NDP criticizes ‘ballpark’ figures on carbon tax cost of grain-drying

The official opposition is arguing that the province should have gathered better data before fighting for grain dryers to be exempted from carbon tax

Manitoba’s official Opposition says the province should have done more to quantify farm carbon tax cost before entering the ring with the federal government.

Why it matters: Farmers in Manitoba say the carbon tax took a significant financial chunk out of their wallets given the surge in grain drying last fall — and farm groups say the issue is far from over with carbon tax still increasing year to year.

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NDP Leader Wab Kinew cited internal documents retrieved through freedom of information requests, including a June 15 letter from the province to federal deputy Minister of Agriculture Chris Forbes. Cost estimates in that letter were too general, Kinew said.

“Even after making that commitment that it would go out and do that work, the province failed to do so,” he said. “As a result, I think it’s fair to say that the province failed to make as strong a case on behalf of producers in Manitoba as it could have, and the end result is just basically that producers are going to be stuck with this bill.”

Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen, however, says he is “perplexed” by the NDP’s argument.

The June 15 letter included a breakdown of production levels, estimated percentage of required drying, fuel tax and carbon tax costs for six crops and estimated that carbon tax added $2 million to $3 million to grain-drying bills in Manitoba last year.

“It showed grain-drying costs for corn, wheat, canola, oats, barley and soybeans,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen added that the province had approached the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) to do carbon tax cost estimates in late 2019, since KAP has a better direct line to producers compared to the province.

That initial investigation suggested that carbon tax had cost corn growers an extra $1.7 million in grain drying. KAP says it was willing to work with the province to collect further data on other commodities, but then did not hear anything further.

At the same time, KAP president Bill Campbell said, KAP believes the numbers from the province are credible.

“I think that there’s a bit of a range in there,” he said.

“I think we need to understand the difficulty and complexity in retrieving those numbers,” he added, pointing to the significant differences from farm to farm.

In June, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said carbon tax did not count for enough of farm operating costs to warrant an exemption, despite pushes from producer groups and provincial governments. Her department estimated that carbon tax from grain drying cost $210-$819 per farm, numbers far lower than those estimated by the province of Manitoba or KAP.

At the time, KAP argued that the federal estimates spread carbon tax costs over all farms, not just those hit by grain-drying costs.

Campbell once again expressed his frustration with AAFC’s decision not to pursue an exemption.

For our full story, check out the next print edition of the Manitoba Co-operator.

About the author

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Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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