moved that bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to be in this House. It is an even greater privilege to be here with respect to Bill , which of course is my private member's bill. Although I misspeak when I say it is mine. It really belongs to the farmers. That is what this bill is all about.
Our agriculture workers are tremendous. They produce some of the best agriculture products in the entire world. They work so hard every day. They get up early, go to bed late, and in between, continue their fantastic work.
Of course, we have all been challenged by the pandemic, and farmers are the same. Farmers have pushed through, even through the pandemic. Through all the barriers and challenges of the pandemic, they continued to plant their fields, tend their crops and take care of their animals, so we could always have a full belly here in Canada. During the pandemic, and really at any time in the recent past, farmers and Canadians have never had to worry about their food supply, and that is because we have the best farmers in the entire world.
Talking about the importance of agriculture, it is more than 7% of our GDP. More than that, farmers are really the heart of our community. They are the engine of our economy. Nearly one in eight Canadians are employed in agriculture and agri-food. That is an important statistic. That is the type of impact this industry has. On the whole, it employs more than 2.3 million Canadians.
We are one of the world's largest producers of flax seed, canola, pulses and durham wheat. We have some of the best beef, poultry and pork in the entire world produced right here in Canada, the greatest country in the world.
However, farmers have done this not in easy circumstances. In fact, in 2019, they had to go through what was dubbed, and I excuse the language, the “harvest from hell” when their crops were incredibly difficult to harvest due to the moisture and rainfall of 2019. This was an absolute challenge. Farmers had to run their grain dryers for nearly 24 hours straight at some points to save as much of their agriculture product as they could.
In 2019, the rain out west was not the only weather condition that farmers faced. That year a hurricane flattened fields in Atlantic Canada. Fields in Quebec faced unprecedented rainfall during harvest and planting times. There were snow-covered fields out west earlier on. Manitoba was in a state of emergency. Alberta and Saskatchewan faced drought.
In my riding, the fabulous riding, and I might say, perhaps the best riding in the entire world, , we faced an almost unprecedented late frost. Generally, after May 24 is the frost-free zone, but we had frost in our riding, and in other parts of southern Ontario, and if farmers had planted, they had to deal with that as well. As we can see, farmers are not without their challenges.
It goes beyond weather. There are issues that farmers are facing such as global trade issues. Currently, there are various trade issues where farmers in Canada are not getting appropriate, equitable treatment. They are often at the short end of the stick and in a highly subsidized industry. It is subsidized nearly throughout the world, in the EU and the United States. During the pandemic, the EU and the United States of America stepped up for their farmers. They gave millions, if not billions, of dollars to farmers to help them get through the pandemic.
In Canada, I would love to say it was the same, but that is just not the case. Unfortunately, the current government went through its tried and true strategy of making an announcement, having that policy or platform item fail and then reannouncing it again. It recycles failed announcements over and over again, and our farmers got precious little compared to other farmers around the world.
That, in a nutshell, is why I am so passionate about Bill . When we boil it down, it is about giving farmers a fair shake. They need to have the same opportunities as farmers around the world. The carbon tax here in Canada is not imposed internationally, and because of that, they face barriers that other farmers in other countries simply do not face.
Bill would give those farmers a fair shake, an opportunity to compete globally. What would it do?
Currently, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act absolutely exempts certain types of fuel. It exempts gasoline and diesel, but it does not currently exempt natural gas and propane. In the spirit of team Canada and non-partisanship, I would like to give the government the benefit of the doubt that perhaps this was an oversight. This is the government's opportunity to correct that oversight. In fact, I would like to invite it to do so.
There is no logical reason why natural gas and propane would not be exempt when gasoline and diesel are. Natural gas and propane are cleaner fuels than diesel and gasoline. In fact, in my humble estimation, natural gas and propane are actually part of the solution.
For example, if we were to take all the coal-producing power plants in China and convert them to natural gas, the savings from that, the amount of carbon savings, the reduction in output, would be dramatically more than if we were to take Canada to net zero. If we were to convert China completely to natural gas from coal, that would be much more beneficial to the environment than even if Canada went to net zero tomorrow.
Natural gas and propane are a part of the problem and they are arguably cleaner than the exempt fossil fuel equivalents, which are diesel and gasoline.
When I look at natural gas and propane, who do we impact if it is not exempt? We are affecting a wide range of farmers, but particularly our grain farmers. As I said, we are among the leaders in grain farmers in the entire world. Those prices are set by international markets.
By having this bill in place, we will give those grain farmers a break. The Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions, the Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies and the CFIB have various numbers, as does the PBO, but those numbers range anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in costs for farmers. I saw them. I was emailed droves and droves receipts for the carbon tax, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Then to add insult to injury, they are charged GST on the carbon tax.
When I was at the public accounts committee, I asked the assistant deputy finance minister how the government could justify charging the GST on top of carbon tax, that the carbon tax was punitive enough. He said that it was not. He was wrong. The government does not even know how much damage it is inflicting on our farmers. To me, that is so damaging and so challenging.
When we look at this, we know farmers want to, and I definitely want to, fight climate change. Is there a more environmentally friendly way? Is there a better way than burning natural gas and propane?
We had session after session of expert witnesses. While they said that perhaps there were fledgling technologies and that there were opportunities for the future to perhaps burn biofuels or use other types of more environmentally friendly fuels and energy, right now there was not. The Grain Farmers of Ontario said, “there are no readily available grain drying technology replacement alternatives that are cost effective. Drying grain is essential for marketing grain.”
From these witnesses, we learned that farmers greatly care about the environment. For those folks who maybe are not in an agriculture setting, like I am, a one degree difference in temperature can make the difference for a season. An entire year, whether it is profitable or not, can be based on whether there is frost or not. That can be the difference of one degree.
There is no one more sensitive to environmental changes, to environmental concerns than our farmers. That testimony came out again and again. When I think about the environmental impact, and I will talk a little about that, it really affects them.
I was actually sleeping at six a.m. in my house. I rent out my property to a farmer. Of course, farmers, because they work immeasurably harder than politicians, were not asleep at six a.m. I heard a “rap, rap, rap,” and I came down to the door in my pyjamas, with the farmer knocking at my door. He rents the field from me. He said there was a tree down and asked if I have chainsaw. I asked him to give me five minutes so I could get changed and get my chainsaw. We went ahead and cut up that tree. In there, I started off a conversation with one of our local farmers, a great guy.
Members might wonder what we talked about. Did we talk about the fact that the Leafs are definitely going to win and that this was their year? No, we did not talk about that. Maybe we talked about Montreal and that maybe it would be their year. No, what we talked about was actually the GPS in his tractor and how he had two different GPS options, and he picked the one that was one inch as opposed to five inches. It was calibrated to one inch, and he said he had to do that, because it made his farms and fields more productive and because he did not want to use one extra ounce of chemical or fertilizer that he did not have to use. This is how much our farmers care about our environment. I think that is a bit of an undersold issue.
Of course, farmers are some of the first stewards of our lands. They protect so much. Other technology they have been involved in includes no-till technology, precision agriculture and satellite-driven agriculture. The farmers want to get this right. They want to do everything they can to preserve that land, because, quite frankly, their livelihood and the livelihood of the coming generations depend on it.
There is great news, too, with respect to farmers. They are actually ahead of the curve. What do we hear about from industries, even the oil industry and, of course, the government here? It is net-zero, and this is a fabulous concept and something we can all drive to, but most industries say “net-zero, 2050; net-zero 2060; net-zero 2040,” or, maybe if they are really ambitious, “net-zero, 2030”. How about, “net-zero, now”? That is what farmers are. They are net-zero now. They plant millions of these little devices, these terrific, amazing little carbon-capture devices. I like to call them “plants”. There are millions of them every single year, and they sequester this carbon. It is unbelievable. It is such an advance in science. They sequester this carbon in their fields, and yes they burn some fossil fuels in their tractors and in drying grain and keeping their barns heated, but overall they are net-zero and above, and farmers want to do even more.
I am so passionate here, I am happy to hopefully get through half of my speech here. I just could talk about this PMB all day.
When we look at the overall picture, we see farmers who want to do the right thing. We see Canadians who want to do the right thing and protect the environment, but we have to do it in a way that makes economic sense, as well. First, we have to make sure that farmers stay competitive in the global market and that we do not make our farmers pay an undue burden, as opposed to other industries and other countries around the world. The other part is that farmers want to do the right thing. The challenge is that agriculture has been, and is even more so now, an undercapitalized sector of our economy. In testimony at the agriculture committee, one of the the individuals said that if money was not an object, they would put in high-efficiency grain operation tomorrow, but they simply do not have the capital. Farmers are stretched out more thinly than they ever have been before, so that is why.
The idea of the carbon tax is that we are going to make less environmentally friendly solutions more expensive, so that we will naturally be pushed, in a free market system, to those that are more environmental. However, in this situation the reverse is true, because farmers want to do the more environmentally friendly thing. Members can trust me, as I was talking to my farmers on Saturday morning. They want to do that; they just do not have the money, so when we take more money from them, and it can literally be tens of thousands of dollars, they do not have the money to invest.
Farmers want to do the right thing. We want to do the right thing. Let us collaborate together. Let us vote together. Let us pass the PMB, Bill .
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank again the member for for highlighting the key role that our farmers play for our economy, our environment and indeed our very well-being.
However, since this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to speak in this House since the finding of 215 bodies at the Kamloops residential school, if you will permit me, Madam Speaker, just for one moment I would like to touch on that. I have three indigenous communities in my own riding, including Sipekne'katik, Annapolis Valley First Nation and Glooscap, with particular emphasis that the Shubenacadie Residential School system was the largest in Atlantic Canada.
I had the opportunity to join members of the indigenous community in my riding on Sunday. We know that we had an important emergency debate yesterday. I was not able to be recognized, but I look forward to speaking on this in the days ahead, including, perhaps, tomorrow with the opposition day motion. I continue to work in concert with our indigenous communities, as I know all members of this House will do with their respective constituents.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and our farmers are on the front lines. Canadian farmers are both innovators and environmentalists at heart and they farm their land with an eye to future generations: farmers like Jacques Lamontagne, who is working with researchers to explore the benefits of planting trees along the river that runs through his dairy farm in Quebec's Eastern Townships; or Manitoba's Robert McNabb who was inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame for being a pioneer in zero-tillage; or Alberta's Deer Creek livestock winners of the 2020 Environmental Stewardship Award for their efforts to conserve species at risk and use solar-electric fences to keep cattle off riverbanks and preserve grasslands. Let me also say that my own farmers in Kings—Hants are doing tremendous work to ensure that they are being environmental stewards of the land and to reduce their respective environmental and GHG footprints as a result.
Thanks to innovators like the ones I have mentioned and others, over the past two decades, Canadian farmers have doubled the value of their production while stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. In that time, the amount of agriculture emissions per dollar of GDP generated by the sector has dropped by half.
However, we know that there is more work to be done and we have to be there to work with industry in the days ahead. Our government has ambitious emission targets, with the goal of cutting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2015.
One of the things that I asked my hon. colleague about during his remarks was the fact that he did not touch on the budget investments that were made in budget 2021. That is an important nuance for members to consider. This well-intending legislation was introduced, but really our government has responded in a way to try to ensure that there are mechanisms and tools in place to support our farmers in their transition to reducing emissions. I want to highlight some of them for the members of this House.
Grain drying was one of the key central points that was raised by the member opposite as being a raison d'être of his PMB. Our government recognizes that there are emerging technologies, but we are not at the point that there is a whole host of opportunities to be able to move forward.
That is why, in budget 2021, we are investing $100 million to be able to rebate farmers who are in the federally backstopped jurisdictions, such that we can make sure that money is returned to farmers and we can still maintain the price signal of the price on pollution, which was deemed very important by a number of witnesses in our committee study on this particular piece of legislation. There is also $50 million dedicated solely toward supporting innovative technologies around grain drying, and I will speak more to that in a moment.
The clean agriculture tech fund is $165 million of support that the government has, in the days ahead, to roll out. One of the key elements in this is the opportunity to work with farmers to adopt renewable energy on farm as a way to offset fossil fuel practices. We know farmers are already doing good work. The member opposite talked about the means to be able to make this transition. Farmers want to be part of this, but we want to be a government that is working with farmers to be able to help make this transition. Programs like this are going to matter.
Finally, the agriculture climate solutions program will have $385 million dedicated to it over the next 10 years to help farmers transition to do this important work. This includes programs such as the living labs, where there are opportunities for farmers, researchers and innovation experts to come together to make important investments and do important research on what else can be done.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about some of the opportunities that exist. I know the debate in the House will include measures that farmers are already doing. We as a government agree. We look at things such as the clean fuel standard and the opportunity that exists for the canola sector. We look at the offset mitigation efforts, essentially the offset credits, that Environment and Climate Change Canada is working toward. This presents an incredible opportunity for our sector to reward the practices that are being adopted. It is important that we continue to support these practices and ensure that farmers have the opportunity to benefit from the environmental stewardship they are already taking on.
I want to give some reflections from my perspective as a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, where we had conversations with experts on Bill . One of the elements in a lot of testimony that I thought was particularly important was the importance of maintaining a price signal. The member for introduced an amendment that is reasonable, but misses the point that we want to keep that price signal now to continue to make innovation possible and help drive technology and innovation in this space.
The member for mentioned in his remarks that farmers would make the transition to the most efficient grain dryers today if they had the means to do it. Our government is focused on maintaining that price, being able to hub the support programs that are in place, such that we are able to help farmers make the transition today because we need to continue to move in this regard. That is is extremely important.
I would also talk about the fact that the agriculture committee is doing a study right now on environment, agriculture and the intersection between the two. One of the things that was pointed out yesterday by witnesses is that there are opportunities for things such as wood pellets to help drive the energy that is necessary to support grain drying.
This is something that the ECCC is looking at in conjunction with the industry because the life-cycle analysis of these types of products is significantly lower than fossil fuels. These are the types of innovative practices that we can continue to do to help support farmers, so they are able to get around the price on pollution and lower their own costs and support rural industries at the same time.
I mentioned in my question to the member opposite that one of the things we heard loud and clear was that, although it is laudable in its intent to open up natural gas and propane as eligible fuels, because this was about grain drying, at least as I understand it, there is no explicit mention in the proposed legislation that would change the definition of the eligible farming activity. I take notice that the member opposite feels that, under the interpretation he takes, this would be included, but we have heard from the Department of Finance Canada that they do not share that view. That is one part of the fatally flawed elements in this bill.
Simply put, our position as a government is that we are going to continue to maintain a price. We are going to rebate where it makes sense, where it is difficult to find the innovative technologies that exist. The intent of this particular legislation was well-meaning, but it was introduced before the government made significant investments to partner with industry to get to the outcomes we all know are so crucial and important.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I will pick up on some of the points he raised and perhaps make some slight corrections.
I would like to begin my statement by commending farmers. I have the greatest respect for these people who work on the land week in and week out, all year long, in the cold and the heat, come rain, snow or drought. Their priority is to ensure that their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can work on the same land. They want to preserve it. I just wanted to share that with the House. Let us not forget that.
Let us not forget the efforts that the farming community is already making, either. Of course we all want to do more. We all want to do better, and we all want to improve our track record. That is essential, but let us acknowledge what is being done and encourage the good students. In a few minutes, my colleagues will understand why I am using that metaphor.
If any members of Parliament have not been to a farm, either because it is not their file or because they are from an urban riding, I urge them to go visit a farm, meet with farmers and see what a day in their life is like. I will leave it at that.
My colleagues know that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supports the principle of pollution pricing. When it comes to fighting climate change, there are two possible approaches: the stick and the carrot. We agree that a combination of the two is necessary, but, in this case, where everyone knows there is no other viable short-term solution, it only makes sense to us to pass this bill. That is why we spoke in favour of the bill, right from the start.
I would be lying if I said the bill did not give me a headache the first time I read it. The Bloc Québécois wants to move away from fossil fuels and invest in green energy. We believe in the principle of pollution pricing. However, we must be rational and smart about the measures we take.
In committee, the obvious example of grain drying showed that there is no economically viable alternative at this time due to a number of factors. One key factor is the need for massive investments to use new technologies, such as biomass or electricity. Electric power does not generate sufficiently intense heat quickly enough to dry grain efficiently. On top of that, power lines often cannot even carry the amount of power needed to the farms. Despite our attempts to think scientifically and our desire to make it happen in the near future, the infrastructure is just not there.
If I want to drive around town in a four-wheel-drive SUV with an eight-cylinder engine, that is my choice. If I have to pay a fuel tax, it is my choice to continue driving a big four-wheel-drive vehicle around town, even if I do not need it. Since other options are available, it makes sense to add that fuel tax in that context. Perhaps in the short to medium term, it will force people to switch to an electric vehicle, or at least to one that is smaller and that does not have four-wheel drive, since no one really needs that in the city.
In this case, however, I am talking about farmers who depend on world market prices. Grain farmers have no control over the market and therefore cannot increase their selling prices, but they cannot use an alternative fuel, either. Taxing the propane they use to dry grain will increase their higher production costs and reduce their already slim margins. Remember, these are agricultural entrepreneurs, and they have no wiggle room.
What do they do as soon as they have a little wiggle room? They invest in their business. They innovate, and we need to give them the opportunity to do so. Since there are currently no other options, we agree. We think the bill is reasonable. Looking at the bill, we might think this is an oversight. It is only logical to add propane and natural gas to the list of other fuels. However, we must act.
My colleagues have certainly noticed that, in the last few minutes, the members who sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food have been calling each other “my very esteemed colleague”. What my colleagues may not know is that there is a rather special sense of camaraderie and non-partisanship on this committee. I am a new member and I have not been witness to any major arguments in committee, but I sometimes hear things from other members who sit on other committees. In fact, I want to give credit to the members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, because they are able to collaborate constructively.
The representatives of Équiterre were among the first witnesses the committee heard from. Obviously, they opposed the bill. They think putting a price on carbon is essential. When we asked them questions, they answered that the problem was the absence of a timeframe. We listened to them and proposed an amendment to the bill. It has a limited duration of 10 years. All members hope it will take less than 10 years, but we have to give our producers a bit of breathing room.
In my introduction I said that we need to acknowledge the work that our farmers do. I, like everyone, want us to improve. The member who spoke before me said that a new study on the environment had been started.
During testimony yesterday, representatives from the Department of the Environment said that the planned offset credit system would not recognize innovations or improvements that were implemented before 2018. I am sounding the alarm here, because that is not something we can do.
Some farmers have been bending over backwards over the past 25 years to make their products organic. They have lower yields than their neighbours who use chemical fertilizers. They have developed techniques. We cannot turn around and tell them now that everything they have done so far does not count and that they will have to innovate more. Actually, we will be telling them that they need to innovate more, but we need to recognize what has been done.
I am a former teacher. If a class is made up of good students and one disruptive student, I cannot tell them that, because the disruptive student is less disruptive than before, I will provide that student with more encouragement than I give the other students. What message would it send if I said that to my grade nine students? The good students would not be okay with that, and the same is true for our farmers. This is an extremely important principle.
It is also important to maintain the principle of pollution pricing and to come back to that.
I encourage our colleagues and the provincial governments that do not have their own system to implement one. This law will not apply in Quebec. It will apply in the provinces that did not pass their own regulations. I encourage them to do so, and I encourage them to come and see what is being done in Quebec. Quebec has partnered with British Columbia and California with regard to the carbon exchange, and it is working rather well. The provinces need to take charge of that aspect of their development.
In the future, I hope that the Government of Canada will invest the money that it collects from the tax in research, development and support. We need to recognize the role our farmers play in protecting the environment. Until then, let us be rational and adopt intelligent measures. Speaking of which, let us pass Bill C-206.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to once again speak to Bill . For those who are just catching the debate tonight, this bill would make an amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and specifically broaden the definition of what a qualifying farm fuel would be. In this case, it is about adding natural gas and propane to the definition. This is important, as I will elaborate later on, because propane and natural gas are two fuels that are quite important to farmers for specific uses.
As I made mention in my second reading speech on the bill, it is also important to underscore the challenges that will be faced by our agricultural sector in the decade ahead from the effects of climate change.
I have heard from farmers both in my own riding and at committee about how they are on the front lines of climate change. I represent a rural riding. The riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is roughly 4,700 square kilometres in size. It is a beautiful piece of real estate on southern Vancouver Island. Also, the Cowichan Valley has a very long and storied history in agriculture. We are very proud of the climate we have, which allows us to grow an abundance of amazing produce and fruit. I know the farmers here are very cognizant of the effects of climate change just as they are right across Canada.
It is important that when we are crafting policy, we keep in mind what is going to be the greatest challenge of the 21st century and we really start to focus our efforts on combatting this great threat. It is not just having environmental concerns, not just causing environmental damage, but it is going to have significant impacts on our future tax dollars. The amount of money that we are going to have to pay out of future tax revenues in dealing with the damage from climate change, in trying to adapt to it and mitigating its effects, is going to grow if we do not significantly reduce our emissions. I understand the purpose of carbon pricing and I, for one, am absolutely in support of it.
I also want to acknowledge that too often in debate farmers are treated as bystanders and that is a gross mistake. Farmers are not only very well aware of what the effects of climate change will be, but are also one of our greatest tools in fighting climate change.
I have heard some of my colleagues make mention in their speeches on how good agricultural practices can be a major source of carbon sequestration. We need to take carbon out of the atmosphere where it causes havoc and put it into the soil. When we put it into the soil, we have healthier soil, we need less input through better agricultural methods and we get better yields. We also have soil that is better able to withstand droughts, flooding and it just builds a resilience into the system. There is nothing but positives with healthy soil management.
We have to look at those agro ecological practices and regenerative farming techniques. I am glad our committee is engaged in this study, but we really need to focus federal government policies, and I acknowledge the budget is starting to do that, on making this a priority and putting farmers front and centre as one of our greatest allies in combatting this threat.
I want to take time to acknowledge the important work that our agricultural sector is already doing and the potential it has not only in renewable energy generation and the significant possibility on farms of harnessing the wind, the sun and biomass, but also what farmers are doing with their careful soil management.
The bill is back before us after spending some time at the agriculture committee. I have been a proud member of that committee for over three years now, and I will echo the previous speaker's comments. It is a wonderful committee of which to be a part. We are probably the most non-partisan committee in the House. A lot of what we do there is reached by consensus, and it is always a very respectful dialogue.
I think every member of the committee realizes that no matter what our partisan political stripe is, we all represent farmers in our ridings. We have New Democrats, Conservatives, Bloc members, Liberals and Green Party members. We all recognize the importance of the sector, not only to our individual ridings but to our country as a whole.
It was one of those rare moments when we as a committee finally got to study a bill, and we did a thorough job in investigating Bill . We had six meetings and heard from 29 witnesses, and eight briefs were submitted. These witnesses included quite a variety of people from across the spectrum. We got to hear from several federal departments, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, Farmers for Climate Solutions and the Grain Growers of Canada, just to name a few.
I have heard a lot of the debate about the intention of the carbon price. It is meant to establish a price signal to encourage people to change their ways to a less expensive and more environmentally friendly method. The focus of today's debate is the subject of grain drying, because that is where propane and natural gas are used quite frequently.
I mentioned this in my second reading speech, but it was confirmed time and time again: If the intention of the carbon price is to change behaviour, we need a viable alternative that we can change our behaviour to. I only recently made a switch to a zero-emission vehicle, and I know that many people in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford are doing the same. They made the switch because there is a price signal. It is a lot cheaper to operate a zero-emission vehicle, an electric car, than it is to operate a gasoline-powered one. However, they also made the switch because there were viable alternatives. We have so many options to choose from in the zero-emission vehicle market right now that it is quite easy, especially with government rebates, to find something that is practical for day-to-day use.
When it comes to grain drying and alternative technologies, farmers do not have that option. We did hear that there are some emerging technologies with respect to electric heat pumps and possibility the use of biomass from crop residue. However, we also heard that those technologies are still many years away from being commercially viable and efficient enough to actually replace natural gas and propane. If we have no viable alternative to force farmers into and are simply levying a carbon tax on their activities, the price is not going to do what it is intended to do.
I do respect the fact that the government is offering rebates, which I think were placed in the budget on page 174 in response to Bill . Bill C-206 did have an impact, I guess, in helping to rewrite a part of the budget. However, we did hear from farmers that they would prefer not to have the price in there at all until we have viable technologies.
That brings me to the amendment. I would like to thank members of the committee, because the one and only amendment that was passed to the bill was brought forward by me. I was trying to find a reasonable halfway point between the two sides to this argument by establishing a sunset clause of 10 years, after which the definition in this bill will revert to the original. I felt that 10 years was a long enough time to allow for these emerging technologies to become commercially viable so that hopefully by the year 2031 farmers will have a choice to go to. I think that is incredibly important when we put it in the context of carbon pricing.
I would like to thank my colleagues again, reflecting on what a joyful committee it is to be a member of, for agreeing to the amendment and allowing us to get to a stage where hopefully we will see the bill passed in the House and sent to the other place.
In conclusion, I think we need to remember, as has been detailed by the National Farmers Union, that Canadian farm debt has nearly doubled since the year 2000. It is made up of billions of dollars and, increasingly, farmers are paying more and more money in fertilizer costs, machinery fuels, new technologies, credit services and so on. They are really only left with a very small portion of gross farm revenues. I think the measure contained in Bill is going to help them out, and it gives us an opportunity to give them some price relief on a very important aspect of their business.
I appreciate the time. I look forward to hearing other speeches on Bill .
Madam Speaker, be it through the use of more intensive use of cover cropping or rotational grazing, recently we had officials from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada testify at committee. They acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have remained steady since 2005, despite increased production.
By my own personal experience farming in a sandy vegetable production area, it was not uncommon to experience sandstorms in spring as the soils were being plowed to prepare them for potato, tomato and other vegetable seedlings. Having to turn on headlights to drive at midday happened more than once, I am sorry to say, in the mid-1980s. That does not happen anymore. Windbreaks have been planted, cover crops are managed far more intensively, and the use of strip tillage has virtually removed wind erosion as a concern.
Third, ag has a strong record of innovation, of adopting new technologies, such as the use of GPS technology on the farm, the growing adoption of variable rate application, both in seeding and in crop protection products, robotics in our dairy sector, automation and climate controls in our greenhouse sector and many other innovations.
Why is this? It is because farmers know they have to compete. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, this industry has often been described as one of the few that buys their inputs retail, sells their outputs wholesale and pays the freight both ways. This leads me to my final framing point.
By and large, farmers are price takers. They cannot effectively pass along imposed cost increases to their buyers. Let these four points set the stage for my remarks of Bill , adding propane and natural gas to be exempted qualifying farm fuels from the carbon tax.
We have heard much in this House about the harvest from hell in 2019. Particularly, in Western Canada, this very difficult harvest, which saw extensive and prolonged rainfall, as well as early snowfalls and frost right before and during harvest, necessitated the use of natural gas and propane to dry the grain into a storable condition. Farming in Ontario requires the use of grain dryers every year, particularly for grain corn, though it is often also needed for soybeans, wheat, barley, oats and canola.
During a recent conversation with Dr. Alan Mussell, he reminded me that farmers have been extremely focused on their use of energy since the very beginnings of organized agriculture. They have focused on maximizing yield and quality, and maximizing the feed conversion as plant energy is converted to protein. They have been focused on the 99% of the energy used on the farm, the energy received from the sun, solar energy. By maximizing the efficiency of this energy, by maximizing yield, quality and conversion, and by achieving greater plant growth per hectare, as a consequence, they have also increased carbon sequestration.
In fixing CO2 as a consequence of driving yield, it is heavily influenced by the management techniques employed by progressive farmers. It has only been in the last decade or so that there have been whispers about agriculture as being a dirty industry. Since the use of electrical and fossil fuel energy sources comprises only a small component of energy use, farmers have rightfully been historically focused on maximizing efficiencies through increasing the yield and quality of their crops by maximizing the use of the sun, by driving yield and consequently, sequestering carbon.
Incidently, the movement to reducing or eliminating tillage provided improvements in moisture retention and a reduction in erosion and, of course, increased sequestration, all without the imposition of a tax, something also not acknowledged in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. However, then to increase agriculture's focus, even on the relatively small use of energy from fossil fuel sources, does it not make sense that adding a carbon tax would drive a reduction in its use? The answer is no for three reasons.
First, imposing a carbon tax on farm fuels used for grain drying could induce a logical response by the industry that reduces yields and then is at cross-purposes with the goals of the tax. Particularly, with respect to the growing of corn, farmers have chosen varieties that require the most growing degree days that can be grown in their region with acceptable risks to maturity so as to maximize the conversion of solar energy into yield, which then also maximizes carbon sequestration.
They could choose to grow shorter-season varieties, which would be drier at harvest, to avoid carbon tax costs. This would require less energy to dry the crop into a storable state. However, this comes with a corresponding reduction in yield, less fixing of CO2 and requires more land to grow the same amount of grain for their markets.
Second, commercially viable, scalable alternatives to using natural gas and propane simply are not available today. Because there are not any viable alternatives, the demand for fuel tends to be unaffected by price, making additional fuel charges in the form of an additional tax an ineffective policy tool to lower emissions. The additional fuel charge as presently applied is punitive. It taxes our farmers, with little to no benefit for the environment.
It has been mentioned that the recent budget did contain some funding, with $50 million for research to explore and develop viable alternatives. This initiative can be supported. If and when viable alternatives are commercially available, they are usually more expensive than the status quo. Incentivizing their adoption rather than taxing a present practice with no alternatives is a far better policy tool.
If possible, use the carrot rather than the stick. As mentioned earlier, farmers cannot pass this additional cost on to consumers, and this leads me to my final point, which is basic fairness in the market.
Our Canadian grains compete directly with American grains and are priced off the Chicago Board of Trade. Our own farm is primarily a processing-vegetable farming operation, but Lycoland Farms also produces grain and oil seeds. Because our volume of production is too low presently to warrant an investment in drying and storage facilities, we deliver our grains to Tec-Land, a farming operation and elevator in Wheatley, and receive a price based in U.S. dollars off of Chicago plus a local basis.
This basis takes into account the exchange rate, local supply and demand factors and freight considerations to market. Tec-Land has options for marketing to customers such as Hiram Walker or ADM in Windsor, Greenfield Global, an ethanol producer in Chatham here in my riding, Cargill in Sarnia or Ingredion in London, but none of these customers will pay more basis to Tec-Land to cover the carbon tax and drying cost. Why is that? Each of these end-users can also buy American corn or soybeans, and they often do, and these grains do not incur a carbon tax on the drying or on the farm fuels used to produce them.
The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act did exempt gasoline and diesel fuel, and Bill is looking to correct the oversight regarding natural gas and propane used for drying.
Many of my neighbours and most farmers in our riding, unlike Lycoland, have grain and oil seeds as the focus of their operations. Many have invested in their own drying and storage facilities. I recently spoke with neighbours, such as Paul Tiessen, Tom Dick, Walt Brown, Doug Mills and many others, who have all had the same experience as Tec-Land: When they were marketing last season's crops, they were unable to pass along any additional carbon tax costs to buyers.
Recent research from the Grain Farmers of Ontario has estimated that by 2030 the carbon tax on fuel used for drying will cost the average farm an additional $46 an acre. On an average 800-acre Ontario grain farm, it is a tax of $36,800 that cannot be passed along.
In conclusion, I urge all members of the House to support passing a bill that would remove the potential of being at cross-purposes with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Please support the removal of a tax for which users have no viable options, and please support basic fairness in the market for the ag sector.