It’s been more than two years since hundreds of angry farmers gathered at Red Deer’s Westerner Park to protest proposed provincial farm safety legislation.
Recently, the Alberta government announced that a consultation period giving farmers, ranchers, local governments and other groups their say on proposed safety recommendations has been extended by six weeks to Feb. 26.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier recently told the Red Deer Advocate that the province wants to make sure it hears from all those potentially affected and the legislation fits the bill.
“That input is really important,” said Carlier. “That’s why we did extend the deadline a little bit so we can get more of that input from farmers and ranchers.”
Alberta’s 49,000 farms are so diverse that the more voices heard the better, he suggested.
“We need to hear from as many people as possible to make sure we get this right.”
While no specific target date for enacting the legislation has been announced, Labour Minister Christina Gray has said it will happen before the next provincial election, which must be held next spring.
Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection Farm Workers Act, requiring farmers and ranchers to provide Workers Compensation Board coverage was passed in late 2015.
The province set up six working groups in 2016 and about 140 recommendations on updating employment rules and Occupational Health and Safety standards were released last October.
Not all of them have sat well with some farmers. Concerns have been raised among others about issues such as seatbelt requirements on farm machines, or potential regulations around upgrading aging machinery.
Carlier said some regulations may be practical for some farm operations but not for others.
“That’s why the input is so valuable.”
Philip Massier farms in the Delburne area believes there has been lots of time for people to have their input over the past couple of years and he wants to see what regulations the province has in mind.
“So, let’s see what a draft policy looks like and then let’s debate the draft policy,” said Massier, who is a Red Deer County councillor.
There are “mixed feelings” about the progress of the safety legislation among farmers he has spoken with. Some are happy to see the issue dragged out while others want to get a look at what the province has planned.
“If you really pushed them on it farmers feel they have been safe and new regulations are not going to make it any safer, and there better not be a bunch more paperwork.
“They’re just sitting there wondering what it’s going to be all about.”