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.

Just Posted

Alberta is now below 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, as the province reported 2,639 Wednesday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer below 100 active COVID-19 cases for first time since March

69.7 per cent of Albertans 12 and over have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

A Comox Valley 55+ baseball team isa being organized for the 2021 season. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
18U AAA Carstar Braves start season strong

The Red Deer Carstar 18U AAA Carstar Braves started the Baseball Alberta… Continue reading

(Contributed image).
Online poetry reading to benefit Red Deer women experiencing period poverty

The Period Promise Poetry Powerhouse is a central Alberta collective of some… Continue reading

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

OTTAWA — Annamie Paul is firing back against the coterie of party… Continue reading

Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan leaves the Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Bill to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clears Senate

OTTAWA — A landmark piece of Liberal legislation aimed at harmonizing Canada’s… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) flips a shot on New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Russian goalies highlight Lightning-Islanders series

NEW YORK — Semyon Varlamov is the wily veteran, coming off a… Continue reading

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime reacts during his ATP Tour Singles, Men, Round of 16 tennis match against Switzerland's Roger Federer in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Friso Gentsch-dpa via AP
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Roger Federer in second round of Noventi Open

HALLE, Germany — Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime earned one of the biggest victories… Continue reading

A course official keeps out of the sun on the seventh green during a practice round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A different US Open than imagined at Torrey Pines

The spectacular ocean vistas will fill TV screens as usual, along with… Continue reading

A commuter pumps gas into their vehicle at a Esso gas station in Toronto on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Statistics Canada will say this morning how fast prices rose in May compared to the same month one year earlier amid expectations of a hot inflation figure for the second month in a row. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Annual inflation rate climbs to 3.6 per cent in May, highest in a decade

OTTAWA — Prices across the country rose at their fastest annual rate… Continue reading

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

OTTAWA — Better protections for the rights of air travellers, immediate refunds… Continue reading

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson speaks to media during the Liberal cabinet retreat at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Wilkinson says Ottawa will step in to conduct assessments of new coal mines that could release the contaminant selenium.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma
Ottawa to review new steelmaking coal projects in Alberta’s foothills for selenium

The federal government will step in to conduct an environmental review of… Continue reading

Most Read