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Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

Bill to Amend--Third Reading--Motion in Amendment--Debate

November 21, 2023

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, our leaders’ meetings are attended by staff, they are not confidential, and I will speak about them. I will speak about them here, and if that is not acceptable, I’m sure I won’t be invited to the next one. Today’s was cancelled for some unknown reason, so maybe that’s why.

Nevertheless, we had an agreement, and Senator Cordy had to go and first ask Senator Dalphond whether he agreed before she could agree, but told us she would get back to us. In fact, she told me on Thursday that she would get back to us and that she did not say we did not have agreement.

Nevertheless, we’ve also been told many times by the different leaders that they do not whip so they cannot guarantee anything. They can hope. We make an agreement, and they can hope, but they cannot guarantee. But on Thursday evening, three of the five leaders, even though they didn’t control their caucuses and don’t whip — they just speak to people; they don’t whip. I don’t know what the terminology of whipping is, because apparently I do, and they don’t. Nevertheless, three of the five leaders voted in favour of the adjournment motion so that we couldn’t move along.

Senator Moncion, I will now talk for a while, and then I might get off track later again, but I will now speak for a while specifically about your amendment. Pay attention.

The first thing I want to point out about this frivolous amendment is that Senator Batters’ ask is similar to the one presented at committee. I believe that was Senator Batters’ question. I want to point out that this amendment is, in fact, not similar to the one presented at committee. It is not similar — it is identical. It is exactly the same amendment that was considered and defeated by the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

Of course, as I said earlier, and as Senator Moncion took advantage of, our Rules permit senators to move amendments at third reading that have already been defeated at committee. I find it odd that this amendment was the one chosen, since it adds no substantive value at all. Contrary to what Senator Gold was telling us, it provides no substantive value at all. Senator Moncion’s amendment seeks to remove a part of the bill that permits the government to initiate an extension of the sunset clause. As the bill is currently written, the sunset clause can be extended beyond eight years by the following process.

First, the government must be the one to initiate the extension by drafting a resolution providing for the postponement of the exemption. This resolution must specify how long that extension will be. Second, the government’s resolution is then debated by both houses of Parliament and voted on. If it is passed by both houses, the exemption is extended as per the criteria proposed by the government in the resolution.

I have trouble understanding why Senator Moncion would refer to this as a low-bar approach to extending the exemption when an extension can only be initiated by the government through an order-in-council, only the government can determine the length of the extension, and the extension is not granted unless it is approved by both the House of Common and the Senate. That, honourable senators, is a pretty high bar. It is not some backdoor regulatory process that we only find out about after it is published in the Canada Gazette. It is public, democratic, accountable and can fail at any point if it does not have the support of the government and both houses of Parliament.

Furthermore, colleagues, this method of extending the time frame of a sunset clause is not unique to this bill. It has been used before, and it was incorporated into Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, as a means of allowing the government to expeditiously extend the rail interswitching provision under that law, and that is what the government did.

Back in April 2016, the Liberal government announced that it would use this very mechanism to “. . . work with Parliament to postpone for one year the repeal of certain provisions of the Canada Transportation Act that were enacted in 2014 by the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.” Cabinet drafted the corresponding proposal, which was then considered by both houses of Parliament and passed unanimously in this chamber on June 8, 2016. I’m not sure whether Senator Moncion had done her homework to find out about that. She was not yet in the Senate when that happened; I believe she was appointed later that year.

Colleagues, my point is very simple. The measure contained in Bill C-234 to extend the sunset clause is neither unique nor controversial. It was incorporated into previous legislation, and its utility is evidenced by the fact that it was used by the current government, with the consent of Parliament, to extend a sunset clause. It has already proven to be legitimate and efficient for Parliament to manage existing sunset provisions in an expeditious manner, and there is no reason to remove it from Bill C-234.

Senator Moncion’s amendment is not only unwarranted, but also carries no practical value. It will not change the scope of the exemption or the limit of its application. From a policy perspective, it will have zero impact for eight years and even then could easily be overwritten by an amendment tucked away into a budget implementation act.

If you were opposed in principle to the exemption provided by this legislation, then you would propose an amendment that seeks to diminish it. If you were concerned about the scope of the exemption, then you would seek to limit it. If you did not like the sunset clause, then you would seek to shorten or eliminate it, yet this amendment does nothing of the sort. It does not propose to change or challenge the exemption. All it does is remove the flexibility for government to extend the time frame of the exemption in an expedited fashion.

However, while the amendment has no practical value, it carries significant political value for the Liberal government for one simple reason. Again, colleagues, it will kill the bill. You’ve seen the movie Kill Bill. This was discussed extensively at report stage. To repeat what Senator Cotter said at committee:

. . . every amendment that we introduce into this bill puts in jeopardy the likelihood that the exemption in any form doesn’t see the light of day, and that seems to me to be sad and ironic since . . . we supported an aspect of the exemption itself at this committee particularly with respect to grain drying.

Senator Cotter is correct. With this bill, it is all or nothing. Amending this bill is the same as defeating it. Colleagues, in my view, this is the undisguised motivation behind this amendment. It serves no other purpose. It was already considered at committee and defeated. It does not substantively change the impact or implementation of the bill, and it could be easily overwritten by a future government.

In fact, in practical terms, the amendment is so benign that it would probably be an acceptable compromise to move the bill along — if it moved the bill along — except for one small problem. It guarantees that the legislation will never become law. Senator Gold has been clear in his comments that the government opposes this, even though the majority of the House supports it — unanimously by four parties and joined by a handful of Liberals. Colleagues, the only utility of this amendment is to carry the government’s water and defeat the bill, even though it was passed — as I said — in the other place with the unanimous support of the Bloc, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party, along with the support of a handful of Liberals.

Colleagues, this bill is entirely non-partisan. It is a multilateral effort to protect our agricultural industry. It has broad support across the agricultural sector and serves the practical purpose of ensuring that the existing exemptions provided to the agricultural industry are amplified uniformly. Yet, at the eleventh hour, the government has now decided to make this political because of a tactical mistake they made in passing a carbon tax exemption that favoured one region of the country over the rest. Now they have decided to position Bill C-234 as a referendum on the carbon tax and, as a whole, on the future of Minister Guilbeault’s tenure as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

This is regrettable, colleagues, because now, instead of fighting for farmers, Minister Guilbeault is fighting for his job. Instead of working to keep the price of food down, he’s been working the phone lines and calling senators to ask them to make sure this bill does not pass. Colleagues, he admitted that. He said: “No, we do not whip senators, but yes, I called them and I talked to them.” Minister Wilkinson has made his calls.

You know whether he has called you or not — I don’t — but he admitted he called senators to talk to them. He didn’t call senators to ask them how their day was going. I think we all agree with that.

The question now is whether his efforts will succeed. After saving the bill by defeating the committee’s report, will Liberal-appointed senators now cave and do the minister’s bidding? I don’t know the answer to that, but I hope — for the sake of farmers — the answer is no.

It is obvious that for some senators the answer is yes. Senator Moncion introduced this frivolous amendment, and immediately after she did so, as I said, debate was adjourned. I still don’t know the purpose of it, but here we are debating it, except it’s now a week later.

Again, colleagues, farmers know best. Our farmers are expected to feed almost 10 billion people by 2050, and we are taking every tool out of the tool box they need to do that. I’m not sure whether Senator Dalphond believes that eggs come from Safeway or the farm, but in my province, they come from the farm. You can have eggs at Safeway or Sobeys in a cooler, and it won’t matter if the temperature goes up or down a little bit, but you can’t vary the temperature in a barn full of 10,000 little chicks.

The question was posed by Senator Deacon about the emissions exempted, and 97% of farm emissions are exempted, according to Minister Guilbeault. I have a paper here from the Agriculture Carbon Alliance and what they say about Minister Guilbeault’s newest concerns about Bill C-234. They have said:

We have been unable to substantiate the minister’s claim that 97% of emissions are exempted. What we do know is that despite existing exemptions for on-farm fuel use, farmers are still reporting carbon pricing bills that range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. If this cost for farmers equates to carbon taxes of only 3% of on-farm emissions, the cost to farmers greatly outweighs any potential for emissions reduction, with no viable alternative — none. For necessary farm practices, the need to provide farmers with financial relief and making more working capital to invest in efficiencies becomes even more evident.

Then they say this about the $500 million for grain drying:

The minister is incorrect in his assertion that the federal government allocated $500 million for energy-efficient grain dryers.

On June 16, 2021, Minister Bibeau, in her role as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced $167 million for the Agricultural Clean Technology Program.

This program allocated $50 million for energy-efficient grain dryers. This was a welcome announcement. However, agricultural stakeholders quickly pointed out that while $50 million for grain dryers may sound like a lot of money, in reality, colleagues, that would purchase fewer than 500 new grain dryers and there are more than 65,000 grain farmers in Canada. So even with full uptake, the $50 million would still mean that approximately 64,500 grain farmers would not access funding for more energy-efficient grain dryers.

Colleagues, this is not that big of a deal for the government, except that it is their signature plan. And Minister Guilbeault has said he’s resigning if there is another carve-out. I’m going to ask him tomorrow whether he will keep his promise. I hope he does if we pass it. I’ll encourage it. I hope you’ll all join me.

Colleagues, let’s not hide behind an amendment. If you want to kill this bill, then stand up whenever we get to it. Let’s defeat this amendment. Let’s defeat every other amendment. And if you truly want to kill this bill, then stand up in this chamber when the final vote is called and vote against it. Don’t hide behind something and then say that we are trying to improve it, because that’s not the case. We all know that, and the farmers know that. If anybody here thinks you’re pulling the wool over farmers’ eyes by making them believe you are somehow helping them, colleagues, they’re not that dumb. They know what this will do, so vote against it.

Colleagues, we have debated this before: I have far too often — here and in other places — accused senators of being government senators when you say you are independent. You are not government senators. You may have been appointed by the Prime Minister, but you are not government senators. Many of you — most of you — have told this chamber that, when the other house sends us a bill that they have passed, we have an obligation to do one of two things: We either improve it and send it back, or we vote for it — not vote against it. This amendment doesn’t improve the bill; it’s voting against it. That’s not our job.

Senator Gold is correct when he says they have a minority government, but that’s what Canadians elected. Canadians didn’t want them to have a majority government because they didn’t want them to have complete control. So now, when we finally have a chance to show the world — to show Canada — that we’re going to stand up for them, that we’re going to stand up against the tyranny over there, let’s take the opportunity to do it. You’re not voting against the person who appointed you, because he said to be independent. You have all told us that. I think he probably also said “and don’t join the Conservative caucus,” at least it was certainly implied, and so you haven’t, but let’s show that independence.

When this comes to a final vote, when this amendment comes up — and any other frivolous amendment — colleagues, at least vote against it. Then when the bill comes for a final reading, if you really believe this is not good for the country — if you really want to pay double and triple for the eggs that you’re buying now, if you really want to bankrupt farmers — then vote against the bill. But vote against it; don’t sugar-coat it.

Colleagues, I am going to stand up for farmers. I will do my best to do that, and I will remain passionate.

Just as a closing comment, a few weeks ago, colleagues, we welcomed a group of young ladies here. We were unanimous in that welcome, because it was something we could all get behind. When you can’t get behind it, we can still be friends and work together. We don’t need to try to get other senators in trouble. We don’t need to come forward with different questions of privilege and different points of order. Let’s take each other’s opinion seriously.

I’m not going to, in any way, suddenly, after this speech, start taking it easy on Senator Gold during Question Period. I can assure you of that, but I will try to be fair. And I will try to be fair here, but I will be passionate. If something like last Thursday happens again, I will probably do the same thing. I’m not sure. Colleagues, I ask you to vote against this amendment at the first available opportunity. Vote for farmers. Vote for Bill C-234. Thank you, colleagues.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Senator Gold, do you have a question?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Would the senator take a question?

Senator Plett [ + ]

No, because, when I am asked a question, I like to give an honest answer, not like we have at Question Period. Sorry, I won’t.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Senator Simons, do you have a question?

I do, if Senator Plett would accept a question.

Senator Plett [ + ]

As I said to Senator Gold, Senator Simons, respectfully, I will not take questions.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo [ + ]

Let me start by thanking Senator Clement for moving the adjournment last Thursday to allow senators time to prepare their speeches and join the debate on Senator Moncion’s amendment. Those senators who wanted to speak that night can speak today, and we’re hearing from some of them. I look forward to hearing all of your interventions on this amendment. I was not in the chamber last Thursday, and I was watching the debate by video. As soon as I saw that Senator Moncion had moved her amendment, I texted all my ISG colleagues to say “please try and hold the debate so that I can return and debate it in person.”

Senator Woo [ + ]

Yes, “aha,” indeed. I take some responsibility, and I’m so proud of my colleague Senator Clement for doing her job as the ISG liaison. I want to thank all senators who voted in favour of the adjournment and thereby allowed me to join the debate without taking away the rights of other senators who also wanted to debate.

I want to especially thank Senator Moncion for introducing this amendment, because it is identical to the one that I proposed at the Agriculture Committee during clause-by-clause consideration. Some of you will be wondering why we are considering an amendment at third reading that was already defeated in committee. Indeed, Senator Plett just made a big fuss about that, but it is the same Senator Plett who made a big fuss about the need to revise an amendment that was passed by the committee concerning, you’ll recall, the exemption of barns from the fuel charge. If we can reject an amendment that was adopted at committee, why can’t we reconsider an amendment that wasn’t? Senator Plett cannot have his cake and eat it too.

Consider too, colleagues, that this amendment, the amendment moved by Senator Moncion, was defeated in committee on a 7‑7 tied vote — hardly a decisive outcome. It is precisely these kinds of situations that lend themselves to reconsideration by the Senate as a whole. But there is an even more important reason to reconsider the amendment: The clause in question has nothing to do with barns or grain dryers or even carbon pricing, which are arguably technical issues best left to senators in committee who spent the time hearing from expert witnesses, as I did. On those issues, one could say that senators who did not take part in the committee hearings are at a disadvantage because they may not be fully informed about the issues. On this amendment, though, the issue is not about agriculture. It is about the duties and responsibilities of legislators, the role of parliamentarians and the Senate as an institution.

Honourable senators, this amendment is about us. You don’t need to have spent one minute in committee to have a view on the question. That is why Senator Moncion is right to put the question to us in third reading debate. It’s a question not only for members of the Agriculture Committee, but for all senators.

And here is the question: Are we willing to abdicate our responsibility as legislators by allowing an express lane for the renewal of this bill when the sunset period of eight years is over? Because that is what the bill permits in its current form. A Governor-in-Council order, together with motions from the other place and the Senate, will be all it takes for further extension of the exemptions — no first, second and third reading debates in the House of Commons; no first, second and third reading debates in the Senate; no committee hearings in either place; no witnesses and no room for amendments. Just an up or a down vote on a motion devoid of evidence and without any consultation. This denial of normal legislative procedure is even more egregious when you consider the current arguments for the bill.

Advocates have consistently argued that eight years is about right for a transition period because alternative energy technologies for grain drying and barn heating options will emerge in that time. They have not, on the face of it, challenged the principle of a fuel charge for the purpose of incentivizing change, but focused on the lack of alternatives at the current time. Here is what the Executive Director of Grain Growers of Canada said:

. . . eight years is probably the magic number in terms of the research and development required for companies to create viable alternatives.

Given the optimism around the availability of lower emission energy options by 2031, why then are we paving the way for exemptions to be ushered through Parliament with a wink and a nod rather than following our nominal legislative process? The reason is that supporters of the bill want to make it easy to extend the exemptions in 2031 even if there are abundant energy saving and emissions-reducing alternatives at that time. This bill is rigged to favour an extension of the exemptions and, in Senator Wells’ words — properly applied — “The fix is in.”

Let’s be very clear: The extension mechanism proposed in this bill is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Senator Plett is correct in pointing to a 2014 bill concerning rail transport of grain, which had a similar provision, but that bill is one instance out of 16 bills that talk about postponement which uses this mechanism — one out of sixteen.

Since 2015, where there has been a postponement of coming into force in bills passed by Parliament, not a single one has used the express lane mechanism proposed in Bill C-234.

Some of you will be thinking to yourself that farmers will want to embrace available alternatives in eight years, so there’s no need for an extension of the exemptions. However, the reality is that by shielding farmers from gradual increases in the fuel charge from now until 2031, the adjustment shock at the end of eight years will be so great that they will inevitably lobby for further exemptions, even if there are alternative energy options. The express lane for an extension that has been set up under this bill would make it easy for politicians to accommodate those pleas.

You can see how Bill C-234 not only undermines the logic of pollution pricing and intensifies political pressure to abandon the regime, but also creates the legislative pathway for an extension to happen with relative ease.

Let’s be clear. Senator Moncion’s amendment does not take away the possibility of an extension. It simply asks that we do it the right way. If there is a case for an extension in eight years, we should do what we have done with Bill C-234, namely, put it through normal parliamentary scrutiny. This is particularly true for a more independent Senate that should be looking at bills from a non-partisan lens.

I understand the immense political pressure placed on parliamentarians from powerful lobbyists such as farmers, but that is a problem for MPs, not senators, especially not independent senators. Whatever your views on the substance of this bill, this is not a vote about farmers. It is a vote about protecting the integrity of the legislative process and the credibility of a more independent, less partisan upper house.

Colleagues, I’ve spoken specifically to the amendment. I want to let you know that I also intend to speak to the main motion, but I won’t digress at this time. I hope you will give me that option. With full disclosure, my presence in the chamber is a little uncertain the next few days, but I very much would like to re-enter the debate because there’s much more to be said as to the flaws and difficulties of Bill C-234.

For now, though, we’re considering an amendment that is important in protecting the integrity of our institution and the legislative process. I support the amendment. I will vote for it, and I hope you will as well. Thank you.

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to join debate on Senator Moncion’s amendment to Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

Colleagues, there exists a great and prevailing uncertainty for me now as it relates to this bill generally and this amendment specifically. I would like to thank Senator Moncion for bringing this amendment forward, although I note, as Senator Batters pointed out during the last sitting and for the third time today, that this amendment is, verbatim, an amendment that was brought forward and defeated in clause-by-clause consideration of the bill during the Agriculture Committee’s deliberations on this bill. This amendment was defeated in a tied vote: seven for; seven against.

Colleagues, I’ve been told at various times by various senators that an amendment would kill the bill; that an amendment would not kill the bill; that the amended version proposed by this motion is agreeable to the government; and that the government does not want the bill to pass at all. At present, I find myself with more questions than I previously did.

Due to this uncertainty, there are fundamental questions that remain unanswered and need to be clarified when heading into a vote on the amendment and then on to the bill itself.

The first such question revolves around the rationale for this amendment. We are all aware of the Agriculture Committee’s report on the matter, which featured a much more profound amendment in terms of its practical impact on the bill’s output. This amendment, which was subsequently defeated in the report stage, would have limited the bill to grain drying equipment only, thereby excluding the heating and cooling of barns, greenhouses and other structures. The nature of that amendment flagged a more widespread concern with the core intent of the legislation and what it sought to accomplish. This is not necessarily surprising given the profound issues this bill deals with, when weighing greenhouse gas emissions against the easing of financial burdens for farmers and the possible trickle down effect that this will have on easing cost of living and grocery prices for Canadians.

However, my initial reading around these discussions is that there is a grave concern on the part of the government about creating a new carve-out in the carbon tax. This was made explicit when Minister Guilbeault of Environment and Climate Change Canada blatantly said there would be no more carve-outs to this government’s carbon-pricing scheme as long as he’s in cabinet. This is a strong signal to send, flagging the government’s resolute approach in opposition to this bill.

I’m confused because I have been told because the government would be supportive of the bill if the amendment before us passes. This motion, as we all know, would specify that the eight-year sunset period remain firm, and any potential extension be done through legislation as opposed to an order-in-council and concurrent motions by both houses of Parliament. Why, then, would the government be willing to support this bill should this amendment pass, given that the carve-out issue would remain unaddressed?

Another large question arises: Why would the government — which has been explicit in not wanting further carve-outs in the carbon-pricing scheme — do an about-face in their support of this bill when it still provides the same carve-out and has the same ultimate impact and outcome, the only difference being the parameters around an extension set to occur nearly a decade from now. If that is the case, why do we not refrain from amending this bill then and send it back unamended?

Honourable senators, as I mentioned, I have also been given conflicting information on what such an amendment would do in terms of killing the bill or not. On the face of it, such an amendment would not kill the bill in practice, but the process of amending likely would.

Again, as the amendment is focused on the sunsetting clauses, it would not change what the bill will accomplish over its initial lifetime. However, would the act of amending a private member’s bill and sending it back to the Commons have the effect of killing the bill? As the other place follows a very specific format to their sittings, as distinct from our practice here in the Senate, I cannot speak competently to if and when the House would examine, deliberate and vote on any amendments that were received from the Senate.

However, as we collectively know, timelines are more tenuous and less predictable in a minority government. It should be noted, colleagues, that the current and unamended version of this bill passed with widespread support in the other place. The Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, NDP and Green Party all voted unanimously in support, as did a small handful of Liberal MPs. Nevertheless, and given the government’s position on the bill, there remains much conflicting information on what a potential amendment would do to this bill’s ability to eventually come to a final vote. Let it be said, however, that I am in no way advocating foregoing amendments to any bill so long as the amendments are meritorious.

Colleagues, as I am not a member of the Agriculture Committee, I found it beneficial to review the committee’s proceedings on Bill C-234, especially in relation to clause-by-clause consideration. When the amendment before us was raised by Senator Woo in committee, Senator Plett raised a point I thought bears repeating. While this amendment signifies concern around the proposed logistics of extending this legislation beyond its initial eight-year period, this approach to extending sunsetting through an order-in-council with coinciding motions of both houses has precedent, specifically through the former Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.

As Senator Plett stated in committee, this sunsetting clause was legislated by the previous Conservative government, with the current Liberal government opting to exercise this provision and extend Bill C-30’s sunsetting after they formed government. As such, this type of approach to sunsetting clauses within the federal legislation has been utilized before.

Honourable senators, alongside the conflicting information I have been given on various aspects of this amendment, and Bill C-234 more generally, there are additional uncertainties that arise. One such uncertainty has to do with Budget 2021.

There were two initiatives within Budget 2021 that are highly relevant to the legislation and amendment before us. That year’s budget created a tax credit for farmers that would return to them a portion of the proceeds from the price on pollution:

It is estimated farmers would receive $100 million in the first year. Returns in future years will be based on proceeds from the price on pollution collected in the prior fiscal year, and are expected to increase as the price on pollution rises. . . .

Of equal and great interest, Budget 2021 also states:

Budget 2021 also proposes to ensure the recently expanded $165.5 million Agricultural Clean Technology program will prioritize $50 million for the purchase of more efficient grain dryers for farmers across Canada.

Honourable senators, combined, these two initiatives in Budget 2021 were intended to help farmers to be better situated in transitioning to lower-carbon ways of farming. Again, this raises more questions than answers, as I do not know the status of the commitment to purchase more efficient grain dryers, and I’m also awaiting information from the Library of Parliament on the average amount of Budget 2021 tax credit per farm per year.

As these initiatives are theoretically intended to address the issues examined in the legislation before us, it will have a critical bearing on our decisions. This raises legitimate questions on whether the issues contemplated in discussions surrounding this bill and amendment would not be better served by being addressed through public policy as opposed to the legislative channel.

As you can see, colleagues, it is a lot of work to separate the wheat from the chaff with what is before us both in this amendment and the bill itself. It is not surprising that different sides will have different perspectives on what the “truth” of the matter is. However, it does serve to complicate the issue greatly, and I personally am intent on sorting through these conflicting assertions and various realities to understand the truth of the matter so that I can make an informed decision in the best interests of those whom I serve.

I thank you for listening, and I hope that the debates to follow will shed further light on some of these discrepancies. Thank you.

Hon. David M. Arnot [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the amendment to Bill C-234 proposed by Senator Moncion.

Colleagues, the debate on this bill inside and outside of this chamber has been heated — a fitting description, I believe, given the nature of the commentary and the concerns with keeping farmers’ costs manageable when it comes to heating and cooling hog barns, poultry buildings and grain drying.

While I advocate for turning the temperature down on our debate, I’m a staunch believer in stoking the fires under the bigger-picture efforts that respond to climate change. I believe that there is a fundamental disconnect between the debate that we are having and four interconnected concerns: first, a balanced response to the needs of farmers; second, the need for food security in our country; third, the need for knowledge and understanding about climate change in the general populous; and fourth, a measure of certainty that the efforts being taken to combat climate change through carbon pricing are founded on a fair, transparent mechanism that is independent of government.

Before I dig deeper into these issues, I will advise you that I am voting in favour of Bill C-234, but not in favour of the amendment, and here is why:

This summer, I met with the President of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Mr. Ray Orb, and his executive, on a couple of occasions. I also attended the Saskatchewan meetings of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry regarding the study on soil health in Canada. I spoke to farmers like Ian Boxall, the President of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan; academics like Dr. Angela Bedard-Haughn, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan; and innovators like Steven Siciliano, the CEO of Environmental Material Science in Saskatchewan. I was impressed with their balanced, reasonable advocacy on issues facing those in rural municipalities, and in working with the agricultural sector in Saskatchewan. My comments are informed by these discussions.

These leaders, experts, producers and scientists describe repeatedly how farmers are keenly aware of the relationship between the environment, best practices, technology and input costs.

We’ve heard from our colleagues that natural gas and propane are used to power machinery and equipment necessary for various farming operations. Farmers paid over 75% more for machinery fuel in the second quarter of 2022, compared with the same quarter in 2021. This increase in fuel prices significantly impacts the overall input costs for farmers.

Honourable senators, Bill C-234 considers the significant increases and challenges in the business of food production for farmers by exempting federal carbon pricing, primarily the fuel charge, and from specific on-farm situations, including barn heating and cooling and grain drying.

Farmers are innovators, relying on science, technology, commerce and other expert advice to be successful. They are keenly aware of the effects of climate change. They are not in denial. They are responding because they have to. They have to deal with the simultaneous threats of droughts, floods and forest fires. Farmers have always been problem solvers and creative thinkers.

Senators, I ask you this question: Can you think of any group in Canada that is more sensitive to climate change and the weather than dryland farm producers in Western Canada? I cannot.

Even with science, expertise and experience, farming is a huge gamble every year. Farmers invest millions of dollars in inputs with nothing certain about the ultimate harvest, other than a requirement for optimism and hope. The hope that lies in farmers’ hearts is based on science, commerce and, fundamentally, their courage.

The Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Janet Yellen, recently stated there’s a “. . . need to accelerate investments in food and agriculture systems, particularly by the private sector . . . .” in order to build resilience against food insecurity and humanitarian crises. I know that in Canada the private sector and farmers are making those investments.

Secretary Yellen also said that governments need to provide favourable policy environments that are predictable, transparent and incentivize the right kinds of investment.

Predictable, transparent policies are required now because we need innovation. Farmers cannot make changes to their farming operations using innovations that do not currently exist.

Like farmers, most Canadians are not in denial about climate change. A Leger poll from September of this year reported that 72% of Canadians are worried or are very worried about climate change.

The truth is that climate change is costing Canadians dearly. This includes insured losses from catastrophic weather events, which totalled over $18 billion between 2010 and 2019.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported:

By the 2050s, parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Ontario and the Northwest Territories will experience water scarcity in the growing season.

Investing in climate change education and in farmers is also essential to individual consumers over the long term. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture reports that Canadians spent 11% of their disposable income on food in 2022.

The 2023 edition of Canada’s Food Price Report forecasted that, conservatively, a typical family of four will spend $16,222.80 this year — that’s an increase of $1,065.

It is not surprising that as food costs increase, Canadians have changed their shopping habits to buy foods that cost less, as well as buying less food overall and turning to food banks to meet their nutritional needs.

In March of 2023 — this year — there were over 1.9 million visits to food banks in Canada, surpassing the previous year’s record high.

This year’s usage represents a 32% increase from 2022, and a 78.5% increase from 2019.

One third of food bank clients are children.

Evidence for food insecurity is growing in this country. There’s also evidence, gleaned from the experiences in Quebec and British Columbia, that higher costs to the farmer associated with carbon pricing do not currently translate into increased costs for consumers. Farmers are absorbing those costs for now. That is going to be less likely as the carbon levy, or fuel charge, increases to $170 per tonne by 2030.

This brings me to the final point of disconnect: the need for education and dialogue about climate change.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that about 80% of households in Canada receive more money back from the rebate than they pay in carbon pricing.

A recent Angus Reid Institute survey found that among those who receive more, or about the same amount, in a rebate compared to what they spend, almost 80% support the carbon tax. This is from people who understand carbon pricing because they’ve done the calculations.

But even though most citizens receive financial benefit from carbon pricing rebates, there’s declining support amongst Canadians. This does not make sense; it does not follow, and it is not logical.

There is, I believe, a two-part explanation.

First, as Mark Carney, the United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, observed at a recent conference in Ottawa:

Many Canadians are struggling. They’re struggling not because of the carbon tax, which gets rebated, they’re struggling because of broad increases in energy prices and food prices, the impact on wages . . . the lingering effects of COVID as well.

Second, an article in Canada’s National Observer stated last week that the Government of Canada is “. . . failing to communicate the benefits in a way the public understands.”

Colleagues, if I were to suggest an amendment to this bill — and to be clear, I’m not — I would advocate for a clearer carbon pricing mechanism. It would be one that is fair, equitable and determined in an independent and objective manner — carbon pricing policies without the perception of favouritism to one region of the country or one economic sector in the country, and policies that all Canadians can understand and support.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, it’s an all too frequently expressed sentiment that there is little empathy in the federal government toward agriculture, or indifference at best. That may or may not be fair, and it may or may not be accurate. But the point is that Western alienation and Northern alienation are real. It is exacerbated by the perceived ambivalence by other regions in Canada to the needs of those in the West and the North.

What we need in Canada is a national vision that is unified around a common goal. A carbon pricing regime should be the foundation for that unified goal.

The United Kingdom, Sweden and New Zealand, to name a few countries, have independent or largely independent oversight of carbon pricing, including public awareness and education.

I invite the federal government to strongly consider amending the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to create an independent carbon pricing body in Canada — a body that reports to Parliament, and not to the executive branch of government, with a strong mandate to provide unbiased public education.

Misinformation and misleading arguments have gained traction in Canada. One reason, I believe, is that most Canadians do not have sufficient knowledge on the issues to make an informed decision on carbon pricing. Of those who do have sufficient knowledge and information, as I said, 80% favour a reasonable carbon price policy.

As Secretary Yellen stated, taxing carbon dioxide emissions and rebating the revenue to consumers is “. . . the textbook solution to the problem of climate change.” Positive change usually comes in increments. If a complete paradigm shift is required to deal with —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Senator Arnot, I feel bad about having to interrupt you. You still have 3 minutes and 25 seconds left for your speech, but we’re now at six o’clock.

Senator Arnot [ + ]

But I have the best punchline ever.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Honourable senators, it is now six o’clock, and, pursuant to rule 3-3(1), I’m obliged to leave the chair until eight o’clock when we will resume unless it is your wish, honourable senators, to not see the clock. Is it agreed to not see the clock?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Honourable senators, leave was not granted. The sitting is, therefore, suspended. I will leave the chair until eight o’clock. Thank you.

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