Evidence of meeting #16 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was money.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard
Chris Forbes  Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Colleen Barnes  Vice-President, Policy and Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Even in percentage terms—for example, Saskatchewan producers have noted that their costs were over 8%—that is quite a bit off. It is actually more than the greenhouses, at 7%. The minister said the greenhouse operators were given a more generous exemption because of their percentage, but Saskatchewan said that theirs is actually over 8%.

Could you comment on that?

6:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I'd have to look at.... I don't have that Saskatchewan number in front of me. With regard to the numbers we're talking about, some of them came from the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan , so they should be consistent.

Greenhouse growers will have much higher energy costs, as you know, for greenhouse producers overall. I mean, the reason for the exemption was that energy costs as a share of overall expenses were, I think, in the range of 30% or more for greenhouses, and much lower than that for most other farms, which is the nature of greenhouses, obviously.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Do you know what percentage of producers were over that 7%?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Do you mean grain producers?

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Yes, exactly.

June 10th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

No, because I'm not familiar with the 7% number, to be honest with you. I'd have to look at that.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Okay.

Do you know the number that were above the average?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Again, that's why we have a range of operating expenses. I'd have to go back to see if we have them. In theory, there are obviously going to be a number that are going to be above and a number that are going to be below, right? There should be fewer as a straight average. There will be more that are below than are above.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

My concern is that quite a few of the producers might be above average. We've seen in numerous bills, and I could show you email upon email—

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

—that average is not telling the story and that the carbon tax is causing quite a lot of damage.

What I'd really ask is whether all this information, the report you've produced and given the minister, is all public.

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

There's a report that's public from two years ago on our website, which I believe we've shared with the committee. The grain estimates are not anything we've publicly put out, but there's been a request by the committee to produce more information, which we will, of course, follow up on.

Personally, I'd say, if there is more information, we've tried to normalize numbers versus operating expenses. That should help take care of the fact that a larger farm will obviously, from grain drying, have much higher expenses than a smaller farm will, so we've tried to normalize it as a share of operating expenses. However, maybe there are some factors that we and the information we've had from stakeholders—

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

When can we expect that report?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

We'll get it to you as quickly.... I don't have the timelines in front of me, but our goal is to deliver material to the committee as quickly as possible. I'd certainly like to say we'll get it to you in days, because I understand your request, and it's an important one.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Do you know what the total cost of the carbon tax is to agriculture?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Do I have the number in front of me? I'd have to go back. We've exempted a big chunk of the direct costs, obviously, as the minister explained. I don't have a number in front of me for the direct costs. Of course, there are then the amounts that would flow back through some of the dollars that are returned to taxpayers from the carbon price, because there's a refund that matches their revenue.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

We don't know what the total cost of the carbon tax is.

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

What I was trying to say is I don't have the number in front of me.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Okay. Can you get that number for us?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I can give you an estimate of what we would be able to pull out from data of the pollution price paid by farms. Yes, I think we could do an estimate of that.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Understanding that we're a very forgiving opposition here, would you care to estimate whether, for farms and for agriculture in general, the carbon tax is revenue neutral?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

It's revenue neutral overall. Is it revenue neutral for every individual? In some cases, it's up to how the province determines—

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

I apologize for interrupting, but within the agriculture sector, if we looked at the farms or even just the grain growers, is it revenue neutral for them?

6:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I don't have that in front of me. I'd have to check.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Is it fair to say that the total cost of the carbon tax for the agricultural sector is in the hundreds of millions of dollars?