NDP ramps up meetings on Bill 6

With opposition to new farm legislation taking root, the Alberta government has decided to almost double the number of sessions it is holding across the province about its new farm safety legislation.

With opposition to new farm legislation taking root, the Alberta government has decided to almost double the number of sessions it is holding across the province about its new farm safety legislation.

But at least one Red Deer area farmer is not impressed that consultation is coming after first reading was given to Bill 6, instead of before.

Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training And Labour held the first of nine meetings on Thursday in Grande Prairie for people to learn more or provide input into the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Essentially the act will no longer exclude farm workers from health, safety and labour legislation.

Last week the province had only five meetings scheduled.

A second meeting has now been added in Central Alberta. Besides the one set for Tuesday at Red Deer College, there will now also be one in Olds on Dec. 9 at Olds College. Both meetings are 1 to 4 p.m. and registration is already full.

The only meeting in Alberta where seats were still available as of Thursday afternoon is one in Athabasca on Dec. 14. People can register online at work.alberta.ca An online survey can also be filled out at the same website.

The other meetings scheduled are in Okotoks, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Leduc and Vegreville.

Jay Fisher, a spokesman with the department, said even more meetings could be held depending on demand.

The proposed legislation is drawing a lot of interest. A Facebook page entitled Farmers against NDP Bill 6 that was launched earlier this week already had over 25,000 members by Thursday.

A protest against the bill being organized through the Facebook page has been slated for this afternoon at the Alberta legislature grounds.

As well, an online petition against the bill was launched. It had over 10,000 signatures of its 15,000 goal by Thursday afternoon. Located online at change.org it’s titled NDP Bill 6, Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.

Sherry Brock, who farms with her husband on their fourth generation family farm east of Red Deer, is registered to attend the meeting in Red Deer.

Brock, 53, said the government isn’t really consulting because it has already presented the legislation.

She also believes the act, which will allow inspectors to go on farms, “infringes on our property rights, our cultural rights, our social rights because they can come on our land, our home” at any time.

She said the government is compelling them to buy Workers Compensation insurance but they already have private insurance.

It’s an “endorsed monopoly” she said, and will cost her about $7,000 to 10,000 a year. As well a new carbon tax being introduced by the government will cost them between $4,000 to 6,000.

Brock said she’s not against farm safety but why isn’t the government asking farmers how to make things safer. “They don’t want to listen to us.”

She said she thinks farmers do pretty good when it comes to safety, considering the many long hours spent on heavy machinery and around unpredictable animals.

Farm and ranch workers will be covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Workers’ Compensation, Labour Relations and Employment Standards.

They will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Workers’ Compensation Act effective Jan. 1. About 60,000 workers and 43,000 farming and ranching operations will be affected.

Changes to Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation would come into effect next spring, after consultations with industry.

The government has said it intends to work with industry over the next year to develop occupational health and safety technical rules for farms and ranches, expected to be in place in 2017.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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