Province hears from farmers on carbon tax

There’s little enthusiasm from the premier on a high speed rail proposal

The provincial Conservative government is continuing its push to negate the federal carbon tax.

Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, minister of environment, conservation and parks and Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, visited Veldale Farms near Woodstock in late March to hear from farmers about the effects of the carbon tax.

The meeting was closed to media, but Ford, Phillips and Hardeman gave a wide-ranging press conference before the meeting with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork and other farmers.

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Why it matters: The visit to Veldale Farms was a rare opportunity for the public to hear Premier Ford’s thoughts on rural issues.

The carbon tax came into effect April 1.

“The carbon tax will have an effect on many businesses in Ontario, not the least of them agriculture,” said Phillips. “Funds that would go to making your operations more efficient and paying your employees and doing the things that you do to run your businesses will instead be going to an unnecessary tax.”

The federal government applied the tax to provinces which do not currently have their own method of pricing carbon, including Ontario. The Ontario government cancelled the previous Liberal government’s cap-and-trade system for carbon pricing.

The idea behind a carbon tax is that those who use more carbon will have to pay extra, while encouraging alternatives which will be tax free. Citizens in Ontario will get some of what they spend on carbon taxes back as an income tax credit, starting with the 2018 tax year.

The Ontario government believes it can meet the goal of a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from the 2005 level. Former Liberal government actions, especially shutting down coal plants, already reduced Ontario carbon emissions by 22 per cent.

The rest of the country’s carbon emissions have risen by three per cent. Ford said that a tax isn’t needed to get to the 30 per cent reduction level.

“We don’t need a carbon tax to reduce emissions,” he said.

The province is taking the federal government to court, along with other provinces, and is also creating its own plan.

Phillips acknowledged that farmers have had a role to play in sequestering carbon and managing their farms in an environmentally beneficial way. He said in response to a question from Farmtario, that the government’s plan is looking at a credit system for carbon sequestration.

“We also want to make sure we are looking at and incenting the modern approaches to agriculture.”

High speed internet

The federal and provincial governments continue to invest in high speed internet, although the timelines continue to be a decade out for many areas.

Ford said that the province will continue to invest in broadband internet for rural areas and that he hears the concern regularly.

“It’s absolutely critical that people are connected now,” he said. He also pointed out the province’s investment in natural gas, helping to give another 30,000 households access to natural gas.

High speed rail

The premier and agriculture minister showed little enthusiasm for high speed rail, at the roundtable meeting.

A proposal for a high speed rail line from London to Toronto, that would be eventually expanded to Windsor, would have run through prime farmland between London and Kitchener.

The province has created its own environmental assessment panel that will now look at other corridors other than the one proposed following the main electricity corridor from London to Kitchener.

“I don’t like going through farmers’ fields and taking land off them,” said Ford. “I just don’t like going there and taking people’s land. It’s not the right thing to do. There will be an announcement.”

Hardeman said that the broader picture of transit in southern Ontario will be examined.

“We do not have the amount of population moving, that high speed rail would be the fastest route. We need to improve the system we have an add onto that as we move along,” he said.

About the author

Editor

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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