The Senate’s agriculture and forestry committee has approved a significant amendment to the legislation that was supposed to remove the federal carbon tax from propane and natural gas used on farms for at least eight years.
The change to Bill C-234, introduced by Senator Pierre Dalphond on Thursday, would remove the proposed carbon tax exemption for the heating or cooling of buildings, including barns.
Grain drying would still be exempt from the carbon tax, but Senator Don Plett, leader of the Opposition in the Senate, said the amendment “guts” the bill, which received unanimous support from Conservative, Bloc, New Democrat, and Green MPs, as well as three Liberals, in the House of Commons.
Among the eight Senators voting in favour of Dalphond’s major amendment was Alberta Senator Paula Simons, which came as a surprise as she was seen as an early supporter of the private member’s bill. Without her support, the amendment vote would likely have resulted in a tie, with committee chair and C-234 proponent Senator Rob Black breaking the tie.
So what happens now?
First, there is potential for the Senate committee to approve other amendments, as the group will resume clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on Tuesday (Oct. 24) and the senators opposed to the bill can introduce amendments as a delay tactic.
There are still some scenarios where Dalphond’s amendment removing the exemption for heating or cooling could be dropped.
First, the committee’s report recommending the amendment could potentially be defeated when committee chair Senator Black shares it with the entire Senate. In that case, the original unamended bill could move ahead for third and final reading in the Senate.
In the second scenario, if the amendment is accepted by the Senate, the revised bill would have to go back to the House of Commons. If given an opportunity, MPs could reject the amendment, and send it back to the Senate where the precedent would be for Senators to accept the wishes of MPs in the House.
However, because it’s a private member’s bill, the government could, in theory, extend debate on the bill indefinitely until it would die on the order paper if an election were called. Unlike a government bill where a minister can move to end debate on a bill, the sponsor of a private member’s bill require unanimous consent from the House.
Bill C-206 — the predecessor to C-234 — made it to the final stages in the Senate in 2021, but died before crossing the finish line when Prime Minister Trudeau called a federal election.
Kody Blois, who chairs the House of Commons’ ag committee, was one of the three Liberal MPs to vote in favour of Bill C-234, and he joined the RealAg Radio Friday Issues Panel to discuss the drama and next steps surrounding Bill C-234:
Editor’s note: The last three paragraphs of this article were updated to reflect procedural differences for a private member’s bill versus a government bill.