By Brian Jean
Over the past month, tens of thousands of Albertans stepped forward demanding their proper voice in the democratic process.
The groundswell of opposition to the NDP’s Bill 6 was real, legitimate, and as raw as it was powerful. We witnessed dozens of demonstrations, in every corner of this province, reflecting a level of public displeasure not seen in a generation.
I want to thank all of you who wrote letters, signed petitions, and travelled long distances to have your voices heard – I can guarantee you, Wildrose is listening. It was truly inspiring to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, your neighbours, and your communities.
Taking such action shouldn’t have been necessary. However, in drafting Bill 6, the NDP did not consult with farmers. It is only through meaningful consultation that the government could have learned this bill’s fatal flaw: That it imposes a host of regulations that have yet to be written.
With few details to provide, the government failed to sufficiently address legitimate concerns, allowing confusion to turn to exasperation. Backed into a corner, farm families rightly spoke out in an effort to protect their livelihoods, their homes, and their way of life.
It was not fair; it was not right.
This is why our Official Opposition was proud to oppose Bill 6 with every tool at our disposal.
We tabled thousands of letters from Albertans, as well as a petition with more than 30,000 signatures. We presented several thoughtful amendments designed to ensure meaningful consultation, better protect family farms, and de-escalate tensions. We also sought to redo this omnibus bill as four separate bills in order to fulfill our mandate to provide proper legislative review.
Our MLAs spoke against Bill 6 at every stage, including the government’s motions to invoke closure and shut down debate. While we were successful in forcing the government to provide some exemptions for family farms, ultimately the NDP chose to use its majority to ram the bill through.
So what’s next?
The government has promised consultation with farmers over the next 4-18 months, sorting out employment and labour code details this winter, and OHS code through 2016. I strongly encourage farm families to take part in this process. Just as you care more about safety than any government official, you also have far more real world experience when it comes to farm life.
If at any time you feel the government is ignoring your concerns, or allowing handpicked insiders to dictate the details of regulations, please contact our Wildrose office.
As Bill 6 illustrates, we will all have to be more vigilant because we cannot trust this government to consult properly, even when bringing in sweeping changes.
By failing to consult, shutting down debate, and forcing this backwards bill through the Legislature, this government has broken faith with a great number of Albertans.
If there’s one thing I have learned from more than a decade of public service, it is that nothing is more valuable than trust. It can never be taken; it can only be earned.
As far as this government is concerned, trust has never been in such short supply.
Brian Jean is Wildrose Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition