Bill C-234 was the first item on the agenda as the House of Commons resumed sitting after its winter break on Monday.
Ontario Conservative MP Ben Lobb, who first introduced the private member’s bill nearly two years ago, brought forward a motion to reject the Senate’s amendments to the legislation that was originally intended to remove the federal carbon tax from propane and natural gas used on farms.
Prior to the Christmas break, the Senate narrowly approved several amendments to C-234, removing any exemption for the heating and cooling of barns and greenhouses, leaving the exemption in place for grain drying only. The sunset clause was also shortened from eight to three years. In passing these amendments, the revised bill was sent back to the House of Commons.
The Conservatives quickly moved the bill to the top of their list for private member’s business, bringing the bill back into the spotlight as Parliament resumed on Jan. 29.
“Groundhog Day is just a few days away and it feels like Groundhog Day again on this bill, Bill C-234,” noted Lobb, introducing his motion to notify the Senate that the House disagrees with the amendments.
“Let us not kick this too far down the road. Let us have good discussions, a good debate and exchange of information, and a timely vote on this to send it back to the Senate and let the senators deal with it again,” he asked of his colleagues.
Liberal MP and agriculture committee chair Kody Blois and New Democrat agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor both voiced their support for the motion to quash the Senate’s amendments and send the bill that was approved by the House of Commons at third reading in March 2023 back to the Senate.
Bloc Quebecois ag critic Yves Perron took a different position, suggesting the House of Commons should approve the bill with the amendments made by the Senate, citing the possibility of it being delayed until a federal election is called.
“We have no control over whether the bill will be sent back (from the Senate). When will it come back? Is the second option not better? It is worth taking time to consider this bill. We could make tangible progress now and establish the principle of the agricultural exemption,” argued Perron, as translated in Hansard.
All Conservative, NDP, Bloc, and Green MPs, as well as several Liberals, including Blois, Ken McDonald, and Robert Morrissey, supported the bill the last time it was in the House of Commons. The majority of Liberals, including all members of cabinet, voted against it, and have repeatedly stated that they do not want any more carve-outs from the federal carbon levy.
It’s not known when MPs will vote on Lobb’s motion. Since C-234 is a private member’s bill and not a government bill, Lobb and the Conservatives have no way to force a vote on the motion, as long as MPs are willing to speak to it.
The Conservatives are working on advancing it to the top of the order of precedence for debate again, possibly as soon as Tuesday, Feb. 6.
The Agriculture Carbon Alliance, which represents more than a dozen national farm and commodity organizations, is asking MPs to promptly reinstate the bill to its original form and return it back to the Senate.
“C-234, in its original form, acknowledges the industry’s widespread absence of viable fuel alternatives and provides immediate relief to all farmers. However, moving forward with this version of the bill creates an unjust inequity for thousands of farmers left paying carbon prices on essential practices despite their shared need and lack of alternatives,” said Scott Ross, co-chair of ACA, in a statement last week.