Reintroduction of previously-defeated amendments to a contentious farm heating bill has once again delayed bill C-234’s passage in the Senate.
Just hours after Senators voted 42 to 36 to defeat a controversial amendment on Bill C-234 that had previously been rejected by the red chamber, Sen. Pierre Dalphond tabled another amendment late Tuesday evening that was nearly identical to one previously voted down earlier this month.
Dalphond’s amendment, which would exclude all but grain drying from the bill, reignited accusations that some Senators are being instructed by the Trudeau Liberals to prevent C-234 from passing, fearful of legislation that would add yet another carve-out to their flagship carbon pricing scheme.
Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters told the National Post she’s pleased the previous amendment had been defeated, she described them as little more than a delay tactic.
“There could be more game-playing by the opponent Senators of this bill, who have been constantly getting called by Liberal Ministers, including (environment minister) Steven Guilbeault,” she said.
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While Guilbeault has admitted calling some Senators regarding C-234, he denies putting pressure on them to see that the bill never makes it to royal assent.
Tabled in the House last year, the private members bill would exempt farmers, ranchers and producers from paying federal carbon taxes on natural gas and propane used to dry grain, or heat and cool barns.
The bill, languishing in the Senate since March and reaching clause-by-clause consideration in committee last month, came up for third reading at the same time the Trudeau Liberals wrestle with criticisms over recent carve-outs exempting home heating oil from the contentious tax.
Allowing C-234 to become law would legislate another carve-out in the federal carbon tax — a situation some Senators accuse the Liberals of working hard to avoid.
An amended bill would have been sent back to the House of Commons, where despite assurances from some Senators, many expected the bill to be promptly — and some allege conveniently — lost among other House business.
Batters, who represents Saskatchewan, said she hears constantly from producers facing enormous bills to either dry grain or heat their barns.
“Farmers in Saskatchewan are extremely concerned about this bill taking so long to go through,” she said.
“It means a billion dollars by 2030 for them.”
Senators have tried since the beginning of November to get the bill through third reading, with opposition members accusing the Liberals of trying to delay the vote.
After defeating an amendment introduced in committee that would see the bill stripped of all exemptions except for grain drying, third reading debate ground to a halt on Nov. 9 after Sen. Moncion tabled her now-defeated amendment, followed soon after by a motion to end debate on the bill, sparking angry outbursts.
Debate was delayed further still after accusations of bullying in the wake of that Nov. 9 session.
The National Post reached out to Sen. Dalphond for comment.
Senator David Wells, who sponsored the private members bill in the Senate, told the National Post he predicts a non-stop series of amendments being added to this bill.
“People know the game is afoot to delay passage of the bill unamended,” he said.
Wells remarked that the Senate’s patience for these delay tactics will only go so far.
“If there are an endless cycle of delays, that’ll anger some Senators who just want to deal with the bill, and it won’t serve them very well if it’s just delay after delay after delay,” he said.
“People recognize what that means, and in my experience it doesn’t bring people to your side.”
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