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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Council for MD of Pincher Creek expresses Bill 6 concerns to Minister Sigurdson


Chris Davis with notes from Josh Davis

At their December 8 meeting council for the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 voted unanimously to send a letter to Alberta Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson requesting the passing of Bill 6 be delayed, or alternatively that if it passed a proper consultation and amendment process should follow. Council also received as information a similar letter of concern received on November 30 which was signed by Brazeau County Reeve Bart Guyon, representing his council.  Both letters are reproduced below, as is another letter received by the MD of Pincher Creek Council on the subject that resulted from the December 4 meeting Mayors and Reeves of Southwest Alberta.

Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, passed third and final reading in Alberta legislature on Thursday, December 10 with a vote of 44 for to 29 against.  Opposition to the Act continues to be fervent in rural Alberta communities, including among residents of the MD of Pincher Creek, many of whom are farmers and ranchers. When the Act comes into effect on January 1, 2016 Workers Compensation Board (WCB) coverage and occupational health and safety regulations will be mandatory for farms with paid workers.

An Alberta Government press release on December 7 announced amendments to the Act prior to it being passed which "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."

In the December 7 press release Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson was quoted 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.” 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.”

Brazeau County letter to all Alberta Municipalities:

November 30, 2015

Dear Elected Official Colleagues:

Due to the concerns of Brazeau County Council and the constituents we represent as elected officials for Brazeau County, we feel a responsibility to speak to the Province of Alberta's proposed Bill 6.

This Bill has created a stir throughout our community and province. Few Albertans understand what the long-term ramifications are. Farmers do, and see more negative impact than positive consequences. Because of that, we need a sober second thought. This Bill needs to be stopped at this point.

As a council supporting our agricultural neighbours, and in light of the negative consequences Bill 6 could have on our community, we're opposing the passage of this Bill.

All governments need to understand that if they're going to be the directors of change in policy, they have to be willing to write the cheque for the consequences of those changes. Farmers can't afford the cost of Bill 6.

In addition, this Bill will change the culture of rural Alberta. Fear will be a factor in visiting a farm, learning the industry and even lending a helping hand.

I would challenge any Minister to come to a farm in Brazeau County and walk a mile in a farmer's shoes.

There will always be risks in anything we do. The reason our rural life has prevailed is due to our common sense, work ethic and diligence to safety for ourselves, our families and friends. Legislating common sense doesn't work. Let's educate, not legislate.

Bart Guyon
Reeve, Brazeau County

AAMDC Bill 6 concerns:

At their December 4th meeting Mayors and Reeves of Southwest Alberta passed a resolution directing that a letter outlining the concerns identified in the letter below be forwarded to the relevant Provincial Cabinet ministers.

Friday, December 4, 2015

It is the position of the AAMDC that safety must be of paramount importance in all of Alberta's workplaces including farms. However, the agriculture industry is unique, and one-size fits all regulatory approach has the potential to hinder small and family run agriculture operations.

While farm safety legislation may be required, the Provincial Government should only proceed following thoughtful and extensive consultation with Alberta's farming and ranching community to ensure that any proposed changes balance the need to protect farm workers while maintaining the viability of the agriculture industry.

At this time there are too many unknown consequences to proceed with this legislation. Bill 6 must be delayed until such time as meaningful and credible consultation has taken place. This consultation should include all stakeholders including AAMDC and should pertain to the draft legislation, regulations and terminology resulting from Bill 6. Only then would AAMDC reconsider its position.

As a vital contributor to the provincial economy, protecting the agriculture industry and the rural way of life is in the best interest of Albertans.

Kim Heyman
Director of Advocacy & Communications
AAMDC - Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties

MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 letter to Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour Lori Sigurdson:

Dear Minister Sigurdson:

Council at their meeting held Tuesday, December 8, 2015, discussed the potential impact of Bill 6: The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act on our farming and ranching community. Council agrees that safety must be of paramount importance in all of Alberta's workplaces including farms. However,  the agriculture industry is unique, a one-size fits all regulatory approach has the potential to hinder small and family run agriculture operations.

It is the considered opinion of Council that the Province should only proceed with Bill 6 following thoughtful and extensive consultation with Alberta's farming and ranching community to ensure that any proposed changes balance the need to protect farm workers while maintaining the viability of the agriculture industry.

At this time there are too many unknown consequences to proceed with this legislation.

Bill 6 must be delayed until such time as meaningful and credible consultation has taken place.

However, should the government proceed with Bill 6 intending that consultation would occur on the regulations (as originally suggested), then it is even more critical that meaningful, thorough and comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders in multiple locations across the province be provided for.

Sincerely,
Reeve Brian Hammond
Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9

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