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.