June 18, 2015

LIB

Sean Casey

Liberal

Mr. Sean Casey

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of aspects to that question that I will try to address.

First of all, clearly, the timing of the bill is purely political. It is not just a solution in search of a problem; it is a solution in search of a fundraising letter. If the government were seriously committed to a measure like this, the government would have brought it in much earlier in the mandate.

We have also heard absolutely no evidence of the magnitude of the problem that this addresses. The member for Gatineau very ably pointed out the number of individuals who will be affected. There is absolutely no evidence that this is a rampant issue that people who commit genocide, treason and multiple murders are out walking the streets. They are not granted parole under our present system.

The other comment was with respect to prevention. With the current government, any complex social problem can apparently be solved by an amendment to the Criminal Code. These problems are much more complex than that and require much more innovative solutions. When the only thing one has in the tool kit is a sledgehammer, everything looks like a rock, and that is where we are.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Rick Norlock

Conservative

Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to advise you that I will be splitting my time.

Mr. Speaker, I say goodbye to this place wanting to thank everyone who makes our life better, everyone from yourself, to the table officers, to the people who make us feel safe, the security personnel around Parliament Hill, to the pages, to the folks upstairs who feed us, and to the folks who clean our offices. Everyone here has made my life better over the last nine years and has allowed me to do my job.

Now to the business of politics and why I am standing to speak to this bill. I had a speech, but it is too long; there is not enough time. However, I credit the Canadian people with seeing past all of the accusations that are being made with respect to this bill. As a government, we have accomplished a lot with the economy, a lot with social justice issues, which is what we are talking about here today.

We heard the other side say that it is a political stunt. This whole place is full of politicians and that is what we do.

In 2011, we had an election. In that election this party promised this piece of legislation, but we also promised other pieces of legislation. There comes a time when we have to put our money where our mouth is and we have to set priorities, something the third party's leader had trouble doing. We hear the opposition talking about all of the negativity. Canadians voted for a strong, majority Conservative government because of things like this bill, because Canadians were promised this legislation and that life would mean life. We heard the members across the way say that it does not meet the constitutional challenge. When we brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we opened a Pandora's box of challenges to the Constitution. Before that occurred, we had very few challenges to our Constitution. Now we have all of these challenges. Every Canadian knows that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been challenged from day one, from the beginning of it. Therefore, that is a rather spurious argument to say that it has to be charter-proof. There is no such thing in this country as charter-proof. There will always be someone who will challenge it.

We are delivering what we said we would deliver. We said we would bring in this piece of legislation, and we have. The opposition may by cynical in saying that it is in the dying days of the session. We are earning our keep here. We are doing the business of this country. We are doing things that we promised to do. That is why I leave this place a very proud member of Parliament, a very proud Conservative member of Parliament, because we have lived up to the things we have promised. I know my confreres leave this place knowing that what they said they would do they will do, and that will come true on October 19 also.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

I regret having to interrupt the member, but it being 5:52 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
Permalink

The House resumed from May 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-661, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of family farm or fishing corporation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


CPC

Blaine Calkins

Conservative

Mr. Blaine Calkins (Wetaskiwin, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to rise and speak on this piece of legislation that is before us in the form of a private member's bill.

I want to thank my colleague from Northumberland—Quinte West for his camaraderie and friendship. He is a kindred spirit to me. We are both former law enforcement officers, although he has much more experience than I do. We are both hunters and fishermen who love the great outdoors. I can only commend him for the excellent work he has done on the hunting and angling caucus and in passing a bill in this place that recognizes those historical traditions in our country. I want to thank him deeply for his service, and I wish him all the best, good health, and a long and healthy retirement catching all the fish and hunting all the game that is out there and available for him over the years to come.

I thank this House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-661 and to discuss how our low-tax plan is providing all Canadians with tax relief and to talk about our strong record of helping farming and fishing businesses succeed.

As the member opposite may know, our government holds an impressive record on tax relief. In fact, since 2006, the government has introduced over 180 tax relief measures, and the overall federal tax burden is now at its lowest level in more than 50 years. I have been proud to stand in this place over the last almost nine and a half years and vote in favour of all of these tax reductions.

Canadian families and individuals have benefited from significant tax reductions that have given them the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them and their families. Canadians at all income levels are benefiting from the tax relief introduced by the government, with low and middle-income Canadians receiving proportionally the most relief.

Our government knows a thing or two about tax relief. In fact, many of these farming or fishing businesses the member is raising awareness of through the proposed legislation are in fact small businesses. Our government believes that small businesses should spend their time growing their businesses and creating jobs, not choking on stifling high taxes. Cutting taxes and reducing red tape is the way to create prosperity for these business people.

We cut the small business tax rate to 11%. I actually know that number, unlike the leader of the NDP. We also increased the amount of annual income eligible for this lower rate from $300,000 to $400,000 in 2007 and to $500,000 in 2009, creating more wealth for job creators.

We cut the general corporate income tax rate to 15% in 2012, which is the number the leader from the NDP does not seem to know, from 22.12% in 2007. This benefits successful small businesses on their way to becoming big businesses, when their income exceeds $500,000.

We also reduced small businesses' El premiums by introducing the small business job credit. This credit is expected to save small businesses more than $550 million over 2015 and 2016.

To encourage further small business growth, economic action plan 2015 proposes to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, which in effect will be the largest tax rate cut for small businesses in more than 25 years.

Let me present a few numbers to illustrate the impact of the tax reductions introduced since 2006. For example, take a small business with taxable income of $500,000. The amount of federal tax paid by that business in 2019 will be 46% lower than it would have been in 2006. This represents an annual tax reduction of up to $38,600 for that business. That is enough to create a job.

These changes, among others, will help enhance the ability of small businesses across Canada to retain capital, grow their businesses, and create jobs.

If the hon. member who introduced the bill is looking for an example of a tax relief measure that benefits a number of farming or fishing business owners, she need look no further than the lifetime capital gains exemption, which this government has enhanced.

The lifetime capital gains exemption for farming or fishing property provides an incentive to invest in the development of productive farming or fishing businesses and helps farming or fishing business owners accumulate capital for retirement. This is already a measure that provides real value to these businesses, but in economic action plan 2015, we are proposing to make it even better. Economic action plan 2015 proposes to increase the lifetime capital gains exemption applicable to capital gains realized on the disposition of qualified farm or fishing property on or after April 21, 2015 to a whopping $1 million.

It is estimated that this measure will reduce capital gains taxes on owners of farming and fishing businesses by about $50 million over the 2015-16 to 2019-20 period. This is money that farmers and fishermen have invested in their businesses. They have grown their businesses. They are now able, when they dispose of these assets, to keep that hard-earned money in their pockets, money that they have invested over the years to grow their businesses. Clearly this measure would provide much more significant tax relief than Bill C-661 from my colleague across the way ever could

Before I wrap up, I want to touch on the measures our government is taking to help Canadian farmers. Through the Department of Agri-Food and Agriculture and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, our government runs several programs to help farming and fishing businesses succeed.

Under growing forward 2, which is a $3 billion dollar investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments and the foundation for government agricultural programs and services, farmers have access to a suite of business risk management programs, including agri-invest, agri-stability, agri-insurance, and agri-recovery, which help farmers in managing risk due to severe market volatility and disaster situations. These initiatives also help the industry in its efforts to research, develop and implement new agricultural risk management tools.

In addition, the federal agri-marketing program under growing forward 2 helps farmers and food processors compete in markets at home and around the world. It supports the agriculture industry by creating and maintaining access to markets and taking advantage of market opportunities. Economic action plan 2015 has provided $12 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to expand the agri-marketing program.

I will go back to the bill. What is so confusing about this one is the irony of the NDP's position on this. We know that Bill C-661 would allow siblings to benefit from the exception to the existing anti-avoidance rule, which is presently only available for spouses and children. This would effectively enable siblings to exit the farming or fishing business, while deferring capital gains tax. This is no small matter. This would be a special tax concession not available to others in similar circumstances, and it is inconsistent with the general scheme of the tax rules, which for the most part limits tax deferred asset transfers to spouses and in some cases their children.

I recall another debate that the House had recently, and that is in regard to the family tax cut. Our Government is proposing that a married couple is a single economic unit, that two spouses should be considered an economic unit. The NDP members have rejected that definition and have been opposed to this tax fairness from the very beginning. However, now they are in fact proposing to expand the definition of a single economic unit to a brother and sister or any combination of siblings. That is complete and utter hypocrisy.

Therefore, the New Democrats do not think spouses are an economic unit, but they do think that siblings somehow are. It simply does not make sense. Either they support tax fairness or they do not. Clearly this hypocritical bill put forward by the NDP suggests that it does not truly understand tax fairness either way.

In closing, allow me to reiterate that Bill C-661 would offer limited benefits for a handful of people, and would loosen the application of the anti-avoidance rule, and as such, I urge my colleagues to oppose it.

Going forward, our Government will continue to work diligently toward making life more affordable for hard-working Canadians and helping Canadian farmers and fishermen who are the backbone of our country. We will continue to build on our impressive tax relief record with measures that make a difference on the bottom lines of Canadians, and implementing measures that will help create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

In the time I have left, I just want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and everybody who occupies the chair and all of the staff at the table as well as everybody who does wonderful work in this place.

I have been a member of Parliament for almost 10 years. I tell the pages that there are 308 MPs during a four-year term and there are only 160 pages. It is harder to become a page in the House of Commons than it is to become a member of Parliament. I thank them for the diligent work they do.

I thank all of the staff and all the people who support us. I especially thank Constable Franchi for the excellent work he did on October 22. He has become a good friend of mine. He came into the room and calmed us all down on the day we were all deeply affected. I want to thank all of the House of Commons and Senate security guards, the RCMP officers who are here and keep us safe, not only on Parliament Hill, but all across the country. They do an absolutely excellent job. I thank all of those who serve here to empower me to do the best I can for my constituents in Wetaskiwin.

This is the end of the constituency of Wetaskiwin. I will be the last member of Parliament for the federal riding of Wetaskiwin, which because of the growth in Alberta is going to see new seats. I just want to say to everyone who volunteered, encouraged me, supported me, or voted for me that I could not have been more proud to be their representative for these last nine and a half years, and I look forward to running in the new riding of Red Deer—Lacombe.

From the bottom of my heart, I just want to thank everybody in the constituency of Wetaskiwin for allowing me the privilege and honour of being their member of Parliament.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
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CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

The Chair regrets he was not paying attention to the hon. member from Wetaskiwin as closely as he ought to have been. There are a lot of farewells taking place in this place today.

At this point, we are going to resume debate. The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
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LIB

Mark Eyking

Liberal

Hon. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise today to speak on Bill C-661, introduced by the member for Joliette.

I must first state that the Conservatives were speaking about how much they were supporting agriculture, but what we have seen over the last few months is pretty bad.

Two things that they have done are pretty bad. First, we have seen members from that party speaking against supply management, which is one of the pillars for agriculture in this country. Second, there are big cuts in the budget to business risk management, the tools that farmers need when they have bad years. That has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. It is very disappointing to see the Conservative government do that.

In speaking on this bill, I will be basing my remarks on my personal experience as a farmer and on the importance of maintaining family businesses. In the context of this bill, the main objective is to treat siblings like any other family members by exempting them from the anti-tax avoidance measures by amending the Income Tax Act. We are supporting that.

The reality is that even if farmers have the opportunity to give part of their farm value to their children or grandchildren without income tax consequences under the Income Tax Act of Canada, they still need to maintain sufficient investment income to ensure a healthy retirement. This is also necessary if a farmer wants to provide for their other children who are not actively involved in the operation, and the same goes for fishing families on the east coast, the west coast, and in central Canada.

Even though Canadian agriculture has changed so much, the family business is the cornerstone of the industry. Canada's agri-food sector accounts for 7% of Canada's GDP and over two million jobs. That is one job in eight. While primary agriculture accounts for a small share of the total economy, about 2%, it is at the heart of the agriculture and agri-food system and has grown over 1.5% per year since 1997.

Agriculture and fishing have drastically changed, and we need to make sure that legislation governing these industries is able to keep up with the rapid pace. In 1991, there were 280,000 farms in Canada. In 2011, that number had fallen to 206,000. However, the average size of Canadian farms has grown tremendously, from an average of 200 acres to 800 acres. In that same time period, the average age of a Canadian farm operator has risen quite dramatically, going from 48 years of age to 54. It varies across the country, but that is the average.

Urbanization, an aging population, globalization of the economy, and consolidation throughout the agri-food chain have brought fundamental structural changes at the farm level. More specifically, the need to develop new markets and to comply with consumer demands has required an adaptation of production structure and practices within the agriculture sector. Although this adaptation creates new opportunities, it poses many challenges to our young farmers and fishers.

Over the next decade, we are going to be seeing a lot of these family businesses being passed down from one generation to the next. Given the extremely harsh economic context, this bill being debated today is crucial to helping ease those transfers to other family members. Between 1991 and 2011, the number of farmers under the age of 55 fell 42%, from 265,000 to 150,000. In that time, the number of older operators increased, as I said before.

Quite simply, the Canadian farming and fishing population is aging. That does not mean there are not a lot of young people who want to get into it, but the road map there is very difficult. There are now fewer and fewer young people to replace these retiring farmers and fishers. This situation is worrisome, as young farmers guarantee the future of agriculture and play a key role in rural economic development. Many other activities in rural communities depend on the agricultural sector, including fishing, milling, hardware, processing products, and even transporting. Many of the people we see driving down the highways every day are people involved in the whole agri-food sector.

The federal government has an important obligation to improve its programs and policies to keep young farmers in the industry. By supporting the bill, we are trying to ensure that the Income Tax Act does not discourage the best-qualified person in the family from taking over the business because of tax implications.

Agriculture is more and more capital intensive. Producers have to invest in buildings, machinery, and other equipment to become more efficient and to satisfy consumer demand for low produce prices. We also see many times that in many farming operations it is not just for maintaining prices but is for food safety.

I have been travelling across the country visiting farms over the last year. It is amazing how modern these farms are, how they have HAACP in place and cleanliness and tracking of everything they are doing on the farm. This all costs money.

Market conditions also contribute to increasing the value of assets, such as land and quotas. This can cause some challenges for young farmers, as the rise in asset values are not always covered by sufficient income. It is one of the lowest returns when we look at the amount of capital spent on a farm. Many times these young farmers are operating an enterprise to put food on the table with a fairly low return.

Some agriculture sectors are doing a little better, especially with supply management, which the Liberals brought in many years ago and which we are going to stand behind 150%.

Thanks to the supply management policy governing agriculture production in Canada, farmers enjoy an environment of stable and predictable milk prices and poultry prices with the formula they have in place. The supply-managed industries collectively generate $25 billion in GDP, $5 billion in tax revenues, and over 300,000 jobs. That is just in supply management alone.

Despite these favourable conditions, under this system intergenerational transfer is difficult. When there is a need to plan for succession, numerous cases have been reported of farmers not being able to find the right arrangement to meet the expectations of the exiting farmers or of the new entrants.

I think if there was a return, a lot of people would probably think it was a good occupation and an interesting occupation and would be inclined to pursue it.

The best way to keep young farmers in the industry is to make it profitable. Farming is a lifestyle, not just an occupation, but at the end of the day, farmers still need to make money. We do not expect our health professionals and many other people in our society to work for free, and we cannot expect the producers of our food to do so either. Young farmers are not going to invest millions of dollars in something if they do not know if it is going to produce a return. Supply management provides that to them and gives them stability. As I mentioned before, business risk management is very important.

I think we can all agree that there seems to be a growing disconnect between the general population and agriculture.

Young farmers also know perfectly well that agriculture faces numerous challenges related to the increasing cost of products, as I mentioned before, reduced margins, trade and marketing issues, et cetera.

I commend groups such as the Canadian Young Farmers' Forum and the Canadian 4-H Council for their efforts to educate, energize, and empower the next generation of Canadian farmers and agriculture leaders. However, these groups need a comprehensive federal policy targeting young or new farmers to make it feasible.

That is not to say that this shift in the agricultural sector should diminish the importance of maintaining smaller operations. There are also many small successful farms, and the government should be doing more to help those operations as well. Small operations as well as big ones can contribute and can work together.

I am very much in favour of the motion. It would be another tool in the tool box to help farmers get through. For those farmers who work so hard and put so much into their farms, many of them 60 and 70 years old, the only return they can get will be through the implementation of this bill.

This is the last half a minute of what is probably my last speech in the House. I am glad I am doing it on agriculture. I am a farmer from Cape Breton, and our family has a farming business.

I would like to thank all my colleagues, and I wish them well through the summer and in their future endeavours. I thank all the staff here who have done so much for us and have kept the place going, the staff in our whip's office, who keep us here all the time, and of course, my colleagues here tonight who stayed with us for the last shift.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
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NDP

Mylène Freeman

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mylène Freeman (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in support of the bill introduced by my colleague from Joliette. I want to commend her on this excellent initiative and on all the good work she has done over the past four years. I really enjoyed working with her and I thank her. I also thank her for truly being a strong voice for farmers in Quebec and for standing up for our regions. I am proud not only to support this bill, but also to have worked with her.

The NDP believes that it is important to support our family farms in Quebec and Canada given that we recognize how important they are to our regions and to the Canadian economy as a whole. Bill C-661 is a step in the right direction for family farms. It makes a small change to the Income Tax Act. It is a small change, but a logical one that will have a big impact. This change is needed to remedy a situation that can create serious problems for farmers. Transfers of family farms are often very complicated. I doubt that any MP in this House believes that that is good for the economy. We want to make it easier for farmers to get down to work, pursue their passion and be able to transfer these farms to family members who want to take them over. We want to ensure that they put all their time, money and energy into this very important work.

Under existing laws, brothers and sisters are not considered to be family and are therefore penalized if they want to buy, sell or transfer land to each other. This can make it even more difficult for them to manage their family farm, especially when they are looking for someone to take over, which may sometimes be a brother or sister. This makes the situation more difficult. We all know that farmers need a government they can count on to make these transfers easier so that they can get back to their work, which is so important to our economy and to all Canadians. We want to be able to eat food grown in Quebec and to take advantage of it.

In my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, agriculture is an extremely important part of the economy. There is a huge amount of diversity in the agriculture, in the type of agriculture and in the changes taking place across my riding, whether it is in Argenteuil, Papineau, Mirabel, the Deux-Montagnes region or even Les Pays-d'en-Haut. It is incredible to see all of the microclimates that exist. This means that different crops can be grown in these locations. It is very important to note that families put their hearts and souls into their passion in order to be able to feed Canadians and Quebeckers. Agriculture is therefore an important economic reality in the region. They are all family farms. Eastern Canada is at a real risk of losing its family farms. We must do everything we can to reverse that trend. Since the Conservatives came to power, thousands of family farms have had to shut down. That is unacceptable. This government has not been able to protect struggling local communities and farmers.

We must also realize that when the agricultural sector is under pressure, the whole rural community feels the effects. We are referring to all the people who make their seasonal contributions and all the small businesses that depend on farmers' investments. Therefore it is very important to ensure stability and investment in this industry. A small change like this will have a huge impact because, as I said, it will eliminate a lot of stress and problems surrounding transfers, rather than creating more paperwork and wasting time, energy and money. We truly must encourage the new generation.

Let us remember a few facts. Canada once had a world-class agricultural infrastructure, and family farms and rural communities were the heart and soul of the industry. Today, however, Canadian agriculture faces the problem of land takeovers, with farmland being purchased and concentrated in the hands of huge businesses. The family farm and the small agricultural business are definitely endangered.

In order to combat this phenomenon and the decrease in the number of farm owners in Canada, the NDP knows that we must lend a hand to family farms and facilitate the transfer of assets between family members.

We simply want to make it possible to recognize the family ties between brothers and sisters in an agricultural operation, in order to make intergenerational transfers and division of assets more flexible and encourage new blood, a new generation of farmers who will be able to carry the torch and invest in their business as their family has done.

I wish to reiterate my wholehearted support for this bill, and I thank my colleague for introducing it. It is extremely important that we have a chance to debate it, and I am pleased we are able to do that this evening.

Since we are at second reading, I hope we will be able to pass this bill, because this is important legislation. My constituents in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel believe this bill is necessary and is a step in the right direction.

To conclude, because I think this will be my last speech in this Parliament before we leave and the election is held, I would like to thank all my constituents in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for a wonderful four years.

I have learned so much from the day I was elected, at the age of 22, to today, when I am 26 years old. I feel that I have grown up here, in a way, and that is thanks to the support of all these fantastic people: my colleagues, my constituents, my team and everyone who works in Parliament every day. I have enjoyed my experience tremendously, and I would like to thank them, because they are what have made it so wonderful.

I am very eager to come back in the fall. I hope to see many of the faces I see today again. To those who are retiring, my thanks and my best wishes for their retirement. I wish everyone a lovely summer. Thank you once again.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
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NDP

François Choquette

New Democratic Party

Mr. François Choquette (Drummond, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak.

I listened to the speech by my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, who has done an excellent job in her constituency and here in the House of Commons. She has been a strong voice for the status of women, among other things. I am very pleased. She talked about how important this bill is.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Joliette for introducing Bill C-661, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of family farm or fishing corporation). She has done excellent work with the agricultural community. She has worked very hard, visiting farms and doing a number of tours around her constituency, to get to know the municipalities and the rural communities. She has worked with people in agriculture, and that is where this bill originates: from a broad consultation in her community that has enabled her to introduce a bill in answer to what the agricultural community has asked for.

This is what is at issue in this bill. Bill C-661 makes a small change to the Income Tax Act, but the change is one that is completely necessary and logical. Farmers all across Canada know they can count on the NDP to make more intergenerational transfers possible in family farm or fishing corporations.

For many years, in fact nearly a half-century now, the NDP has been part of the agricultural community. That community is truly important to us. One thing that is essential is to ensure that our family farms and our agricultural community do not just survive, they prosper, and that they thrive and are effective and dynamic. That is why introducing this bill is important.

We support an economy in which farmers are entrepreneurs, not wage workers. In a majority of cases, the ideal situation is to have entrepreneurial farmers. To combat land grabbing and the galloping decline in the number of farm owners in Canada, we have to be prepared to lend our farm families a hand, and that is precisely what we want to do, by facilitating transfers between members of the same family. That is what this bill proposes.

Bill C-661will facilitate intergenerational transfer in the case of a farm co-owned by a brother and a sister, for example, where the farm could be passed down only by one of the co-owners. The owner not leaving an inheritance could then withdraw without an insurmountable impact on operations, and the co-owner passing the farm on to the next generation could proceed with an orderly handover.

This is in fact a minor change. However, it will provide considerable help to family farms. It is important to remember that family farms have gone through some tough times in recent years. Here are a few statistics to support my case. For instance, in Quebec, the value of land has jumped 600% over the past 23 years. Obviously, the stakeholders in these transactions are motivated by reasons other than farm development. These transactions are often speculative in nature. This hampers our ability to save family farms. As well, we have seen family farms really running out of steam in recent years. Between 2007 and 2012, 22,235 farms ceased operations. Over 22,000 family farms have disappeared. That is a drop of close to 13.6%.

The disappearance of small and medium-sized family farms throughout Canada and in the greater Drummond area is of great concern.

I mentioned the excellent work done by my colleague from Joliette, in whose footsteps I followed. In fact, since I was elected in 2011, I have made a number of tours. Every year, I do what I call the municipality tour, the main goal of which is to tour the rural areas. I have had an opportunity to visit a number of businesses, including many family farms. I will name some of them to demonstrate the agricultural wealth and vitality in Drummond.

The Entreprises G.M. Benoit farm is an excellent dairy farm that belongs to the Benoît family in Sainte-Brigitte-des-Saults. Stéphanie, Andréane and Yanick do an excellent job and have won prizes for their high-quality products.

There is also a farm in Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover that belongs to the Jutras family, called “Les cultures de chez nous”. This is the kind of farm found throughout Quebec, and it is a source of great pride. The family produces leeks, and the leeks from our farms are renowned throughout the region. They also produce berries and asparagus.

I would also like to mention the Claumond chicken farm in Saint-Edmond-de-Grantham.

We also have the Ferme Bel Alpaga et Bon Autruche in Saint-Bonaventure, which is owned by Claude Petit and Mélanie Boucher. As the name of the farm says, they are specialists in raising alpacas and ostriches. They also produce excellent meat that is sold in our region.

Another one is the Valnico farm in Sainte-Brigitte-des-Saults. This farm belongs to Mr. Jutras and Ms. Ross, who own dairy cows and do wonderful work. It is another family farm that has come down through the generations.

I must also mention the Canneberges Drummond farm, as there are a lot of cranberries in the region, especially in the municipality of Saint-Lucien. The Gardner family is doing a wonderful job of allowing family farms to survive.

All these descriptions are meant to show the wealth that family farms and agriculture represent in Drummond. I could name dozens more. I wanted to give these examples to show the importance of having a thorough knowledge of our rural community. In addition, it was because she understands our rural community that the member for Joliette introduced this bill.

Now let us come back to the bill. Joint ownership by the children of one family will be increasingly common over the next 10 years. We must therefore give them greater flexibility so that they can buy and sell their operation within the same family, including between brothers and sisters.

The NDP has been committed for a long time now to promoting family farms. We have a food strategy that aims at tackling farm accessibility issues, facilitating farm succession, because it is very important to have access to the capital and the land necessary for food production, providing support for planning the succession arrangements for family farms and revising the tax code to facilitate the takeover of farm businesses.

In short, this bill is extremely important, because it is a first step in encouraging our family farms. It encourages not only their survival, but also their vitality, so that family farms in the greater Drummond area, in central Quebec, in Joliette, in the province of Quebec and throughout Canada will be able to prosper. This is what is important, and this is why we are doing this work.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
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CPC

Peter Van Loan

Conservative

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I did not really want to interrupt, but there was a point of privilege raised earlier today. We reserved the right to respond to it, and I will provide a brief response. This was the point of privilege raised by the member for Mount Royal.

His point of privilege related to order paper Question No. 1229. At its essence, the hon. member really seemed to be raising a point of order, claiming that Standing Order 39(1) had been breached. The rule states in part:

...no argument or opinion is to be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain the same...

The public safety minister's answer on the question that we are dealing with, he claims, is opinion. However, my view is that the answer is responsive to the question and the issues raised in his question. In view of the nature of the questions he raised, it would be impossible for the government to respond with anything other than the kind of response that was received.

The learned professor's question is expressed in some 819 words, I should point out, so I will only offer the Chair portions in order to save time. On five different occasions he asked, with regard to the program, “what was its objective”. Another five times, he asked “what was its outcome”. Twice, we can read in the question the following “what objectives was the government seeking to achieve”. Likewise, there were two requests for “how will the objectives...be achieved”. We also see in his question the phrase “based on what factors did the government decide”.

All of these read very much to me like questions probing for value-oriented facts.

To combine the opening words—or the chapeau, as it would technically be known—two of these questions ask:

With regard to funding for programs that facilitate the reintegration of offenders into communities following incarceration...what objectives was the government seeking to achieve...?

Why should it surprise the hon. member that the public safety minister answered, “...the government believes that dangerous sex offenders belong behind bars”? He is objecting that he got that kind of answer, but that is the very objective that the government is seeking to achieve, which he asked for in his question.

The hon. member for Mount Royal seeks value-based answers and he has been given in reply an answer setting out the government's perspective and policies. The perspective and that policy are facts. That is the government's position.

The answer continues, “That is why the government...”, and it goes on. It is quite clear that the opening of the answer is both responsive to his request for value-based answers but is also, with respect to the continuum of the answer, “necessary to explain the same”, to quote Standing Order 39(1).

The hon. member for Mount Royal might well dislike the government's policies and views on taking a strong line on sex offenders, criminals whose offences frequently turn on the abuse of vulnerable persons, but that does not mean he can start claiming that a statement of fact about the government's views is a violation of his parliamentary privilege.

In any event, other than establishing that I think that the statement has gone some distance to actually answer the question, the things he is complaining about are the very things he asked for.

I would go on to note that it is a commonly cited maxim here that Speakers do not have authority under our rules to judge the content or quality of responses to questions. What is more, it should not be a burden that we try to place upon them.

Pages 522 and 523 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice are often cited in the chamber for this proposition. They say:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions. Nonetheless, on several occasions, Members have raised questions of privilege in the House...; in none of these cases was the matter found to be a prima facie breach of privilege.

The hon. member for Mount Royal is effectively—and creatively, I might say—attempting to invent some new approach for you, Mr. Speaker, to do what you traditionally do not do, and I encourage you not to go there. Otherwise, this will be forever a rabbit hole, in which we are asking the Speaker to evaluate every aspect of every question. It will involve research into the programs, in a case like this, to find whether the programs really have these objectives, and whether he agrees with that or not.

He asked for these answers and he got them.

Another saying around here is that we are not to do indirectly what may be done directly. That is, of course, what the member for Mount Royal is seeking to do with his point of privilege. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I think that you are on a very sound footing to simply dismiss the hon. member's complaint about the answer to Question No. 1229.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

The Chair thanks the government House leader for his intervention. As always, it will be taken into consideration when this matter is evaluated.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
Permalink

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-661, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (transfer of family farm or fishing corporation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


NDP

Francine Raynault

New Democratic Party

Ms. Francine Raynault (Joliette, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues who have spoken to this bill.

In recent weeks, I had the opportunity to present my bill to farmers with the UPA. As my colleague from Drummond just said, in 2013 I toured the farms around the riding of Joliette. We had a chance to talk about Bill C-661, as well as other issues surrounding young farmers and the transfer of family farms.

I came away enriched by these discussions, which confirmed that Bill C-661 is truly a step in the right direction, if not a miraculous solution. It is a small change, but as we have said again and again, it is an important one.

Members will recall that Bill C-661 amends the Income Tax Act in order to provide that, in the case of the shares of the capital stock of a family farm or fishing corporation, siblings are deemed not to be operating at arm’s length and to be related. Currently, section 55 of the Income Tax Act is the only one that does not acknowledge that brothers and sisters do not operate at arm’s length. This is an inconsistency that affects family farms held by siblings, depriving them of the flexibility they need at this time.

I should point out that land grabs have inflated the value of farms to the point where it is now unthinkable that a farm belonging to brothers and sisters might survive if one of the owners leaves. In fact, the income tax alone on the value owned by one of the partners could destroy the farm’s profitability. In Quebec, for example, the value of land has increased by 600% over the past 23 years.

Still in Quebec, the number of transactions has increased by 67% in the past year alone, and the value of those transactions has climbed by 84%. The main players in these transactions have no interest in agriculture, and their actions are primarily speculative. It is the same throughout Canada, so much so that Saskatchewan recently passed legislation prohibiting purchases of farmland by pension plans.

This state of affairs is of great concern to me and, as a former farmer, I can clearly see the risk that it poses to the future of farming in Canada. It is dangerous. Unfortunately, I am afraid that we are encouraging an industry of paid farmers rather than entrepreneurial farmers.

Frankly, it has become impossible for a young family to get into farming if the family members do not have any relatives who are farmers, and even if they do, it is not easy to transfer ownership. In fact, the current situation is still conducive to selling to a large investment company that is outside of the family. This puts our food sovereignty into jeopardy.

Society has made this choice, but is it our choice? I do not think so. We have the ability to turn back the tide. There is still much to be done to help the next generation of farmers, but Bill C-661 is a step in the right direction. This bill is a clear solution to a glaring problem.

Over the next few years, the aging of the population will affect farming as it will everything else, and we will see more and more brothers and sisters becoming owners of a farm. We have to give them the flexibility they need to embark on this adventure confidently.

Once again, I think that the NDP has found a concrete solution for our family farms, and we will continue defending them staunchly. I hope that all my colleagues on the government side will vote in favour of this wonderful bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 23, 2015, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Facilitating the Transfer of Family Farm or Fishing Corporations Act
Permalink

June 18, 2015