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Meili writes to Trudeau, requesting carbon tax exemption for farmers

The federal price on carbon is adding hundreds, even thousands of dollars to energy bills for Saskatchewan farmers as they dry their grain.
The federal price on carbon is adding hundreds, even thousands of dollars to energy bills for Saskatchewan farmers as they dry their grain. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Opposition leader Ryan Meili found a piece of common ground on Wednesday — they want Ottawa to remove the carbon tax from farmers drying their grain.

Meili sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, requesting the removal of the extra charges farmers have been racking up on their energy bills. Meili said the wet year has made it necessary for farmers to burn fuel to dry their grain.

“I’ve been talking directly to farmers that have been paying hundreds of dollars on top of what they’re already having to pay in a tough time,” Meili said.

“The bills themselves for natural gas are higher because we’ve got a wet year, and that wet year is also resulting in lower grade product.”

Moe said he’s heard similar bill problems, including 10 producers with SaskEnergy bills including a carbon tax worth over $1,000.

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During question period, Meili asked if Moe would co-sign his letter to Trudeau. Moe declined, saying he’s already written to the prime minister and is still waiting on a response about a meeting.

“We are waiting to have a meeting with the prime minister to sit down and not only discuss the carbon taxation policy that has been put forward, but a number of policies that have been put forward by this federal government,” Moe said.

READ MORE: Moe asks Trudeau for meeting in 2nd letter outlining Saskatchewan’s concerns

The premier has written Trudeau two letters since the Oct. 21 federal election calling for a meeting about Saskatchewan issues since the Liberals were swept out of the province.

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“Myself and the prime minister need to work together to repair the relationship and to change our direction with respect to where that relationship has been over the course of the last four years. Much of this onus is on the prime minister,” Moe said.

Moe’s request to Trudeau includes calls to discuss the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which changed the approval process for projects like pipelines. His second letter asked for a one-year suspension of the federal carbon backstop being applied in Saskatchewan.

“We will take what we can get as far as reducing the cost on Saskatchewan farmers and Saskatchewan industries,” Moe said.

Trudeau and Moe spoke shortly after the federal election, but the premier said there has not yet been further discussion on when their next meeting will be.

Meili said he’s disappointed Moe won’t co-sign his letter. He added the premier is putting politics ahead of people.

“What we should be doing, and haven’t seen from this government, is being at the table and designing a program that works for Saskatchewan,” Meili said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe looking for immediate action from Justin Trudeau

“We’ve known this was coming for a long time. The backstop came into place because the province refused to be at the table and propose something that would be acceptable and would work under the [federal] criteria. So we’re stuck with the federal program.”

When the carbon backstop was imposed, Ottawa said Saskatchewan’s plan met the criteria for heavy emitters but did not apply a carbon price economy-wide as directed.

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The federal backstop does include a carbon tax exemption on-farm fuel for vehicles. Agricultural groups have been critical, saying they are still on the hook for grain drying and fertilizer production.

The Saskatchewan government continues its legal challenge of the carbon tax. The province submitted their factum on Wednesday for the reference case set to be heard in Alberta’s Court of Appeal.

Saskatchewan’s case before the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to be heard March 17 and 18. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ottawa earlier this year in a split decision.