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

Second reading (Senate), as of June 23, 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

June 23, 2021 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel)
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 21st, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise virtually in the House today to speak to Bill C-206.

I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. I am sure he has had many discussions with farmers.

I also want to thank Michel Dignard and Réjean Pomainville, two farmers from my region I greatly respect and who informed me of the impact that the changes could have on farms. I am very grateful to them.

Personally, I supported the bill because I made a commitment to those two farmers. I want to thank them. They did the right thing by telling me about the potential repercussions this could have on farming.

The bill seeks an exemption to the price on pollution. There are computerized grain dryers, but they are still rather rare in Canada. Most farmers have to use propane dryers, and those who are lucky enough to have a natural gas connection can use a natural gas dryer.

Given that the price of the carbon tax will increase to $170 by 2030, we hope that new technologies will be available on the market by then. I am sure that our government will present potential solutions and that it will invest to enable our farmers to take advantage of those solutions, which must, of course, be market solutions.

Climate change is real. For example, we know that the oil and transportation sectors account for approximately 52% of greenhouse gases produced in Canada, the heavy industries account for about 10%, and the agricultural sector accounts for roughly 10% as well.

We are trying to reduce the effects of climate change in the agricultural sector. The goal is not to penalize our farmers but to decarbonize their suppliers.

I supported Bill C‑206, and I also support the objectives and changes that our government presented.

The rebate program for farmers, which will allocate an estimated $100 million to the four provincial jurisdictions that have decided not to put a price on pollution, is a recognition by our government that we have to decarbonize the way we dry grain. However, right now those technologies may not be available to the majority of farmers. Obviously, by 2030 the price on pollution will rise to $170 a tonne, which sends a market signal to those who create new technologies to adapt technology so that it is not necessarily carbon heavy. That is where I believe we need to go. It is the only way to decarbonize our economy.

We know the ag sector contributes 10% of our greenhouse gases. However, I know that farmers have done a tremendous job, such as our egg farmers, who are able to produce more than 50% of what they used to 50 years ago while reducing their carbon emissions by 50%. There are positive stories out there. Farmers have adopted new technologies, whether they are biodigesters, solar panels or those to make their dairy barns extremely energy efficient. They are doing a fantastic job. What we are trying to do now is decarbonize the majority of their suppliers.

I was happy to hear that there is now a $200-million fund to help with the adoption of cover crops. I think that is an extremely important domain of science. If we could reward farmers so that cover crops play an even bigger role in capturing carbon, it would be an extremely good news story. The world will be looking at our net-zero products, and whether it is our produce or the other things that farmers grow, farmers will always be there. However, I think cover crops have a major role to play. I have started seeing farmers adopt it in my riding. Not everyone is, but some surely are, and the $200-million fund that was presented in budget 2021 will be there to help and guide them.

Last week, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food launched the agricultural clean technology program, which has a fund of $165 million. There will be some money there to help farmers improve their green energy and energy efficiency, and help them further adopt precision agriculture. When we think about precision agriculture, we know there used to be days when farmers would just lay fertilizer across the land. Nowadays they can actually pinpoint, to the plant and to the row, where they need to put fertilizer, should they need it, to help improve plant health. That is the way of the future. The fertilizer industry has a role to play, and it is stepping up to play that particular role. Soil health is another important conversation we need to have in this country, and I think farmers want to be part of this particular conversation.

To get back to the matter at hand, as I said at the beginning of my speech, I have supported Bill C-206 because of a simple commitment that I made to two farmers back home. I certainly do not support an exemption that would last forever, but I do know that technologies will be available to our farmers. With the funds that were announced through budget 2021, there will be some dollars to help farmers adopt new technologies on the farm.

Grain drying is something that I will be looking at in my riding to see who has the most efficient method. It is part of my summer pet project to visit farms once it is safe to do so. It will help me better understand where farmers could make changes and where they might not necessarily have to rely on traditional technologies.

I want to raise another issue. Earlier we talked about cover crops and our government's $200 million fund for cover crops. There are a lot of trees on our farmland, and deforestation of private lands is a major problem.

I am not trying to single out farmers, because I know they are doing what they have to do to earn an income and support their families. However, part of that $200 million our government announced is for a reverse auction program, which is a really interesting initiative that encourages farmers to conserve existing wetlands and trees on their private property to capture carbon. These are all measures we announced in budget 2021 to help farmers reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. This is an important thing to do because that is where the industry is heading.

I think we would be sending a wonderful message to the rest of the world if we could produce food while having a positive impact on the environment and limiting our greenhouse has production. We would be the envy of the world, and I think that is how Canada should position itself.

Again, I thank my colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South for his bill, which I support. I wish him luck. Even though this bill will not help the green transition, it is an important part of the conversation.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to speak to Bill C‑206 today, as I did at second reading. Today, we have come full circle. I propose that we look at the bill by asking five basic questions, which we should ask more often in these cases: who, when, how, what and where. It is very simple.

I will start with who, in other words, those we are proposing this bill for. Unlike other political parties, we in the Bloc Québécois do not tend to give gifts to people who do not need it.

Farmers kept the agriculture sector going in a crisis, which is not easy. We know that farm owners had a very tough time on the labour front. This hurt food security, supply and, in some cases, animal health. Management of issues surrounding the arrival of foreign workers has been problematic, and, a few days ago, assistance from the government in support of quarantine was cut in half.

However, even before the crisis began, our farmers were already struggling. Climate change is causing even greater uncertainty around crops and harvests. Furthermore, it is getting harder and harder to find young farmers to take over, particularly because the price of land keeps going up year after year.

People who grew up on the land and worked with their parents will find it increasingly difficult to take over the farming operation. There are rare occasions when parents can afford to be generous and gift the farm to their children, instead of using the value of the farm business they have built up their entire lives to fund their retirement. In other cases, given the rising cost of land and quotas, it is hard to find young farmers to take over.

Why are we doing this, that is, why are we debating Bill C-206? We must remember that the bill would amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, including section three, which lists the products that are not taxed, in particular those for farming purposes. Natural gas and propane were missing from the list of exempt products. Why does Bill C-206 seek to add them to section three?

A carbon tax discourages people from taking a certain action and encourages them to choose a behaviour over another. However, in order for that to happen, people must have options, and that is exactly the problem.

There was an example of this in my riding during the rail crisis. CN just stopped delivering propane for two weeks when farmers had to dry their crops, which was a critical time for them. The moisture level in crops was very high that year, and had farmers not been able to dry them, they would have rotted, which would have resulted in the loss of an entire year's income.

In this particular case, propane was the only option, since any alternatives are still in the pilot-project stage and are not a viable option for large-scale farming businesses. When I asked farmers, who were worried about not getting the propane they needed, they told me that there was no alternative to propane, but that they would like to have one.

The existing power grid would not even have the capacity to generate enough heat for drying grain. It is as though people expected to one day have electric hot air balloons—they are very popular back home—but this is not going to happen overnight. Technologies like biomass are still too new, and there is not enough incentive for us to expect quick changes in carbon pricing.

That brings me to my third point: When will it happen? This is the part I find unfortunate, because we are three days out from the end of the parliamentary session and the summer recess. This Parliament could end up being replaced with a new one, based on the election rumours we are hearing.

It is really unfortunate that we are debating a bill this important and necessary at the eleventh hour, knowing that it could end up dying on the Order Paper, just like Bill C‑216, the bill on supply management introduced by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, or the bill on farm succession planning, which the Senate just started studying.

On this third point, I want to say how disappointed we are with the government's management of the legislative calendar, because we are currently debating a great bill that, unfortunately, may never see the light of day.

How is Bill C‑206 being dealt with?

This part is a bit nicer. As I was preparing for my speech on my drive in to work this morning from my riding of Saint-Jean, I listened again to what happened and what my other colleagues said, particularly those who are members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. I was very happy to hear how well people are working together on this committee. There is no excessive partisanship since everyone is serving the same cause, that of farmers and those who feed us. It is in that spirit of co-operation that a key amendment was proposed to improve Bill C‑206. This amendment is really worthwhile, because it addresses the concern that some might have about the fact that there is a gap in the bill, the ultimate purpose of which is to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The amendment sets an end date for the exemption for natural gas and propane. In other words, natural gas and propane will be exempt from taxation for 10 years in the hope that, a decade from now, there will be new technology that will enable us to stop using natural gas and propane. That is our hope, anyway, but the government needs to get cracking because farmers do not want to be passive witnesses to these changes. They want to be part of it, but they need help. Contrary to what some people think, farmers do not wake up in the morning thinking about how great it is that they can go out and pollute. They just want help finding alternatives that are commercially viable, because they operate in a global market and cannot pass costs on to their customers. They would no longer be able to compete internationally, so we have to give our farmers that support.

The final point is, where is that supposed to happen? People might think that it is obvious it should be done in the House of Commons and Parliament, because that is where bills are passed and amendments made. That seems obvious, but nowadays, very few things that should be obvious are.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the parliamentary spirit that has characterized Parliament during the pandemic. I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to the interpreters, the support staff and the tech support who made it possible for us to function relatively normally, despite COVID‑19.

I also want to express my hope that, despite everything, we will get back to normal quickly, so that we can have accountability, so that there is someone in the House who answers questions, and so that reporters can do their job and ask parliamentarians questions as they leave the House. I also hope that we can go back to normal sooner rather than later so we can get parliamentarians working co-operatively, apart from the occasional stormy question period.

When we parliamentarians are working together face to face, we are able to move files along more efficiently, understand one another better, and remember for whom, why, how, where and when we create bills. It is fundamental to remember that, and that is what we are reminded of when we sit in the House in person.

With that in mind, I want to acknowledge the work of the House, but I also want to take a moment to remember the farmers. I wish Bill C‑206 could have gone forward. I cannot help but think of all the people I have known since I was a little girl growing up in the country. As members can imagine, it has been quite a while since I was “little”.

My thoughts are with our farmers, in the hope that, if not this time, Bill C‑206 can come back sooner rather than later and eventually be passed by the House and the Senate.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I have had many occasions to rise with privilege to share a bit about my own family history. I have spoken a lot about my father and the African Canadian diaspora, but I have not had the privilege of speaking about my mother's side of the family, a family that settled not far from here, about an hour from here in the South Mountain area. It is a place I have fond memories of, stories of my grandfather with a grade-six education being told by his father that the world and that road ahead is as long as he can make it.

My grandfather, Nelson Scharf, in fact had a cheese factory in Russell and Haliburton. It was a connection we had to the supply chain and the agricultural sector here. My grandmother, Doris Forward, had a family farm in Winchester. My cousin, Tom Forward, is still on the land and works within the dairy sector today.

I think about those early memories of visiting those farms, visiting the cheese factory, being up close as a child and seeing these hard-working people, folks who often do not get enough credit for the number of hours they work and for what they provide this country.

I rise today with the honour, on our 60-year anniversary as New Democrats, of being from the founding party of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which aimed to alleviate the suffering that workers and farmers felt and endured under capitalism. We are, in fact, the only party that was founded by farmers, so it is an honour and a privilege to be here today with that family background and that party background in support of this bill.

I want to take a moment and thank the hon. member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, a gentleman whom I have gotten to know in my committee work and somebody who I know has brought with him the good intentions of supporting the constituents within his riding.

For those who are tuning in and trying to get a sense of what this is all about, this bill, Bill C-206, seeks to amend the definition of “qualifying farming fuel” in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to include natural gas and propane. Of course, this issue is complex. I will not pretend to be an expert, and there is certainly a lot of room for improvement at the committee stage, but this legislation stems from an unseasonably wet autumn in 2019, which was called “the harvest from hell”, when grain farmers were using propane and natural gas heaters to dry their grain. Without these grain dryers, grain rots and becomes worthless as food or as a cash crop contributing to our GDP.

There is currently no viable alternative to the use of propane or natural gas for the operation of these dryers, and because propane and natural gas are currently not covered under the act qualifying for farm fuels, grain farmers are forced into a situation of contributing more CO2 into the atmosphere as a result of carbon taxes on the cleaner fuels. The Grain Growers of Canada has confirmed, as of February of last year, that many of them have turned to higher-CO2-emitting diesel fuel, which is listed, ironically, as qualifying farm fuel in the act, for grain dryers to avoid the higher-taxed propane or natural gas heaters.

As our very learned critic for agriculture, the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, has stated, ultimately what we want is high-CO2-emitting industries to be contributing less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and if we penalize the agricultural sector with a higher price for choosing a cleaner fuel option, we are running entirely counter to our ultimate objective of combatting climate change by reducing GHG emissions. Our critic for agriculture, the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, states quite rightly that farmers are not only well aware of what the effects of climate change will be, but they are also one of our greatest tools for fighting climate change.

When we are looking at this bill, I think we have heard this false dichotomy between Liberals and Conservatives about carbon taxes being the defining feature of climate change. The Liberals would suggest this is a market solution and Conservatives would suggest this is yet another tax. As New Democrats, we recognize that reducing greenhouse gas emissions ought to be our objective, and we do not feel that providing this in this particular way meets that objective. While the intent of the bill is sound, making it easier and more affordable for farmers to burn cleaner fuel should be a no-brainer, and using no fuels whatsoever or existing clean technologies is just not a viable option.

I think of my family who are still in this sector. My cousins, the Weagants, sold farm equipment throughout Ontario. I also think about the hard-working farmers in my city. I am a very proud MP representing Hamilton Centre, and many people do not know that while we have close to 600,000 people, the geography of our city encapsulates a very large portion of rural areas in the greenbelt and into some of the tender fruits land.

We are here today hoping to see a better outcome on this particular issue, to ensure that we are not adding to the complexities of the food supply chain and that we are cutting through the noise into a bit of a more intelligent argument about, again, a party founded by the CCF and about supporting our farm workers. Those who are out there across Ontario, Quebec and, indeed, across the country know that the New Democratic Party was founded on those principles.

The Regina Manifesto, right there in our founding documents, says, “The security of tenure for the farmer upon his farm which is imperilled by the present disastrous situation of the whole industry, together with adequate social insurance, ought to be guaranteed under equitable conditions.” It is right there, in the foundation of the CCF, which, 60 years later, would become the NDP of today.

I hold that position, and I support our agricultural sector. I know that farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and I know that they will play a key role in our food security and our ability to adequately adapt to the changing climate, which will have a direct impact first on them, and of course, in the spirit of the hard-working people of my own family, those who continue to this day to work the land and to acknowledge our precious connection to the land, the food that we have and the food supply chains.

In closing, I would like to thank the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford who, on the technical aspects of this, has been absolutely incredible for me and our caucus to help us better understand the nuances, because we want to see a just recovery. We want to see a just transition for workers. We acknowledge that farmers are indeed some of the hardest-working people, and that includes the migrant workers who work alongside them in our fields.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the House for allowing me to rise with the deep privilege that I have in the waning days of this Parliament to be able to share a little about myself, my family and our ongoing support for workers as New Democrats.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a wonderful Monday morning. After listening to the earlier speeches, I would like to offer my thanks. My thanks to the Liberal Party member, who I just heard speak about the importance of this bill. Then there was my friend from Saint-Jean, and I did not know that she grew up on a farm, so we have a few more things in common. My thanks as well to the member for Hamilton Centre.

This is something that we have to recognize, as it is so important to our farmers. They are the ones who produce our food. They are the ones who, throughout this entire pandemic, have been working to support Canadians. Looking at this bill, I think it is absolutely exceptional.

I would really like to thank my great friend, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. I actually drove through parts of his riding yesterday on my return to Ottawa from Elgin—Middlesex—London. The one thing I see in southwestern Ontario is beautiful agricultural land. There are lots of different commodities and sectors, but it is a big farming community. There are some big pockets of cities, but surrounding all of those big cities are acres and acres of great farmland where they are producing necessary commodities and food.

I am going to start with a very simple quote, which actually comes from the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. He said this at committee, and I want to put it in the record of the House of Commons because this is a very valuable debate.

These are things that are very, very important to my riding, so I appreciate having the opportunity to speak to this bill for the farmers who are living in Elgin—Middlesex—London. I can tell members that, according to Statistics Canada, in 2016 there were 1,930 farm operators in Elgin and 3,260 farm operators in the county of Middlesex. These are things that are very, very important to my riding, so having the opportunity to speak to this bill is an honour.

To quote my good friend, at the agriculture committee he said:

The greenhouse gas pollution pricing currently allows qualifying farmers an exemption on certain farm fuels such as gasoline and diesel; however, it fails to extend that exemption to other fuels such as natural gas and propane. This is challenging on many different fronts, as farmers quite often don't have other options and their only option for their particular industrial equipment may be natural gas and propane.

The science says that natural gas and propane are often cleaner fuels than diesel or gasoline. Why would we not include them in this exemption? Farmers, after all, are stewards of our land and, along with our indigenous people, were some of the first environmentalists standing up for the land and also for the animals and plants located on their properties.

That is why I wanted to talk about propane. I have quite a bias, to be honest. The former chair of the Canadian Propane Association is a resident of Elgin—Middlesex—London. He is also the CFO for Dowler-Karn, which is probably one of the biggest distributors of gasoline and fuel products to multiple farmers in the southwestern Ontario region. I can sit down with him, and when I call Dan Kelly with a question, he will answer. If he does not have the answer, he will find it, because he is out there working for Canadian farmers.

He brought this to my attention as well. He said that Bill C-206 is excellent and what we need to do. He was actually hoping that we would not have to put through Bill C-206, and that the Liberal government may recognize the issue and put it in the budget, but we did not see that. The government does not recognize that it is going to take more than just two or three years for farmers to transition to greener fuels.

I was really happy to see this bill continuing on to third reading, but as the member for Saint-Jean indicated, these are the final days, so I hope that today we can get through this. After we return to Parliament, hopefully this is a bill that the Senate will look at very quickly. This is what our farmers need and what they are asking for.

Continuing on to the Canadian Propane Association, I would like to read a statement I received from it. I am sure everybody has received it as well. It explains why we should support this bill and the importance of the exemption that would come to our farm operators.

This statement, I believe, was put out after the vote on second reading of Bill C-206, a vote of 177-145. All opposition parties actually agreed and recognized that this is something that needs to be done. We saw that the Liberal government was not good with that, yet it may have had to do with it coming from an awesome Conservative. We may never know. However, I will read out the Canadian Propane Association's statement, which says:

“Discouraging the increased use of carbon-intense fuels such as gas and diesel in favour of low-emission energy like propane for agriculture applications would be a win-win for the environment and for farmers’ bottom line,” said Nathalie St-Pierre, President of the Canadian Propane Association....

“The principle of the GGPPA is intended to encourage a reduction in the use of carbon-intense fuels,” said St-Pierre. “By exempting gas and diesel but not allowing the same exemption for propane, the law actually encourages the increased use of gas and diesel – this is environmental nonsense.”

Just moments ago, we heard my friend from Hamilton Centre say the exact same thing, which is that, because of this, people are beginning to use diesel. The government has established the carbon tax, but it is actually giving an exemption to a dirtier fuel. We have an option here. The statement continues:

St-Pierre said that CPA members are also hearing from their customers in the agriculture sector about the significant added cost due to the federal carbon tax. According to an estimate provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer last December, over the next five years about $235 million will be collected from farmers for using natural gas and propane.

I will note that statistic. I was speaking to Dan about this. On behalf of the farmers in our area, he sent a cheque for over $1 million for just a few months for carbon tax collection. That $1 million that could have been used for so many other things, perhaps new technology, workers or new things on farms, but instead, that money is paid to the government.

We are talking about $235 million. I have heard people say that the government is going to lose $235 million. To me, the government should not be taking that $235 million in the first place, so it would not be losing revenue. This is revenue it should not be taking, so we have to look at this as not being a loss of revenue for the government.

The government had no business taking the $235 million in the first place because, at the end of the day, who pays for it? It is going to be the farmers. After the farmers, who pays for it? It is going to be people sitting at their tables, eating their cornflakes or their eggs from the local chicken farm. These are the people who, at the end of the day, are going to be impacted.

Yes, this bill is good for farmers, but it is also good for Canadian consumers who want to support the agricultural industry in Canada, especially that in Elgin—Middlesex—London, which is so important to me.

We have talked about inflation. In the last few weeks, inflation has been really key. We have talked about how much the price of wood and lumber have gone up. Housing is a big issue. In my riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, there has been a 46% increase since last April in the cost of a two-storey home. Inflation is an issue, and the government is adding more costs to our goods.

If we talk about poverty reduction strategies, we need to see what we are doing that is creating more barriers. I look at not giving this exemption as just another barrier to reducing the high cost of our goods right now. Farmers know that, when they are paying all this money, it affects their bottom line.

I am so fortunate to work with Scott at the Grain Farmers of Ontario in my area. He is the zone manager there. I thank Scott, who always works with me. The Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province's largest commodity organization, representing over 28,000 barley, corn, oats, soybean and wheat farmers, and it has been very supportive of Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act regarding qualifying farming fuel.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario is supporting this bill because of its exemption of the carbon tax for on-farm fuel and calls on all MPs to consider the tax on grain drying and its impact on the agriculture system in Canada. It is quite simple. The government should not be making money off a tax that negatively impacts a farmer's ability to market viable grain. The carbon tax does not make that happen.

Brendan Byrne was the chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario on February 22, 2021. There are a lot of AGMs going on, so that may not be his position now.

As we have always indicated, farmers have been doing great work in our communities. They are the stewards of our land. I think of some of the great projects that have been done in the back of farmers' fields with wetlands conservation. Those settlements are being taken back.

I love farmers, so I am very supportive of Bill C-206, and I thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing this bill forward.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is great to be back in the House. It is great to have a vast audience across the way to hear what I am about to say, although the member for Kingston and the Islands may not entirely agree with it.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this excellent private member's bill, Bill C-206, from my colleague for Northumberland—Peterborough South, and in particular to talk about the significant failures in environmental policy on the part of government and how it is imposing costs on Canadians without a real plan to help us achieve our environmental objectives vis-à-vis climate change.

I will start briefly by congratulating the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South on his excellent work on this bill and so many other issues. He serves as the shadow minister for revenue in our caucus. When I hear “shadow minister of revenue”, I think it sounds exciting, but he really has grabbed this position by the horns. It has been a pleasure to work with him on a number of revenue issues, including trying to bring about reforms to the direction and control system.

This member has been a great champion of the charitable sector, trying to push the government to reform various aspects of the regulatory and legislative environment around revenue, especially direction and control, to really empower our charitable organizations and help them move forward. I want to congratulate the member for all his work, particularly in this bill, on behalf of farmers in his riding and elsewhere.

Bill C-206 seeks to change the definition of a qualifying farm fuel to include certain fuels not currently included, and that is a step forward in terms of allowing any fuel a farmer would use to be qualified as a qualifying farm fuel, and therefore not having the carbon tax applied to it. Right now, while natural gas and propane are not identified as qualifying farm fuels, gas and diesel are. Not only does this impose additional costs on farmers, but it also gives farmers an incentive to move away from using natural gas and propane and toward using relatively more gas and diesel.

In all likelihood, this is sort of perverse incentive that encourages greater greenhouse gas emissions, so this member is rationalizing the system through this bill in a way that would reduce costs for farmers and help our environment by removing this artificial incentive to use fuels that pollute to a greater extent.

One would think this is a no-brainer on that basis. If this is going to reduce costs for farmers, but is also going to help our environment by providing more of an incentive for farmers to use cleaner fuels, why would it not just be automatic that everyone in this House supports it? The Liberals are stubbornly clinging to their position that the way they did it was fine.

The big problem with these Liberals on so many aspects of their environmental policy is they do not understand the way in which perverse incentives can lead to worse outcomes for the environment, and they are not willing to look critically at the impact of those incentives on behaviour.

One of the issues we have talked about a lot in the Conservative caucus in terms of the failures of the Liberals' environmental policy is this issue of border adjustments. The Liberal approach is to impose carbon taxes on Canadian producers, Canadian farmers and Canadian consumers, but not to apply those same requirements on people outside of Canada who are producing products and then selling those products in the Canadian market.

The effect of this is that it is artificially creating an advantage for foreign producers, the people manufacturing goods and growing crops outside the country who are trying to then sell those products in Canada. One is creating an advantage for those outside Canada who are selling their products to Canada over Canadian producers. This obviously does not make any sense, in terms not only of protecting our own economic interests, but also of responding to the environmental challenges we face.

When one makes it more expensive, and in the case of this particular bill, it relates to farming, and when one imposes more costs on Canadian farmers and therefore tilts the field against our farmers and in favour of people involved in agriculture production outside of the country, that is not helping the environment. It is simply hurting our own economy at no environmental benefit.

We understand, in this caucus, that the challenges we face in terms of climate change are global challenges. Canada has to do its part, but it also has to put in place policies that recognize that emissions can happen outside of the country, and when they happen they impact us. We need to have a structure that integrates an appreciation for the global impact of climate change.

That is why the Conservative environmental plan, for the first time from any party, proposes a strong policy around border adjustment tariffs. There has to be an equivalency between the burden imposed on Canadian producers and the import adjustments that are taking place. We should not be creating a tilted playing field in which we are actually creating an advantage for those producing greenhouse gas emissions outside of the country.

We have raised this issue of perverse incentives: incentives in the policy that actually encourage the wrong kind of behaviour. In the case of border adjustments, we are talking about an incentive that the government has created, in its approach to environmental policy, to move production outside of the country.

If someone is making products for the Canadian market right now in Canada, that person is paying carbon tax. If someone is producing those products outside of Canada in a jurisdiction that does not have a carbon tax and then selling them into Canada, they are in an economically advantageous position, at least vis-à-vis the carbon tax.

This should be fixed so that we have a fair environmental policy that encourages improvements to environmental performance, but does not encourage the wrong kinds of adaptation, such as moving work outside of the country. As other colleagues have talked about as well, in the case of this bill we are talking about another case of perverse incentive. In imposing the carbon tax on certain kinds of fuel and not others, as the system is currently structured, there is an incentive for farmers to use fuels that may be more expensive and that may produce more in the way of emissions.

I think we can do better. The member for Northumberland—Peterborough South has quite rightly seen the opportunity to do better and has thus put forward a bill that seeks to adjust the incentive environment. That is why I am very supportive of this bill. I would encourage all members to be supportive of it and to push the government to recognize something. It has been a talking point of the Liberals for a long time. They say the environment and the economy go hand in hand, yet they impose restrictions and taxes that hurt our economy and provide no benefit to the environment.

It does not make any sense that they would impose obligations on Canadian producers and not have the corresponding adjustments happening at the border. It does not make any sense from an environmental standpoint. If they really believed that there was a unity of objective that could be pursued between the environment and the economy, they would be supportive of the plan that we have put forward, which includes these kinds of border adjustment measures.

In general, in our environmental plan as announced by our leader, the money that is gathered through the deductions paid when people purchase products that emit carbon is put back into their pockets to also pay for adaptation. Our plan is not just about taking money away from people who are producing: It is about giving those resources back to them to invest in adaptations that improve their environmental performance. Our plan is very different from what we see from the Liberal government. The government is trying to use the environment often as a way to raise extra revenue. Our approach is to target measures that are going to improve the environment, while also supporting our industry.

On this side of the House, we recognize the important role of our farmers. We recognize the value of having agricultural production in Canada. We want to strengthen farming communities. We recognize that from a basic security, food security and well-being perspective, it is important to have strong agricultural production happening here in Canada.

We have championed this position, as a party, from the very beginning. We understand that it is not enough to just say it. Within every party we hear members saying flowery words about the agricultural sector, but the Conservative Party has always been there to stand with our farmers, and Bill C-206 is another example of that.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, it is certainly an honour to rise on behalf of the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola to speak to my colleagues about Bill C-206, brought by the MP for Northumberland—Peterborough South, who has done an excellent job of finding an issue that resonates not just within his riding but right across the country. I will make a few short points about this, because I believe that Private Members' Business provides the opportunity for members, such as the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, to bring up issues they are hearing locally to see if they are salient. The adoption of this bill through second reading to committee and now to third reading shows there is a consensus in this country. The Liberals were the only party to vote against it. Every other party recognizes that Canada's future is, in great part, due to agriculture. Many may argue that Canada's past was formulated on that, and I would say that is true, but so is the fact we can do more.

In fact, in the majority government the current ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, put forward the Barton report and said that Canada could do so much more by working with agriculture. It could expand exports and feed people not just across our country but around the globe. It seemed for a while that the report might go somewhere. Most farmers thought it was great to have a government that was focused on that. Unfortunately, the government was not. Rather, it was focused simply on ideology and not on helping to connect the dots to make it work for farmers.

As the MP who sponsored the legislation said, the Grain Farmers of Ontario stated, “there are no readily available grain drying technology replacement alternatives that are cost effective. Drying grain is essential for marketing grain.” This points out that when the input costs are too high, grain farmers will lose traction to other areas that have better prices. Unfortunately, it is a commodity market and we cannot just say, “Buy Canadian because Canada is great.” People in other countries also need to feed their families. If the rate for our grain is too high because of input costs, these people will simply go to another cost provider.

The member of Parliament for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan previously mentioned the concept of carbon leakage, which is where adding extra regulations or taxation beyond that of another jurisdiction eventually makes it difficult for a place with a carbon tax, such as Canada's, to compete. I should know this. A B.C. Liberal government was the first to introduce a carbon tax in British Columbia. It found out quite quickly that the farming community would not be able to be competitive. Therefore, along with cement, it ended up having to subsidize many of those activities.

I am grateful the MP for Northumberland—Peterborough South has brought forward something that will help with that competitiveness. The bill has received broad agreement, with the exception of the Liberal government and its backbenchers. I am sure there was a whipped vote on this, so I know many Liberal members probably felt very sympathetic and wanted to vote alongside the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP to support our farmers, but unfortunately it seems many on that side do not question the government's position as much. In fact, some seem to want to carry it on all day long, but enough about the member for Kingston and the Islands.

I just have a few more things to say. The Conservatives believe we should be working with agriculture. The government has put out a clean fuel standard that is so complicated that farmers do not know what opportunities are there. They are worried about getting lost in the paperwork. It is the same government that is making it more difficult for farm operations to use small amounts of propane. The government is basically encouraging them, through red tape, to move to diesel. We know it is not as clean, as easy to store or as manageable. The current government seems to always be at odds with what farmers need and want.

I will say this. Members like the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South and our Conservative caucus will be standing up for our farmers. We will put forward solutions, and we will have a meaningful impact on our greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy, especially for our farmers.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

June 21st, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is absolutely my pleasure to rise on my private member's bill, Bill C-206. To me, it is a fantastic wrap-up for the year, if we go to an election.

A couple of weeks into being an MP, I was in Ottawa and my staffer came to me and said, “You won the lottery”. I did not think I had bought a ticket. What did that mean? I had gotten number 16 on the private member's bills, which then put in place a large canvass of issues: ones that affect people across Canada and in my wonderful riding of Northumberland—Peterborough South. One issue that kept coming up was the impact of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act on the agricultural sector.

I am a very proud advocate for and supporter of the agriculture sector and rural Canada in general. I had been told that dirtier fuels like diesel and gasoline were exempt from the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act but propane and natural gas were not, and of the impact this was having on our local farmers. When I had the opportunity, I was compelled. This was something I had to bring forward for the residents of Northumberland—Peterborough South and for our farmers across the country.

I have enjoyed this process. It has been an iterative process and it has been collaborative. In fact, this whole hour has been an island of its own in a sea of partisanship. This has been full of non-partisanship. We had the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell stand up for my private member's bill and for a commitment he made to a couple of constituents. That is the very epitome of what it is to be from rural Canada and rural Ontario. When we give our word in rural Ontario and in rural Canada, we stand by it. That is exactly what this member did, and I salute him.

One of the issues he brought to attention in his discussion was that things may change, and that very well may be. That is why the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford made a wise amendment to my private member's bill, which was to timeline it and have it go for only 10 years. If technology evolves and, in a decade, we can get to a point where there are biofuels or some other way, we are all for it, but as of now there is no other solution. Climate change is 100% real, and we are all in the House to fight climate change.

In the absence of exemption, we are pushing our farmers out of competitiveness because they are dependent on worldwide markets and on trade boards for pricing. When a cost is increased, such as with the carbon tax, it is put directly on the tables of our farmers. Farmers work so hard. Especially through this pandemic, they have not stopped for a moment, and because of that they have kept our food supply the best in the world. We produce the best grain, the best poultry and the best beef right here in Canada, and we need to make sure that our farmers stay competitive because when we increase input costs, those come directly from the farmers.

These costs not only affect our farmers, but entire rural communities because farmers are largely the ones who drive our economies. They are the ones who go to tractor dealerships and buy tractors. They are the ones who go to local restaurants, and there may be only a couple of restaurants in their towns. They are also the ones who support our local grocery stores, so we need to support and protect our farmers.

As I said, we are at the end of the session. I would like to take a moment to thank all the wonderful members of my constituency of Northumberland—Peterborough South and thank the farmers for this wonderful piece of legislation that I have been able to work with. Particularly, I would like to thank Brandon from the Grain Farmers. I would like to thank my staffer Hailey, who was fantastic and critical to doing this. Most important, I would like to thank all the members of the agriculture community who worked so hard to get this on board. We will have a vote on Wednesday and we will get this across. Hopefully, we will be back in session so we can get this bill passed and help our farmers.

I thank everyone out there so much. It has been a great pleasure to hear all the interventions. Some of my best friends, across the aisle and otherwise, have spoken. The member for Hamilton Centre is even wearing a blue suit for us, if I am allowed to acknowledge that he is in the chamber. I really appreciate that. I thank everyone for their learned interventions and their contributions. It is a great day for farmers.

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.
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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.