Madam Speaker, it is a wonderful Monday morning. After listening to the earlier speeches, I would like to offer my thanks. My thanks to the Liberal Party member, who I just heard speak about the importance of this bill. Then there was my friend from Saint-Jean, and I did not know that she grew up on a farm, so we have a few more things in common. My thanks as well to the member for Hamilton Centre.
This is something that we have to recognize, as it is so important to our farmers. They are the ones who produce our food. They are the ones who, throughout this entire pandemic, have been working to support Canadians. Looking at this bill, I think it is absolutely exceptional.
I would really like to thank my great friend, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. I actually drove through parts of his riding yesterday on my return to Ottawa from Elgin—Middlesex—London. The one thing I see in southwestern Ontario is beautiful agricultural land. There are lots of different commodities and sectors, but it is a big farming community. There are some big pockets of cities, but surrounding all of those big cities are acres and acres of great farmland where they are producing necessary commodities and food.
I am going to start with a very simple quote, which actually comes from the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. He said this at committee, and I want to put it in the record of the House of Commons because this is a very valuable debate.
These are things that are very, very important to my riding, so I appreciate having the opportunity to speak to this bill for the farmers who are living in Elgin—Middlesex—London. I can tell members that, according to Statistics Canada, in 2016 there were 1,930 farm operators in Elgin and 3,260 farm operators in the county of Middlesex. These are things that are very, very important to my riding, so having the opportunity to speak to this bill is an honour.
To quote my good friend, at the agriculture committee he said:
The greenhouse gas pollution pricing currently allows qualifying farmers an exemption on certain farm fuels such as gasoline and diesel; however, it fails to extend that exemption to other fuels such as natural gas and propane. This is challenging on many different fronts, as farmers quite often don't have other options and their only option for their particular industrial equipment may be natural gas and propane.
The science says that natural gas and propane are often cleaner fuels than diesel or gasoline. Why would we not include them in this exemption? Farmers, after all, are stewards of our land and, along with our indigenous people, were some of the first environmentalists standing up for the land and also for the animals and plants located on their properties.
That is why I wanted to talk about propane. I have quite a bias, to be honest. The former chair of the Canadian Propane Association is a resident of Elgin—Middlesex—London. He is also the CFO for Dowler-Karn, which is probably one of the biggest distributors of gasoline and fuel products to multiple farmers in the southwestern Ontario region. I can sit down with him, and when I call Dan Kelly with a question, he will answer. If he does not have the answer, he will find it, because he is out there working for Canadian farmers.
He brought this to my attention as well. He said that Bill C-206 is excellent and what we need to do. He was actually hoping that we would not have to put through Bill C-206, and that the Liberal government may recognize the issue and put it in the budget, but we did not see that. The government does not recognize that it is going to take more than just two or three years for farmers to transition to greener fuels.
I was really happy to see this bill continuing on to third reading, but as the member for Saint-Jean indicated, these are the final days, so I hope that today we can get through this. After we return to Parliament, hopefully this is a bill that the Senate will look at very quickly. This is what our farmers need and what they are asking for.
Continuing on to the Canadian Propane Association, I would like to read a statement I received from it. I am sure everybody has received it as well. It explains why we should support this bill and the importance of the exemption that would come to our farm operators.
This statement, I believe, was put out after the vote on second reading of Bill C-206, a vote of 177-145. All opposition parties actually agreed and recognized that this is something that needs to be done. We saw that the Liberal government was not good with that, yet it may have had to do with it coming from an awesome Conservative. We may never know. However, I will read out the Canadian Propane Association's statement, which says:
“Discouraging the increased use of carbon-intense fuels such as gas and diesel in favour of low-emission energy like propane for agriculture applications would be a win-win for the environment and for farmers’ bottom line,” said Nathalie St-Pierre, President of the Canadian Propane Association....
“The principle of the GGPPA is intended to encourage a reduction in the use of carbon-intense fuels,” said St-Pierre. “By exempting gas and diesel but not allowing the same exemption for propane, the law actually encourages the increased use of gas and diesel – this is environmental nonsense.”
Just moments ago, we heard my friend from Hamilton Centre say the exact same thing, which is that, because of this, people are beginning to use diesel. The government has established the carbon tax, but it is actually giving an exemption to a dirtier fuel. We have an option here. The statement continues:
St-Pierre said that CPA members are also hearing from their customers in the agriculture sector about the significant added cost due to the federal carbon tax. According to an estimate provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer last December, over the next five years about $235 million will be collected from farmers for using natural gas and propane.
I will note that statistic. I was speaking to Dan about this. On behalf of the farmers in our area, he sent a cheque for over $1 million for just a few months for carbon tax collection. That $1 million that could have been used for so many other things, perhaps new technology, workers or new things on farms, but instead, that money is paid to the government.
We are talking about $235 million. I have heard people say that the government is going to lose $235 million. To me, the government should not be taking that $235 million in the first place, so it would not be losing revenue. This is revenue it should not be taking, so we have to look at this as not being a loss of revenue for the government.
The government had no business taking the $235 million in the first place because, at the end of the day, who pays for it? It is going to be the farmers. After the farmers, who pays for it? It is going to be people sitting at their tables, eating their cornflakes or their eggs from the local chicken farm. These are the people who, at the end of the day, are going to be impacted.
Yes, this bill is good for farmers, but it is also good for Canadian consumers who want to support the agricultural industry in Canada, especially that in Elgin—Middlesex—London, which is so important to me.
We have talked about inflation. In the last few weeks, inflation has been really key. We have talked about how much the price of wood and lumber have gone up. Housing is a big issue. In my riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, there has been a 46% increase since last April in the cost of a two-storey home. Inflation is an issue, and the government is adding more costs to our goods.
If we talk about poverty reduction strategies, we need to see what we are doing that is creating more barriers. I look at not giving this exemption as just another barrier to reducing the high cost of our goods right now. Farmers know that, when they are paying all this money, it affects their bottom line.
I am so fortunate to work with Scott at the Grain Farmers of Ontario in my area. He is the zone manager there. I thank Scott, who always works with me. The Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province's largest commodity organization, representing over 28,000 barley, corn, oats, soybean and wheat farmers, and it has been very supportive of Bill C-206, an act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act regarding qualifying farming fuel.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario is supporting this bill because of its exemption of the carbon tax for on-farm fuel and calls on all MPs to consider the tax on grain drying and its impact on the agriculture system in Canada. It is quite simple. The government should not be making money off a tax that negatively impacts a farmer's ability to market viable grain. The carbon tax does not make that happen.
Brendan Byrne was the chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario on February 22, 2021. There are a lot of AGMs going on, so that may not be his position now.
As we have always indicated, farmers have been doing great work in our communities. They are the stewards of our land. I think of some of the great projects that have been done in the back of farmers' fields with wetlands conservation. Those settlements are being taken back.
I love farmers, so I am very supportive of Bill C-206, and I thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for bringing this bill forward.