EDMONTON, AB: Improving safety on farms is critical, but the changes announced through Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act occur too quickly and need to be sent to committee to guarantee proper consultation for the family farms that will be impacted, the Wildrose Official Opposition said Tuesday.
The legislation was introduced for first reading in the Assembly today. It calls for all farms, no matter the size of their operation, to be included under Occupational Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation by Jan. 1. This means debate, passing of legislation and implementation will all be done in less than 45 days.
Wildrose Shadow Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Grant Hunter said this dramatic change in regulations without having proper consultation with farmers could lead to bad outcomes for Alberta’s second largest industry.
“No one in Alberta cares more about safety on family farms than the moms and dads who run them. They are the experts and they need to have their voices heard on these important changes happening under sudden timelines,” Hunter said. “The NDP need to put this bill to committee instead of pushing it through in less than 45 days so Albertans, farmers, and industry are properly consulted.”
Wildrose had petitioned for accommodations for small family farms that would be impacted by these changes, but the new legislation does not include any. In British Columbia, workplace safety legislation makes a clear distinction between large operators and family farms.
Wildrose Shadow Agriculture Minister Rick Strankman said as a farmer, the most important strategy for making immediate improvements begins with education.
“Farmers are the most passionate about ensuring farms stay safe, but more can be done to provide education for families and small operations,” Strankman said. “Nothing can be more effective and ensure real positive changes occur on farms across Alberta.”