question period — Finance

Exemption from Carbon Tax for Agricultural Producers

February 6, 2020


Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[13:56]

Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and I’m hoping that in the near future the government leader will be able to answer some of the questions instead of telling us he will get us the information. But we will allow an apprenticeship to continue for a little while longer.

Last month, the Minister of Agriculture said she needed to see more evidence from farmers as to how the federal carbon tax is impacting their operations. On Monday, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan released figures that clearly show the minister just how devastating the carbon tax is for them. In less than two years from now, leader, Saskatchewan farmers can expect to lose 12 per cent of their total income to the carbon tax, up to $17,000 for a 5,000-acre grain farm. Though these figures are based on Saskatchewan farm bills, farmers in other Western provinces, including my own, surely have similar costs.

Senator Gold, our farmers have no choice. They have to dry their grain. They have to get their grain to market. Your government made this much more expensive. Now that the minister has the evidence she asked for, will your government exempt our farmers from the carbon tax?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[13:58]

Thank you for the question and for your indulgence in this period of apprenticeship. Before I answer the question as best as I can, I appreciate the opportunity to invite all members in the Senate with questions of a particular nature, and thank those who do so, to provide me with advance notice so that I can be in an even better position to provide the answers to you. I am your humble servant, and as a representative of the government, I do want to provide meaningful information to you. It would be helpful to have opportunities to get that information and be able to provide it to the chamber. But when I can’t, you can rest assured that I will do my best to make the appropriate inquiries.

As the Government Representative, I’m advised that the government is working closely with provinces, territories and, indeed, with farmers and their representatives, to find ways to ameliorate the impact, which is obvious on those who are burdened by changes in the market situation but are also affected by the introduction of carbon tax pricing.

The government position has been clear and you don’t need me to remind you that the government’s position is, and has been, that the carbon tax is the most cost-effective, fair and effective way to address the challenges that we face in the environment. As Government Representative in the Senate, I know, as do you, that there are measures in place to offset the burden of this carbon tax on individuals and families.

I will close with this: As I said, the government and the Deputy Prime Minister, in particular — but also other ministers — are working closely with their counterparts in the provinces and stakeholders to find the best ways to ameliorate the impact on farmers. It is not my understanding, however, that there is a plan in place to exempt farmers from the carbon tax. But there is a commitment, as I understand it, to work closely with provinces and stakeholders so that the burden can be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.

[14:00]

Thank you for that effort at an answer. For us to send you something in writing so that the minister can give us a non-answer doesn’t bring us any closer to what we want, so we will continue to ask you the questions. You are a member of the Privy Council and we trust that, over the course of time, you will be able to answer for the government so we don’t have to get the minister to write us a non-answer and send it over here.

It is very likely that the minister will soon be presented with even more evidence of how the carbon tax is hurting our farmers. The Grain Growers of Canada stated in a release just last week that it is working with member groups to compile data to provide to the minister.

What amount of evidence is enough to convince this minister to do the right thing? How high do the losses have to go before this government provides our agricultural producers, who perhaps don’t all vote for them, with an exemption from this very hurtful carbon tax?

Senator Gold
[14:02]

Thank you for the question and for your confidence, which I accept, in my willingness and ability — you will be the judge — to provide answers to you.

My understanding is that this government — and indeed all governments — should make policies based on the evidence. It is helpful. I applaud the efforts of farmers, their representatives, the provinces and others to gather the information about the impact of this matter of public policy, or any matter of public policy, and make it available to the government and known more broadly.

I can only say that this government takes seriously, as all governments do and should, the responsibility to all their citizens, wherever and in whatever industry, to make sure the impact of their public policies and the decisions that are made do not fall unfairly upon, and do not unfairly or unreasonably burden, particular segments. I’m advised that the government takes this very seriously. It is working assiduously with its partners, as I said before.

Once again, I’m comfortable stating that the government welcomes the data and the information. It will help the government make the best public policy decisions in the best interests of Canadians.