Mr. Speaker, I consider it a privilege to speak in favour of the motion.
I would like to thank the Bloc member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for her work on this motion. It is a very important motion.
It is very important for the people here who do not come from a farming background to know this. We must keep our farms for our family members.
I come from the village of Stoney Point in Ontario. I look at my family, the Comartins. They are trying very hard to keep the farm in the family. But every year, it gets harder. There are problems with other people, especially syndicates that want to buy up these farms and have more money to do that.
In addition, there has been constant incursion by urban and suburban pressures to sell the farms. I have heard several speakers talk about the love that people have for the land and the importance of that attachment. That is personal. One might ask if we as legislators have to be concerned about that. For the cynical, we may say no.
There is a much more important reason why we have to protect the family farm. We simply cannot allow the production of our food supply to be more concentrated in fewer hands. That is the pattern in Canada and across the globe. We have to fight against this pattern. The government needs policies to prevent this from happening.
It was interesting to listen to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance arguing that the capital gains provisions protected family farms. We had those same capital gains provisions back when I started practising law in 1973. Those provisions have been around unaltered for over 30 years. Land values have increased. The cost of living has increased dramatically in that period of time, but those capital gains provisions have not been changed at all for more than 30 years.
I acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for Châteauguay--Saint-Constant in drawing this to our attention. It is one of the reasons why I believe all members should support the motion, a motion that the government should look very closely at implementing.
Similarly, with regard to extending the provisions beyond the limited number of people who can benefit from inter-family and intergenerational exchanges of the property, it is important that be broadened.
I come back to my family. I look at those members of the family who are committed to the farm and are willing to stay around. They are not always children, but oftentimes they are nephews and nieces, sometimes grandnephews and grandnieces who are committed to the family farm. They want to farm, but they need financial assistance and policies to make that possible. The pressure of the competition is quite phenomenal. That is true not just in my home area but right across the country.
Another point on the capital gains issue is this. The parliamentary secretary made the point that it was not $500,000 but $1 million because both spouses were entitled to the farm. This shows a real lack of knowledge on his part. In the vast majority of cases intergenerational transfer occurs after one of the parents has passed away. Therefore, we are only talking about one capital gain, not two. In most cases the first parent who dies is the male. The spouse may stay on the farm for a few years after his death. The double capital gains provision is of no help in protecting the surviving spouse from those implications.
I know there are only a few words in the motion with regard to this, but the provisions that would expand the ability of owners to use the land provisions to protect themselves, which would not affect their RRSPs but it would their transfers, is a good idea. It is creative and it is one that the government could easily follow.
The parliamentary secretary made the comment that nothing is free. The government is quite prepared to make substantial tax benefits flow to oftentimes major corporations and multinational corporations. Many times that tax benefit does not even stay in Canada. That money flows out of the country, mostly to the United States but also to Europe and the far east.
If we are looking at having to pay something for this, we will have to give something up. If we look across the whole spectrum, the family farm should be at the top of the list, not as we saw from the government and its willingness to give a billion to two billion dollars in tax breaks to the multinational corporations and the large profitable corporations in the country. It is not needed there. It is needed in the family farm. The provision that the member suggested is a very positive one.
I have some reservations with regard to a transfer of money to the provinces. I always worry when that is not quantified. The need for further assistance to the family farm for the transfer of ownership from this generation to the next and the one after that is so obvious. Even though I have some reservations about it the transfers to the province, it will not limit the support that I have expressed for the motion overall.
I want to finish with a couple of experiences I had as a member.
A about a year or two years ago, a delegation of farmers, mostly from the western provinces, met with our caucus. It was intergenerational. They made the point that has been made this evening about the age of the average farmer in Canada being in the mid to late 50s. It is probably approaching 60 now. Their fear was being unable to put in place the proper economic circumstances that would allow the next generation to acquire the family farm. There were probably 15 or 20 different families around the table. Every one of them had children and in some cases even grandchildren who were old enough to take on the farming responsibilities. Every one of them said that it would not happen. The economic circumstances were such that they were unable to do that. It was really sad.
The other one happened this summer. Our leader was in the riding and we met with farm groups. We heard exactly the same story from the county of Essex. About 10 different families were represented. It was a small meeting of some of the leadership. In every case there were serious reservations and outright expressions of impossibility of being able to transfer. For that reason, every member in the House should support the motion.