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Poilievre, Guilbeault point fingers over Conservative farm fuel carbon tax bill

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault is calling out Pierre Poilievre's push to pass a bill seeking to scrap the carbon tax on farm fuels, saying that if the Conservative leader had "any sense of moral decency," he would “admit” the fuel price currently only applies to a small percentage of farm fuels.

"First and foremost, people should remember … we've already excluded 97 per cent of fuels used on farms," the minister said. "Because at the time when we when we put in place carbon pricing in Canada … we realized that there was no alternatives for these applications."

His remarks come amid brewing parliamentary discontent over Conservative MP Ben Lobb's private member's bill seeking to eliminate the carbon price on propane and natural gas for some farming equipment and on the heating and cooling of some farm buildings, namely barns and greenhouses.

The bill has been before Parliament since 2022, clearing the House in March 2023 with broad opposition party support. It still needs to clear third reading before becoming law, a step that’s been delayed until at least the Senate’s next sitting date on Nov. 21 when senators are set to resume debate on the bill before a final vote. 

As it nears passage in the Senate, Bill C-234 is drumming up controversy amid heightened attention on the Liberals' climate plans, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent changes to the carbon pricing plan, including a pause on the pollution price of home heating oil.

On Monday, Poilievre speculated that Guilbeault could resign if Bill C-234 passes in the Senate and accused the environment minister of “frantically calling senators, begging them to block this bill.”

“So what's going to happen? Well, the pressure is on, and today I announce that the common-sense Conservatives are launching a full-on campaign to push for Liberal senators to allow the passage of C-234 to take the carbon tax off farmers and food,” Poilievre said.

Guilbeault told reporters on Tuesday that he's had discussions with "half a dozen" senators in the last couple weeks to express the federal government's opposition to the legislation.

Facing ongoing pressure from the opposition to expand the current home heating oil carve-out to all forms of home heating used more commonly in other parts of the country, Trudeau has said there will be "absolutely" not be any other carve-outs to the carbon tax.

During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Guilbeault reiterated that the Liberals are against any new exemptions to the carbon price. 

But, Guilbeault said, his conversations with members of the upper chamber were "more of a conversation … than a lobbying effort" and he accused Poilievre of being the one attempting to influence senators.

“The senators we've nominated as a government since 2015 are independent senators,” he said. “The only person who tells senators what to do and how to vote is Pierre Poilievre. We don’t do that.”

Guilbeault said the current carbon price “only applies to three per cent of fuels” used in farming, if and when “alternative technologies are available."

He said the federal government will make its decision on how to respond to the bill, if and when it passes.



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