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Poilievre calling on 'unelected' Senate to 'immediately' pass farm fuels carbon tax bill

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is pushing for MPs to call on senators to “immediately” pass a bill that would exempt certain farm fuels from the carbon price.

The legislation he's angling to advance would eliminate the price on pollution on certain fuels used in agricultural activities, namely propane and natural gas used for grain drying, and for heating and cooling farm buildings.

Poilievre — who has accused Liberal cabinet ministers, including Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault — of pressuring senators to reject the bill, is hoping an opposition day motion he introduced in the House of Commons on Tuesday will move things forward.

“That 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 Poilievre’s motion, which is set to be debated for most of the day Tuesday and voted on later in the week.

Bill C-234 is a Conservative private member’s bill that cleared the House of Commons last March, but has been back in the spotlight in recent weeks while the upper chamber debates some possible amendments.

It’s also become a controversial partisan football, with the Conservatives accusing the Liberals of creating carbon tax carve-outs only for people in regions where they need to shore up votes in the next election.

Poilievre kicked off debate on his motion Tuesday morning by saying the majority of democratically elected MPs have already voted in favour of the bill. In March, every Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Green MP voted to pass the bill, in addition to one independent MP and three Liberal MPs.

Poilievre also again accused the Liberals of interfering to block it in the Senate, where members are not elected but rather appointed.

“Common-sense Conservatives have a bill that has been passed by this House, that would take the tax off,” he said. “The prime minister has deployed his carbon tax minister to pressure senators to block that bill in an undemocratic attack on the prerogative of the commoners to decide who pays what.”

Poilievre and Guilbeault have been pointing fingers over the bill and who is working harder to influence the votes in the upper chamber.

“The Conservative Party didn’t feel that the Senate was so unelected when they tried to block the adoption of (Bill) C-69 on impact assessment in 2019,” Guilbeault said on his way into a cabinet meeting Tuesday morning. “And 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.”

The charged rhetoric over the bill among MPs also spilled over into the Senate this month, with two senators accusing another of physical intimidation and verbal harassment.

Conservative Sen. Don Plett has since apologized, after he was accused by Independent Senators Group leader Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain and the group’s deputy leader, Sen. Bernadette Clement, of intimidation, for yelling at and berating them, after Clement moved to adjourn debate on the bill.

But Saint-Germain and Clement also pointed to a social media post by Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer, which included their public contact information, as having led to angry and threatening phone calls and online harassment, ultimately requiring police to move Clement to a safer location.

Guilbeault and Poilievre also swapped accusations over that issue on Tuesday.

“It’s unbelievable that they seem to stop at nothing to try and get what they want, including bullying senators, independent senators,” Guilbeault said.

“I’ve had conversations with senators,” he added. “There’s a world of difference between having a conversation with someone and talking, and bullying them to try and get them to do what you want, to force them to do what you want under threat.”

Poilievre, however, said “senators’ contact information is widely available on websites,” and that Liberals are “simply trying to distract” from the larger issue of the carbon tax.

Many senators, in the lead up to third reading on C-234, have said they want to send a message by passing the bill unamended, and avoid sending it back to the House of Commons for further debate.

“Canadians deserve to know that adjournment doesn’t mean a bill is being nixed, but that nuanced explanation wasn’t offered by people pointing the finger at me,” Clement told senators last week during a question of privilege about the harassment accusation.

“Canadians should be told the truth,” she added. “As a member of the Independent Senators Group, I vote my conscience. My vote is not whipped. I do not answer to any minister.”

The Senate voted Tuesday evening to reject a possible amendment that would impact the bill’s sunset clause, clearing the way for possible third reading of the bill unamended, if no other amendments are introduced.

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