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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bill 6 update

Chris Davis

Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, continues to be a hot topic in Alberta this week. Premier Rachel Notley's government announced amendments to the bill yesterday. The Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives appear to be on the same page in opposing the bill. The Wildrose continues to be perhaps the loudest opposition to it, while gathering significant support from farmers and ranchers in their efforts. PC and Wildrose MLAs have repeatedly criticized the consultation process regarding the bill. The Alberta Federation of Labour expressed its support for the bill. The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties expressed concerns about the bill while also stating that it expected some of the concerns to be diminished or eliminated once the consultation process has been completed. Filibustering of the bill, now facing second reading, is expected to continue. Second reading was adjourned on amendment yesterday evening, December 7.

Below:
Amendments to Bill 6 will exclude farm and ranch families from new rules
Wildrose continues to oppose Bill 6
AAMDC comments on Bill 6
Alberta Federation of Labour comments on Bill 6
Wildrose leader Brian Jean vs Premier Rachel Notley
Other recent comments in the legislature

Alberta Government: Amendments to Bill 6 will exclude farm and ranch families from new rules

In a press release issued yesterday, December 7, the Government of Alberta announced that amendments to Bill 6"confirm the government’s intent to exclude farm and ranch owners, and their families, from Occupational Health and Safety and mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage." Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson was quoted in the release as saying “Across Alberta, we have heard farming and ranching families’ concerns. We know that farming in Alberta is more than a business, it is a way of life. It has always been our intention to preserve that way of life. The amendments explicitly exclude owners of farming or ranching operations, and their family members, from the mandatory application of WCB and OHS rules. We are also introducing amendments to assure Albertans that neighbours can still volunteer to help each other out, without being subject to the new rules.”

From the press release: "The provisions for family members and non-waged individuals in the amendments were to be set out in regulations. Public concerns about whether OHS rules and WCB coverage applied to family operations required that they be stated within the Act itself for greater clarity and certainty."

"The amendments to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act explicitly exclude the application of WCB and OHS to owners of a farm or ranch operation, family members of the owners, and friends and neighbours who volunteer their time on the farm or ranch. Only where non-owner or non-family waged individuals are involved in a farm or ranch operation will WCB and OHS apply to the operation, and only to those non-owner and non-family waged individuals. If waged individuals are owners or family members of owners, the application of WCB and OHS will be excluded as it pertains to those individuals. In all cases, farm and ranch families may elect to choose WCB coverage for waged owners, waged family members and unwaged neighbours and friends."

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier said “Families will be able to teach their children the farming and ranching way of life, as they always have, and neighbours will be able to volunteer to help each other out in times of need, as they always have.”

Wildrose continues to oppose Bill 6

In press releases issued yesterday, December 7, the Wildrose party said it would continue to oppose Bill 6, "and urge the government to withdraw its legislation or send it to committee for open, public consultation".

"After hosting seven separate town halls and listening to the concerns of over 1,300 farmers and ranchers in their constituencies, Wildrose MLAs are reinvigorated to continue the fight against Bill 6 in the legislature."

"The town halls were almost all organized with less than two days’ notice, and were held in St. Paul, Bonnyville, Bassano, Valleyview, Sundre, Killam, and Peace River (an NDP held riding). All but the Bassano event were mainly advertised on social media and were grassroots organized efforts."

“I am dismayed to see the NDP government continuing to try to ram through Bill 6 without consultation from the people who will be directly affected by the legislation,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “The government needs to put on the brakes, and kill this bill which is massively unpopular across Alberta.”

“Albertans can count on Wildrose to stand up for them against this legislation,” Wildrose Shadow Agriculture Minister Rick Strankman said. “The NDP have broken the trust of farmers and ranchers, and need to actually consult with them before redrawing the bill.”

"Even with amendments made to Bill 6, the legislation still has not been consulted on with farmers, and there is still tremendous uncertainty about what the legislation means for family farms and ranches across Alberta," said the Wildrose in another release.  "Exemptions for family members and volunteers concerning WCB coverage and OHS standards provides some relief, but since most farms hire seasonal workers, many questions remain and farmers still deserve full consultation before passing legislation."

“The thousands of farmers and ranchers who have shown up to so-called consultation sessions held on Bill 6 have told the government that this is the wrong way to govern,” Wildrose MLA for Rimbey–Rocky Mountain House–Sundre Jason Nixon said. “The government needs to listen to the people, and either refer Bill 6 to committee, or kill it outright.”

Wildrose has not had the opportunity to consult with farmers on the amendments but will do so on a telephone town hall tonight. The amendments listed are longer than the original bill.

“Almost every family farm needs seasonal workers, which means there are almost as many questions today as there were yesterday,” Nixon said. “I am worried that with the uncertainty hanging in the air around Bill 6, our second largest industry will be directly hurt by the government ramming through this legislation.”

AAMDC comments on Bill 6

On December 2 the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) released a briefing outlining the association's assessment and concerns regarding Bill 6.

The AAMDC release said one implication of Bill 6's impact on existing Occupational Health and Safety legislation is that it "places a legislated liability on owners of agriculture operations to be responsible for safety of anyone working, or in the presence of a work site".

"The OHS Act also requires every work site (defined as 'a location where a worker is, or is likely to be, engaged in any occupation and includes any vehicle or mobile equipment used by a worker in any occupation') to have a “prime contractor” if there are two or more employees involved in work at the work site. The prime contractor must enter into an agreement with the owner of the work site to ensure that the work site complies with the Act. [s.3]" Accroding to AAMDC, that would require "all work sites within an agriculture operation to have a designated “prime contractor” when two or more employees are engaged in work. This could create challenges on a farm, as it is likely that work sites change regularly and the number of employees present at a site change as well."

The AAMDC also stated that "The OHS Act allows an inspection officer to enter and inspect any work site at a reasonable hour. This includes requiring the production of any records, books, plans, etc. that relate to the health and safety of workers. They are also able to inspect and seize any tool or equipment being used at the work site. If the officer is of the opinion that work is being carried out in an unhealthy or unsafe manner, she/he may stop the work and take act which allow measures to ensure the work is carried out safely. Similar powers are applied to the identification of a dangerous work site or the use of unsafe tools or equipment. [s.9-s.11]" AAMDC believes "this may create a major administrative burden on smaller farms."

"The OHS Act allows a worker to refuse work if she/he believes it presents an imminent danger to their health and safety or to that of another worker. 'Imminent danger' is defined as a danger not normal for that occupation, or a danger under which a person engaged in that occupation would not normally carry out the person’s work. If the worker identifies an imminent danger, the employer is required to investigate and eliminate the imminent danger, and may temporarily assign the worker to another task until the imminent danger is eliminated. If, in the worker’s opinion, the imminent danger has not been eliminated, the worker may file a complaint with an OHS officer, which may trigger a review and subsequent requirement to eliminate the imminent danger if it is so judged [s.35]."

AAMDC believes that implies "Workers would have the ability to refuse work if they feel that the work represents imminent danger. Should there be a disagreement between the worker and the employer about whether imminent danger exists, complaints with an OHS officer could consume time and resources." It questioned "Is the definition of 'imminent danger' applicable to farms, where work responsibilities may vary significantly on a seasonal basis?"

"The OHS Act allows for the development of Ministerial orders and codes respecting specific health and safety matters related to particular occupations. For the farm and ranch industry, this is expected to occur in 2017. Currently, farming and ranching are exempted from the existing OHS codes, but this will likely be amended in 2017. The development of the codes may present the best opportunity for stakeholders to have a say in how OHS requirements could be customized to accommodate the agriculture industry."

AAMDC's release also express concerns about amendments to the Employment Standards Code, which it said would make the agriculture industry subject to regulation in the areas of "eggs, milk, grain, seeds, fruit, vegetables, honey, livestock, diversified livestock animals under the Livestock Industry Diversification Act poultry, or bees" and "hours of work, overtime and overtime pay, general holidays and general holiday pay, vacations and vacation pay, restrictions on employment of children, and regulations relating to vacation pay and minimum wage."

"Bill 6 will require the agriculture industry to abide by section 2, division 3 of the Employment Standards Code, which regulates hours of work. The Code requires that hours of work must be confined to 12 consecutive hours in one working day, unless an accident occurs or “urgent work is necessary to a plant or machinery or other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances occur.” The Code also requires employers to provide standardized rest periods and days of rest, although there is some flexibility in these requirements to account for urgent situations as well."

"On the surface, these requirements could significantly hamper agriculture operations. However, the flexibility already in the legislations could perhaps be expanded to include harvest as “urgent work,” particularly if stakeholders and the government can work together to define this as a specific time period."

How minimum wage requirements might affect agricultural producers was also a concern. "Due to the seasonal nature of agriculture and the often unpredictable hours, it may be unreasonable to pay all farm workers an hourly minimum wage. As there are exceptions and alternatives to minimum wage requirements in other professions, there may be a possibility to develop a fair alternative in the agriculture industry."

According to the AAMDC, "One of the most common concerns heard from stakeholders is that requiring the agriculture industry to follow the Employment Standards Code may result in a requirement that work days be no longer than eight hours, when in reality farming can be a twenty- four hour job during certain times of the year. While the Employment Standards Code requires overtime be paid to employees after an eight hour work day or 44 hour work week, the Employment Standards Regulation includes special provisions relating to work hours for a number of industries. For example, ambulance attendants begin to receive overtime after working ten hours in a single day OR in excess of 60 hours in a week. Oilwell service employees receive overtime after 12 hours of work in a single day OR in excess of 191 hours in a single month. Additionally, employers and employees are able to enter into an overtime agreement that allows for time off to be taken in lieu of the employee being paid at a 1.5 rate during overtime hours. This may work well for the agriculture industry, as work demands tend to ebb and flow and time off may be easily granted during certain times of the year."

While sounding notes of caution throughout its release, the AAMDC also expressed some apparent optimism about the government's intentions. "Agriculture is certainly unique in working hours required, seasonal variations, etc. It is highly likely that the Government of Alberta will develop special provisions for the industry to address this uniqueness."

"Under Bill 6, agriculture operators will be required to provide vacations and vacation pay to their employees. Employees are entitled to two weeks of annual paid vacation days per year for their first four years of employment. This will accrue monthly. However, under s. 138(1)(d) the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make a regulation allowing for extra wages to be paid to employees instead of providing them with vacation time or general holidays. This could potentially be applied to the agriculture industry."

"Other than the increased costs of paying for employees vacations, the Employment Standards Code does provide some flexibility in ensuring that an employee does not take vacation at an inopportune time (ex. harvest). S. 38 indicates that if an employer and employee are unable to agree on vacation dates, the employer can give the employee two days’ notice of when their annual vacation must start, and the employee must take their vacation on that date. S. 138(1)(d) may also provide for financial compensation as an alternative to the provision of vacation/holiday time."

"Through Bill 6, Section 9 of the Employment Standards Code, which restricts the employment of children, will now be applicable to agriculture operations. This section states that no individual may allow an individual required to attend school to work on their premises during school hours, and no individual under age 15 may be employed without the written consent of the individual’s parent or guardian and the approval of the Director (of Employment Standards)."

The AAMDC recommended clarification of the legislation in regard to what rules might apply to children working on their family farms. "There is widespread fear that this section will result in children no longer being able to perform farm chores of any kind. The language used in the Employment Standards Code is quite broad, and is silent on the role of children working/helping on small-scale family businesses such as farms. It will likely require that government address this directly, as the definition of work is only listed as “providing a service” in the Code, which does not necessarily apply to farm chores. Further clarification of the legislation will likely be required to address this issue."

"The Workers Compensation Regulation is the regulation that outlines the roles and responsibility of the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). Previously, much of the agriculture industry was exempt from mandatory workers’ compensation coverage but could apply for voluntary coverage whereby the employer and workers would be eligible for all the benefits of workers’ compensation insurance."

"The amendments introduced to Bill 6 on December 1, 2015 clarify that WCB coverage would be required only for paid employees. Farmers would have the option to extend coverage to unpaid workers like family, friends, or neighbors."

The change to the regulation will require compulsory coverage and those employers operating in that field must open a WCB account if they have regular, causal, or contract employees.

"Implications: WCB coverage requires employers to purchase insurance on behalf of their employees. WCB rates vary between industries and there are no rates developed for the farm sector as they are currently exempt; however, the average small employer pays approximately $1,090 per year in premiums. Employers can, however, apply for discounted rates if they have no claims filed over a certain period of time."

"For employees, workers' compensation is a type of no-fault disability insurance which means compensation is provided regardless of how the injury occurs. Employees who are injured at work receive compensation for lost income (90% up to a maximum), health care, and other related costs. WCB covers these costs as part of the insurance policy that the employer pays for."

"When covered under the Workers Compensation Regulation, the farming sector will be required to abide by the conditions of the Workers Compensation Regulation; however, the regulations largely guide the processes and operations of the WCB."

"The WCB process can be administratively cumbersome which may occupy time and costs of both employers and employees. However, the regulation provides legal rights in front of the WCB in disputed cases."

"Basically, the repeal of s. 4(2)(e) places the vast majority of agriculture operations under the Labour Relations Code. At a high level, the Labour Relations Code standardizes the relationship between employer and employee, and legislates certain rights for employees and obligations for employers."

"The Labour Relations Board has the ability to investigate and act on complaints made by an employer, employers’ organization, employee, or trade union regarding any claim that a party is failing to comply with any provision of the Labour Relations Code. This means that if any farming operators contravene the Code, they may be subject to investigation by the Labour Relations Board."

"Employees in positions regulated under the Labour Relations Code have the right to become members of a trade union and bargain collectively with their employer through a bargaining agent. All employees regulated under the Labour Relations Code have the right to become a member of an employers’ organization and bargain collectively as well."

"Some agriculture workers in other Canadian provinces (B.C., Manitoba and Quebec) have collective agreements in place, so there is potential that this right may be acted upon in Alberta. Not surprisingly, the implications of this change could potentially be serious in the agriculture industry, as the seasonal and unpredictable nature of agriculture may make it difficult for some farms, particularly those that are small, to consistently meet bargained requirements. On the other hand, this change has the potential to improve quality of life for many farm workers, who are also residents of rural Alberta."

"Obviously there are a large number of requirements that a union must meet to form and that an employer must meet in bargaining that are beyond the scope of this briefing."

"The Labour Relations Code includes specific provisions regarding regional health authorities and the construction industry."

"There may be an opportunity to include special provisions for the agriculture industry that address its unique characteristics."

Alberta Federation of Labour comments on Bill 6

"This debate should be about a group of workers who have been denied their basic rights for far too long," Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)  President Gil McGowan said at a press event on Monday December 1. "This Bill is about workers who have been forgotten."  At the event, representatives from member unions of the Alberta Federation of Labour discarded 112 pairs of work gloves. One pair for each person who has died in a workplace accident on an Alberta Farm since 2009.

"No logical explanation was given as to why paid employees on a farm are not covered by the same workplace legislation as non-farm employees," said provincial justice Peter Barleyn his 2009 fatality inquiry report on the 2006 death of farm worker Kevan Chandler.

Barley recommended that paid farm workers, excluding family members, should be included in legislation governing workplace safety.

"Each of these pairs of gloves represents someone whose life could have been saved if previous governments had the courage to end their exclusion from workplace laws," McGowan said. "The Alberta Federation of Labour is a group that stands up for the rights of workers. Of course we're going to support Bill 6. And the group that has been forgotten in this debate is workers. The workers who go to work on feedlots and who can be fired if they refuse unsafe work. The workers who put in long hours at greenhouses and aren't entitled to overtime. The workers who get injured on factory farms and who have no recourse. This debate should be about them."

In the Legislature - Wildrose leader Brian Jean vs Premier Rachel Notley

Thursday December 3:

Mr. Jean:
I want to welcome the Premier back. She has been away in Paris not making news, but she is coming back to a mess of her own making. Now, the Premier says that all these good people are mad about Bill 6 because of misinformation put out by government officials. However, the same misinformation was given to us as the Wildrose and reporters in private briefings, and of course the same misinformation appeared in government information sheets and government websites. Is it just possible that the information given as correct but that the Premier just got this bill all wrong?

Ms Notley: I'm very, very proud that when passed this fall, this bill will ensure that paid farm workers in Alberta will finally enjoy the protections enjoyed by every other farm worker in the country. What this bill will do, the only thing that this bill will do, as of January 1 is ensure that if somebody is seriously injured while working as a paid farm worker, they will not lose their house and their families will not go hungry because they will be entitled to compensation, as is the case in almost every other jurisdiction in the country.

Mr. Jean: I'm going to repeat a point because I think the Premier needs to hear it. Family farms are sophisticated operations. They monitor commodity prices and markets and scientific developments. They hire accountants to structure their farms to minimize their tax bills. They put family members on the payroll and actually give them T4s because that's the smart thing to do. That's just one of the many reasons why the government's amendments will not help at all. The Premier needs to stop this bill. When will the Premier admit that this government doesn't know anything about farming and ranching and kill Bill 6? Ms Notley: Interestingly, Mr. Speaker, I grew up in a farming community, and I do understand farming and ranching. You know one of the things I also understand? I also understand what it meansnwhen a person is injured when working on a farm or ranch and they have no compensation and they are permanently injured for the rest of their life and they have no ability to make a living. Then we say: “I'm sorry. This is just a thing about Alberta. You're going to have to be on welfare for the rest of your life because the government doesn't care about protecting vulnerable paid farm workers.” Farms exist very well in other provinces that have this kind of protection, and they will here too. It's actually about consultation and not doing any. The government's town halls on this bill have been an absolute joke. The crowds get bigger; the answers get far less clear. Farmers and ranchers tell the government to stop. The government is deaf. Today we had the largest of three rallies on the steps. Each has been larger than the one before. If the government doesn't relent, they will get bigger. I know the Premier's top advisers are telling her to stay strong, to be tough. It's a mistake. It's bad for Alberta. It's bad for your caucus. Will the Premier do the right thing, the smart thing, and relent and kill Bill 6?

Ms Notley: As has been the plan all along with Bill 6, once the bill is passed and farm workers, vulnerable paid farm workers, have their health and safety protected and their right to compensation protected, we will engage in fulsome consultations both before regulations are drafted and after regulations are drafted on the application of the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code and the specifics of bthe occupational health and safety legislation. That's the way you move legislation forward. I look forward to working with those farmers to talk about how this will impact them. Even if they're angry, that's fine. We will consult until we reach a consensus on how those work.

Mr. Jean: So it's clear that NDP consultation is ramming legislation people don't want down their throats without talking to them about it first. Leaders accept responsibility. They step up when they're wrong, and they admit their mistakes. Businesses say that minimum wage is hurting their bottom lines. The Premier ignores them. The energy sector says that it's being crushed by the uncertainty of the royalty review. The Premier doesn't care. Now farmers and ranchers say that they're very worried, and the Premier tells everyone that it's vnot her fault. This is a failure of leadership. When is the Premier going to stop blaming others and accept the blame for her government's out-of-touch policies for Alberta?

Ms Notley: I will say that I take full responsibility for the confusion that exists around that. As the Premier it does ultimately rest with me, but I also as the Premier have to think about the 177 farm workers who are paid who will be hospitalized between January 1 and April 1 who will not receive any compensation if we do not move forward on this legislation. Ultimately, that's what I think about when I go to bed at night. Those are the people that this government will act to protect, and we will do so while protecting the integrity of family farms.

Mr. Jean: Alberta has one of the best farm safety records in the country. The Premier's problem is that she has lost the trust of Albertans. That's the truth of it. The Premier asks farmers and ranchers to trust her. Well, she has done absolutely nothing to earn that trust of hard-working Albertans. She has not consulted on this bill. Her government's consultation meetings are a joke. Now we learn that the four crop commissions proactively offered to help this government, but this Premier ignored them. The Premier thinks that she knows better than farmers and ranchers. Her arrogance is shameful. Why won't the Premier listen to Albertans and kill Bill 6?

Ms Notley: As I said, you know, there are on average 17 paid farm workers who die in Alberta every year. Their families receive no compensation because we do not provide workers' compensation. That will change January 1. Interestingly, in B.C. when these rules were introduced, the farm fatality rate was reduced by 68 per cent, the farm injury rate was reduced by 52 per cent, the serious injury rate was reduced by 41 per cent. That's what happened when these rules were introduced in B.C. And you know what? They still have farms in B.C. That is the way we are going to go here in Alberta.

Mr. Jean: After all of those changes in B.C. Alberta still has a better record of safety for farmers. The Premier seems totally unwilling to listen to Albertans. That's what it's about. She even seems unwilling to listen to her cabinet and her caucus. We see her rural caucus members walking around with hangdog faces all over this place. We know the ag minister has told farmers that he is recommending that the Premier pull this bill. We can see the pained looks of ministers when we read farmers' letters, thousands of them. It's not too late for the Premier. She could do the right thing. It's not too late for her to show real leadership.

Ms Notley: Well, you know, it's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the member opposite is able to talk about the comparative injury rates between B.C. and Alberta because – you know what? – the stats aren't collected in Alberta because these people are not protected in Alberta. So once again the member opposite has just made it up, much like he made up everything else in his preamble. The fact of the matter is that this caucus is committed to moving forward, protecting vulnerable paid farm workers, and working together with farmers on the application of the other parts of this bill over time.

Monday December 7:

Mr. Jean: Bill 6 continues to anger Albertans right across the province. Each government town hall is a bigger fiasco than the last one. This weekend Wildrose MLAs hosted seven Bill 6 town halls. At every town hall the message is clear: kill Bill 6. This afternoon the government will talk to press about amendments to this bill. This is the third time this government has tried to get Bill 6 right, but the fact is that amendments won’t cut it. Farmers want the Premier to kill Bill 6 and consult with them.

Ms Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, I’m not exactly sure who’s doing the Official Opposition leader’s math, but this is the first amendment, and it’s the one amendment that we’ve been talking about all along...

Mr. Jean: This NDP government did not consult with farmers. The Premier fails to understand that many farmers already carry insurance that is far superior to WCB. She’d know that if she’d actually talked to farmers. She should also know that farmers are not the only industry exempted from mandatory WCB coverage. Unions are also exempted. They’re allowed the freedom to choose the kind of insurance that works best for their members. If the Premier was to change that, you can bet she’d get Gil McGowan on the phone first thing. Why did she not provide that same courtesy to Alberta farmers before introducing Bill 6?

Ms Notley: Every year in Alberta 17 people, at least, die in work-related injuries on farms. Between now and April 1 almost 140 people will be seriously injured and lose income. This is why we are moving forward on this. We are still moving forward in a way that ensures that family members, volunteers, and even paid family members are not covered by this legislation. But we do think that vulnerable paid employees who are not related to the owners of the farms need protection, and that is what we will give them.

Mr. Jean: The Premier has blamed the rejection of Bill 6 on misinformation from government officials. We have checked. Everything the officials said about Bill 6 was correct. The govern- ment’s own websites and information sheets confirm that. Bill 6 was designed to cover kids doing farm chores and to apply to neighbours volunteering and helping out. Bill 6 applies to 4-H because selling that cow is a commercial activity. The only misinformation around Bill 6 is coming from the Premier. Did the Premier not read her own bill, or is she blaming others for her own mistakes and arrogance?

Ms Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is where, of course, misinformation does become a problem because this does not apply to 4-H – and it never would have applied to 4-H – it doesn’t apply to family members, and it doesn’t apply to neighbours. To be perfectly clear, the amendment to be introduced today – although we would have still had this outcome without the amendment, the amendment will make it absolutely clear that that’s the way we are going to go forward with this. We have listened to farmers. We understand that they were concerned. We are now moving forward to ensure safety while ensuring that family members are excluded.

Other recent comments in the legislature

Monday December 7:

MLA Todd Loewen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about consultation. Consultation is defined as the action or process of formally consulting or discussing, a conference in which advice is given or views are exchanged. When you don’t consult with those who are most affected by legislation, it is no longer a fair and open process. To paraphrase a constituent, any bill designed to protect us should be written with us so that it doesn’t harm us. Due to a lack of consultation from the government on Bill 6 several members of the opposition have been asked to hold town hall meetings. I myself held two this weekend, one of which was in the Deputy Speaker’s own constituency of Peace River. More and more cities and towns are asking Wildrose for consultation, including the town of Mayerthorpe in the minister of agriculture’s riding. Wildrose MLAs have attended meetings in Bassano, with over 600 in attendance; Killam, with over 300 in attendance; and in James River, with over 175 in attendance. This is how consultation should be done.

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MLA Ric McIver: The NDP has spent the past days complaining about misinformation about Bill 6. The hyperbole and rhetoric from some people could have been avoided if the government had not begun by publishing what they themselves call misinformation and been up front and honest with Albertans from day one. To the Premier: since even you have admitted that commu- nications have been ineffective and confusing, which has farmers and ranchers in an uproar, don’t you think you should stop on Bill 6 until they actually feel heard by you and your government?

Premier Notley: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for that question. As I’ve said before, in the next four months if we were to delay it, we would have almost 140 people injured that wouldn’t have coverage, we would have four or five people who might die, and there would be no right to refuse unsafe work. These are the levels of fatalities and injuries that are happening on farms, so we’re going to take action now. In the meantime all that other regulation, all the other specificity,  will be consulted on rigorously for months with all parties.

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Mr. McIver: Mr. Speaker, consultation after the fact is like telling prisoners when mealtime is after they’re convicted. Last week this government blamed hard-working department staff for the fiasco that is Bill 6. Albertans are now against government on bills 6, 8, and 5 as well as on climate change, carbon tax, royalty review, the budget, and a pile of other issues. Isn’t it time to admit you need to start listening to Albertans before launching in on legislation, that they seem to almost always dislike?

Ms Notley: Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said before – and it’s interesting to see this coming from the member opposite – it’s standard, you know, that you pass legislation, and then you move to regulations, and you consult on the regulations. That’s the way it works. [interjections] That’s the way it’s worked for a very, very long time. The fact of the matter is – I mean, writing regulations behind closed doors and never talking to anyone about them is not cool, but that’s not what we’re going to do here. We’ve been very clear that we are going to invite stakeholders, industry people, farmers to the table to talk about how the Employment Standards Code, the Occupational Health and Safety Code, and the Labour Relations Code apply to farmers in a... (timed out)

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MLA Drew Barnes: Mr. Speaker, as you know, over 1,200 people attended the town hall in our city of Medicine Hat. I hope you heard everyone speak passionately against Bill 6. Thousands upon thousands of people in our ridings simply do not trust this government. To the Premier. They don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart. They don’t trust your agenda. They don’t trust you to get this right. Will you kill this bill, consult with farmers and ranchers, and try to earn this trust back?

Premier Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, the majority of Albertans believe that paid workers on farms need to be kept safe, and they also believe that they need to receive an income should they be injured, and that is what we are going to do. We are also going to go forward with technical consultation tables with respect to the application of the detailed codes in the form of regulations.

MLA Derek Fildebrandt (interjecting): After the bill has passed.

Ms Notley: Exactly. You don’t consult on regulations before the bill passes.  So that’s what we’re going to do. It’s absolutely the reasonable way to go forward, and we will earn their trust.

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MLA Richard Dr. Starke: Well, Mr. Speaker, speaking to the Canadian Injured Workers association in July 2012, the Premier said, and I quote, that the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board functions solely as a means of providing cheap insurance to Alberta employers at the expense of the dignity and the health and the future of Alberta’s workers and, further, that workers, quote, suffer the consequences of that day in and day out. My question to the labour minister. In 24 days Bill 6 will force WCB upon Alberta farm workers even though the Premier says that WCB causes workers to suffer. If the Premier is right, why are you forcing WCB on Alberta farm workers?

Premier Notley: Mr. Speaker, I actually want to thank the member opposite for that question. Let us be clear. WCB could be better and could be improved, and our government is committed to doing the work that the previous government never did to improve WCB. But, that being said, it is far better than the alternative, which is forcing poor, vulnerable, injured workers to hire lawyers to sue insurance companies, which is the way it would work in the absence of the WCB. That is why most workers abandoned that idea and embraced the WCB model over a hundred years ago, except farm workers.

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MLA Derek Fildebrandt: Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the minister of agriculture for showing up to a town hall meeting on Bill 6 in Bassano this weekend. I also want to thank 600 farmers who did their best to open the minister’s eyes and explain how Bill 6 will hurt their family farms and ranches. Premier, my constituents at the town hall voted unanimously against the bill. Your agriculture minister was there. Polls show that your bill is hugely unpopular in every corner of the province, rural and urban. Will you listen to the people of Strathmore-Brooks and all Alberta and kill Bill 6?

Premier Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, in  fact, the same poll that the member opposite quotes suggests that should farm owners and their family members and volunteers be excluded from the application of the bill, which will be very clear once our amendment is introduced, over 60 per cent of Albertans support protecting farm workers, and that’s why we’re going to move forward on it.

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MLA Grant Hunter: Mr. Speaker, over the last two weeks, while the Wildrose caucus went out and actually listened to our farm brothers and sisters, we have heard two recurring messages. First, nobody cares about the safety of the family farm more than the mums and dads who run them. Second, this government needs to back off their socialist agenda and listen to the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers who have been chanting, “Kill Bill 6.” To add insult to injury, the Premier decided to exempt Hutterites. They were offended that she would try to pit them against their farmer brothers and sisters. To the Premier: when will you start representing all of Alberta’s farmers and ranchers rather than just some?

Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson: The farm and ranch legislation is about protecting paid workers on farms and to make sure that they have the same rights that workers do in every other workplace in Alberta and in Canada. We know, actually, that the farm fatality rate in B.C. was reduced by 68 per cent when similar legislation came in, and the injury rate went down 52 per cent and serious injuries by 41 per cent. So we know this will help, for sure.

Related link/source: Alberta Hansard

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