Critics concerned over corporate, foreign buyers of Sask. farmland

The Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan is charging that a survey on who can buy farmland in the province could favour big companies and foreign investors over local people.

Progressive Conservative Party says new survey prioritizes outside investors over local residents

Saskatchewan has begun a consultation process on the issue of farmland ownership. (CBC)

The Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan has chimed in on the debate over who can buy farmland in the province.

Rick Swenson, the leader of the party, says a new survey on the topic from the provincial government could open the doors to more outside influences.

"The survey has the capability to allow non-Saskatchewan input that could cause the Sask Party government to change all the rules and allow unlimited corporate and foreign investment," Swenson said  in a news release.

He said the first question about residency allows the respondent to choose a country outside of Canada, which he said is worrisome because the survey permits anonymity and there is no limit to how many times a person can answer the questions.

"Doesn't this mean any foreign investor in the world with his eye on Saskatchewan farmland can fill in the survey in favour of foreign investment?" Swenson states. "How will they limit the survey to one person, one response?"

The current law only permits foreign investors to buy up to four hectares of farmland.

Bob Lane of Lane Realty Corp. said in his opinion the existing regulation works.

"Everyone in the farming community is quite satisfied that is fair ruling," Lane said. "We've spent years bringing people in from Holland, Germany, France, South Africa, and helping them integrate." 

Lane also said if the law were changed, it would have the potential to invite "tremendous pools of money that could overwhelm this part of the world."

 "We've spent years bringing people in from Holland, Germany, France, South Africa, and helping them integrate." - Bob Lane

Saskatchewan's Minister of Agriculture Lyle Stewart said in a press conference on Wednesday foreign investors are already expressing greater interest in Saskatchewan farmland than the rule allows.

"We've had a substantial number of countries that have either attempted to purchase farmland in Saskatchewan or possibly have — by illegal means I would say under the act as it exists — attained an interest in farmland," Stewart said.

He said there is no direct evidence of illegal activity at this time.

In addition, regulations announced this past April halted non-family trusts with more than 10 beneficiaries and pension plans from acquiring land, a move which followed a controversial bid from the Canada Pension Plan corporation.

Stewart said on Wednesday government lawyers indicate that the investment board of the Canada Pension Plan corporation would not be barred from making a purchase.

Lane said he believes such institutionalised groups should still face restrictions when attempting to purchase land in Saskatchewan.

"Our present ownership laws are working," Lane said.


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