Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs returned to his roots Thursday in Oxford County for a roundtable with agriculture and agri-food leaders to discuss the new federal carbon tax.
Joining Hardeman at Veldale Farms in Oxford Centre, south of Woodstock, were Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, and Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
“We’ve talked with you, everyone around the table, in the past but I think it was very important that we have an opportunity to hear from you and have the Premier hear it directly,” said Hardeman, speaking to agriculture and agri-food representatives, and media, Thursday morning prior to the start of the roundtable.
“It’s hearing about the impact of what we’re doing – and what others may want to do – on our farming community. I think, collectively with Premier Ford and the rest of us elected to Queen’s Park as Conservatives, we’ve done a lot already to change some of the red tape and the cost of doing business, to level the playing field with our competitors in other jurisdictions. And obviously what we’re talking about this morning is going to put a lot of that back, and that’s why we want to hear from you – what impact that will have – so that we can take that forward in the fight to try to prevent that from happening.”
Phillips, who acknowledged how important the farming community is to environmental stewardship, said they welcomed input from the agriculture community.
“We are here today to talk about the effect of the federal carbon tax,” said Phillips. “It comes into effect April 1st, so just a couple of weeks from now. This tax will have a direct impact on many, many businesses across Ontario, and not least of which agriculture and the agri-food business.
“The funds that typically would go towards making your operation more efficient, paying your employees, doing all the things that you need to do to run a competitive business that feeds our province, will instead be going to an unnecessary tax. A tax that will put a huge pressure on Ontario families, a tax that will make it more difficult for people who want to employ people and start a business, and a tax that is unnecessary in terms of the environment.”
In November, he said the Conservatives introduced a Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.
“That plan highlights the fact that Ontarians, including the agriculture sector and rural families, have already made a great contribution in terms of reducing greenhouse gases. We set a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 30 per cent, over the 2005 levels. Those are the same targets that the federal government established. Ontario has already achieved 22 per cent of the 30 per cent, so we are on our way there in terms of making that contribution.
“Today we’re here to hear about the specifics from your (agriculture) perspective. As the Premier has said from the very beginning of this, we are going to use all the tools at our disposal to stop the federal government from imposing this tax… because as I said it’s unnecessary, we will meet our environmental objectives and continue to do our share without one.
“While we continue to rally people across the province and the Premier is leading a coalition of other Premiers across the country on this issue, this kind of input is so helpful and so important for us and I really do look forward to the roundtable discussion.”
“We have this carbon tax and it’s going to hit us on April 1st,” said Premier Ford. “Everything is going to go up. And I always say we’re in real threat of a carbon tax recession.
“You bring your kids from Point A to Point B it’s going to cost more,” said Ford. “Everything in the grocery store is going to cost more. Operating your farms will cost more. Everything is going to cost more, and why? When we sat down with the Prime Minister, I asked him that. Very simply, ‘Why?’
“Rod, you’ve already done an incredible job, we’re already at 22 per cent in emissions reductions when we have to hit 30 – we still have 11 years to do it. You don’t need a carbon tax to reduce emissions and all it is, is making us uncompetitive. We’re competing against people around the world, we’re competing against our great neighbours south of the border – Ontario alone does $350 billion a year in two-way trade with our American friends. If we were a standalone country we’d be the third largest trading partner in the world with the United States, Ontario alone. But how can we compete when we have one arm tied behind our back… when Ohio, Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions in the US who are competing against us, they don’t have this burden of a carbon tax?
“The people who are going to get hurt the most,” said Ford, “are the rural folks.”
Going forward, Ford said Ontario will challenge the federal carbon tax in court, as did Saskatchewan.
“It’s all about the people. And we’re going to use every tool at our disposal to make sure we fight this job-killing carbon tax.”
“On the legal front, Ontario’s legal challenge has now been joined,” said Phillips. “Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Manitoba are aligned. The Saskatchewan challenge is going forward, that has already been heard and we’ll get results from that I’m sure. Our challenge will be heard in April.
“We believe this is an unconstitutional tax. We think that they have far overreached, so we will pursue that legal route and we will pursue it in the court of public opinion. We need the people of Ontario to understand… that this tax is going to cost an extra 5 cents at the pump starting April 1st (rising to 7.5 cents in 2020, 10 cents in 2021 and 12.5 cents in 2022). And for the average household… $648 per family by 2022. And as I’ve pointed out before, this is for a tax in a province that has already done more to reduce greenhouse gases – and has committed to reach the targets the Prime Minister said – than any other place.
“So it’s just unnecessary,” Phillips concluded, “but we need to make sure that that message gets out.”