Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Wednesday his MPs will pitch “thousands of amendments” to legislation to keep Parliament sitting over Christmas if the Liberal government doesn’t scrap parts of its carbon tax.
“You will have no rest until the tax is gone,” Poilievre said in a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Liberal MPs.
The party maintains it will carry out its obstruction tactics until the Liberals lift the tax on all home-heating energy sources, pass a bill to grant carbon tax relief to some farmers and exempt all First Nations from the carbon levy, as some chiefs have demanded.
The Conservatives say they will demand 135 votes tomorrow on the government’s estimates, a procedural brawl over spending that could take more than 24 hours.
The party also says its MPs will introduce 20,000 amendments to the “sustainable jobs” bill, C-50, currently before the natural resources committee.
Other delaying tactics are planned for the coming days, a spokesperson for Poilievre said.
These manoeuvres could force the government to extend the Commons sitting time beyond Dec. 15 — the day it was set to rise for the Christmas break.
“I’ve got news for Justin Trudeau,” Poilievre said in a morning address to the Conservative caucus. “You’ve ruined Christmas for Canadians. Common-sense Conservatives are going to ruin your vacation as well. We’re going to put in thousands of amendments at committee and in the House of Commons, forcing all-night, round-the-clock voting to block your $20 billion of inflationary spending and your economically destructive plans until you agree to our demand: take the tax off farmers, First Nations and families.”
That’s a threat to hold up the government’s fall economic statement, which calls for $20.8 billion more in spending over the next six years.
The commitment to derail Parliament comes after senators appointed by Trudeau amended part of a Conservative private member’s bill, C-234, that would have delivered a carbon tax carve-out to some farmers.
Progressive Sen. Pierre Dalphond’s amendment, passed by a 40-39 vote, keeps the carbon tax exemption for grain drying but deletes the section that provided tax relief for heating barns and greenhouses.
The Tory bill deals with natural gas and propane — other farm fuels like diesel and gasoline are already exempt under the Liberal tax regime. Farmers are also eligible for a carbon rebate.
In a statement sent to CBC News, Dalphond said he pushed for this change because “alternatives and efficiencies are readily available to reduce emissions related to heating and cooling of farm buildings, as compared to grain drying.”
The Progressive Senate Group includes a former Liberal senator and more recent Trudeau appointees.
Most of the votes to amend the bill came from the Independent Senators Group (ISG), which is largely made up of Trudeau-appointed senators.
Poilievre alleged that Trudeau lobbied his Senate picks to pass the amendment, which threatens the bill’s future.
When asked if Trudeau spoke to senators about the amendment, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office pointed to the actions of Conservative senators.
“It is shameful and unbecoming that Conservative parliamentarians have tried to intimidate and bully senators into their ideological, anti-climate agenda. The prime minister engaged in no such behaviour,” Jenna Ghassabeh said.
Conservative senators have been accused of bullying Independent senators over the bill.
Two Tory senators posted online the office phone numbers and email addresses of some members of the Red Chamber who have been accused of holding up the bill. The Senate Speaker admonished this behaviour in a Tuesday ruling.
Police and security officials are now investigating reports of racist threats directed at Sen. Bernadette Clement, a Black, Trudeau-appointed senator from eastern Ontario who moved to pause debate on the bill last month.
A senior government official speaking to CBC News on background did say that the prime minister “does not shy away from discussing matters affecting Canadians with fellow parliamentarians.”
The legislation has already passed the House of Commons, but Conservatives, farmers and their lobbyists fear if a Senate-amended bill is sent back to the Commons, it’ll languish and die on the order paper or be defeated under Liberal pressure.
Under parliamentary rules, Senate amendments must go back to the Commons before a bill can become law.
In question period, Trudeau said Conservatives have been “intimidating” and “threatening” parliamentarians to get them to back C-234.
“The only farming the Conservative Party cares about is rage farming,” Trudeau said. “All of this was just an attempt to fundraise on the backs of farmers.”
In a reference to the Conservative leader’s vehement opposition to some federal climate policies, Trudeau said Poilievre wants to take Canada “back to the stone age” by dismantling the carbon tax.
As for the threat to indefinitely hold up parliamentary proceedings, Trudeau said Poilievre “can make us work late. We’re happy to do it. We’re doing important things for Canadians while he’s pulling stunts.”
House Leader calls ultimatum ‘completely irresponsible’
Government House Leader Karina Gould said Poilievre’s actions are “completely irresponsible.”
“What Mr. Poilievre is doing right now is not leadership,” she said. “It will affect Canadians, because what he is doing is putting thousands of amendments on notice for things like the sustainable jobs act — that’s an 11-page bill. His party has put almost 20,000 amendments on there. He is not in a serious position. He is reckless.”
Gould called Poilievre a “bully.”
“Canadians should see him for who he is. This is not about responsible leadership, this is about playing games. Because at the end of the day, politics is a game for him and it’s about his own personal aggrandizement.”
Conservative MP Ben Lobb, who introduced C-234, said he was “disappointed for Canadian farmers” that the amendment passed and the legislation now faces an uncertain future.
“We were so close to a good result,” Lobb said.
An MP from rural Ontario, Lobb said a pork farmer in his riding recently received a natural gas bill for $4,300 — $3,300 of that charge was to cover the carbon tax.
“Obviously that’s not fair. Commodity farming is a low-margin business and every little bit helps and this would have been a great help for them,” Lobb said.
Lobb suggested it was Trudeau’s more recent appointees who got the amendment through.
The prime minister named five new senators, including former Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, to the Red Chamber on Oct. 31.
Four of them voted last night to back Dalphond’s amendment to delete the carveout for heating farmers’ barns.
“You take those five out and the amendment would have failed last night,” Lobb said.
The Senate is also dealing with persistent attendance issues.
A sizeable number of senators are consistently absent from the chamber.
Of the 94 sitting senators, 15 did not cast a vote on the amendment last night.