Alberta Barley is very disappointed that the Government of Alberta chose to force the passage of the amended Bill 6 through the legislature on Dec. 10.
The voice of farmers was consistent regarding the lack of consultation and especially the lack of clarity about how the bill would impact farmers and ranchers across the province.
Alberta Barley joined with other ag boards and commissions, as well as farmers and ranchers, to request that the provincial government delay Bill 6 until there was appropriate discussion and consultation with the farm community. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts to delay it, the bill was passed.
Clearly, the unprecedented response by farmers resulted in amendments to Bill 6 that clarified it as primarily directed at farm labour, not farm safety.
Going forward, Bill 6 is now law. What do we know?
- The government has announced that there will be consultations, led by the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry.
- The regulations will be written by the Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Ministry.
- The timeline for completion of the consultation is not fixed.
- Occupational Health & Safety legislation is now applicable to Alberta farms and ranches, although we still have no clarity about what that means in practical terms.
What is our plan going forward?
At our annual meeting, Alberta Barley heard from our directors and delegates that we need to be engaged in developing a solution and that any consultations must be set up to allow for your voice to be heard. Your views should be considered and included in the legislation.
We are hopeful that there will be real consultation, unlike the information sessions that were called consultations in 2015. Bill 6 is law, but that doesn’t mean amendments are not possible, and that clarity can’t be provided. We will meet with other boards, commissions and associations that represent farmers on Jan. 22, and following that, provide advice to the government on a go-forward plan.
We will also be working with other crop commissions to provide farm-safety sessions for our stakeholders, re-enforcing our often repeated assertion that education is more important than legislation. We know that you have always placed the safety of your family, your employees, and yourselves as a top priority, and hope to provide you with further information and tools to use on your farm.
Although we understand the frustration felt by producers, we are optimistic that the upcoming consultations can be meaningful.
We will commit to working with other crop and livestock boards and commissions in an effort to hold the government to its promise of allowing meaningful input regarding the development of the regulations for employment standards, labour regulations, farm worker insurance, and the Occupational Health & Safety Code.
We encourage you to contact your elected provincial government members to ensure that the opinion of the farm community is listened to and respected. Talk to your commission or board members if you have specific concerns or recommendations.
While we have not been provided the opportunity to influence the process to this point, we ask for your patience and support as the work begins to design the legislation that directly affects your operation on a day-to-day basis.
The bill has passed, and we cannot change that. We will put our best efforts into making sure that legislators understand the impact of their decisions, and assist them in designing practical rules that recognize the unique nature of farm and ranch work. This will take time, and will be a complex process.
We look forward to working with our members, and the rest of the agricultural community, to develop legislation that is practical for your farming operation.