Following a spirited town hall in Grande Prairie yesterday, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson has issued a statement on Bill 6. Nearly 400 farmers turned out to share their frustration and fears about the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, which would bring Alberta farms and ranches under Occupational Health and Safety legislation and make Workers Compensation Board coverage mandatory.
Sigurdson says she’s been listening to the response, and assures Albertans that their concerns are being heard. She stresses that farm kids will still be able do their jobs, and neighbours can continue to help each other, just like in other provinces.
“These customary parts of farm life will go on as before, while enhancing protections for employees. Our legislation allows us the flexibility to develop common-sense regulations to achieve this goal. That is what we have started consulting on. And that is what we will ensure is achieved before the regulations are introduced.”
One of the biggest takeaways from Thursday’s meeting was that local farmers feel there wasn’t enough consultation done before tabling the legislation. Speaking in Grande Prairie Friday, Finance Minister Joe Ceci told reporters that “three or four consultations” had been done by the previous government but couldn’t say whether they’re being used by the NDP. He adds that consultation doesn’t necessarily mean asking Albertans what they think the legislation should be.
“It’s not sort of saying, ‘help us design something.’ It’s saying, ‘this is where we want to go; now how do we get there together with the regulations we have to put in place. It’s more setting the direction and goal and then engaging people to make sure that we have agreement around the different aspects that have to be achieved.”
The next town hall is scheduled for December 1st in Red Deer, and it’s anticipated the government will make changes to the format. Feedback is also being accepted online.