To be clear, we are not anti-safety. We live and play in our workplaces. It is our family, friends, and neighbours whose health and well-being is at stake on our property and we take that very seriously.
We have repeatedly heard Premier Notley claim that “stakeholders were consulted.”
The Oxford dictionary states consultation as “meeting with an expert or professional in order to seek advice.”
By this definition, stakeholders were not consulted. In meetings between government and industry groups, industry gave recommendations to exempt farms from WCB, giving them the option to voluntarily apply.
Industry leaders requested further information and meetings to participate in creating regulations specific to agriculture; desiring to ensure avoiding any potentially crippling legislation.
The recommendations were ignored on all fronts; in fact, nine of these “stakeholders” published an open letter on Dec. 4 to Premier Notley and all NDP MLA’s to clearly state lack of agricultural support and lack of consultation.
Nor are current consultations led by NDP MLA’s true to the definition. It was asked at one such meeting: “Who is taking notes so you can present our concerns to your party?”
The MLAs embarrassedly looked at each other and shrugged.
When we try contacting our MLAs with questions we get a “thank you for your concerns.”
Calls are rarely returned.
We have also heard that this is about “making sure workers have the right to minimum wage and the right to refuse safe work.”
However, federal legislation outlines basic responsibilities which we must comply with to protect our staff and, according to the Government of Alberta Industry Profiles 2015 report, the average farm worker is paid a minimum $15.38 up to $43.32, an average of $29.35, well above the $11.20 minimum wage requirements.
Another misconception amplified by the NDP is that Alberta is currently the only province that exempts farms.
However, according to AAMDCs’ Environmental Scan of Farm Safety Legislation and the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada 2015 report: farms are excluded from mandatory WCB coverage in PEI, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Regarding OHS policies, farms in B.C. with less than 20 employees are exempt and all other provinces have industry specific legislation with many different exemptions for small farms as well as in their Labour Relations and Employment Standards legislation.
Finally, and possibly the most unfortunate and damaging misconception recently, is the implication that farmers have become violent and even gone so far as threatening MLA’s in favour of Bill 6.
At least four MLA’s have made accusations that they have later mitigated, apologized for or retracted completely, but alas the damage has been done.
Now farmers are left with the daunting task of figuring out how this legislation will affect us, how we can make our concerns heard to a government who has proven they are not interested in listening, and how and if the family farm way of life is still a viable one for us.