Ag in the House: Dec. 11 – 15

Ag in the House: Dec. 11 – 15
Dec 18, 2023

The Conservatives continued to pressure the government about the carbon tax

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The carbon tax and its effect on farmers and families had time in the spotlight during question the final question periods of the fall session last week.

On Dec. 11, Luc Berthold, the Conservative MP for Mégantic—L'Érable, asked specifically, “when will the Prime Minister scrap his plan to drastically increase the carbon tax for farmers and families?”

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez replied, pointing to Conservative voting decisions.

“They voted against funding for the Mégantic bypass, against assistance for Quebec's dairy, egg and poultry producers, against funding for the Plains of Abraham and against assistance for the Magdalen Islands following the hurricane,” Rodriguez said.

Gary Vidal, the Conservative MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, also asked the government about cancelling the carbon tax to provide farmers and families with relief this Christmas.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay fielded this question.

He also took aim at ways Conservatives could’ve helped farmers but chose not to.

“Last Thursday evening and Friday, the Conservative Party of Canada explained exactly who they are and how much they support farmers. In fact, they voted against farmers,” MacAulay said. “For example, there was $337 million for the supply management program; Conservatives voted against it. It is vitally important to the agricultural sector. I can assure the dairy farmers, chicken farmers and egg farmers in this country that we support them and will continue to do so.”

In an exchange about the carbon tax between Minister MacAulay and Arnold Viersen, the Conservative MP for Peace River-Westlock, the minister said “Conservatives continually vote agriculture and farmers.”

Other Conservative MPs like Eric Melillo (Kenora) and Jamie Schmale (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) also pressed the government about cancelling the carbon tax on farmers and Canadians.

Justice Minister Arif Virani responded to a question from Schmale by saying if Conservatives cared about the cost of food they would’ve supported a school food program.

On Dec. 12, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Prime Minister Trudeau multiple times to stop blocking Bill C-234 and axe the tax to help farmers feed families.

The prime minister responded by pointing at Conservative voting decisions that hurt Canadians and Ukrainians.

When Kyle Seeback, the Conservative MP for Dufferin-Caledon asked about carbon tax relief for farmers, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson replied.

Minister Wilkinson highlighted the government’s actions to reduce climate emissions.

“We have a climate plan that is working,” the minister said.

Conservative Ag Critic John Barlow also asked about cancelling the carbon tax.

Jennifer O’Connell, a parliamentary secretary to multiple ministers, answered.

She said if Conservatives cared about food affordability, “we should talk about Ukraine as the breadbasket of the world.”

When Barlow asked the government to cancel the carbon tax a second time, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland provided a response unrelated to the question.

Jeremy Patzer, the Conservative MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands, asked if the prime minister always intended to hurt farmers.

 “Since the Prime Minister will not axe the tax before Christmas, does he truly believe a new generation of farmers should pay these ridiculous costs, or has making farming unaffordable been his goal all along?” he said.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan replied.

“Mr. Speaker, are we meant to believe that on the other side of the House, in their zeal to vote against a carbon tax that they see as harming farmers, they would vote against all funding for Canada's poultry, egg and dairy farmers? Is that a way to support farmers?” he said.

On Dec. 13, Poilievre asked the prime minister again about Bill C-234 and cancelling the carbon tax.

The prime minister’s response said Conservatives don’t care about the environment, which will affect food.

“While they seem to not care about climate change, and want to sit back and watch the world burn, they are going to watch Canadians' food sources burn as well,” Trudeau said.

During another exchange between the two, Poilievre asked how farmers are to manage the increasing carbon taxes.

“How would the Prime Minister advise (farmers) to pay it: by raising prices on Canadians or by shutting down production and bringing in more foreign food?”

The prime minister said his government has programs in place to help farmers innovate.

Poilievre cited a mushroom farm in his riding that will pay about $400,000 in carbon taxes.

Trudeau said successful farms can do more to minimize carbon effects.

Mr. Speaker, we are there to support families, but multi-million-dollar farms that are successful will continue to be encouraged to look for ways to use their machinery and to heat their produce in ways that are lower emitting,” Trudeau said. “That is what fighting climate change is all about. It is encouraging successful farms, like the Medeiros family farm, to continue to be successful but to do so in ways that reduce their emissions. We know it cannot ever be free to pollute again, despite what the Conservative Party wants.”

Other exchanges between Poilievre and Trudeau saw Poilievre ask again how farmers are supposed to manage increasing carbon taxes.

Trudeau reminded him that 97 per cent of farm fuel emissions are exempt from the price on pollution.

At the start of question period on Dec. 14, Poilievre asked again how farmers like ones in his riding are supposed to keep paying high carbon taxes.

Multiple Liberal ministers provided answers but didn’t address the question directly.

Glen Motz, the Conservative MP for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, also asked how farmers like Quattro Farms can be asked to pay $400,000 in carbon taxes.

Minister MacAulay responded.

He said farmers across the country “cannot understand why an opposition would vote against the on-farm climate action fund to help farmers adapt to climate change, which adds to the price of groceries,” the minister said.

When asking for carbon tax relief for producers, Kyle Seeback said farmers “do not need another government program. They need the carbon tax cut.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault responded.

He said Canadians are confused about why the Conservatives have no plan to support farmers.

Conservative MPs Leslyn Lewis (Haldimand-Norfolk) Richard Bragdon (Tobique-Mactaquac) Michelle Ferrerri (Peterborough-Kawartha) Damien Kurek (Battle River-Crowfoot), all asked for carbon tax relief for producers.

Yves Perron, the ag critic for the Bloc Quebecois, asked the government to set up an emergency fund for struggling farmers.

Minister MacAulay said programs are available under business risk management.

Perron then asked if the government would push back the Jan. 18 loan forgiveness repayment deadline.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the minister of national revenue, outlined three plans available for repaying this loan.

On Dec. 15, the last sitting day for the House of Commons before the Christmas break, the first question of that day’s question period was about farmers and the carbon tax.

Melissa Lantsman, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, said Trudeau pressured senators to vote against Bill C-234, and asked if the government will remove the carbon tax for farmers.

Karina Gould, the government House leader, said Conservative senators were bullying independent senators.

Adam van Koeverden said the Conservatives take Canadian and Ukrainian farmers for granted.

Multiple Conservative MPs like Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Part-Fort Saskatchewan), Tako Van Popta (Langley-Aldergrove) and Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West), asked questions surrounding the carbon tax and providing relief for farmers.

Liberal MPs pointed at Conservative votes against programs that help farmers.

MPs don’t sit again in the House until Jan. 29, 2024.

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