Original Published 11:06 May 06, 2022

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

MP of Bow River Martin Shields rose to address the financial pressure that the carbon tax is inflicting onto farmers on April 27. 

“The initial question I asked had to do with an agricultural issue, and I would like to continue along that theme,” said Shields. “The president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association recently stated,  ‘Absolutely we are unfairly targeted because we are a primary producer have no way of dealing with the carbon tax…. It is a pure cost to us, and there isn’t really a way for us to become more efficient.’ That is the problem our agriculture producers face. It is not only the carbon tax, but also the carbon tax that is applied to truckers, to rail and to the moorage of the ships parked in the harbour waiting to be loaded. All of those taxes are downloaded back to the primary producer, the farmer, the agricultural producer, who has no way to recover against those costs.” 

Shields went on to discuss how this financial burden on farmers is only going to increase. 

“Recently, there was a 25 per cent increase in the carbon tax. That is a huge add-on to our agricultural producers,” he said. “To get specific, in my riding, where we have huge irrigation districts, this is a cost that affects that irrigation. It is millions of dollars if we look at all of the irrigation districts, but particularly for the four largest ones in my riding, it is a significant cost. This is money that leaves the communities and the producers and is not returned in a rebate. That is the percentage that is not returned, the millions of dollars paid to provide that irrigation.” 

To highlight this issue, Shields discussed how important the agricultural sector is to Alberta‘s finances, and how they have not been receiving any benefits for what they’ve done to reduce carbon emissions. 

“As well, four per cent of the arable land in Alberta produces 29 per cent of the agricultural production of the GDP in Alberta, which is huge, but their increased costs are also huge,” Shields said. “We have the most significantly efficient high-producing agricultural producers in Canada, but what they do not get credit for is the 384 billion tonnes of carbon they store in the soil. They use practices that keep improving the storage of carbon, but they get no credit for it.” 

Shield proceeded to discuss a solution that the government could take to help alleviate the financial burdens that the carbon tax is putting onto farmers.

“A private member’s bill from a member in our caucus, Bill C-234, is moving forward on exempting farm fuels from the carbon tax,” he said. “That would be the first step. Then we get to the issue of fertilizer. Agricultural producers work very hard on the four Rs: right source, right rain, right time and right place. They are getting incredibly efficient at it. The fertilizer industry contributes $23 billion annually to Canada’s economy. That is 76,000 jobs. Now the government is talking about reducing the use of fertilizer by 30 per cent, without a benchmark. Farmers do not want to buy fertilizer that is not needed. It is very expensive and harder to get.” 

Shields then discuss just how important agriculture is to Canada’s economy. 

“Agriculture employs 2.1 million people and gen- erates $139 billion of Canada’s GDP,” said Shields. “By continuing to go after those things that increase production, which we are going to need in this world, Canadian farmers, who are the most efficient, the best equipped and the best at it, will not be support- ed by this, which is a challenge for the agricultural producers in our country.” 

MP of Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON, Gary Anandasangaree, also the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Justice and attorney general of Canada, replied to Shields statement. 

“The pressures created by supply chain disruptions and by the shift from buying services to buying goods are real,” said Anadasangaree. “We are monitoring that situation very closely. As it relates to inflation, there are other structural costs that make life less affordable for Canadian families, and chief among them are housing and child care. That is why our government has a robust national housing strategy and a child care plan that is covering Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The average Alberta family will save $5,600 this year.” 

Anandasangaree than spoke on the problem of inflation. 

“I would like to thank the hon. member for raising the question of inflation and its impacts on small businesses,” said Anandasangaree. “It is an important issue that is top of mind for our government. In fact, the issue was top of mind when the deputy prime minister and Finance minister presented the federal budget a few weeks ago: our plan to grow our economy and make life more affordable. Our government understands that the current inflation crisis is making it harder for Canadians and small businesses across Canada to make ends meet,” Anandasangaree said. “Increases in prices for a variety of goods are a global phenomenon driven by the unprecedented challenge of restarting the world’s economy, as well as the instability of global markets as a result of President Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, which has jolted commodity markets with a surge in prices particularly for oil, natural gas and wheat. Even in that context, I would point out that Canada’s inflation is lower than that of the United States, as well as the averages of the G20, the Euro- zone and the OECD.” 

After which Anandasangaree discussed how the government is assisting small businesses with taxation. 

“Our government is taking meaningful actions
to make life more affordable in this country and to support small businesses as they grow,” he said. “For example, in budget 2022 our government is proposing to cut taxes for growing small businesses by phasing out access to the small business tax rate more gradually, with access to be fully phased out when taxable capital reaches $50 million rather than $15 million. It would deliver an estimated $660 million in tax savings over the 2022-23 to 2026-27 period that could be reinvested towards growing and creating jobs. This is concrete support for Canadian small businesses, and there is a lot that we can be proud of in our budget.” 

Anandasangaree continue to talk about taxation shifting from businesses to individuals. 

“As well, our government has cut taxes for the middle class while raising them for the top one per cent, and we are working to address housing af- fordability,” said Anandasangaree. “We have now signed agreements with all provinces and territories to implement a Canada-wide $10-a-day community-based early learning and child care system that would make life more affordable for families, create new jobs, get parents back into the workforce and grow the middle class, while giving every child a real and fair chance at success. As we can see, our government is already working hard to make life more affordable for Canadians and to help small businesses make ends meet.” 

Shields retorted, “agricultural business is small business, and I think I outlined why, as producers, they cannot recover those costs.” 

Then Shields spoke on how it’s important for them to recognize other crops in the agricultural sector. “I want to shift slightly to another one,” said Shields. “The federal and provincial governments announced a $900,000 grant to do with hemp. Hemp is an incredible agricultural product. The problem is that it is not classified under agriculture. It is under health. We have decreased the amount of hemp grown in this country because the red tape and restrictions, when it is grown under health, are brutal. Other countries have figured this out. The United States is beginning to figure it out. It is not marijuana. We want to grow hemp. It is an incredible product. It can be used for many things. I am encouraging the parliamentary secretary, as I    have many on that side, to get hemp out of health and into agriculture. The government is investing money in it, in a project in Alberta. It is joining up with the province. Let us get it in agriculture.” 

Anandasangaree reply back, “let me just say that we are already hard at work to make life more affordable for Canadians and help small businesses across the country. In fact, we proposed a number of measures in budget 2022 that would do just that. I would like to remind my hon. colleague that our government’s economic plan is working.” 

Then Anandasangaree spoke on how Canada is coping after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Since the depths of the pandemic recession, the government’s focus on jobs, on keeping Canadians employed and on keeping their employers afloat has ensured that Canada’s economy has seen the best jobs recovery in the G7, having recovered 115 per cent of the jobs lost and with an unemployment rate that sits at just 5.3 per cent: lower than the 5.4 per cent low of 2019 that was Canada’s best in five decades,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure Canada’s economic recovery leaves no one behind-” 

Anandasangaree was interrupted as the House adjourned for the day. 

This item reprinted with permission from The Taber Times, Taber, Alberta