Region 5 | Opinion

Op Ed – Detrimental Manitoba Budget 2021 takes far more than it gives

by Anastasia Fyk and Ian Robson

The National Farmers Union in Manitoba views the 2021 provincial budget as detrimental to farmers and its own citizens.

The massive tax breaks to farmland may seem like an initial win to established farmers, but the long term results will proliferate a pattern that will be costly to the next generation of all farmers and rural communities.

Key messages are that if you’re rich, you get a tax break, and if you’re not, you should pay out of pocket. For example, the threshold at which employers start paying provincial payroll tax will rise January 1 to $1.75 million from $1.5 million. Some sources label property owners as “winners” in this budget as they will pay 25% less property taxes. The ones that will actually lose are the students and schools, as this is a major loss to that area of the budget that remains unaccounted for. This will also result in encouraging higher land prices in lieu of paying the education tax. This situation has no winners.

A poorly funded education system results in improperly educated children. Will the ones celebrating their tax break today remember this in 20 years when the children whose education they defunded become their local caregivers and community support workers? The funding of our education system is about to change focus and give huge tax breaks to those who can afford their share and increase the cost of education to those who struggle in low-paid jobs. Education is the best way out of poverty and this budget encourages an attitude that it doesn’t seem to believe everyone should have a good education.

Residential and farmland owners are to receive a 25 percent rebate on education property taxes this year and an additional 25 percent next year. Commercial and other properties to get a 10 percent rebate and a further 10 percent in 2022. Farmers are complaining because they bought out the neighborhood causing depopulation but also buying the assessed land which carries the tax, they were prepared to pay the tax, then be given a credit. Many understand it’s part of doing business and a small price to pay to farm.

Agriculture received a mere 2% budget increase, which can be seen in the attempt to consolidate the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation delivery model and use digital technology as a replacement for local service, which moves crucial MASC further from Manitoba farmers. Another attempt to take from the pockets of, rather than support farmers, is the situation of agricultural crown land lease ranchers who were served with a huge lease rate increase and much uncertainty. At a time of environmental uncertainty and a need to transition to ecological practices, the Minister stated that farmers would purchase their own private agronomist advice–some of these are costly, and not independent, and are tied to farm supply companies.

How will the government encourage more farmers? As Manitoba’s largest sector, there is very little investment to keep this industry prosperous and sustainable. There are exponentially fewer new farmers than the previous generation. With astronomical land prices, the cost of equipment, and less governmental support with every year, the future of farming and rural life drives a bleak scenario for the next generation via the 2021 austerity budget of our current Manitoba government.

Anastasia Fyk farms at Ethelbert, MB and Ian Robson farms at Deleau, MB. Both are National Farmers Union Board members and Regional Coordinators for NFU Region 5, Manitoba