Bill C-234 in the spotlight as Parliament returns from lengthy break

A private member’s bill that would provide relief for Canadian farmers from the federal carbon tax, on natural gas and propane used for grain drying, will likely dominate discussion on Parliament Hill as MP’s and Senators return to work Monday following the holiday break.

Before the break, members of the Senate passed two amendments to Bill C-234 – one to remove heating & cooling of barns and greenhouses from the exemption and the other reduced the length of the Sunset Clause from 8 years to 3.

Federal Tory Ag Critic John Barlow has heard the question of what will happen to the bill from people in his Alberta constituency of Foothills. He knows farmers are fed up. “If the Liberal government continues to expect farmers to continue to do business under more punitive and punishing…carbon taxes, there’s a breaking point for anyone,” Barlow said. “Certainly with farmers where they’re being asked to not only feed Canadians but help feed the world, the Liberals are taking away every tool that they need to accomplish that. Their mental health and financial health can only take so much.”

The author of Bill C-234, Ontario Tory MP Ben Lobb spoke with reporters ahead of Monday’s resumption of Parliament. Lobb was asked if he’s confident, the bill will once again have an easy time in the house of commons. “That’s a great question, we’ll have to see,” Lobb responded. “My estimation is that the Bloc (Quebecois) and the NDP and the Green Party will continue to support it. It’s pretty rare that a private member’s bill gets sent back from the Senate, there’s just a few times in the last 10 years or more that that’s actually happened so we’ll see how it goes.”

When asked whether the Conservatives will support the amended Bill, Lobbs said no. “That’s another procedural thing. There’s an opportunity for the I guess you’d call it the ‘author’ of the private member’s bill to reject those amendments and so I did that last week or two weeks ago and filed it; so when it’s brought up (Monday) for debate first thing in the morning, it’ll be like it was two years ago in its original form.” Lobbs explained.Meanwhile, Senator David Wells, the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, suggested support for the bill by the NDP in the House of Commons may not be as strong as in the past. “I hope that rational debate occurs and I hope that the house sticks with what it had when it was first introduced in the house, so I hope the NDP holds firm but I’m not certain they will.” said Wells.

Many farm groups, including APAS, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, have called on Ottawa to pass the bill in its original form. Groups also spoken out against the amendments. The Agriculture Carbon Alliance, for example, have an ongoing campaign called “Show your Receipts”, which producers are encouraged to share copies of their natural gas and propane bills this winter and the alliance will present those receipts to MPs and Senators. 

(With files from Dean Thorpe, CFCW)

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