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New farmland legislation will quintuple the fines for non-compliance

Sask. moves to toughen farmland ownership law

The Saskatchewan government is set to lay down more law on who can and can’t buy up farmland in the province, backstopped with more enforcement and heavier penalties.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart on Oct. 20 introduced amendments to the province’s Farmland Security Act, the legislation that already prevents non-Canadians and entities that aren’t 100 per cent Canadian owned from having more than 10 acres of Saskatchewan farmland.

The definition of “Canadian-owned entity” in the act, last updated in 2002, hasn’t specifically included pension plans or investment trusts, which in turn made those entities ineligible — but the amendments will specifically rule out not only pension plans, but administrators of pension fund assets and trusts.

The amendments also tighten the definition of “having an interest in farmland” to include any type of interest or benefit (for example, capital appreciation), either directly or indirectly, normally associated with ownership of the land.

The amendments will also require that anyone financing a purchase of farmland must handle all such financing through a financial institution registered to do business in Canada, or through a Canadian resident.

The provincial Farm Land Security Board (FLSB), which has the authority to grant exemptions to the land ownership rules, will also get “new and expanded authority” for enforcement of the act.

For example, at the FLSB’s discretion, any person buying farmland must complete a statutory declaration. The amendments will also put the onus on a buyer to prove compliance with the legislation.

The maximum fines for breaching the act will rise to $50,000 for individuals, up from $10,000, and to $500,000, up from $100,000, for corporations — and the FLSB will get authority to charge “administrative penalties” of up to $10,000.

The new amendments, which follow a round of public consultations held this summer, “will keep farmland accessible to Saskatchewan’s farmers and ranchers,” Stewart said in a release.

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