A FAMILY FARM is a business. A farmer is a business person. Therefore, small business tax changes proposed by the federal government will have an impact on farmers. That seems fairly straightforward; but apparently someone forgot to remind Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of these facts. Instead, the hit farmers would take to their livelihoods has been described as an ‘unintended consequence’ of new regulations designed to create a ‘fairer’ tax system.
Earlier this year, the Barton Report that came out of the Advisory Council on Economic Growth highlighted agriculture as a sector with substantial growth potential that should be invested into and supported. More recently, there was the announcement of a comprehensive review of the current suite of business risk management programs which was supported by agricultural ministers across the country. Both were good news announcements that seemed to herald an end to an era where agriculture was always on the defense.
Yet here we are again — defending agriculture, defending farmers, defending our future.
Tax changes are yet another example of how in recent years governments have rushed to implement policy based on campaign promises and ideology without fully understanding the impact it will have.
Grain Farmers of Ontario, of course, has been speaking out on behalf of farmers — raising concerns about the impact tax changes will have to succession planning, investments in innovative, new technology, and farm profitability. We joined the Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness and requested that the government take the time to work with industry instead of rushing through a short 75-day consultation period. Our chair, Mark Brock, appeared on BNN to explain how these tax changes would make bringing the next generation of farmers into the business more challenging. And yet, as the consultation period ended, we found ourselves waiting in uncertainty to see if the government would take our advice.
Farmers need stability in order to manage risk and feel comfortable that their investments will pay off in the future. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but it’s hard not to be when I can’t put any stake in the assurances we get from our elected officials that they are committed to supporting the agriculture industry.
Small businesses of all types have been raising concerns about how the proposed tax changes will negatively affect them. I’ve never seen an issue that affected so many different sectors and faced such widespread objection. The only ones who don’t seem to be mad at this are the ones who have yet to figure it out. •