MPs better be praying that the Senate passes farm carbon tax relief

Author: Gage Haubrich 2023/11/29

Certain members of Parliament should be worried if the Senate sends Bill C-234 back to the House of Commons.

Bill C-234 is a bill that would remove the carbon tax from propane and natural gas used on farms. Farmers are already exempt from the carbon tax on gas and diesel. This bill simply extends the exemption to other fuels the bureaucrats missed the first time.  

Since March 2023, it has been making its way through the Senate. Now it sits at third reading, the last stop before it can become law.

But it’s hit a roadblock. A roadblock that should have MPs worried.

Lucie Moncion, a senator from urban Ontario, introduced an amendment to make it harder to extend the exemption for farmers in the future. 

The Senate committee that studied the bill already defeated a similar amendment, but the bigger issue is that if the bill is passed with this proposed amendment, it gets sent back down to the House of Commons for another vote. Another vote where MPs will be forced to show who they side with again.

Last time the bill was in front of the House of Commons in March, it passed with support from the NDP, Bloc and Conservatives. Three Liberal MPs also voted for the bill.

If the bill goes back to the House, opposition parties will definitely pass it again. In fact, that’s already happened once: a very similar bill passed the House in 2020, but died in the Senate.

So, sending it back down to the House only delays the bill. That’s bad news for farmers looking to save on their natural gas bill and Canadians looking to save at the grocery till.

But it’s also bad for Liberal MPs.

The carbon tax has been in the headlines more than any of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s other policies lately. That’s because Trudeau announced a carve out for the carbon tax on home heating oil, but no other fuel. Polls show that 72 per cent of Canadians support extending the exemption to all home heating. Another poll shows that only 15 per cent of Canadians support Trudeau’s plan to keep raising the carbon tax.

The premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are also calling for the carbon tax to be scrapped completely.

Both the NDP and Conservatives voted for a motion to take carbon taxes off all home heating, but the Liberals and the Bloc voted it down.

If Bill C-234 is amended and sent back to the House, Liberal MPs will have a stark choice. They can caste an inevitably losing vote against a popular bill the opposition parties will pass. Or they can break ranks and vote for the bill.

That choice is particularly stark for Liberal MPs Kody Blois, Heath MacDonald and Robert Morrissey. They voted in favour of Bill C-234 last time. If the bill comes back to the House, they’ll have to either flipflop or defy their party and endure another beating from the Liberal whip.

Party higher-ups are putting the Liberal backbenchers in a tough spot. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault admitted to telling senators that he does not support the bill. Trudeau has also said there will be no more carve outs on the carbon tax.

Polling numbers aren’t currently looking great for the Liberals and MPs who have a lot of farmers in their riding will have to face a lot of angry constituents if they vote, yet again, to deny them carbon tax relief. Even Senators are already facing blowback from Canadians and farm groups.

The government has a choice. It can use the unelected Senate to delay a bill and go another round in a losing fight that will divide caucus. Or the government can get out of the way, let the Senate pass the bill and accept the democratic will of elected MPs without incurring any further political damage.

Blois, MacDonald and Morrissey better call senators and tell them to pass this bill unamended. Otherwise, they’ll have to go through all these headaches for a third time.

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