Poilievre Tables Motion Asking Senate to Pass Bill Exempting Farmers From Carbon Tax

Liberal-appointed senators have used procedures to stall the passage of Bill C-234.
Poilievre Tables Motion Asking Senate to Pass Bill Exempting Farmers From Carbon Tax
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre holds a press conference regarding his “Axe the Tax” message in St. John’s on Oct. 27, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Paul Daly)
Noé Chartier

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre has tabled a motion in the House of Commons asking the Senate to abide by the will of MPs and pass a bill that would lift the carbon tax on certain farming practices.

“The House call on the unelected Senate to immediately pass Bill C-234, An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, to remove the carbon tax on the farmers that feed Canadians, as passed by the democratically elected House,” reads the text of the motion filed on Nov. 28.

The Conservatives are alone in seeking to remove the carbon tax altogether, but the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have supported their private member’s Bill C-234. The bill seeks to lift the tax on propane and natural gas that farmers use to heat or cool barns, and to dry grain.

The Senate only needs to vote on third reading of the bill for it to pass Parliament and become law, but Liberal-appointed senators have used procedures to stall it, such as presenting an amendment already defeated at the committee stage.

“Only the House of Commons has power of the purse,” Mr. Poilievre said in arguing for his motion, noting the tradition dates back hundreds of years.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault criticized the motion on Nov. 28, saying Conservatives are trying to have it both ways by sometimes saying the Senate needs to work independently and now trying to influence it.

“It’s somewhat ironic that they’re telling us to let the Senate do their work yet they’re trying to adopt the motion that would pressure the Senate to do what they want,” Mr. Guilbeault told reporters.

Conservatives want to remove the carbon tax to help with the affordability crisis, which is seeing a record number of Canadians resort to food banks. The more farmers are taxed, the higher the food prices, Mr. Poilievre said.

After the Liberal government announced a carbon tax exemption on heating oil in late October, a move to appease Liberal MPs and voters in Atlantic provinces, Mr. Poilievre said his party would launch a “full-on campaign” to press senators to adopt Bill C-234.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said there will be no more exemptions to the government’s “price on pollution.”
Speaking on the motion, Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen criticized the Conservatives for publishing a poster on social media to invite Canadians to contact senators who’ve raised opposition to the bill.

Sen. Bernadette Clement said she received threatening calls and contacted police after her Parliament contact details were shared online.

“I’m wondering if the leader of the opposition can comment on whether or not he regrets his House leader’s decision to employ those types of intimidating tactics,” Mr. Gerretsen said about the post from Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer.

Mr. Poilievre responded that the senators’ contact information is readily available online and that Mr. Gerretsen is “simply trying to distract.”

“I want to tell him what intimidation looks like: Intimidation is when a single mother opens the fridge in the morning and there’s nothing there,” he said.

Bloc Québécois MP Mario Simard said the Tories are not only employing intimidation, but “disinformation” as well. “The leader of the official opposition has said the next election will be a carbon tax election, knowing full well this carbon tax doesn’t apply in Quebec,” he said.

Mr. Poilievre responded by saying the carbon tax applies to the transport of food from elsewhere in Canada to Quebec, and that the Clean Fuel Regulations are also raising the price of fuel in that province.

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor said the Conservatives are the only party to have senators in their caucus, meaning they have to toe the party line, and hence accused Mr. Poilievre of “hypocrisy.”

“Why does he think he can stand here and lecture us on the Senate?” said Mr. MacGregor.

“I think I can lecture him because that member betrayed his constituents,” replied Mr. Poilievre. “They elected him to be a member of the opposition. Instead, he works for the prime minister.”

The NDP has a deal to keep the minority Liberals in power until 2025 in exchange for investments in social programs.

The date of the vote on the motion has not been established. There is also no information available on if and when the Senate will vote on the third reading of Bill C-234.