Notley shoulders blame for confusion over Bill 6

Premier Rachel Notley’s assurances farmers will be consulted later on farm safety legislation hold no water in rural Alberta, says Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Ron Orr.

Premier Rachel Notley’s assurances farmers will be consulted later on farm safety legislation hold no water in rural Alberta, says Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Ron Orr.

Notley stuck to her guns on Thursday and vowed to pass in this legislative sitting the basic components of Bill 6, which will introduce Workers Compensation Board coverage to paid farmers on Jan. 1 and those with paid employees must open an account by the end of April.

Occupational Health and Safety regulations and other components will only be introduced after extensive consultation with those on the province’s 43,000 farms and ranches, she said.

Notley shouldered the blame for the confusion related to the lack of details available at this stage.

“They were always intended to be introduced in regulations. But between what was explicitly stated and what was intended, fear and miscommunication has filled the gap, and I take complete responsibility for that.”

Amendments will be filed soon to fill that gap, she said.

Orr said many rural residents feel passing the bill gives the premier a “blank cheque” for the rest of the legislation.

“The farmers at this stage, because their are so many unknowns, because there’s been conflicting messaging coming from the government, really are not prepared to give her a blank cheque.

“They want to know what the details are before they sign off on it.”

He said one woman Bill 6 protester put it best, saying, “Before I eat a cake, I want to know what’s in it.”

Orr got up in the legislation to voice his opposition to the government’s handling of the legislation about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday during a lengthy debate that went until 1:30 a.m. the following morning.

Despite the premier’s determination to stay the course, Orr believes she was not prepared for the level of opposition from rural Alberta.

“I think she’s definitely going to have to come a bit to terms that farmers are really, truly concerned about this. They want to be consulted.”

The government needs to send the bill to committee and let farmers and ranchers have their say to come up with solid recommendations.

“I think that’s what farmers are asking for and I don’t think the premier has heard that message yet.”

Farmworkers Union of Alberta founder Eric Musekamp is critical of the way Wildrose has been playing to the crowds.

Opposition political haymaking is behind much of the growing furor over the government farm safety legislation, Musekamp believes.

“Fomenting discontent on the part of the Wildrose Party — that’s the primary factor,” said Musekamp, who has been working to extend Occupational Health and Safety legislation to farms for more than a decade through his Medicine Hat-based non-profit society.

Musekamp blames the Wildrose Party for spreading misinformation and rubbing sore spots left over by previous rural fights over landowner rights.

“It’s really unfortunate. The ag community is really shooting itself in the foot,” he said.

Musekamp said he’s heard from farmers both internationally, and from Canada’s other provinces — where Occupational Health and Safety regulations already apply — who are puzzled by the controversy.

“It’s really shining the light in the wrong way, I think.”

Musekamp said while many have complained about a lack of consultation a Crop Sector Working Group has been working with Alberta Agriculture for months on proposed OHS and WCB changes.

Musekamp believes bringing Alberta’s farms in line with safety standards in every province is necessary to stay competitive.

“This government is actually doing the industry a considerable favour by moving forward with this stuff even though there is this kind of head wind,” he said.

Maintaining existing farm exemptions from safety legislation “will preclude Alberta from marketing to the major buyers of ag products around the world because of our lack of standards.”

Orr rejects suggestions Wildrose is stoking rural opposition.

“The reality is it’s been the farmers pushing us, rather than us pushing them,” he said. “We have literally been swamped with letters and phone calls and emails.”

As far as losing out on international market opportunities, higher costs facing farmers because of carbon and other taxes and increased labour law costs are what will really hurt their competitive positions.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 has been climbing up since Jan. 20 at Red Deer's Olymel meat processing plant. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
Some Olymel workers return for training, plant reopening date not set

Union calls for delay of opening as workers fear for safety

Artist Lorne Runham's COVID Bubbles abstract work (shown here as a detail) can be viewed in an online art show on the Red Deer Arts Council's website until April 18. (Contributed image).
Art created in Red Deer in the time of COVID can be viewed in new online show

The show by members of the Red Deer Arts Council runs until April 18

Activists against open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains hung a protest banner outside Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s Rocky Mountain House constituency office. Exploratory coal leases in the Nordegg area were recently granted by Nixon’s UCP government, and many local residents say they feel betrayed, as they had been promised eco-tourism opportunities by Clearwater County. (Contributed photo).
Anti-coal mining activists post banner on Environment Minister’s Rocky constituency office

Activists call for clean water protection, ban on strip mining

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

(Image from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer students enter Skills competition

Regional competition begins this month

UCP MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr. (File photo)
MLA Ron Orr: Benchmarks were achieved but goalposts were moved

Orr responds to concerns, calls on province to fully open Step 2

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

opinion
Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Most Read