A private member’s bill that would create another carbon-pricing carve-out has Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault accusing Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of having no “moral decency,” and the Tory leader goading that the minister should resign if the bill passes.
The bill from a Conservative MP would exempt carbon pricing from natural gas and propane used to heat farm buildings or run grain dryers. It faces one final vote in the Senate before it either dies or becomes law.
It’s quickly become the latest focal point in the ongoing carbon-pricing clash between the Liberals and Conservatives.
Bill C-234 passed the House of Commons in March with support of the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, NDP and Greens. All but three Liberal MPs voted against it.
Guilbeault said Tuesday that the government doesn’t support it because most farm fuel is already exempt from the carbon price, and there are programs in place that aim to offset the carbon-price cost to farmers or help them buy more energy-efficient equipment that mitigates their need to use natural gas or propane.
Farmers already don’t pay the carbon price on gasoline and diesel used in farm vehicles. There is a tax credit for farmers to help offset the cost of the carbon price they do pay, but like the rebates issued to families, there is no direct tie-in to what a specific farmer pays. It is calculated based on a farm’s overall income.
Guilbeault accused Poilievre of misleading Canadians about the reality of the policy.
“First and foremost, people should remember, and if Pierre Poilievre had any sense of moral decency he would admit, that we’ve already excluded 97 per cent of fuels used on farms. Because at the time when we put in place carbon pricing in Canada, the price on pollution, we realized that there was no alternatives for these applications,” Guilbeault said.
“So the price on pollution in the agricultural sector only applies to three per cent of fuels that are being used, where alternative technologies are available.”
Guilbeault added out that the government has provided $500 million in aid to help farmers buy new grain-drying equipment.
But he did not say what the Liberals will do if the bill passes.
“We’ll see what the Senate decides and then we’ll need to make our own decision as to how we act,” he said.
One day earlier, Poilievre said Guilbeault would have to resign if the bill becomes law, because Guilbeault said last week that there would be no more exemptions to carbon pricing as long as he is environment minister.
Guilbeault’s comment, made in an interview with The Canadian Press, came as the Liberals faced pressure to expand a new carbon-price exemption for home heating oil so that it would apply to all fuels used for home heating.
“That message to Justin Trudeau is very clear,” Poilievre said.
“He’s gonna have a cabinet resignation if this Bill C-234 passes the Senate. So what’s going to happen? Well, the pressure is on.”
Poilievre said he is “launching a full-on campaign” to convince senators to vote in favour of the bill.
“And we pledged to work with all Canadians over the next weeks to mount a massive pressure campaign, just as we did on home heat to take this tax off,” Poilievre said.
He also accused Guilbeault of lobbying senators on how to vote, “begging them” to defeat the bill.
Guilbeault said he has made calls to about half a dozen senators over the last two weeks to explain the government’s position, but he said he is not telling them how to vote.
“The only person who tells senators what to do and how to vote is Pierre Poilievre,” said Guilbeault. “We don’t do that.”
The bill was first debated in the Senate during its third and final reading stage last Thursday.
Debate was adjourned that day and can’t resume until next Tuesday at the earliest, when the Senate resumes sitting.
Both the House of Commons and the Senate are on a break week.