There is a lot of concern with this important Bill and the haste with which it is being passed and we are happy to share what information we have.
Bill 6 is an omnibus Bill that would put all farms and ranches, big and small, under Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) regulations as of New Year’s Day. It also opens the door to new employment standards, and expands the Labour Code to encourage the unionization of farm workers.
Wildrose believes Bill 6 will have a negative impact on our agriculture industry, but most importantly, it is not fair to put big business rules and regulations onto the more than 40,000 family farms right across our province.
There are of course larger, commercial farms and livestock operations that do resemble a typical workplace and for which typical workplace regulations should largely apply.
But Bill 6 treats a commercial feedlot the same as it does a family farm, and this government does not seem to recognize or care about this difference.
It will mean more red-tape, fees and regulations across the entire agriculture sector and for every operator. It greatly expands the definition of who is a farm worker, and even imposes regulations on unpaid friends and neighbours as well as family. And now, government OH&S workers can inspect all activities on family farms without cause or reason and demand all kinds of changes.
It will also open up family farmers and ranchers to fines and even jail time for violating the OH&S regulations, despite the fact there has been no specific Code written for any of them setting out the specific minimal expectations.
There are just so many unanswered questions on how a family farm – where work and life blend together 24 hours a day – will be treated under this new system, that we have been calling on the government to take a bit of time to get feedback and ensure we get it right.
When the government wanted to change royalties, or climate strategy, it struck a panel. When it changes the municipal act it will present a Bill then take months for feedback and amendments. When it wanted democratic reforms it gave an all-party committee a year to hear form experts, deliberate, and get a consensus.
When it comes to radically changing how our traditional family farms operate, however, they are letting their pro-union ideology trump common sense and ramming a Bill through the house in a matter of days.
Wildrose has heard legitimate concerns from farmers right across the province, and for that reason wants the bill to be sent to committee, so proper consultation can be done for the over 40,000 Alberta farms this bill will impact.
Every time the government has done broad consultation in the past the verdict has been the same: “Educate, don’t legislate.” If we truly want to improve farm safety, improved education is the most effective path forward: more awareness, better training materials, and recognition of the unique aspects of differing agriculture sectors.
Wildrose will continue to fight for everyday Albertans, just like you. We will fight to stop this NDP government from pushing such a vast and sweeping legislation onto family farmers and ranchers.
In closing, I would like to once again thank you for writing to our office. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss this issue further.
Watch Brian Jean, leader of the official opposition, ask a question on Bill 6 here:
MLA, Drumheller Stettler
Rick and his wife Diane live in Altario, Alberta, and have two grown children. Rick…