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

In committee (House), as of Feb. 24, 2021

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Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActPrivate Members' Business

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

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing ActRoutine Proceedings

February 18th, 2020 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farming fuel).

Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege today to introduce an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

Agriculture is a pillar of our economy and it is part of the fabric of our society. Agriculture, though, has been having a particularly difficult time. Our farmers are struggling out there. They are now facing multiple blockades in addition to pricing instability and trade disruptions. The pressures on our farmers today are innumerable. Therefore, it is with great satisfaction that I am introducing a private member's bill that would provide some relief to our farmers.

One of the things I heard when I was travelling my riding, from farmers and non-farmers, is that the carbon tax is impacting the way they operate their businesses. In fact, the carbon tax is taking away up to 12% of their net income, so this is having a significant impact. There is currently an exemption for farmers, but only for gasoline and diesel. For whatever reason, both propane and natural gas were left out. That left many grain growers and farmers out in the cold, as they were drying their grain and paying thousands of dollars in carbon tax.

Our friends in the government like to say that the carbon tax is revenue neutral. However, for farmers that simply is not the case. Their rebate may account for less than 10% of the carbon tax. Many are paying thousands and thousands of dollars in carbon tax every year, making their prices higher and making it more difficult to compete.

My private member's bill would allow an increase in the exemption, to include both natural gas and propane, making life just a bit easier and more affordable for our farmers. This would allow farmers to invest in technologies to fight climate change, such as sequestering carbon and other sustainable practices that would make life a bit better for all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)