Farm safety consultation welcomed

Provincial government officially kicked off consultation process on Friday

The provincial government is taking the right approach by consulting farmers before introducing farm safety legislation, says a Sylvan Lake-area farm couple.

“The last time around, what really got people up in arms was that we received the legislation out of the blue and then there was consultation,” said Allison Ammeter.

“It rubbed people wrong, obviously.”

Several hundred farmers showed up at Westerner Park in December 2015 to protest the NDP government’s Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act ahead of a public meeting to discuss the legislation.

Hundreds of others joined highway convoys protesting the legislation, whose final regulations took effect last December.

Opposition was never about denying the need for farm safety, she said.

“Everybody wants safety. We know the importance of keeping our families and employees safe.

“I think what we want is for reason to be injected into the whole argument. We need it to be recognized that farmers do not keep the same kind of work schedules that someone in a government office might, or someone in a bank might.

“The last bill that came out really didn’t take that into account, particularly with some of the (occupational health and safety) rules.”

Husband Mike Ammeter agrees the government seemed to have its mind made up before consultations took place.

“(The legislation) had some pre-conceived notions and pre-conceived thoughts on how it was going to work,” he said.

To many farmers, the approach came across as “high-handed,” he said. “Nobody’s ever been against farm safety.”

The provincial government officially announced on Friday that consultation had begun on its Farm Freedom and Safety Act, which will replace the NDP bill that is to be repealed.

“Alberta farmers need common-sense rules that promote farm safety — not process, not red tape,” said Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen in a statement accompanying the announcement.

“We’re going to repeal Bill 6, and I plan to meet with farmers this summer to develop the legislation to replace it.”

Dreeshen will be touring the province this summer meeting with farmers, ranchers and agriculture organizations.

The government has promised to offer farmers more choice in insurance options. It has also said small farms will be exempted from employment standards legislation, similar to the approach taken in New Brunswick.

An online survey will be open until Aug. 31.

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