Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Resumption of work in the Commons after the holiday break

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Justin Trudeau's government has resumed work in the Commons where it left off before the holiday break.

The Canadian Press

The housing crisis, tax credits for clean technologies and carbon pricing were at the center of debates at the House of Commons on Monday, as MPs picked up where they left off – both in substance and in tone – when they adjourned for the Christmas break in December.

The Liberal government's immediate priority is to pass a bill aimed at implementing the promises contained in its fall economic statement. It includes a major carbon capture and storage tax credit and additional funds to boost housing construction.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland insisted Monday that the bill made the math work for builders, as the government battles a grumpy electorate that has seen house prices soar .

The Liberals also intend to act quickly this week to bring the free trade bill back into debate with the #x27;Ukraine.

The bill became an unexpected political issue in the fall, when conservatives opposed it to protest carbon pricing.

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The agreement calls on both countries to promote carbon pricing. Canada's system was created in 2019, while Ukraine has had carbon pricing since 2011.

Several Ukrainian organizations in Canada have criticized the Conservatives for their opposition to the bill. And liberals took the opportunity to accuse conservatives of pandering to right-wing American commentators and politicians who are calling for less support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Conservatives say they support Ukraine and voted against the bill only because of carbon pricing.

Leader Pierre Poilievre made removing the tax his main slogan as leader of the opposition, and it was one of the party's main lines of attack against the Liberals during the first question period of 2024.

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre

It was including questioning whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intended to pay a carbon price for the emissions he produced while traveling with his family to Jamaica for a post-Christmas vacation.

The Conservatives also wasted no time in bringing the exclusion bill on carbon pricing back into debate.

Bill C-234 was the first thing MPs dealt with on Monday morning. The legislation initially called for removing the carbon price on natural gas and propane used on farms to heat farm buildings and dry grain.

The bill passed the House of Commons last year with cross-party support except the Liberals, although a handful of Liberal MPs voted in favor of it.

In December, after a series of intense debates, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill, limiting the exclusion to only propane used for grain dryers. It was an acrimonious process.

Conservatives insisted the Liberals were harassing senators to kill the bill – something the government denied.

And as conservatives pushed for the bill, some senators claimed they were victims of harassment and intimidation. The Conservative leader in the Senate, Senator Don Plett, rose to apologize for losing his temper in the Senate.

The situation became so tense that Sen. Bernadette Clement said police advised her to leave her home for a weekend, after received a threatening call following a conservative social media campaign naming her as an obstacle to the bill.

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The leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Yves-François Blanchet

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet said Monday that these allegations are part of the reasons why his party no longer supports the Conservatives on the bill.

In the House, Conservative MP Ben Lobb sought approval of a motion to reject the Senate amendments and to bring the bill back to the version passed by the House of Commons.

What I would ask is not to drag things out, he said. Let's be reasonable.

Even if the New Democratic Party (NDP) seemed ready to accept, the Bloc did not.

Bloc MP Yves Perron told the House Monday morning that he believed supporting the bill as amended was the right course of action because it excluded a fuel for which farmers have little or no alternative options while maintaining support for carbon pricing.

Gasoline and diesel used on farms are already exempt from carbon pricing because, for the most part, they do not ;there is no real replacement solution.

At this point, Mr. Perron says, it seems the Conservatives are just continuing the fight for a slogan.

If the House accepts the Senate's amendments, the bill will become law. If he rejects them or makes other changes, the original version of the bill will be sent back to the Senate for a final vote.

Together, the Liberals and the Bloc form the majority in the House.

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The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, during a question period in Ottawa, before the end of the work, in December 2023.

But even an amended version of the bill would be politically problematic for the government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault promised there would be no more exclusions from the carbon pricing system after deciding in October to exclude it. remove fuel oil for three years.

While heating oil is more common in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals have been accused of pandering to the region's demands to win back votes.

Liberals insisted the decision was made to give heating oil users more time and money to replace their oil boilers with electric heat pumps.

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