OTTAWA — The Conservatives dialed up the pressure on the Senate on Tuesday to vote in favour of a carbon-pricing bill, all the while accusing the Liberals of trying to intimidate senators into delaying the bill.
The Liberals, for their part, turned the accusations right back at the Tories, accusing them of "bullying tactics" in targeting senators who disagree with the Conservative position.
In the Senate, a proposed amendment to the bill was defeated on Tuesday evening, bringing the private member's bill one step closer to becoming law.
All eyes are on the debate on the bill, which would create a carbon-price carve-out for farmers. The temperature recently rose to the point where some senators reported online abuse: one left her home because of a threat, while another apologized for bringing intimidating behaviour to the Senate floor.
On Tuesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre added more heat, tabling a motion in the House of Commons asking MPs to vote in favour of telling the "unelected Senate" to hurry up and pass Bill C-234.
The legislation, introduced last year by Conservative MP Ben Lobb, would stop applying the carbon price to natural gas and propane used for farm activities for at least eight years.
Gasoline and diesel used for farming is already exempt, as there are no alternatives for farmers to using those fuels to run machinery. But the government argues that when it comes to fuels used to heat barns or power grain dryers, there are alternatives and efficiencies that farmers can put in place.
Conservatives say the carbon price is costing farmers tens of thousands of dollars and making food more expensive.
The bill passed the House of Commons earlier this year with support from all parties except the Liberals.
Poilievre said the "democratically elected" House of Commons must prevail, particularly on any bill that addresses what he called "taxes."
"Only the House of Commons has the power of the public purse," he insisted.
The Conservatives have previously accused Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault of calling senators to "intimidate them" into stalling the bill, a charge Guilbeault has denied.
The minister said he had spoken with about six senators to explain the government's position, but did not tell them how to vote.
It is the Conservatives, Guilbeault said, who are stomping their feet and demanding the Senate heed their bidding.
And he said they have done it before, in an attempt four years ago to stop the passage of a new environmental assessment process.
"The Conservative party didn't feel that the Senate was so unelected when they tried to block the adoption of (Bill) C-69 on impact assessment in 2019," Guilbeault said.
"And it's somewhat ironic that they're telling us to let the Senate do their work, yet they're trying to adopt the motion that would pressure the Senate to do what they want."
Guilbeault went on to point fingers at Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer for posting "online pictures of some senators as if they were wanted criminals."
On Nov. 15, Scheer posted pictures and contact information of Sen. Bernadette Clement, and Sen. Chantal Petitclerc, saying people should contact them to ask why they were delaying passage of the bill.
The post came days after Clement had proposed adjourning debate on the amendment to the bill that was ultimately defeated on Tuesday. She said the reason for the adjournment was intended to allow senators who weren't in the room a chance to speak to the amendment later on.
Following the post, both women said they were the target of harassing and hateful phone calls. Clement received a telephone threat from someone promising to come to her home, and police recommended that she leave for her own safety.
"Who is bullying who?" Guilbeault said. "We're not telling senators how to vote. The Conservative party is."
Guilbeault also reminded the House that Conservative Leader Don Plett had to apologize last week for crossing the floor and yelling at Clement and another senator during the debate over the amendment.
If the bill is amended, the Senate would have to send it back to the House of Commons, and MPs would have to approve any chances before lobbing it back to the upper chamber again.
Conservatives raised concerns that this would allow the government to further stall on the bill.
The defeated amendment, which would have adjusted how long the farm fuel carbon price exemption could last, was rejected in a close vote on Tuesday evening, with 42 senators voting against it and 36 voting in favour.
Poilievre shrugged off Guilbeault's accusations against Scheer, saying in the House on Tuesday that all he had done was share publicly available information about the two senators.
"I want to tell him what intimidation looks like," he said.
It's when a single mother can't feed her kids or pay her bills at the end of the month, he said.
"That is the real intimidation that this government has imposed on working-class people," he added. "He wants to talk about threats? It's a threat to the quality of life of the people who do the work in this country."
The Senate is still debating the main thrust of Bill C-234 and further amendments are expected to be proposed. No date has been set yet for it to go to a final vote.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2023.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press