Southern Alberta Newspapers
With the passage of Bill 6 early in December, the focus for local producers now must be on how these changes are going to affect their operations, and to remain involved in ongoing consultations, say local MLAs.
Wildrose MLAs Dave Schneider (Little Bow), Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner) and Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod) planned a town hall meeting in Coaldale Tuesday night to discuss issues surrounding implementation of Bill 6 and to hear feedback from local producers about the issue.
“We’re going to try to provide, as time goes on, an outlet for the farming and ranching community to seek out and obtain up-to-date information as we are able to discover it,” Stier said. “We don’t know how they are going to roll this out.”
“There’s going to be a lot of farmers asking, what now?” Hunter said. “What are we liable for? What are the concerns we need to be aware of?”
Hunter said after speaking with Occupational Health and Safety inspectors, and after going through the OHS codes, there may be difficulties for small farms to be able to get caught up and acclimated to OHS rules and regulations in a short period of time.
“We’re trying to hold these town hall meetings, in order to tell them they are compliant so they don’t break the law,” he said. He added the MLAs can supply producers with content, such as websites, to allow producers to learn about their new rights and responsibilities themselves.
Schneider said the Wildrose Party has continued to represent the interests of producers, even those outside their own ridings.
“It was basically our party that was standing up for Albertans in this province,” he said. “Not only in my riding, but I had lots of people in other ridings asking ‘please stand up for me, the MLA in my area is NDP, and he won’t return my calls’.”
Hunter said now that the bill has passed, it is important producers take advantage of the consultations to get involved and be at the table for those discussions.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months, they are going to be writing the OHS rules,” he said. “It’s important to get involved at this stage so they can have a say in how that one specific area in their industry will look like.”
“I would recommend they try to get someone on the board for both WCB and OHS, so they have farm representation there,” he said.
Schneider said the actions of the provincial government have led him to suspect the true motive of the bill is not farm safety.
“This is much more about the unionization of farm labour than it ever is about safety,” he said.
Hunter said a situation the opposition MLAs are hoping to avoid could happen in instances where a farm operation isn’t up to the new regulations and codes when an accident occurs, resulting in the loss of the farm through fines or other measures.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” he said.
“We don’t want that to happen even once, so this is extremely important to have them realize they need ti mitigate the risk of that happening.”
“We want to make sure people understand this bill is law,” said Schneider. “We have to figure out where we fit in and what we have to do,” he said.
“Make sure you understand what you have to do to be compliant,” he added. “The last thing you want to do is lose your farm over something. I don’t think they’ll be giving you the opportunity to plead ignorance. They’ve given you four months, so you need to get educated.”
“You have to understand for your farm, where this is heading.”
“Jan. 1, WCB is alive and well, so if you have hired someone to work on your farm or ranch, you have to look into what your responsibilities are.”