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Parliamentary preview

Parliamentary preview

MPs return to Ottawa after their winter break

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

MPs returned to Ottawa on Jan. 29 for the first question period of the winter session. connected with Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, for a preview of this upcoming session and where agriculture could fit into the equation.

Most of the spotlight will go towards broader issues, he says.

“As we inch closer to an election, I expect the pressure to increase on the government on topics like affordability,” he told

But that’s not to say there won’t be opportunities for agriculture to have its time in the sun.

Bill C-234, which provides carbon tax exemptions for propane and natural gas used to dry grain and heat barns, is coming back to the House of Commons.

This after senators voted in December in favour of an amendment that shortens the sunset clause in the bill from eight years to three.

And because Conservative MP introduced Bill C-234, making it a private member’s bill, the government can decide when to bring it up for debate.

There doesn’t appear to be a way forward for this bill to pass, McCann said.

“Given how committed the government seems to be to kill this bill, there doesn’t seem to be a path for it,” he said. “I would be surprised if the government brought it back.”

Had a new senator been appointed earlier, the outcome may have been different.

Mary Robinson, a former president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, received a Senate appointment on Jan. 22.

“It’s great to see another person from the ag community get opportunities like this,” McCann said. “I think if her voice was in the Senate at the time of the vote, the outcome would’ve been very different.

Another ag topic the government may have to answer for is suspended trade talks.

Tyler McCann
Tyler McCann

Discussions between Canada and the U.K. have broken down, partly due to how much tariff-free access Britain should have to the Canadian cheese market. In addition, Canada wants Britain to ease its rules on hormone-treated beef.

In terms of the dairy portion of the negotiations, this could bring Bill C-282 back into the spotlight, McCann said.

The bill would remove supply management from any future trade deals. It’s currently in its second reading in the Senate.

The trade situation with Canada and the U.K. “will add fuel to the fire for those who don’t want to see C-282 passed because they are concerned about what it could mean for trade,” McCann said.

One person who may not be in the spotlight much though some issues affect his portfolio, is Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Other ministers appear to take the lead on some of these issues, but the minister is still hard at work, McCann said.

“On things like food prices we see Minister Champagne. On C-234 we’ve seen other ministers take the charge,” McCann said. “He was just recently talking to (U.S.) Secretary Vilsack. He’s out there doing the work and taking the meetings, but it’s hard to see where he can make his mark this time.”

McCann says he expects the Conservatives and NDP to continue their attacks on the government.

Both parties are likely to push an affordability agenda, but from different perspectives.

“Expect the Conservatives to continue to talk about the carbon tax, and the NDP to push against corporate interests,” McCann said.

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