Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to speak to Bill C‑206 today, as I did at second reading. Today, we have come full circle. I propose that we look at the bill by asking five basic questions, which we should ask more often in these cases: who, when, how, what and where. It is very simple.
I will start with who, in other words, those we are proposing this bill for. Unlike other political parties, we in the Bloc Québécois do not tend to give gifts to people who do not need it.
Farmers kept the agriculture sector going in a crisis, which is not easy. We know that farm owners had a very tough time on the labour front. This hurt food security, supply and, in some cases, animal health. Management of issues surrounding the arrival of foreign workers has been problematic, and, a few days ago, assistance from the government in support of quarantine was cut in half.
However, even before the crisis began, our farmers were already struggling. Climate change is causing even greater uncertainty around crops and harvests. Furthermore, it is getting harder and harder to find young farmers to take over, particularly because the price of land keeps going up year after year.
People who grew up on the land and worked with their parents will find it increasingly difficult to take over the farming operation. There are rare occasions when parents can afford to be generous and gift the farm to their children, instead of using the value of the farm business they have built up their entire lives to fund their retirement. In other cases, given the rising cost of land and quotas, it is hard to find young farmers to take over.
Why are we doing this, that is, why are we debating Bill C-206? We must remember that the bill would amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, including section three, which lists the products that are not taxed, in particular those for farming purposes. Natural gas and propane were missing from the list of exempt products. Why does Bill C-206 seek to add them to section three?
A carbon tax discourages people from taking a certain action and encourages them to choose a behaviour over another. However, in order for that to happen, people must have options, and that is exactly the problem.
There was an example of this in my riding during the rail crisis. CN just stopped delivering propane for two weeks when farmers had to dry their crops, which was a critical time for them. The moisture level in crops was very high that year, and had farmers not been able to dry them, they would have rotted, which would have resulted in the loss of an entire year's income.
In this particular case, propane was the only option, since any alternatives are still in the pilot-project stage and are not a viable option for large-scale farming businesses. When I asked farmers, who were worried about not getting the propane they needed, they told me that there was no alternative to propane, but that they would like to have one.
The existing power grid would not even have the capacity to generate enough heat for drying grain. It is as though people expected to one day have electric hot air balloons—they are very popular back home—but this is not going to happen overnight. Technologies like biomass are still too new, and there is not enough incentive for us to expect quick changes in carbon pricing.
That brings me to my third point: When will it happen? This is the part I find unfortunate, because we are three days out from the end of the parliamentary session and the summer recess. This Parliament could end up being replaced with a new one, based on the election rumours we are hearing.
It is really unfortunate that we are debating a bill this important and necessary at the eleventh hour, knowing that it could end up dying on the Order Paper, just like Bill C‑216, the bill on supply management introduced by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, or the bill on farm succession planning, which the Senate just started studying.
On this third point, I want to say how disappointed we are with the government's management of the legislative calendar, because we are currently debating a great bill that, unfortunately, may never see the light of day.
How is Bill C‑206 being dealt with?
This part is a bit nicer. As I was preparing for my speech on my drive in to work this morning from my riding of Saint-Jean, I listened again to what happened and what my other colleagues said, particularly those who are members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. I was very happy to hear how well people are working together on this committee. There is no excessive partisanship since everyone is serving the same cause, that of farmers and those who feed us. It is in that spirit of co-operation that a key amendment was proposed to improve Bill C‑206. This amendment is really worthwhile, because it addresses the concern that some might have about the fact that there is a gap in the bill, the ultimate purpose of which is to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The amendment sets an end date for the exemption for natural gas and propane. In other words, natural gas and propane will be exempt from taxation for 10 years in the hope that, a decade from now, there will be new technology that will enable us to stop using natural gas and propane. That is our hope, anyway, but the government needs to get cracking because farmers do not want to be passive witnesses to these changes. They want to be part of it, but they need help. Contrary to what some people think, farmers do not wake up in the morning thinking about how great it is that they can go out and pollute. They just want help finding alternatives that are commercially viable, because they operate in a global market and cannot pass costs on to their customers. They would no longer be able to compete internationally, so we have to give our farmers that support.
The final point is, where is that supposed to happen? People might think that it is obvious it should be done in the House of Commons and Parliament, because that is where bills are passed and amendments made. That seems obvious, but nowadays, very few things that should be obvious are.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the parliamentary spirit that has characterized Parliament during the pandemic. I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to the interpreters, the support staff and the tech support who made it possible for us to function relatively normally, despite COVID‑19.
I also want to express my hope that, despite everything, we will get back to normal quickly, so that we can have accountability, so that there is someone in the House who answers questions, and so that reporters can do their job and ask parliamentarians questions as they leave the House. I also hope that we can go back to normal sooner rather than later so we can get parliamentarians working co-operatively, apart from the occasional stormy question period.
When we parliamentarians are working together face to face, we are able to move files along more efficiently, understand one another better, and remember for whom, why, how, where and when we create bills. It is fundamental to remember that, and that is what we are reminded of when we sit in the House in person.
With that in mind, I want to acknowledge the work of the House, but I also want to take a moment to remember the farmers. I wish Bill C‑206 could have gone forward. I cannot help but think of all the people I have known since I was a little girl growing up in the country. As members can imagine, it has been quite a while since I was “little”.
My thoughts are with our farmers, in the hope that, if not this time, Bill C‑206 can come back sooner rather than later and eventually be passed by the House and the Senate.