Mr. Speaker, today, I have the great pleasure of taking part in the debate on the bill introduced by my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. First of all, I want to thank my colleague for his work on this bill, his commitment, his consultations, and for listening. This is truly a bill that will improve Canadians' quality of life.
I have to admit that I was truly disappointed with the speech by my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain. I represent the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé and part of the regional municipality of Maskinongé is located in Mauricie.
My colleague from Shawinigan represents a very rural area that has hundreds of SMEs, and I know that this bill will improve the economic situation of the regions. It is really frustrating when members pull figures out of thin air, maybe out of their own pockets. I believe that everyone agrees with the principle of this bill. I hope that it will be referred to committee so we can better understand where these figures come from.
I would like to point out that this bill has widespread support from all across the country. I believe it is also important to talk about this bill in my role as agriculture and agri-food critic. I am a member of the standing committee, and we are currently studying the next policy framework. Earlier today, in fact, officials were explaining to us once again how hard it is to find people to take over. It is not easy. The price of land is going up, and access to capital is difficult, so a bill like this one is a step in the right direction.
I should explain a little about the situation facing family farms in Canada. Over the past 10 years, we have lost 8,000 family farms. It is clear that this phenomenon is far from over, and it is important that we tackle the problem head on. There are a number of things we could do, and one of them is to make it easier to transfer farms between family members.
We also know that we have an aging population, especially in the regions. The demand for people to take over these businesses is only going to increase over the next few years. Overall, we are talking about $50 billion in farm assets that will be transferred between 2016 and 2026. Therefore, this bill is very important to the farming community.
At present, farmers look at their farms as their pension fund, and as much as they would love to transfer them to a family member, it is much more advantageous to sell to a stranger than someone who is part of the family. It is really sad, and we need to correct this injustice.
Let us imagine a farm worth $10 million. That farm would be worth $1.25 million more to the farmer after tax if he sells it to a stranger rather than a member of his own family. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the choice that has to be made. Farmers have to sell to strangers instead of passing the business down from one generation to the next, because the tax rules are unfair and completely unfavourable.
The problem with high land prices is that unrelated investors often have more interest in the land itself rather than farming it. Many farmers have to face really tough choices because of this. They have to choose between their hard-earned retirement and keeping production in the family.
Let us not forget that other factors also contribute to the challenges facing our family farms. My Conservative colleague mentioned this. We can talk about the government's role in border control, the government's failure to act on the diafiltered milk issue, and the completely unfair compensation for dairy farmers and processors under CETA. That is the situation facing our farmers and artisanal cheese producers in the regions. Things are really tough.
On top of that, in other agricultural sectors, farmers are really worried about the labour shortage. As we know, in the last budget, the government allocated very little money to agriculture.
All of the measures I listed that are designed to support supply management are really in the government's hands, but it seems disinclined to act or to protect it.
As the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, a rural riding, I understand how important this bill is to the people I represent.
I would like to briefly discuss the importance of small businesses to the regions. As I said earlier, small businesses are responsible for 80% of job creation in Canada. In Quebec, and in Canada as a whole, 98% of all businesses are small and medium-sized businesses.
The NDP believes we must do everything we can to ensure that businesses operate under the best possible conditions to stay competitive in a constantly changing market. The NDP will fight to protect our jobs and our family businesses.
Small businesses are the economic heart of our regions. We all have a favourite restaurant or corner store or a salon where we like to get our hair cut, and we have to support these businesses and encourage them. This is a step in the right direction. We are proud of it. We were all elected to try to introduce good legislative change.
I believe the situation in Berthier—Maskinongé is like that in my colleagues' ridings.
Bill C-274 will improve things. It is a step in the right direction. However, let us not forget that there are other areas we must improve in order to protect the regions. For example, the government promised to lower taxes from 11% to 9%. That is a broken promise. Let us not forget how important it is to develop high speed internet in the regions. We must support our family businesses and the government has to ensure that we have all the tools we need in the next strategic plan.
Our bill is widely supported. I know that my colleague already mentioned it, but there is a list of supporters two or three pages long.
I would like to read a quote by the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture:
Simply put, if taxation barriers are not addressed, we will see fewer and fewer family farms in Canada. We support [the commitment by the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and his colleague] to addressing these tax burdens that could cause a significant administrative burden [and] cost...
The bill also has the support of the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec.
It is unfair. Everyone knows there is work to be done. I think that we have had a good debate so far. However, it is important to ensure that this bill gets to committee. We must have the figures and know where they come from and we must be sure to present something that is going to improve the quality of life for the people living in rural areas who support our SMEs. This bill will really change things.
We hope to have the support of the House and to at least be able to refer this bill to committee. This bill will really change things for Canadians across the country.