A small but mighty group of Alberta farmers want carbon tax relief now, making it clear that Bill C-234 must pass amid protests outside a Liberal MP’s office.
Bill C-234, which would exempt farmers from paying a carbon tax on natural gas or propane used to heat barns and dry grain, is in dire need of reprieve amid escalating costs to run their operations.
"We’ve seen like a 20-30 percent increase in the cost of natural gas on our farm […] as well as drying grain for a lot of producers across the country," said Jake Vermeer, the owner of Vermeer's Dairy.
"The carbon tax is hugely impacting the entire food chain," he added, from the transportation of crops from his farm to a processor, and then a grocery store, and the consumer. "You’re paying [a] carbon tax at every single level […] and it’s impacting us at a very high level."
Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault reassured reporters his government knows "that farmers want to be supported." He said that while they support farmers, he emphasized the importance of fighting 'climate change.'
"[…] making sure there is a clear and persistent price on pollution across the country is a part of that," added Boissonnault.
While Bill C-234 passed a Commons vote of 176-146 on March 29, it has faced considerable delays in the Senate.
Several senators, including Paula Simons, an independent, Liberal appointee from Alberta, said her support for relief extends only to a narrowed exemption for grain drying, citing 'climate change.'
"Climate change isn’t something that might happen one day in the future; it's happening right here, right now and I do believe, in general, that carbon taxes are a good way to send a price signal to change behavior to deal with climate change,” she claimed.
Conservative Agriculture Critic John Barlow held a press conference separate from the protests Monday to address the Senate’s attempt to kill Bill C-234.
"Our Canadian farmers are world leaders in sustainable and efficient food production. But after eight years of Justin Trudeau and his costly carbon tax, their livelihoods and their family farms are in jeopardy,” he said.
"This is a reality in rural communities across Canada, where farmers do not have any other alternatives to heat and cool their barns and dry their grain," added Barlow.
For grain farmers like D’Arcy Hilgartner of Camrose, Bill C-234 would reduce costs immediately for using natural gas and propane, given that alternative fuels are not yet available.
"It’s our concern that this is being held up in the Senate and we’re a little concerned that there might be some political interference in this," he said. "We understand the Senate is sober second thought but at some point, you need to respect the will of the elected officials to get this through."
Last week, Simons said maintaining the carbon tax would ensure Canadians "make the sacrifice" to save the planet from carbon emissions.
But Barlow contends that Canadian farmers do everything they can to "innovate, adopt new technology, and ensure environmental sustainability of their operations."
He then called out Senator Roger Cuzner, a former Liberal MP, among others, for not participating in any debates on the legislation. "[…] it'd be extremely disingenuous if those five new senators were to vote on this bill," said the stalwart Conservative.
Hilgartner said his operations, like most farmers, have no way of passing the cost of the tax along, unlike retail operations. "[…] it adds a layer of tax on the costs of groceries because even though I can’t pass it along, the crop input supplier has got costs," he said.
On November 14, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the federal government does not support the bill, yet Hilgartner and farmers from across the province remain undeterred.