‘I haven’t said I would be resigning’ over carbon pricing, Guilbeault tells Senate

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told the Senate on Wednesday that he has not promised to step down if there are any further carve-outs from the carbon price, and he is putting no pressure on any senators to kill off a bill that would do that.

Guilbeault’s appearance in the Senate’s question period came amid a furor in the upper chamber over Bill C-234, which would extend carbon price exemptions for at least eight years to propane and natural gas farmers use to heat buildings and dry grain.

The bill was introduced by Conservative MP Ben Lobb in 2022 and passed the House of Commons earlier this year with support from all parties except the Liberals.

Debate over the bill in the Senate has become so heated that Sen. Bernadette Clement said she was forced to leave her home in Cornwall, Ont., for several days in the last week after receiving a phone threat from an “angry man” who said he would come to her house.

That came after Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer posted her photo and contact information, along with the details of another senator, on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The post urged people to call them to ask why they were shutting down debate.

Clement had moved to adjourn debate on the bill on Nov. 9 because she said there were senators absent who wanted to be able to speak to it.

Clement and Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain also accused Conservative Sen. Don Plett and some of his colleagues of physical intimidation and verbal harassment on the Senate floor after the adjournment motion.

A man wearing glasses is shown in a shirt and tie.
Conservative Senator Don Plett of Manitoba insists he did not behave “unprofessionally.” (Chris Rands/CBC)

Plett is expected to further respond to the allegations later on Thursday in the Senate, but said earlier this week that while he got angry, he didn’t think he had conducted himself “unprofessionally.”

The Tories also accuse the federal government of conspiring with some senators to get the bill killed, something the Liberals and several senators deny.

If the bill is amended in the Senate, that would require another round of debate and voting in the House of Commons, where the Liberals would have more control over when, or even if, that ever happens.

It was with all that hanging over the Senate that Guilbeault arrived on Wednesday to take senators’ questions, which cabinet ministers do regularly.

Guilbeault says he hasn’t pressured senators

Plett, who is the leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, pushed Guilbeault on the bill and demanded to know how many senators he has “pressured to vote against or gut this bill and deny our farmers the desperately needed tax relief.”

“Zero,” Guilbeault replied.

Guilbeault has acknowledged calling about half a dozen senators to speak about the bill, but he insisted he just gave them the government’s position and did not pressure them to vote against it.

“With all due respect, senator, there’s a world of difference between talking to someone and pressuring or whipping them into doing something or voting in a certain way,” Guilbeault said.

“You asked me how many I pressured or whipped, and the answer is zero.”

Conservatives, he said, are the only ones whipping their caucus to vote a certain way on the bill.

“I believe that the Senate is a very important part of our parliamentary system, and senators should be able to make the decisions that they want without being pressured by the House of Commons,” he said.

“I’m not pressuring anyone, as opposed to the Conservative Party of Canada, who has launched a campaign against senators who don’t agree with them. I find that very troubling.”

Plett also pushed Guilbeault over a comment the minister made earlier this month promising that “as long as I’m the environment minister, there will be no more exemptions to carbon pricing.”

That came after the Liberals introduced a three-year carve-out from carbon pricing for heating oil, which they said was designed to give people more time and money to replace oil furnaces with electric heat pumps.

“Minister, will you keep your promise and resign if Bill C-234 is passed in its original form?” Plett asked.

“Isn’t that, minister, why you are calling senators to talk against this bill — because you’ve threatened to quit if it passes? Is your job more important to you, minister, than the livelihood of Canadian farmers and affordable food for Canadian families?”

Guilbeault said none of that was true.

“I haven’t said I would be resigning,” he said. “The prime minister of Canada has also said that there would be no exemption to carbon pricing in this country.”

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