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Ag in the House: Feb. 5 – 9

Ag in the House: Feb. 5 – 9

John Barlow brought up farmers and Bill C-234 on Feb. 5

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Conservative Agriculture Critic John Barlow pressed the government on Bill C-234 on Feb. 5.

He pointed out that “the carbon footprint to produce a tonne of canola in Saskatchewan is 67% lower than that of European wheat,” and said the prime minister is punishing farmers with the carbon tax rather than acknowledging their environmental stewardship.

Randy Boissonnault, the employment and workforce development minister, responded but didn’t address the question.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Prime Minister Trudeau had an exchange on the carbon tax and its effects on farmers on Feb. 7.

Poilievre reminded the prime minister that “farmers use something called diesel. It goes in their tractors, combines and drying machines. It goes in their on-farm fuels that pay the carbon tax, and he wants to quadruple the tax. Then the truckers who pick up the food and transport it to the grocery store pay the carbon tax…”

In response, Prime Minister Trudeau said “there is absolutely no data to support” Poilievre’s claims, and that he invents reasons not to take action on climate change.

Poilievre asked another question of the prime minister, asking him to cancel “his 23% carbon tax hike for April 1,” citing the effects it has on farmers and others in the supply chain.

“The reality is that our price on pollution returns four times a year more money to 82% of Canadians in the areas where it is in play than it costs them,” Trudeau responded.

On Feb. 8, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative MP for Regina Qu’Appelle, pressed the government for carbon tax relief.

He cited Keith Warriner, a professor from the University of Guelph who “said that 44% of growers are operating at a loss presently, and three-quarters have difficulty offsetting production cost increases.”

François-Philippe Champagne, the innovation minister, fielded Scheer’s question.

He reminded the House that competition in the industry will help stabilize grocery prices in the country.

Another exchange related to the carbon tax and Bill C-234 occurred between Damien Kurek, the Conservative MP for Battle River-Crowfoot, and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

Kurek spoke of Dawn, a greenhouse operator who had to sell because of increased production costs and received no support from the government.

“After she told the Minister of Agriculture her story directly and asked him to pass Bill C-234 unamended to reduce costs for farmers, he ignored her,” Kurek said.

Guilbeault’s response pointed out that Conservatives voted against supports for dairy, poultry and egg supply management producers.

“On this side of the House, we will support our farmers in the transition toward a low-carbon economy and will help Canadians make that transition,” Guilbeault said.

Dave Epp, the Conservative MP for Chatham Kent-Leamington, also used a local example to demonstrate how the carbon tax hurts farmers.

Highline Mushrooms in Leamington, he said, supplies Canadian and American retailers with produce. But the American customers don’t have to pay the carbon tax.

Guilbeault responded saying there’s no data to support any link between higher grocery prices and the price on pollution.

Dan Muys, the Conservative MP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, too used a local farm to illustrate the effects of the carbon tax.

Beverly Greenhouses paid a $13,000 natural gas bill in October – almost $4,000 of which was carbon tax.

“When will the government finally axe the tax so this family can continue to feed Canadians?” Muys said.

This prompted a response from Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

“Mr. Speaker, being a farmer, I am well aware of how important it is to take care of the environment. That is why it is so important to have a tax on pollution,” MacAulay said. “In fact, last Tuesday in committee, Tyler McCann of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute indicated to the committee members that there is no data to support that carbon pricing is resulting in any increase in the price of groceries.”

MPs asked more questions about removing the carbon tax and supporting farmers on Feb. 9.

Dane Lloyd, the Conservative MP for Surgeon River-Parkland, asked when the Liberals would “get out of the way and pass Bill C-234 in its original form, get off farmers’ backs and make our food affordable again?”

Francis Drouin, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture, said in 2021, 20 per cent of grain didn’t make it to market because of climate change.

Cathy Wagantall, the Conservative MP for Yorkton-Melville, kept up the pressure about removing the carbon tax.

“Ray Orb of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities has indicated that our farmers can expect to lose 8% of their total net income if the carbon tax is quadrupled this spring,” she told the House.

Adam van Koeverden, the parliamentary secretary to Minister Guilbeault, responded.

He pointed to the voting record of the Conservatives when it comes to supporting producers.

“Mr. Speaker, it is absurd to be lectured by the Conservative Party on our support for farmers, when just last month we saw its members vote against the on-farm climate fund, the dairy innovation and investment fund, and funding in support of dairy, poultry and egg supply-managed producers,” he said, adding that Conservatives take farmers for granted.

Richard Cannings, the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, asked the government for more support for farmers.

Some grape growers have lost 100% vine loss because of a cold snap in January.

“Without government help to replant their vines, many wineries could be forced to close,” Cannings said.

Francis Drouin responses, saying the government has supported the wine sector in the past and will do it again in the future.

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