The federal Liberals created their own mess over the carbon tax, and it gets worse by the day.
A new poll from Abacus Data shows that 72 per cent of Canadians think all forms of home heating fuel should be free of carbon tax.
Remarkably, 60 per cent of respondents are aware that the Liberals exempted heating oil from the tax, a benefit mainly to Atlantic Canada.
People generally agree with the tax break for folks down east. But they also want it for the fuel they use to heat their own homes, usually natural gas.
The Liberals insisted there would be no more “carve-outs” for any sector when their tax castle began to totter.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed it won’t happen. Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said there will be no more carve-outs as long as he’s in the job.
Along comes Bill C-234 — a genuine crisis for the Liberals, because it’s all about another reasonable carve-out.
Now in the Senate, C-234 would exempt fuel for grain-drying and heating farm structures from the carbon tax.
Many Alberta farmers complain bitterly that the tax is onerous and they have no viable alternatives to natural gas.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has declared a national campaign to force Bill C-234 through the Senate.
“We can’t have more taxes on our food when two million people are already going to food banks,” he said.
‘Outrageous’: Senate abruptly adjourns third reading debate on farm heating bill
Carbon-tax exemption for farm heating survives Senate vote
Canadian farmers push for carbon tax exemptions as heating bill flounders in Senate
Breakenridge: If Alberta wants to go it alone, a carbon tax is the place to start
Breakenridge: Ottawa undermines credibility on carbon tax, to Alberta’s advantage
House passes bill creating carve-outs for farmers in Canada’s carbon pricing scheme
The government desperately wants the bill to fail when votes are called, likely next week. “Independent” senators (mostly named by the Liberals) are under intense pressure to reject the bill.
This Conservative private member’s bill cruised through the House of Commons in March. It was supported by the Conservatives, New Democrats and even a few Liberals.
Bill C-234 wasn’t highly controversial. It moved on to detailed Senate hearings.
And then, Newfoundland MP Gudie Hutchings boasted about how Atlantic Liberal MPs and ministers talked the government into removing the tax from heating oil.
A little-known bill that affects farm operations suddenly became the latest front in the carbon tax battle. The conflict is roiling the Senate and fraying loyalties.
Alberta Sen. Paula Simons, a devoted champion of the carbon tax, first decided grain-dying should be exempt because there is no alternative to natural gas. She also concluded that the tax should still apply for heating farm structures.
Then came the heating oil fiasco. Simons was shocked. On Oct. 31, she told the Senate: “Now, how am I, as an Alberta senator, supposed to look Alberta farmers in the face and tell them that I took a principled stand against carbon tax exemptions when the government has pulled the rug right out from under me?
“I’m not going to stand here and tell you how to vote on this report. I’m not even sure how I’m going to vote. I just know that I’m feeling pretty foolish right now, pretty betrayed, and I wish I didn’t. Thank you.”
Betrayed. A strong word from a Trudeau appointee to the “independent” caucus, which is Liberal in all but name.
Former Conservative senator Doug Black, from Calgary, fought the Liberals fiercely on Bill C-69 and lost, but was vindicated when the Supreme Court ruled that large parts of the Impact Assessment Act were invalid.
Black says Bill C-234 “is not a concession to farmers; it’s a very important part of supporting the agriculture industry in the country.
“It’s close to motherhood. Initially that’s what everybody else thought, too.
“Then what happened? The prime minister did his deal with Atlantic Canada in respect of home heating oil, and it blew up in his face.”
“Therefore, the bill must be killed. That’s what’s going on . . . all kinds of independent senators are raising amendments with the view of killing the bill.”
The bill will probably be defeated but anger will continue to rise over this regional absolutism. The Liberals deserve a long fall into the trap they set for themselves.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald