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Most Canadians back farmer carbon tax exemption, poll finds

CTF Prairie Director: "Canadians know that keeping costs down for farmers helps lower costs at the grocery store for all of us."
Chris Moat seeds barley and canola stubble, May 12, 2024.

A recent Leger poll shows 70 per cent of Canadians back a carbon tax exemption for farmers. The poll collected input from 1,519 people across the nation, aged 18-plus over a two-day period last month. Of the 30 per cent that opposed the idea, half of those respondents noted ‘I don’t know’, while eight per cent somewhat opposed an exemption and seven per cent felt strongly against farmers getting a tax break.

The single question posed to respondents explained how the federal government doesn’t collect carbon tax on gas and diesel used in agriculture, but producers pay the tax on natural gas and propane used to heat barns and dry grain. Ultimately, the question sought whether or not they supported removing that tax for farmers.

“The poll is clear: the vast majority of Canadians want the government to get farmers relief from the carbon tax,” said Gage Haubrich, CTF Prairie Director. “Canadians know that keeping costs down for farmers helps lower costs at the grocery store for all of us.”

Melville-Saltcoats MLA Warren Kaeding said if one of the pollsters called him, he’d share the same sentiments as the rest of the 70 per cent.

“I’m fully supportive of the of the same kind of thing, I would add my ‘yes’ to the poll if they polled me,” he said. “I hope that’s a great reflection of the public now understanding some of the duress that that their ag producers, that their food suppliers are under as well, and how unfair the carbon tax is to them, and ultimately, how it’s being reflected in the food prices. And I think that’s probably what’s driving a lot of that support for agriculture; the public now is starting to wake up to the fact that the carbon tax is responsible for a significant part of the food price increases.”

Haubrich noted that seeking an exemption for farmers isn’t only a Western Canada sentiment, people across the country are onside with the idea.

“Even in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, it’s still 68 per cent of people are in favour of the exemption,” he said. “So it’s not just traditional farming communities, everyone across the country knows that this is the right thing to do.”

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, farmers could be on the hook for $1 billion by 2030 if no relief comes to fruition.

“MPs need to get farmers and families relief now and take the carbon tax off all farm fuels,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Ottawa needs to listen to Canadians and stop charging farmers carbon taxes that make all of our lives more expensive.”

With Bill C-234 continuing to languish in Parliament, growing longer in the tooth with each passing day, the CTF felt keeping the question at the forefront is important.

“We haven’t done a poll on this exact question before, but we thought it was really important to get Canadian thoughts in front of politicians on the issue because we’ve seen that Ottawa has been sitting on its hands,” Haubrich told the World-Spectator. “When it comes to getting this bill passed, we got to make sure that politicians in Ottawa know that this is what Canadians want. It’s not just an issue that affects farmers, but it affects everyone.”

Bill C-234 saw first reading at the House of Commons back in early February, 2022; finally receiving third reading in March, 2023. It then went before the Senate, taking most of last year to reach third reading in mid-December. After the Senate made their amendments, the bill was tossed back to the House of Commons, and that level has been “considering” those changes ever since.

“When it comes to politics in Ottawa, it could really be anything,” Haubrich said when asked what he thinks the big hold-up is on Bill C-234. “We’re just going to do our best to make sure that those MPs know that farmers would save a lot of money if we got this exemption, and Canadians support it.”

Further stalling on Bill C-234 will only cause more problems for the governing Liberals, as Kaeding sees it.

“If they’re not through on this order paper, how that process starts again in the fall - and then realizing that there will be a federal election not long after that - where those amendments are if they’re not approved and given final reading, I’m not sure where that leaves them,” he said.

The recent federal budget also promised to return some $2.5 billion in carbon tax rebates to small business, but lacked a firm timeline for when those dollars could be anticipated. 

“Unfortunately, even when it comes to small businesses and farmers, they’re still often paying a lot more in the carbon tax than they’re getting back,” Haubrich said, calling what could be rebated a ‘paltry sum’ in comparison to what’s been paid.