Kitchen says carbon tax increase will hit Saskatchewan agricultural producers hard

·6 min read

Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen says he expects the April 1 increase in the carbon tax will have an impact on agricultural producers in Saskatchewan.

The Carbon Tax will increase $10 per tonne April 1, going from $30 a tonne to $40 a tonne.

Kitchen explains that producers are paying additional costs out of pocket due to the tax.

“It has a huge impact on farmers. And the part that a lot of people don’t understand, the perception from the government is that they get that money back but they don’t, because the reality is that yes when they have the gas on their farm that carbon tax is rebated. However, when they go out to move their grain and crop, the moment they hire somebody to do that the carbon tax is charged and they don’t get that money back. That builds up.

“If you’ve got your own 18-wheeler and you’re moving your own things and you’re using your own oil, that’s fine. But a lot of times farmers don’t have that access and ability to do that so that’s a huge impact on the farming industry and the fact that as of April 1st it’s going up to $10 to $40 and then next year will go up another $10, then the year after that will be another $15 a year each year to hit $170 a tonne, that’s going to be a huge impact on their costs and their overhead costs. Like fertilizer that’s being brought in, they’re being charged carbon tax when it is being brought in and that’s coming out of their pocket.”

“It’s going to have a tremendous impact on the riding, especially for our agriculture industry, our ranchers are going to be impacted because of it too. The Fraser Institute came out with a recent study that indicates that it will cost Canadians 220,000 jobs. That’s a significant amount, it’s going to cost billions of dollars to those industries. The Fraser Institute report is obviously very extensive but it looks into that aspect of what this carbon tax will mean, and when you lose jobs that we need to generate tax income that is going to help pay for social services that we have, it’s going to be a huge impact.”

The use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as an alternative to the carbon tax is something that Kitchen says he is trying to promote.

"We have to recognize that steps have to be done by businesses and the industry to try and find ways to reduce emissions, and there are things that can be done along those lines to reduce emissions. But we need to make investments to do so. A prime example is carbon capture that we spearheaded here in Saskatchewan and this riding, and that technology is now all over the world. Even all the environmental committees over in Europe and all over the world have said that they need CCS technology as we move forward.

“We also need to recognize the great stewardship and the stellar work that our agriculture industry is doing and they’re not getting credit. They don’t get any credit for building the carbon and sequestering that into the ground, there’s new technology that’s being brought from coal that they’re using that actually will assist farmers to capture moisture and retain the moisture into there and carbon in there to sequester it into the soil, and there needs to be credit for that. This technology and this knowledge to do that is thereand that’s not happening at this point in time. Those are things that I’m pushing for.”

He says he believes the idea of credit for the sequestration of carbon has some merit, but it is still being researched. Currently the federal government is seeking imput from producers on how a carbon sequestration credit could work.

“There are steps that have to be done with where they’re at with the technology, and there are scientists at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina that are actually in the agriculture industry that are showing examples of what percentage of what they’re capturing. Those have to be looked at to find out and make sure we can give appropriate support and recognition of that.”

A private member’s bill was introduced recently that would create some exemptions for the agriculture industry and the bill was supported the Bloc Québecois, the NDP and the Greens, so it passed through second reading in the House of Commons and is now in committee.

“At the agriculture committee, there will be questions and witnesses coming to talk about that. There might be amendments to it but hopefully once it comes out of committee it will be reported back to the House and it will go forward to a third reading and continue to be pushed forward. I think it’s a great bill with great support and I think it will be great for our farmers.”

For producers and workers who are impacted by the carbon tax, Kitchen encourages them to reach out and communicate with not only himself but send their concerns to the federal government as well.

“A lot of them are calling me or emailing me or other MPs to get that out. Ultimately at this point in time, I would say to be sending those same things to not only me but also to the Prime Minister and the agriculture ministers so that they’re very well aware of it.”

He said it is difficult to communicate the impact of the carbon tax on the farms across the Prairies.

“The challenges that we’ve had is the recognition of how vast Saskatchewan is, even my riding and the size of it. The perception in parts of the country is not that way. They look at their farms that are much smaller than ours and do not understand the impacts that it has on farms the size that we’re having to deal with. Getting the country to understand the impact it’s going to have on the Western agriculture industry is tremendous. The more they can get that information out and ask those questions to the Prime Minister or ag ministers the better. Likewise, if there are ways I can help then I will try to get that information across to where I can.”

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator