The governmental gears are grinding over who will be at the table for upcoming Bill 6 consultations, but a coalition of farm groups is stuck in “wait and see” mode over what role they’ll play in the shaping of workplace safety regulations.
“We had over 50 nomination forms come to the coalition office to be passed on to the government on the understanding that we were going to be more active participants in the process,” said Kent Erickson, co-chair of the Alberta Agriculture Farm and Ranch Safety Coalition, or AgCoalition.
“We now have over 95 per cent of (farm) groups represented, and we really feel that a group like this could give some good value to the government in its process to get something good for agriculture.”
The coalition, which is made up of 30 farm organizations, met with Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier on Feb. 24 to discuss its role in upcoming consultations for theEnhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act regulations.
The outcome of that meeting was a “good one,” said Erickson, despite some initial “push-back” from the government.
“We’re coming with some pretty aggressive and assertive options for them to have us be more actively involved,” said Erickson, who farms near Irma.
“But they recognize the coalition as being a go-to organization to have discussions with on ag and on Bill 6.”
The coalition left the meeting with some agreement from the minister on a couple of points, including how the coalition will be involved, he said. The most critical issue is how participants in six working groups — which the province calls “tables” — will be chosen.
“We want them to be more transparent on how their tables are going to be populated,” said Erickson.
“The coalition brought forward a list of names for nomination, and we’d like to know what percentage of those seats at those tables are going to be represented by coalition ag producers.
“We’d like to know that before the vetting process and before they’re finalized so we can feel a little more comfortable taking that out to our producers as a process that we can work with.”
That will go a long way toward rebuilding trust between the government and producers, he added.
The coalition understands that representatives of workers and employers, as well as technical experts, need to be part of the six working groups, said Erickson.
“But when the majority of the effects of this is going to be felt by producers, we wanted to be sure we were at the table,” he said. “They assured us that was going to be the case — that there’s going to be a large number of the seats held by producers. We just felt that we needed something a little more formal and concrete on that.”
There’s also concern about “who’s making the decisions” on the consultation process.
“We’ve come to a conclusion that it’s at the cabinet level, so (the minister) is going to go back and ratify some of the discussion we had,” said Erickson.
“We’re looking for a response sooner rather than later from the government on the points we were looking for, and then we’ll make a decision on how we’re going to participate in this process for the next little while.”
Regardless of how the government responds, the AgCoalition will still be moving forward with its own consultation process with producers and technical experts, said Erickson.
“Hopefully that feeds into a process that we can be actively involved in with the government. If not, we’re still going to go through the process,” he said.
“At the end of it all, we want to have a report and an outcome that’s good for the whole ag sector.”