Mr. Speaker, I feel like a baseball player who steps up to the plate after somebody has hit a home run, but I will do my best to follow the hon. member for Carleton.
It is my honour to rise today and speak to Bill C-8, which is the economic and fiscal update implementation act of 2021. The bill touches on several different topics, but I would like to focus on a few critical elements related to farmers, housing and what this bill represents overall.
For farmers, this bill quite simply is an acknowledgement that the government's approach has been wrong. It recognizes the harm of its carbon tax on farmers, but there is just one problem. The remedy does not go nearly far enough. Instead of discounting the carbon tax at the point of sale, the government is attempting to introduce a complicated rebate method. It puts an additional burden on farmers to collect their receipts, and at the end of the year they will get a fraction of what they paid in carbon tax back. A tax credit is not good enough. Farmers deserve much more than that. What is the science-based justification for treating diesel and gas differently from natural gas and propane?
I hope that all members in the House understand exactly how important farmers are to this country. When we live in cities and do the majority of our travelling by plane, if we take a look down what we see are beautiful farms covering the countryside. For many rural communities across this country, farming was the reason they sprang up, and it is the reason they continue to exist today.
Farming is one of the things Canada is known for internationally. Let me quote the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, which states, “Canada is the fifth largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products in the world after the EU, U.S., Brazil, and China”, and “over 90% of Canada’s farmers are dependent on exports”.
Our farmers are competing with farmers from around the globe. It is a global industry, and farmers across the country, including in my riding, check the prices of global commodities, which help them determine and decide what to plant. They then follow international news to inform them of the best times to sell their products. A drought in Germany means farmers know their canola is likely to rise due to supply and demand factors.
When the carbon tax was initially announced, farmers were concerned. They knew they could not raise prices like other industries can. There was no way they could reduce the amount of fuel they were using, and increased costs come directly from their bottom line. That means they reduce the amount of money farmers can take home to their families at the end of the year, and the amount of money farmers have available to pay workers.
If it was not clear, farmers use a lot of fuel. A large tractor can hold 400 gallons of it. Thankfully, the minister understood that taxing diesel and gasoline was a non-starter, but that is not the only fuel that farmers use. Propane and natural gas are critical to farming. Natural gas and propane are cheap and efficient ways to heat and cool large buildings for many farmers, whether these are the shops they do repair work in or the places where livestock live in the cold winter months. These fuels are vital to selling most crops because of how farmers dry their products. Before something like corn can be shipped to market, it must be within a specific moisture range. It costs thousands of dollars to dry every month.
Last night, I spoke with a few farmers in my riding. They think this bill is quite clearly not doing enough. They sent me a copy of a few bills. I have a copy of a bill with me here. Just for the month of October to November, a natural gas bill for the farmer was almost $58,000. The carbon tax on that bill was $13,000. That is an unbelievable additional cost added to the monthly cost of operating that farmer's enterprise. Another farmer, Will, in my riding spends $40,000 to $50,000 some months on fuel.
This huge expense to farmers is why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has been calling on the government to rethink the carbon tax application to farms. In March, the federal government needs to understand this, and to work to lessen the negative impacts of the carbon tax on the ability of farmers in Ontario to compete in both domestic and international markets. They may have asked for our understanding because it appears the government does not understand how much damage this is doing. That is perhaps why the Minister of Agriculture felt it was appropriate to say that the carbon tax was not significant for farmers after it was introduced.
I would like to point out that, like the carbon tax, it is a common theme with the government to not listen to Canadians when developing policy choices.
This is where I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South, for all of his work on the farm carbon tax file. He said the tax was crippling agriculture. Without his work, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food may have continued to believe the carbon tax was insignificant. The member for Northumberland—Peterborough South called for an exemption to the carbon tax and put forward a bill to do just that for natural gas and propane, but with an unnecessary election called, that bill died with the last Parliament.
The tax credit proposed is complicated, it is onerous and it does not make it equitable with other fuels. There is an excellent solution here to help the farmers. It is quite simple and it is not in this bill. The solution is to provide a full exemption at the point of sale.
A similar criticism can be directed at the government on the proposed tax on vacant properties with a national annual 1% tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian-owned residential real estate that is considered to be vacant or underused. That is very complicated.
In the last election, housing was a major theme. Our party, the Conservatives, put forward a plan to limit and ban foreign investors not living in or moving into Canada from purchasing homes for a two-year period. This plan was well received. Really what we are asking for is a two-year pause to let everyone take a break so we can curb some of the off-the-record demand we see for homes that are driving the prices up for everyone else.
When we talk about housing, the government likes to point to a commitment to bring in a beneficial ownership registry, but like many Canadians, I am skeptical that the government will deliver on this commitment. It is absent from this bill and the government has a long history of promising something and failing to deliver.
The bill represents a disconnect that seems to have taken hold of the government. It is a disconnect between government spending and the consequences of that spending. The only policy solution the government has is to spend more money. That is the only solution that it has proposed over these last two years. In fact, it is the only policy solution it has proposed since 2015, since coming into government.
When COVID first arrived, it was unprecedented. Although I was not in this chamber at the time, I was pleased to see all parties working together for the benefit of Canadians to make sure businesses, families and all of us had the support we needed to get through the pandemic.
However, that time has passed and experts are warning the government to stop the rampant spending and pointing to the effects that spending has on inflation. We need a credible, fiscal plan with a focus on growth, not on redistribution, that acknowledges the risk that additional spending represents to Canadians.
I believe the buck has to stop somewhere. The House cannot keep signing off on billion-dollar pieces of legislation without a plan to find some savings or a plan for how to pay for it. There needs to be a debate where we can find savings to offset some of these new expenditures, which might be worthwhile. That is the very least the government could do. In fact, I would propose that the government, for every new spending measure it brings forward, finds an offset savings somewhere else.
This mountain of debt is not the legacy of COVID that we wish to leave for our children. They deserve better than this.