Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen says the decision to delay implementation of a private member’s bill that would make it easier for farmers to transfer assets to family members is indicative of the government refusing to abide by the wishes of Parliament.
“It’s just an ongoing trend of the government (thinking) they can do whatever they want, regardless of what Parliament dictates,” said the Conservative MP.
Bill C-208, which is sponsored by Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, amends two sections of the Income Tax Act to remove what was perceived as an unfair tax burden on farmers, fishermen and other small business-owners trying to transfer business assets to family members.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), which strongly supported the passage of Bill C-208, said these sections of the Income Tax Act made it more costly to transfer their farm to a family member than to a third party.
Considering that the average age of Canadian farmers is 55 years, Bill C-208 had huge implications for billions of dollars in farm assets that will be changing hands in the next few decades.
Bill C-208 received royal assent on June 29, 2021. However, the Liberal government announced shortly afterwards that the legislation would not be implemented until January 2022 so that potential tax “loopholes” could be addressed.
On July 12, Viersen put out a news release criticizing the Liberals for “(throwing) the will of Parliament out the window,” this time on the backs of farm families.
“BIll C-208 is common sense legislation that will reduce taxes on Canadian farmers who want to pass their farm on to family members,” Viersen said.
“The only reason the Liberal government is delaying the implementation of this bill is that they want Canadian farm families to pay higher taxes. This is shameful.”
In an interview on July 15, Viersen acknowledged there was likely another reason why the Liberals were delaying implementation of the bill: to make potentially controversial changes after the federal election, which is expected to be called in the next few months.
“It’s kind of the worst-kept secret that we’re going to be into an election in the next two or three months,” Viersen acknowledged.
More broadly, however, Viersen said it’s frustrating that Parliament doesn’t have control of the government right now.
For instance, Viersen pointed out that the House of Commons previously passed a motion to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, but nothing came of that.
Also in late 2020, Parliament passed a Conservative motion to demand the Liberal government make a decision on whether to allow Huawei Technologies to supply equipment for Canada’s next generation 5G wireless networks. Again, the Liberals refused to commit to action.
Then in 2021, Parliament made a motion to recognize China’s actions against the Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province as genocide. However, that motion was ultimately defeated in the Senate, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself was reluctant to criticize China.
“This is a repeated trend that we see,” Viersen said.
But what if there are potential loopholes created by Bill C-208? It has been suggested that the amendments to the Income Tax Act could allow individuals to create shell companies and potentially limit the tax hit by transferring shares to family members and utilizing the Capital Gains Exemption.
However, Viersen said there was an opportunity to address any potential loopholes when the bill was in committee.
In the meantime, farm families and other small businesses looking to transfer assets between family members will have to wait until 2022, assuming the bill isn’t scrapped altogether.
“If Canadians don’t care about farm families and supporting Canadian agriculture, they have three parties to choose from. If they want to support family farms, they only have one choice — Canada’s Conservatives,” Viersen said.