IMF specifically mentioned, “At the global level, Canada's carbon price floor could be a valuable prototype for an international carbon price floor arrangement among large emitting countries.”

These are all important considerations that Canadians will expect us to take into account in assessing the potential merits of Bill C-206. I want to thank the hon. member for raising this very important issue.

As I said earlier, the bill adds natural gas and propane to the eligible fuel list, but it does not add grain drying as an eligible farming activity under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. As written, it would not provide relief for grain drying activities.

Should the bill go to committee for study, I would recommend that the committee hear from a wide range of stakeholders, including farmers, environmental non-governmental organizations, officials and industry associations, to fully evaluate the impact that the bill would have. This wide-ranging consultation would allow the committee to examine the bill in its entirety and evaluate the legislative and legal implications of moving forward with it.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-206, introduced by the hon. member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. I will not keep anyone in suspense, as my colleague has already announced that the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-206.

However, people may be wondering why the Bloc Québécois is intervening on this bill, since Quebec actually already has its own carbon market and is not subject to the federal carbon tax program. Nevertheless, I think it is important that we speak to this issue, since there seems to be some question as to whether agriculture and environmental protection are compatible. It is a problem that we have noticed with regard to several topics on which the Bloc Québécois has been called upon to intervene in the past. We know that there are serious challenges for both agriculture and the environment, and there is often a delicate balance between the two.

Consider, for example, all the pressure on farmers, particularly regarding riparian buffer zones, a problem that is often raised. Riparian buffer zones help protect rivers that border farmland, but they sometimes hurt profit margins. However, it is important to understand that farmers want to do the right thing and help protect the environment. When we take the time to speak with farmers, we learn that buffer zones can be narrower in some places because of the nature of the soil. Some riparian buffer zones can protect the environment while also generating revenue. For instance, some farmers plant fruit trees along these buffer zones. Collaboration can lead to good solutions.

The same question has been raised about the use of certain pesticides. Again, farmers do not get up in the morning excited to generate pollution and put hazardous chemicals into the environment. Rather, they are forced to use certain pesticides because of a lack of resources or alternatives.

One-size-fits-all measures are not necessarily the best. For example, if the government were to ban a particular pesticide, farmers could just end up having to ask agronomists to prescribe even more dangerous pesticides. On certain issues, farmers need to be treated as collaborators.

As for the carbon pricing issue specifically, I would remind members that it was designed as a way for Canada to combat climate change by taxing pollution to discourage the use of fossil fuels. The problem is that farmers do not really have any other options for drying grain.

This reminds of an experience I had. In late October, after the 2019 election, I spent some time riding along with my father as he trucked grain from the fields to grain dryers for some local farmers. It was a wonderful day of father-daughter bonding. I remember that a huge snowstorm hit the region after November 1, making the grain very wet. On top of that, it had been an unusual season. Planting had been delayed for three weeks due to cold spring temperatures. Then, in early fall, September was very cold, so the grain did not have time to mature, and the harvest was quite late. The grain had to be harvested in the snow, so it had very high moisture levels.

Because it never rains but it pours, a propane shortage occurred right after that, on the heels of the CN strike. I started getting phone calls from many farmers who were devastated because they had no other way to dry their grain. Grain has to be dried before it is stored, or it will rot. Although the moisture level may seem all right, if it is not low enough, mould may be present without anyone realizing it. In some cases, animals that eat this grain can fall ill. Distraught farmers were calling me, and I was working with them to find solutions.

Climate change aside, they would like to move away from fossil fuels such as natural gas and propane. As I talked with them, I realized that there are very few alternatives. It is impossible to heat storage facilities sufficiently and dry grain with hydroelectricity alone. The demand for energy would be too great. The other problem is that the Hydro-Québec power grid cannot deliver so much energy.

Other alternatives do exist, such as freeze drying, where the grain is stored in large dryers. The problem is that this method cannot always be used because the weather has to be perfect for it to work. That was not at all the case in 2019, when planting was delayed, there was a snowstorm, and the harvest was late. Using fossil fuels is therefore an option.

Some farmers have also turned to biomass, but it is not yet suitable for large-scale farms. Those who have switched to biomass are mainly poultry farmers. They can use biomass to heat the barns where the animals are kept and to dry the quantity of grain needed to feed them. These tend to be small-scale farmers. For larger producers, fossil fuel energy is unfortunately still necessary. Given that there are no real alternatives, it is important to understand that increasing the price of propane and natural gas will not decrease the use of these energy sources, since farmers have no choice. The only thing this will accomplish is to continue eroding farmers' profit margins, which are often already razor thin, especially when the weather conditions are not good, as was the case in 2019.

Even if the government increases the price on pollution, farmers do not have any other consistent options available to them. In light of this, farmers are not the right target. If we maintain the tax on fossil fuels, there is a risk that even more farms will not be passed down from generation to generation, which will diminish our ability to have food sovereignty. That means we would have to rely more heavily on other countries to support us, although they do not have the same standards as Canada does. Ultimately, the quality of our food would suffer.

Farmers are already making great efforts to protect the environment. They want to help protect the environment, but they need the right kind of help. It is important to consider that they are not always the right target when it comes to addressing climate change.

I would like to draw a parallel with a news release that the Bloc Québécois recently published on tax havens. It reads, and I quote:

Canada is a world laggard when it comes to addressing tax avoidance by multinational enterprises. Before contributing to the global fight against tax havens, Canada first needs to stop making the problem worse by allowing these companies to legally use tax havens.

That is a rather interesting parallel because the government is not focusing on the right thing when it targets farmers. The first thing we need to do is to turn off the tap where the impact is greatest, for example, by refusing to continue to fund certain fossil fuels and, more importantly, by putting an end to projects like Trans Mountain. We need to go after these major players first, rather than attacking agriculture, which is already a collaborative partner. Farmers already want to do a better job of fighting climate change because it has a direct impact on their own culture.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

February 22nd, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all the members who studied Bill C-206 and spoke about it.

I would like to thank all the members who have spoken for their tremendous support with respect to the legislation, particularly the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who has been a terrific partner working in the public accounts committee. I thank everybody for their time and consideration. We have even heard positive reports from the other side of the aisle, particularly from the member from Prince Edward Island, and I would like to thank him for his great comments.

Getting directly into the rebuttal, I want to address the comments from the member for Kingston and the Islands. I have the opportunity once again to enlighten him, which I am sure he will appreciate.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act actually says that eligible farming machinery means “...an industrial machine or a stationary or portable engine”. That would include a grain dryer 100 out of 100 times. I would encourage the member to research perhaps before he gets up to speak.

It is an honour to speak about my private member's Bill C-206, which seeks to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. I have had the opportunity to talk from coast to coast to coast with farmers. Every single one of them has supported the bill, and they have been absolutely terrific. I give a big shout out to the grain growers, who have been tremendous supporters, and I really appreciate their support.

As has been outlined, currently there is an exemption for some fuels for farmers with respect to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, or the carbon tax. This includes diesel and gasoline, but it does not include, I think through an oversight, natural gas and propane. Natural gas and propane are actually cleaner fuels, so why would we exempt gasoline and diesel, which are dirtier fuels, and not natural gas and propane?

All I am trying to do with this proposed legislation is help our farmers and clean up another Liberal mess. Quite frankly, our farmers are being let down. They have been let down now for months and months, if not years and years, by this government, and this is our opportunity to help them a little bit. We are competing globally and our farmers have to take their goods all around the world, while many countries do not have to fight a pollution-price barrier or a carbon tax. We need to give our farmers every opportunity to compete.

The minister and the government have said again and again, unfortunately, that the carbon tax has no really big impact on farmers, which is just not true. That is not the reality. The problem with the Liberals is not that they do not know things, it is just that they know so many things that are not true. That is the reality.

Many farmers have sent us bills that show us that the carbon tax is costing them $10,000 to $30,000. The Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions has said that the carbon tax is 8% to 12% of agricultural producers' net income. This is the difference between our farmers making it and not making it. This is the difference between our farmers competing in global markets and not. This is the difference between our farmers holding on to their farms and losing their generational farms.

Although Liberals do not want to admit it, the reality is that, for farmers, the carbon tax is not revenue-neutral. The non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Office said that our proposed exemption would save farmers tens of millions of dollars. Farmers live in a world of extremely slim margins. These tens of millions of dollars spread to our farmers could make a tremendous difference, not just for our farmers but for our rural communities. Our rural communities are struggling through the pandemic. These farmers bring money and drive the economy of our rural communities. They pay for tractor dealerships, they pay for restaurants and they pay for the families that they support. We need to rally behind our farmers.

Our farmers are among the first environmentalists, along with our indigenous people. They have stood up for our land time and again, and the plants and the animals that exist. They are the ones standing up and protecting us. Agriculture, farming, was net zero 40 years before this Liberal government would achieve net zero. Our farmers have already done it. We need to stand up for them as they stand up for us and our environment.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

moved that Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, our farmers are the backbone of our community and the engine of our economy. They are the hard-working men and women who take to the fields every day in the searing heat and, lately, the snow and freezing temperatures. They make sure we have food on our tables and, literally, the clothes on our backs. Our agriculture industry represents more than 7% of the GDP, and it still bears repeating how important, vital and essential our agriculture community is and its impact on our economy.

Farmers contribute over 2.3 million employment positions, including people who own farms and those who are involved in farming. That is one in eight jobs that is there because of farmers and the great work they do. We are an agriculture dynamo.

We are a leader in many categories. We are number one in the world in maple syrup. We produce 75% of the world's maple syrup, so let us hear it for maple syrup. We are in the top five in many agricultural productions, such as flax seed, canola, pulses, oats and durum wheat.

During the pandemic, and in fact, at any time in recent history, Canadians have not had to worry about food supply. Canadians have some of the least expensive, highest quality and safest food in the entire world, and that is because of our terrific farmers and agri-food workers.

During the pandemic, farmers kept going. As we all battled the pandemic, they kept making sure that their fields were planted and their animals were fed, so we could be fed.

As we start contemplating what a stronger Canada looks like going forward, one of the questions we will no doubt think about is self-sufficiency. One thing I can tell the House about the future is that, as long as we take care of farmers, we will always be able to feed ourselves here in Canada.

Unfortunately, farmers have had difficult times in the recent years. Whether it was due to difficult weather conditions, global trade wars or pricing disputes, there have been numerous challenges. This includes, unfortunately, the latest free trade agreement with the United States of America, CUSMA, where there was a watering down or a reduction of the market share for many of our farmers, which is disappointing.

Different governments have responded to the pandemic differently in how they have supported the agriculture community. Our neighbours to the south have literally given billions of dollars to farmers to help them bridge to a better day and get the farms through this. Unfortunately, here in Canada, our farmers have not had the same benefit. Instead, our farmers are getting recycled funding announcements and endless platitudes. Farmers deserve better.

Even in our domestic marketplace, farmers are facing challenges. Multi-million dollar grocery stores are setting record profits. However, they are doing it, at least in part, on the backs of Canadian farmers. We need to give Canadian farmers a break.

Farmers are not asking for a handout. In fact, they are not even asking for a hand-up. They just want a level playing field because they know, as I know, that our farmers are the best in the world. Where they have an opportunity, they will be successful and they will win.

In 2008, before the government even contemplated a federal carbon tax, in British Columbia the government put in place a carbon tax. In fact, many commentators have highlighted the fact that our current carbon tax is built on the chassis of the British Columbia carbon tax. However, there are notable differences, one of which is that before that British Columbia carbon tax was ever put in place, its government contemplated deeply the effect it would have on agriculture.

The result was more fulsome exemptions for Canadian farmers and fairer treatment for B.C. farmers. They have a full exemption on all farm fuels, including natural gas and propane, which is exactly what my private member's bill calls for. As well, in British Columbia, most commentators have said this exemption actually strengthens the carbon tax and helps farmers. Why would we not do this federally?

In a world where much of our competition is not subject to pollution taxing, the carbon tax is an unfair barrier for our farmers. The government has hummed and hawed, saying, “Maybe it costs this much, or maybe it costs that much.”

We do have numbers on the cost of the carbon tax, but they are not from the federal government, unfortunately. They come from from producers, such as the Saskatchewan producers, who calculated that an unbelievable 8% of net income will go to the carbon tax for Saskatchewan producers.

In 2022, because of set escalators for everyone out there, there will be an automatic increase without parliamentary consent to the tax. It is a nefarious regime, no doubt. By 2022, because of those escalators, that tax will actually go to 12%. That means, to put it in the language of my neighbours, that one in ten cows that farmers raise would go to pay the carbon tax, one in ten pigs would go to pay the carbon tax and one in ten tonnes of grain would go to pay the carbon tax.

Many farmers have sent my office their bills. These are exorbitant bills, particularly during last year's harvest when the grain was wet and they had to spend extra time and money drying it. I have numerous invoices that show that the carbon tax was $10,000 to $20,000.

To add insult to injury, the government decided to charge HST on the carbon tax. Come on. What we are seeing is that this tax is not only making our producers less competitive, it is also reducing their margins.

Although the government will not admit it, the carbon tax is not neutral for farmers. The claim that the carbon tax is neutral is in dispute, but what is not in dispute is that, for farmers, as a particular sector, it is not revenue neutral. Farmers' prices are not set by themselves, but rather by governments and international markets. They cannot just push that cost along. It is coming directly out of the pockets of our farmers, and that is money they could be using to reinvest in their farms, invest in clean technologies and help support their families.

I come from a small town called Orono, Ontario. I think it is one of the prettiest towns in Canada. In this town, our economy is based on farming. Farmers go out and buy food at the local restaurants. They go to the feed store and buy feed for their stock. They go to the tractor dealership and buy tractors. There are countless jobs that are created by the farmers, and when we take this money out of rural Canada, we take this money out of Canadians' hands. Rural Canada does not need more taxes. What we need is more support.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act currently includes a partial exemption on fossil fuels for farmers. It exempts diesel and gasoline. For whatever reason, and I still have not been given a good explanation of why this is, it does not exempt natural gas and propane. However, natural gas and propane, by nearly every environmentalist's account, are actually cleaner fuels.

I do not understand why we would not exempt cleaner fuels but exempt dirtier fuels. It does not make sense. This impacts all of the agricultural sector, but it has specific impacts on grain farmers, who have to dry their crops with natural gas and propane. There is nothing that our farmers would rather than to not have to do that, or to find an alternative way of doing it using renewable energy, but the reality is that that does not exist right now.

Now, if we could pause, give the farmers a break from the carbon tax and let them reinvest that money into innovation and clean technology, maybe that would occur. Maybe the free market could come up with some great ideas that could clean our environment, but as of now, the carbon tax is a continuing burden on farmers. It is slowing innovation and making our environment dirtier.

As the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South, I have the great pleasure of representing some of the best farmers of all of Canada. I have had numerous conversations with our farmers, and whether we are at the back of a tailgate, out in the fields or in the boardroom, they tell me over and over that they spend more time in the environment than anyone. They tell me that of course they want a clean environment, of course they recognize that climate change is real and they want to fight climate change, but they do not want to do it by being taxed.

What we want to do is to come up with innovation: clean tech to have us go forward. Examples of that are already happening. Farmers are among the leading environmentalists in Canada. They have advanced technologies such as no-till farming and precision farming.

One thing that I have gotten to know about from talking with some of our farmers is precision farming. It seems like it is out of the Jetsons, for people my age. It actually uses satellites. The satellites beam down GPS coordinates so that every inch of productive farm area is used and so that no extra drop of gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane is used. This reduces emissions. The farmers are working hard to be environmental stewards for us.

The reality is that the grain growers have done analysis based on Statistics Canada's numbers. They emit about 66 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, which is not good. However, on the other side of equation are the crops they plant: their carbon sinks. These actually absorb over 100 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. Farmers are already carbon-neutral, 20 years ahead of the government's schedule. However, farmers, unlike nearly every other industry, are not given credit for this. They are not given an offset for the great work they do for the environment. We are just asking that we allow farmers the same playing field as other industries.

Why would we not get support for this private member's bill? In B.C. the NDP have done the same. The province strengthened its carbon tax. From an environmental perspective, I give it a check. It will help farmers be more competitive. There is a check. It will help our economy be stronger. There is a check. I do not see any xes.

I know that this cannot be true and I am hoping it is not true, but the only reason to oppose this bill would be pure politics. I know that the members on the other side want to support this. Whether they are from the Bloc Québécois, the NDP or the Liberal Party, members want to go back to farmers to tell them they are proud of having voted for a bill today that will make their lives a little bit easier and make things a little less difficult for them. We have to get beyond this.

I was in the House about two weeks ago, proudly speaking for small business owners and asking for a simple pause of audits during the pandemic. We were opposed. Only one party voted against us. I think we have had great amendments for a number of bills that were being legislated, but every time they are opposed, opposed, opposed.

I am calling upon my great friends across the aisle to do what is right for their constituents. Put down your sabres, extend your hands and work with our government-in-waiting to develop constructive solutions for Canadians. We want to work with our colleagues. We want to make life better for Canadians. Please join us.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to extend the exemption for qualifying farming fuel to marketable natural gas and propane.

The bill before us attempts to alleviate potential costs borne by Canadian farmers. Let us take a closer look at the implications of the bill and what our government has already done to reduce the burden on Canadians as we safeguard the natural environment.

We continue to see the impacts of climate change through extreme weather events, from wildfires in western Canada to the increasingly powerful hurricanes, typhoons and storms that batter communities around the world. It is increasingly not a question of whether an extreme event will happen, but where it will happen.

Our government has made a serious commitment to address this major generational challenge. Canada must play a significant role in this global fight. We need to take immediate action in order to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air to breathe and a strong, healthy economy.

My constituents are very concerned about climate change, as am I. In recent months, I have received many emails from them asking me not to abandon the environment during this pandemic and telling me that we need to make the environment a priority. They are absolutely right.

This is why, in December 2016, Canada's first ministers adopted the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. The pan-Canadian framework is the country's plan to meet our emissions reduction target, grow the economy and build resilience to a changing climate.

The framework is built on the following four pillars: pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to further reduce emissions across the economy; measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience; and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.

Pricing pollution is essential to the framework. A price on pollution reduces pollution at the lowest overall cost to businesses and consumers. A well-designed price on pollution provides an incentive for climate action and clean innovation while protecting business competitiveness. It is efficient and cost-effective because it allows businesses and households to decide for themselves how best to reduce emissions.

We are making sure there is a price on pollution across the country, while also taking steps to maintain affordability of households and ensure Canadian companies can compete and succeed in a competitive global marketplace.

The federal pollution pricing system has two components: a regulatory charge on fossil fuels, and an output-based pricing system for large industrial facilities, which provides a price incentive to reduce emissions and spur innovation.

All direct proceeds from pricing pollution under the federal system are being returned to the jurisdiction in which they were collected. Returning proceeds from pollution pricing helps Canadians make more environmentally sustainable consumption choices, but does not change the incentive to pollute less. Every time a consumer or business makes a purchasing or investment decision, there is a financial incentive to choose greener options, regardless of how the proceeds are rebated or returned.

Our government has made it clear that nobody should be able to pollute for free in Canada. I also want to make it clear that federal pollution pricing is not meant to generate revenue. Its goal is to help everyone understand that polluting has a price and to support cleaner growth and a more sustainable future.

I repeat, the government is not keeping any direct proceeds from the federal pollution pricing system. In Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta, the Government of Canada is returning the bulk of the proceeds from the federal fuel charge directly to households through climate action incentive payments. Most households have been getting more back in climate action incentive payments than they pay in increased costs due to pollution pricing.

The remaining proceeds from the federal fuel charge are used to provide support to key sectors in the federal backstop provinces including small and medium-sized businesses, municipalities, universities, schools, colleges, hospitals and not-for-profit organizations, as well as indigenous communities.

It is important to note the agriculture sector already receives significant relief under the federal pollution pricing system compared with other sectors of the economy. Most emissions from agriculture are from biological sources and are not covered under the federal pricing system.

The act as it stands provides significant upfront relief to farmers for gasoline and diesel, subject to certain conditions. In particular, all or substantially all of the fuel must be for use in eligible farming activities. Relief from the fuel charge generally applies to the operation of farming equipment and machinery, such as combine harvesters. Only limited emissions from the agriculture sector are covered under the federal pollution pricing system.

In short, this bill needs to be carefully considered to ensure it would not introduce complexity and unintended consequences. As it stands currently, the act's strength is that it is simple and straightforward in targeting a reduction in emissions.

Those are important considerations, and Canadians expect us to take them into account as we assess the potential benefits of Bill C-206.

The federal pollution pricing system is about recognizing that pollution has a cost, empowering Canadians and driving innovation. Putting a price on products that are more polluting and returning the bulk of direct proceeds to individuals and families in the jurisdiction of origin enables households to make cleaner and more environmentally sustainable choices.

I would be happy to support C-206 if it is sustainable and if there are no other ways to help the agricultural sector. However, I do believe that if we do make exceptions in certain industries, such as the agricultural industry, then we are really taking a step back and it would be open to other industries to also ask for exemptions.

I do understand that considering the pandemic, a lot of the burden has been on Canadian farmers. They have been affected a lot more than other sectors, not necessarily economically because they have been doing quite well, but a lot of the burden has been on them. Thanks to them, Canadians have been able to have food during this time. That said, I am still not 100 per cent sold on Bill C-206 and I would need to see more. I would wait before I give an official position.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge farmers for their hard work and day in, day out dedication. Every day, from dawn to dusk, these people are out in nature working the fields. If anyone in Quebec and Canada cares about protecting the environment, it is farmers. I take my hat off to them.

My colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South said that we need to reduce the burden on farmers, and I have to say I agree with that in principle. We all want to reduce pollution, but we must always carefully consider the best approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have two options: the carrot and the stick.

The carrot here is incentives to encourage people to change their behaviour. The stick is using punishment to achieve that goal. Every time we implement one of these measures, I think it is wise to ask ourselves whether it is effective and meaningful. That is not clear in this case.

This proposal would add propane and natural gas to the list of exemptions, since they are essential to drying grains. We all remember the CN strike last fall and the wave of panic that swept through our rural areas.

As this point in time, propane and natural gas are still the most efficient way to dry grain. When we talk about protecting the environment, we also have to think about minimizing the impact of changes on those who are hardest hit by the effects. Farmers are amongst the first to be affected by climate disruptions. If crops are extremely wet, more fuel is needed to dry the grains. This is not a personal choice that can be easily changed at this time.

Should we be looking for other heat sources that would be equally efficient and that could replace current fuels in the medium and long term? Yes, of course. Biomass is just one example that comes to mind. However, there are significant development and implementation costs to consider.

We have to think about providing support to the agricultural industry to make these changes as soon as possible instead of punishing our grassroots people. The problem is that Liberal polices often put the responsibility on the public and the grassroots. We see very few measures that target big business, the oil industry and the coal-fired electricity sector in western Canada. The Bloc Québécois knows that those are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, because the numbers prove it.

Of course, that does not mean that we can ignore agricultural pollution, on the contrary. We have to recognize, however, that the use of fossil fuels is not the primary source of agricultural pollution. That would be livestock emissions, the use of fertilizers and a whole lot of other things we need to look at if we want to effectively reduce greenhouse gases.

If we want to meet the Paris Agreement targets, which were clearly endorsed by this government, then we have to tackle the big polluters. So far we have seen only mediocre programs that certainly will not allow us to meet these targets.

In Quebec, individual transportation is currently the main source of greenhouse gases. We are fortunate to have hydroelectricity. I cannot say the same for the west. This is not a rebuke. I would like westerners to understand my comments. If we look at Canada as a whole, since 1990 the west has been the primary source of all increases in greenhouse gas emissions, in particular from oil sands operations. Our view is that projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion should be abandoned. That is where we should be hitting harder.

I want to come back to agriculture. There is another reason for the Bloc's support of Bill C-206, and that is obviously the desire to help out the agricultural sector. In addition, Quebec is not affected by this bill because the carbon tax was created by the federal government to compensate for the fact that certain provinces and territories had not adopted any such program. Quebec has the carbon market and its system has been tied to that of California since 2013. It works well. This program exempts agriculture, which is not affected.

Still, when it comes to fuels, there is a part that cannot be measured, and this has an indirect impact on farmers in Quebec. Members of the Union des producteurs agricoles estimate that farmers have paid roughly $40 million in indirect taxation through the carbon market. Talks are currently under way with Quebec about returning this money to that sector. I think that is the right thing to do, and in that spirit, it just makes sense that we recognize the contribution made by the farming community, as well as the difficulties it is experiencing. We therefore plan to support Bill C-206.

We have to keep one thing in mind. We think it would be unfair to demand immediate efforts and changes from those who are the primary victims of the crisis in the energy sector and the challenges posed by climate change, beginning with the farming community and their families. We therefore need to start with the most polluting industries.

The federal government has a responsibility here to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and to stop giving tax breaks that are much bigger compared to those given to other sectors. I could also mention Quebec's forestry industry, which has been woefully underfunded, even though this sector is an extremely sustainable source of materials if managed wisely. The key word here is “wisely”. When a government imposes a tax like the carbon tax, it needs to consider whether this tax will work and whether it will change people's behaviour.

I think we need to do a lot of research and development to find alternatives to using oil and natural gas for drying grain. Farmers do not currently have other options, and this remains the most effective method.

What is the objective of the legislation? Section 3 of the act sets out the farming fuels that qualify for an exemption: gasoline, light fuel oil and fuels set out in a regulation. The bill introduced by our Conservative Party colleague simply wants to add marketable natural gas and propane to that list. I think that respects the spirit of the act, which was designed to put a price on pollution without penalizing the agricultural sector.

In conclusion, we are choosing to spare farmers from having to take on the environmental tax burden, which I think is a good thing. However, the western provinces must start working on an energy transition to diversify their economy. The Bloc Québécois will always support western Canadians. We stand with them and we support them. We do not want to shut down their industries and let them go hungry.

What we are saying is that they need to start transitioning. That is where they need to do some work. It is the way of the future. The burden should not be placed on the most vulnerable workers.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing the bill forward for debate. He has substituted on the agriculture committee a few times and I have sincerely enjoyed working with him. I look forward to having him join us again in the future, this time as a witness to defend his bill.

Before I go into the specifics of the bill, I want to say that the NDP believes there should be a price on pollution. The fact that human-caused climate change is occurring is no longer in dispute; it is a verifiable scientific fact. Canada is facing a climate emergency, one that will manifest itself in increasingly costly ways to our natural environment and economy.

A change in climate will bring more extreme weather events, and it is our farmers who will suffer. Changing precipitation patterns will bring increased frequency and longer durations of flooding and drought in different regions of the country. Fluctuating temperatures could have devastating impacts on livestock production. There will always be the increase of deadly forest fires. There will be real and catastrophic economic costs to this, both in adapting to the changes and in doing our best to mitigate them.

This will indeed be the fight of the 21st century. Unfortunately, the continuing political fight over the carbon tax ignores these realities and sidelines the leadership we as a country need to take against climate change.

I want to talk a bit about farmers and the important role they play in this conversation. This centres on carbon sequestration. The only way we are going to solve climate change is if we significantly reduce the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere and find new and innovative ways to sequester the carbon that is already there.

One of these ways is through good agricultural practices and giving farmers recognition of agriculture's potential for carbon sequestration. It is estimated in scientific literature that agricultural soils have a storage capacity of 30 to 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Ecological, agricultural practices, which include low tillage, no-till and intercropping, already sequester more carbon in soil than farmers are currently given credit for.

Recently, I took a trip to the interior of British Columbia to talk with ranchers who had won sustainability awards. They were using proactive management of their grasslands with their cattle herds. This is the leadership we need to see, and farmers are indeed taking it. We can all use this as a good example of what Canada is doing right. Also, our farms in Canada have great renewable energy potential, both in harnessing the sun and wind, and of course in their production of biomass for biofuels.

Despite the advances we have made and the potential that good agricultural practices offer in the fight against climate change, it is still an inescapable fact that farmers today depend on fossil fuels. This is especially true when it comes to drying grain.

The unseasonably wet autumn of 2019 was called the “harvest from hell”. It saw extensive and prolonged rainfall right before and during harvest time in many parts of Canada. Early snowfalls and frost also ruined many crops. Farmers had to use propane and natural gas heaters to dry their grain. Without the use of these grain dryers, their cash crops would have become worthless, as rot would have set in. That would have been a huge economic hit. As it stands, there are currently no viable alternatives to the use of propane and natural gas for the operation of these dryers.

With a changing climate, the new reality is that there will be many future years during which significant amounts of grain drying will be necessary for farmers across Canada. As certain pockets of western Canada are losing workers at harvest year after year, grain drying is now moving from something nice to have to something they need to have.

Let me outline the value of this sector to the Canadian economy.

Canola alone is worth $26.7 billion and pays out $11.2 billion in wages, and 90% of it is exported. It is Canada's largest agricultural export.

Let us look at other grain sectors, wheat in particular. We exported 20.5 million tonnes of wheat in 2017, and that was worth $21 billion in export sales.

This is a significant part of our economy. If farmers are suffering, as they have been with recent harvests, I believe, through the spirit of the bill, that they require some help.

Now let me turn to a more specific discussion on Bill C-206.

As the NDP agriculture and agri-food critic, I can say that the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading. I believe the principle of the bill is sound and that it deserves to make it to committee for further examination. In fact, I wrote to the Minister of Agriculture in February to bring this particular issue to her attention.

Let us look at what the bill does. The bill makes amendments to the interpretation section of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to broaden the definition of what a qualifying farm fuel is. The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was brought about through the enactment of an omnibus budget bill, Bill C-74, in the previous Parliament. Bill C-206 would add natural gas and propane to the definition, which is currently limited to gasoline, light fuel oil or a prescribed type of fuel.

This is important because the term “qualifying farm fuel” is used in several important sections of that federal statute. It is referred to in section 17 and again in section 38, as two examples. This is important because those sections specify that a charge for the carbon tax is not payable. If we list these two additional fuels, natural gas and propane, as qualifying farm fuels so they are understood to be used only on the farm for farming purposes, the charge for the carbon tax would not be payable.

As my colleague, the sponsor of the bill, correctly noted, there are provincial precedents. In my home province of British Columbia, coloured fuel purchases can be made, such as coloured gasoline and coloured diesel. These are exempt from both the motor fuel tax and the carbon tax in British Columbia. British Columbia also lists propane as having an exemption from the motor fuel tax. It is understood that propane is going to be used by a qualifying farm for a farm purpose if certain conditions are met.

I believe there is strong provincial precedent, and that is why the bill deserves to go to committee for further examination. Hopefully we can hear from some qualified witnesses there.

Seeing that my time on the bill is wrapping up, I believe that Bill C-206, at this second reading stage, does deserve to go to committee. I am happy to be supporting it for that discussion.

As part of the broader discussion on the bill and the costs that farmers are bearing, we need to recognize, as has been detailed by the National Farmers Union, that Canadian farm debt is now listed at over $100 billion and has nearly doubled since 2000. Since 1990, the corporations that supply fertilizers, chemicals, machinery, fuels, technology services and credit have captured nearly all farm revenues, leaving farmers with just 5% of the total revenue.

While the measures provided in Bill C-206 would have a measurable impact and benefit, especially when farmers are having to dry their grain, I hope we can use the bill to broaden the discussion on the other costs that farmers are having to bear. As a country, we all need to come together to tackle the farm crisis. It is going to required a sustained effort to actually put our support in the farmers' corner.

I will conclude there. I would like to again thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing the bill forward. I hope the House sees fit to vote in favour of it at second reading so we can have a more specific discussion at committee.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2020 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-206. I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, for bringing it forward and addressing what is a very serious concern within our agricultural sector.

Our farmers across the country understand that certain things are outside their control: weather, droughts, floods and commodity prices. However, they continue to work extremely hard for Canadians' health in making sure we have food on our tables, and there is anxiety and mental health stress that go along with that. Farmers do that because they are passionate and love what they do.

However, there are some things they rely on the government to provide. They want to ensure they have the infrastructure to move their commodities to market. They want to ensure they have a competitive tax and regulatory regime. They want to ensure they have trade markets around the world in which to sell their commodities. One area where the current Liberal government is failing Canadian agriculture is the tax and regulatory regime, and Bill C-206 tries to remedy that situation.

In my opinion, the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy. As parliamentarians and as Canadians, we are going to be looking to sectors of our industry and relying on them to help us pull ourselves out of this very deep financial hole. I would argue that agriculture will be one of the key sectors that can help us do that.

There are going to be food shortages around the world, and food security in our own country is going to be an issue. Canadian farmers, ranchers and processors are willing and able to take on that burden, but for them to do that we have to ensure they have the resources not only to survive this pandemic but to thrive afterwards. Asking them to pay the burdensome cost of a carbon tax, which other industries do not have to pay or have exemptions for, does not make sense. The bill would address that.

What is frustrating for our farmers and ranchers is they are not getting the credit they deserve for what they have already done. They are not getting the credit they deserve for the carbon sequestration and carbon sink that agriculture is. Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba has done a study showing that Canadian agriculture is a 30-megatonne sink on the positive, yet we continue to attack agriculture with the misinformation and misperception that is out there.

Canadian agriculture is not part of the problem when it comes to climate change. In fact, it is part of the solution. It is decades ahead of every other industry in Canada, and no one has made people in the agriculture sector do this. There has been no carbon tax there forcing them to do this. They have done it because they know it is the right thing to do. Very few Canadians are as passionate about their soil, their water, their livestock and their grain. It is their livelihood, so of course they are going to do everything they possibly can to take care of things.

I found it interesting that my Liberal colleague, who was speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, was saying that farmers need to find a more equitable solution to this problem. If there were a cheaper and more efficient way to do it, farmers would have found it.

I want to ensure that my colleagues across the way understand what we are talking about and the impact this is having on agriculture. It is unfortunate that my Liberal colleague was blaming farmers for climate change. Again, as I said, farmers have done everything possible to ensure they have done their part in the fight against climate change and in protecting our environment.

I am not going to name the person, but a Liberal colleague said, last year, “Why do farmers not put solar panels on their combines?” This speaks to what we are up against here in the misunderstanding around agriculture. They harvest 24 hours a day, seven days a week when harvest time comes, from sun up to sun down. When people say farmers should be looking for alternatives, we really have some work to do in understanding what farmers are doing and what limitations they already have.

The Kielstra family has a poultry farm in my riding and I toured their poultry operation earlier this summer. Mr. Kielstra was very upset about this carbon tax. He showed me his bills and gave me his Excel spreadsheet. He paid $51,526 in carbon tax last year, just to heat his barns. He has no other choice. It is winter.

He has to heat those barns to protect the health and safety of his birds. If not, he is going to be charged with animal cruelty. There is no other alternative. He cannot build a fire in the barn to protect his birds. He is using natural gas and propane to do that because they are clean fuels, they are inexpensive and they work.

When the carbon tax in 2022 goes to $50 a tonne, that $50,000 he is spending now will be close to $100,000 a year. We are not talking nickels and dimes here. We are talking about the difference between ensuring this operation is viable or going bankrupt. What makes it different for this sector is that farmers cannot pass on those costs to their customers. Agriculture is a price-taker. It is not that he can just increase the price of his birds by $50 a pound or kilogram.

The same goes for grain farmers. A grain farmer in northern Saskatchewan sent me his carbon tax bill for one delivery of propane to dry his grain. For one delivery of propane, his carbon tax bill was $800. That lasts him one week, not a month or a year. That is $3,200 a month he is paying to dry his grain and, once again, he has no other choice.

There was the harvest from hell last year, which we spoke a great deal about in the House, and northern Saskatchewan had a huge snowfall again this fall. Again he is going to have to dry his grain, and farmers from Saskatchewan to Ontario all had to do that last year. They had to take on costs they never expected. Again, as a grain farmer, he cannot pass those costs on anywhere else. He is absorbing those costs himself. The agriculture minister said last week that she understands that farmers work on very tight margins. Yes, that is right. Therefore, when the government has an opportunity to do something about it, why would it not please step up and do that?

Farmers are those who kind of keep their heads down, work hard and do everything they possibly can, but over the last year, year and a half, they have become very outspoken about the impact this carbon tax has had on them. I am very concerned about the position the Liberal government is taking on this. The previous agriculture minister said that all of the Canadian farmers he talked to were very supportive of the carbon tax. I can say exactly how many farmers I have spoken to who are supportive of the carbon tax. It is very close to zero.

When I asked the current agriculture minister, in an Order Paper question, what the cost of the carbon tax was to Canadian farmers, her answer was that the information was secret. Champions of agriculture, as Liberals profess themselves to be, should not be hiding the truth. We know what the cost of the carbon tax is to Canadian agriculture. It is crippling. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the carbon tax is costing Canadian farmers about $14 million a year.

Conservatives are offering a very easy solution. There are already exemptions for purple gas and diesel. There are exemptions for the greenhouse industry. Why not expand that definition to include propane and natural gas, which are the cleanest fuels, the least expensive fuels and would offer Canadian farmers an opportunity to keep their heads above water through this very difficult time?

As I said at the beginning, Canadian agriculture has a unique opportunity to carry the burden, to help Canada dig itself out of a very deep financial hole, not only here in Canada but around the world. However, it is also important that we protect the security of our food supply and our supply chain. If our farmers cannot survive this, we do not have food on grocery store shelves.

With no farms, there is no food. That is imperative. Bill C-206 would help to alleviate the burden, the mental health stress and the financial crunch that Canadian farmers are feeling right now. I would urge my colleagues across the floor and throughout the House to support this bill.