Lobb launches push to get his farm carbon tax exemption bill finally approved

NDP, Bloc and some Liberals support removing Senate changes

Ottawa—Almost two years to the day Huron-Bruce Conservative MP Ben Lobb first introduced his bill to exempt farmers from paying the carbon tax on propane and natural gas used in grain drying and farm building heating and cooling, he is back at that task.

As MPs returned to the Commons in late January from their Christmas break, he asked them to support telling the Senate to approve the bill as passed by the Commons rather than version Liberal Senators concocted at the last moment in December. The bill had already received second reading in the Senate and the approval of the Senate agriculture committee.

His bill sims to reduce the carbon tax burden on farmers, Lobb said. “It is an inflationary tax, it is relentless, it is indexed and it will continue to rise.”

Farmers have faced mounting inflation in recent years. A hog farmer near where he grew up had a natural gas bill for the farm in 2023 of $4,300 and a carbon tax charge of $3,300. “How does it make sense for farmers, who have invested hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars on their farm to make the highest-quality food and have the highest-quality crops out there, to get bills like that? It is not feasible.”

As is, the tax keeps could put a lot of farmers out of business by 2031, he said. That would threaten food security for Canadians as well people in many countries.

Kody Blois, the Liberal chairman of the Commons agriculture committee, said he would continue to support the bill. He added that not all the Conservative senators showed up to vote against the gutted version of the bill.

Alistair MacGregor, the NDP ag critic, said he would support Lobb’s motion to restore the bill to its original provisions. Attention needs to be given to other costs farmers face such as soaring increases in fuel prices.

While there is a need to find less polluting fuels, they must be commercially viable for farming activities. Other forms of grain drying and building heating are being developed but are not close to ready.

The eight-year sunset clause included in the original bill would give farmers a break for a short amount of time while signaling change was coming, he said.

While climate change is a serious challenge for farmers, not enough attention is paid to rising input costs they face. They keep only a small portion of gross farm revenues because of the input costs for fuel, fertilizer, transport and other products.

“One of the best ways we can serve our farmers is to put in effective policy dealing with those input costs, helping them change the way they farm and putting in strategies to help them reduce fertilizer use, because it is possible to do that and also maintain the same kinds of yields.”

Kevin Lamoureux , a Liberal Parliamentary Secretary, said the government is supporting farmers in dealing with the effects of climate change with the $3.5 billion Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

“As a government, we are very sympathetic and are working with our farming community in order to ensure that we have good, sound policy.”

Bloc Quebecois MP Yves Perron said if the Senate amendments to the bill are not changed, the government needs to make a formal commitment to support farmers impacted by climate change policies.

“Farmers are being asked to use less pesticide and herbicide, to protect shorelines and wetlands, to maintain grasslands, to recultivate marginal land. We have to support them as they do that and give them the help they need. We have to be smart about this. Lobb’s bill must succeed in its original form.”

Conservative ag critic John Barlow said there was “a lot of intimidation and bullying going on in the Senate as the prime minister and the environment minister were personally phoning senators to support the amendments to this very important bill.” The bill would save farmers about $1 billion by 2030.

There is insufficient recognition that of the fact average global emissions that come from agriculture are about 26 per cent compared to 8 per cent in Canada. “This is a stat that we should be applauding every single day.”

This news report was prepared for National Newswatch.

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