(10 November 2015)
From Hansard - 10 November 2015
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Government Sale of Farm Land
Ms. Sproule: — Mr. Speaker, we have many more questions about this carbon capture boondoggle, but we are also hearing from a lot of people throughout Saskatchewan that are upset about this government’s fire sale of publicly owned farm land. Farmers are very upset about being forced to either buy the land or pay higher rent. Others are upset that this government is selling off valuable public assets at fire-sale prices. And the common theme in all these messages is that people recognize that this government is just desperate for money.
Will the Agriculture minister just admit that this fire sale of publicly owned farm land is just a desperate cash grab?
Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the member for her question. This is certainly not about fire selling anything or about the revenue that it will generate. Us members on this side of the House, on the government side of the House, Mr. Speaker, believe that where there’s no public benefit to the government owning farm land, that it should be left in the hands of farmers and ranchers of this province who can accrue value . . .
The Speaker: — Will the member for Regina Rosemont and the Minister of Government Relations either get up and ask and answer questions or take it outside? I recognize the Minister of Agriculture.
Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We believe and we campaigned on this. We campaigned on this in 2007, Mr. Speaker, before we became government that we would sell this particular parcel of land. And we had a previous sales program, an incentive program that started in 2008, ended in 2014, under which we sold about half of it.
So, Mr. Speaker, this isn’t anything new. It’s not about budget. It’s not a fire sale. It’s trying to get the land back in the hands of the people that should own it.
Ms. Sproule: — Here is a simple question, Mr. Speaker. How much does the Agriculture minister plan to make off of this fire sale?
Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Well the member, if she ever gets into government, will understand that the Minister of Agriculture is not going to make anything off this. Any revenue that is generated will go into the General Revenue Fund as always, Mr. Speaker. I don’t know, I haven’t calculated how much revenue might be generated by this, but that’s not my concern. But, Mr. Speaker, it is my concern to try to get as much of this land as possible back under the ownership of the farmers and ranchers of this province and not under the ownership of government.
Mr. Speaker, when those members opposite were the government of this province, they bought this land from farmers. And they competed against farmers in the land market, drove up the price of land at a time just before interest rates went crazy, and kept many farmers out of the land market for a decade.
Ms. Sproule: — No answer, Mr. Speaker. But I can tell you, the minister has previously said about 600,000 acres will be put up for sale for about $425 per acre. So that’s 255 million potentially to flow in to help fill this government’s budget hole. Meanwhile the people of Saskatchewan will no longer own this valuable resource which has a return every year on the lease values, and many farmers will be forced to either buy their land, pay higher rent, or vacate the land. To the minister: how can he possibly justify this hasty fire sale of publicly owned farm land?
Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a great illustration of why we are the government and why they are not. Mr. Speaker, they think that the government should own all the farm land in Saskatchewan — every acre, every bit of it. They bought as much as they could before they got run out of office in 1982 and, Mr. Speaker, they’d do it again. They’d do it again if they could get away with it. Mr. Speaker, we’re trying to put it back into the hands of the farmers and ranchers that owned it before they bought it.
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