Supporters fear farm heating bill is in 'parliamentary purgatory' after Senate amendment

If passed, C-234 would legislate another carve-out in the carbon tax

Article content

Disappointment spread through Canada’s agricultural community Tuesday after the Senate narrowly voted in favour of amending a contentious farm heating bill, a move proponents fear would send the bill into parliamentary purgatory.

During the Senate’s Tuesday session, senators voted 40 to 39 in favour of a third-reading amendment to Bill C-234, a private members bill that would have exempted propane and natural gas from from federal carbon taxes when used to dry grain or heat and cool barns.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

The newly-amended bill removes all but grain drying from that exemption, which is identical to an amendment previously rejected by senators and now ensures the bill will be sent back to the House of Commons.

“I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, it is outrageous that the Trudeau-appointed senators are playing political games with farmers’ livelihoods,” read a statement from Conservative Senate leader Don Plett.

But, regrettably, the passage of this amendment means that the bill will be delayed and will most likely never see the light of day, as it is now required to return to the House of Commons for further debate.”

Either through poor legislative planning or bad luck for the Trudeau Liberals, C-234 appeared before senators for third reading just as the government made waves in late October by carving-out an exemption in their federal carbon tax for home heating oil, a move widely seen as an attempt to shore-up cratering party support in Atlantic Canada, one of the country’s highest users of the residential heating fuel.

If passed, C-234 would legislate another carve-out in the Liberals’ keystone policy, something Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault vowed wouldn’t happen again.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Supporters of the bill blamed Liberal-aligned senators for trying to delay the bill, either by frivolously tabling amendments already voted down in the upper chamber, or through accusations of bullying and intimidation by some senators.

Tonight’s vote demonstrates that Trudeau-appointed senators have failed Canadian farmers and their families from coast to coast to coast,” read Plett’s statement. 

Senator Pierre Dalphond’s amendment, which saw approval on Tuesday, was identical to one introduced by the Senate agriculture committee last month, but was voted down by the red chamber 42 to 28 on Nov. 7.

That vote came shortly after senators rejected a previous amendment altering the bill’s sunset clause, which was also an amendment identical to one previously rejected by senators.

Debate on that amendment was abruptly halted earlier this month, leading to angry outbursts from the floor.

Tabled in February 2022, the bill passed third reading in the House of Commons in March, where it enjoyed all-party support.

In a statement, Grain Growers of Canada described the amendment as “deeply disappointing,” saying that it’s long past due for the government to provide a break to Canada’s food producers.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“We look to the Senate for sober second thought, but not to reject the will of the House of Commons,” said Kyle Larkin, the organization’s executive director.

“Members of Parliament from every political party passed C-234 in the House due to the fact that no viable alternatives exist for the use of propane and natural gas for on-farm activities. We are deeply disappointed that the Senate amended the legislation, sending it back to the House of Commons where its status will be unclear.”

More to come . . .

• Email: [email protected] | X: @bryanpassifiume

Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark and sign up for our newsletters here.

Article content