A request for the Alberta NDP to withdraw its proposed bill for farm and ranch worker safety was met with a standing ovation during Thursday’s information session in Grande Prairie. More than 360 area farmers turned out, many of them to voice their anger, frustration, and fears over the bill.
Elaine Garrow, who is a Councillor for the MD of Spirit River, spoke up about her concerns that the government did not consult farmers or municipal ag services boards across the province before drafting and introducing the legislation.
“I believe that when people voted for MLAs that they should have been here to talk to us. I think we’re very important. People in the cities, I hate to tell you, but hamburger doesn’t come out of a box. This is the most presumptuous, rude statement they could have ever made to the people of Alberta.”
There were no provincial MLAs present at the meeting, something that many farmers took note of. One politician who was there was Peace River MP Chris Warkentin, who is also urging Alberta’s NDP government to withdraw Bill 6 until a proper consultation has been done with farmers and ranchers.
“The part I think that’s concerning to the people in this room is that while they are hoping to give feedback to the government, the government is currently ramming the piece of legislation through the legislature. This consultation should have happened six or eight months ago before the legislation was actually written, so farmers and farm families find it highly offensive.”
The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act was first introduced in the legislature last week and would bring Alberta farms and ranches under Occupational Health and Safety legislation and make Workers Compensation Board coverage mandatory, both effective January 1, 2016.
Joe Ranooy, an accountant and Ag Specialist at MNP also spoke up at the meeting. He says these regulations will create another cost that farmers will have to foot the bill for.
“Farmers can’t increase the price of their product. They can do their best to market their product, but they can’t necessarily instantly charge a per cent or two more. This is something that’s really just going to impact the expenses side of a farming operation and not the revenues at all because [farmers] can’t just charge more.”
The meeting was the first of nine that have been scheduled in various communities across the province over the next few weeks. A petition is also being circulated online at change.org in opposition to Bill 6. It has so far received more than 10,000 signatures.