John Barlow: Farmers Should Not Yet be Breathing a Sigh of Relief

OTTAWA – Assuming Canadian farm families are soothed by the federal Liberal government’s alleged walk-back on a suite of punitive tax changes is wrong.

In fact, what Prime Minister Trudeau has done is tell farmers when it comes to your taxes you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. In speaking to producers across Canada they are not relieved. Quite the contrary, they are angry, betrayed and can no longer trust the Liberals. One cannot blame them for questioning whether or not the step back by Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau is genuine.

First, the Liberals announced these tax changes in the middle of the summer when Canadian farmers were concerned about harvest, not about dissecting legislation on new taxes.

Second, the ‘consultation’ was not genuine. Legislation was already written and the Prime Minister was adamant these tax changes were going ahead.

Third, farmers, ranchers and respected economists across the country raised profound concerns about the tax changes. They stated these changes would remove critical tools available to farmers like income sprinkling and passive investment and also severely limit their ability to pass the farm onto the next generation. In fact, rather than listen to feedback from small business owners, professionals and farmers, the Liberals called them tax cheats.

The Liberal finance minister stated these tax changes would not impact the agriculture industry despite the concerns raised by stakeholders throughout the country. They claimed opponents of the tax changes were “fear-mongering” and anyone questioning these new taxes was a misinformed rube.

Finally, the Liberals admitted you were right. Yes, these tax changes would have a detrimental impact on our agriculture sector and yes it would mean substantially higher taxes for producers passing the family farm onto the next generation. Were it not for this tax revolt, these changes were going ahead. Period.

Remember, these changes are now being reviewed; therefore, we must remain vigilant. There is nothing to celebrate for our Agriculture sector when it comes to Liberal taxes.

In fact, there are new limits on passive investment and red tape imposed on farmers will make life more difficult and expensive. Farmers and ranchers will have to comply with the subjective and vague ‘reasonability test’ in hopes of avoiding a CRA audit. Trudeau’s tax plan demeaned hardworking farmers and financially penalized and restricted their ability to pass down farmland to future generations. Modifying this in their tax proposal should not be considered a win. The revisions still impact producers and it is shameful the punishing tax changes were even proposed in the first place.

The Prime Minister claims he is not raising taxes on middle class Canadians, but the evidence clearly shows the opposite. From threatening new taxes on local business, farmers, health and dental benefits and employee discounts or taking the disability tax credit away from the most vulnerable, clearly the Prime Minister has no concern about imposing taxes that hurt the very people he professes to help.

The Liberal track record of saying one thing and doing another becomes quite disconcerting for our farmers and farm families. At a time when our Agriculture industries are being threatened under NAFTA renegotiations, Prime Minister Trudeau needs to stand up for our farmers, not label them as tax cheats. Eliminating the deferral on cash grain tickets, imposing a carbon tax, piling on complicated red tape and jeopardizing vital trade agreements all demonstrate the Liberal government is out of touch with our agriculture sector.

No, we should not be breathing a sigh of relief because what we have is a Liberal government working against Canadian farm families, instead of for them.