Like a moth to a flame, over the past few weeks controversy has emerged over the provincial government’s proposed Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
Rallies, meetings and consultations were held all across the province to help interpret the intent of the Bill and bring concerns to the table.
On Monday the government introduced amendments to the Bill and confirmed it was always the government’s intent to not include farmers and ranchers within the context of the Bill. They stated the provisions for farm families were intended to be laid out afterwards in regulations.
“Across Alberta, we have heard farming and ranching families’ concerns,” said Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson. “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 new amendments exclude farm and ranch operations and family members from WCB and OHS rules. Another amendment was made to ensure neighbours are still able to help each other out. It is unclear if these amendments would apply to hired hands or seasonal workers.
“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,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier.
The Wildrose Opposition has called for consultations with farmers and ranchers before the Bill is passed.
“The thousands of farmers and ranchers who have shown up to so-called consultation sessions held on Bill 6 have told the government this is the wrong way to govern,” said Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon. “The government needs to listen to the people, and either refer Bill 6 to committee, or kill it outright.”
Nixon questioned whether the amendments would apply to season workers.
“I am worried 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,” he said.
A lot of the dissent around the Bill boiled down to miss-communication. The government shouldn’t have to explain the intent of a bill. It should be made clear to the everyday person the first time around, not after a press conference and amendments after the fact. If Bill 6 was not intended to include farm and ranch owners, and not interfere with every day life, why did the the premier and NDP MLA’s allow people to believe so for over a week?
Either way, Bill 6 will not be ‘killed’ like some have requested, but it will be passed sometime in the next week with the amendments.