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.