Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close the debate on this motion in what could possibly be the last hours of the 38th Parliament. Although the vote on this motion may never happen, the debate on the future of agriculture in Quebec and Canada will have begun.
In the next few minutes, I want to come back to the origins of this motion and the fundamental reasons why I moved it.
This motion is the result of a broad consultation that my colleagues from the Bloc and I had a year ago and which brought us to the La Pocatière convention. Farmers made it imperative: if we want local agriculture to continue to be part of the Quebec and Canadian landscape, if we want young people to become interested in agriculture enough to spend their lives in it, we must propose innovative measures that will get convincing results in the next few years. Time is of the essence and if the governments do not soon commit to revitalizing farm life, then the family farm will soon become a thing of the past.
During its 2004 annual convention, the UPA set a goal to keep the 32,000 farms in Quebec in operation. This historic minimum of farms still in operation is indicative of a strong trend in the current global economy, which is to create mega-farms that utterly disregard the realities of local life and land use. As far as agriculture is concerned, our autonomy to feed Quebeckers is also at stake. Standing idly by would be giving in to the brute force of a market that considers only words like profit and efficiency.
What can we do to revitalize an essential occupation in our society? At the La Pocatière convention, politicians and farmers came up with ideas for improving the increasingly difficult situation farmers are in, especially when at the end of their career they want to leave their farming business and hand it over to a new generation of farmers.
First, in order to ensure that it is more profitable for a farmer to transfer or sell his farm to the next generation, rather than dismantling it, the allowable capital gains deduction for agricultural property should be increased substantially. We are proposing to increase it from $500,000 to $1 million, this exclusively for transactions as a result of which a farm remains in operation. Since taxes paid on transactions would decrease, this measure would allow the seller to dispose of his assets at a lower price, while guaranteeing him the same amount of money and encouraging young people to go into farming.
We are also proposing that the federal government extend the application of the rules governing rollovers to transfers other than those from parents to children. These would include transfers to brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, provided they are under 40 years of age. The government would then be assured that the agricultural heritage remains in the family, and that the farm operation has long-term development potential.
Moreover, savings are often considered to be the Achilles heel of farm transfers. It will be much easier for a farmer to transfer his farm to the next generation if he has a retirement fund other than his farm as such. The sale of the farm's equipment and land is often the main source of money for a farmer's retirement fund. If we want to reduce the number of farms going out of business, we should have a mechanism that encourages selling to the next generation. We are proposing that the government make a contribution to a kind of “registered farm savings plan” that would be conditional on keeping the farm in operation at the end of the farmer's career.
Finally, the federal government should transfer an envelope to the provinces for encouraging agricultural succession. This envelope could be used for the following: extending eligibility for the start-up subsidy; improving interest rate protection and increasing eligibility ceilings; providing grants for young people who are starting up a farm; and improving local sources of information on farms available for transfer in the short and middle terms.
I want to conclude by thanking colleagues from all parties who have asked me questions and contributed to the debate. We must quickly find solutions that will allow the next generation of farmers to take over. Time is of the essence. There is no longer any reason to avoid debating this issue. We have launched that debate, and now the time has come to take action.