Madam Speaker, I have had many occasions to rise with privilege to share a bit about my own family history. I have spoken a lot about my father and the African Canadian diaspora, but I have not had the privilege of speaking about my mother's side of the family, a family that settled not far from here, about an hour from here in the South Mountain area. It is a place I have fond memories of, stories of my grandfather with a grade-six education being told by his father that the world and that road ahead is as long as he can make it.
My grandfather, Nelson Scharf, in fact had a cheese factory in Russell and Haliburton. It was a connection we had to the supply chain and the agricultural sector here. My grandmother, Doris Forward, had a family farm in Winchester. My cousin, Tom Forward, is still on the land and works within the dairy sector today.
I think about those early memories of visiting those farms, visiting the cheese factory, being up close as a child and seeing these hard-working people, folks who often do not get enough credit for the number of hours they work and for what they provide this country.
I rise today with the honour, on our 60-year anniversary as New Democrats, of being from the founding party of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which aimed to alleviate the suffering that workers and farmers felt and endured under capitalism. We are, in fact, the only party that was founded by farmers, so it is an honour and a privilege to be here today with that family background and that party background in support of this bill.
I want to take a moment and thank the hon. member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, a gentleman whom I have gotten to know in my committee work and somebody who I know has brought with him the good intentions of supporting the constituents within his riding.
For those who are tuning in and trying to get a sense of what this is all about, this bill, Bill C-206, seeks to amend the definition of “qualifying farming fuel” in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to include natural gas and propane. Of course, this issue is complex. I will not pretend to be an expert, and there is certainly a lot of room for improvement at the committee stage, but this legislation stems from an unseasonably wet autumn in 2019, which was called “the harvest from hell”, when grain farmers were using propane and natural gas heaters to dry their grain. Without these grain dryers, grain rots and becomes worthless as food or as a cash crop contributing to our GDP.
There is currently no viable alternative to the use of propane or natural gas for the operation of these dryers, and because propane and natural gas are currently not covered under the act qualifying for farm fuels, grain farmers are forced into a situation of contributing more CO2 into the atmosphere as a result of carbon taxes on the cleaner fuels. The Grain Growers of Canada has confirmed, as of February of last year, that many of them have turned to higher-CO2-emitting diesel fuel, which is listed, ironically, as qualifying farm fuel in the act, for grain dryers to avoid the higher-taxed propane or natural gas heaters.
As our very learned critic for agriculture, the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, has stated, ultimately what we want is high-CO2-emitting industries to be contributing less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and if we penalize the agricultural sector with a higher price for choosing a cleaner fuel option, we are running entirely counter to our ultimate objective of combatting climate change by reducing GHG emissions. Our critic for agriculture, the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, states quite rightly that farmers are not only well aware of what the effects of climate change will be, but they are also one of our greatest tools for fighting climate change.
When we are looking at this bill, I think we have heard this false dichotomy between Liberals and Conservatives about carbon taxes being the defining feature of climate change. The Liberals would suggest this is a market solution and Conservatives would suggest this is yet another tax. As New Democrats, we recognize that reducing greenhouse gas emissions ought to be our objective, and we do not feel that providing this in this particular way meets that objective. While the intent of the bill is sound, making it easier and more affordable for farmers to burn cleaner fuel should be a no-brainer, and using no fuels whatsoever or existing clean technologies is just not a viable option.
I think of my family who are still in this sector. My cousins, the Weagants, sold farm equipment throughout Ontario. I also think about the hard-working farmers in my city. I am a very proud MP representing Hamilton Centre, and many people do not know that while we have close to 600,000 people, the geography of our city encapsulates a very large portion of rural areas in the greenbelt and into some of the tender fruits land.
We are here today hoping to see a better outcome on this particular issue, to ensure that we are not adding to the complexities of the food supply chain and that we are cutting through the noise into a bit of a more intelligent argument about, again, a party founded by the CCF and about supporting our farm workers. Those who are out there across Ontario, Quebec and, indeed, across the country know that the New Democratic Party was founded on those principles.
The Regina Manifesto, right there in our founding documents, says, “The security of tenure for the farmer upon his farm which is imperilled by the present disastrous situation of the whole industry, together with adequate social insurance, ought to be guaranteed under equitable conditions.” It is right there, in the foundation of the CCF, which, 60 years later, would become the NDP of today.
I hold that position, and I support our agricultural sector. I know that farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and I know that they will play a key role in our food security and our ability to adequately adapt to the changing climate, which will have a direct impact first on them, and of course, in the spirit of the hard-working people of my own family, those who continue to this day to work the land and to acknowledge our precious connection to the land, the food that we have and the food supply chains.
In closing, I would like to thank the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford who, on the technical aspects of this, has been absolutely incredible for me and our caucus to help us better understand the nuances, because we want to see a just recovery. We want to see a just transition for workers. We acknowledge that farmers are indeed some of the hardest-working people, and that includes the migrant workers who work alongside them in our fields.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the House for allowing me to rise with the deep privilege that I have in the waning days of this Parliament to be able to share a little about myself, my family and our ongoing support for workers as New Democrats.