The House of Commons’ agriculture committee is reviewing Bill C-234, the private member’s bill that would exempt fuel used for barn heating and grain drying from the federal government’s carbon tax.
The bill received strong support at second reading in the House of Commons back in May, with the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc, Greens, and one Liberal member of parliament voting in favour. “But it’s far from a done deal,” notes Branden Leslie, manager, policy and government relations with Grain Growers of Canada.
The ag committee is currently hearing from witnesses — including Leslie and Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Brendan Byrne on Monday, taking into account varying perspectives on why there should be an exemption, especially when there are no scalable alternatives to propane or natural gas for barn heating or grain drying.
MPs on the committee have also been discussing amending the bill to include a sunset clause, after which the exemption for farm fuels would expire or need to be renewed, if the government of the day chose to do so. MPs have referred to five and ten years, as well as the year 2030, in their examples for potential sunset clause timelines.
“We’re open to whatever it’ll take to get this bill passed. So I think this is a cost that farmers are increasingly having to bear and it’s only going to go up from here,” Leslie says. That said, he doesn’t want a sunset clause to be so short that it doesn’t allow for advancements in technology and adoption of changes to better prepare for the end of the clause, with the carbon price rising to $170/tonne carbon equivalent.
Leslie also wants to see better big-picture emissions assessments in place for biomass or alternative energy sources for drying and heating, to ensure that the full emissions of straw-based systems, for example, are understood, accounting for the collection, processing, and hauling of straw.
The timeline for completing the review of C-234 at committee stage is yet to be determined, but Leslie says the NDP motion to have the ag committee study grocery pricing, which was approved by the House of Commons on Monday, includes a caveat that Bill C-234 must clear the committee before the food price study can begin.
A similar bill, Bill C-206, was passed by the House of Commons last summer, but was not fully approved by the Senate prior to Parliament being dissolved for the October 2021 election.
Branden Leslie of Grain Growers of Canada joined Kelvin Heppner on Tuesday’s edition of RealAg Radio — listen here: