Before Bill 6 was passed, the M.D. councillors expressed their lack of confidence in the bill.
During the regular council meeting on Dec. 8, council received a letter to the minister of jobs, Lori Sigurdson, from the Alberta Association of Municipal District & Counties, dated Nov. 27. It requested that the timeline for consultations be increased, as to ensure that government can hear all concerns before they pass the bill.
The biggest concern is whether they are meeting with elected producer groups in the agriculture industry.
“Otherwise, they’re not representing anyone, but themselves,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D.
“Appointed by the province, doesn’t mean you’re elected,” said Bob Wallace, M.D. councillor. “These people, we don’t recognize them in our agricultural societies.”
Ultimately, if the provincial government consults with the elected boards and commissions that represent the various agriculture groups in Alberta, then it would be like consulting with every farmer in the province, since these groups represent them. However, council claims that the only ones being consulted are non-elected.
“I think that elected thing is pretty important,” said Dwight Tolton, M.D. councillor. “Because they are meeting with so-called producer groups, that none of us recognize because we haven’t voted for them.”
According to Tolton, at a recent Mayor and Reeves meeting there was a lively discussion regarding Bill 6, but they ultimately decided to support it after a vote, “because there was some NDP people in the room.” About 98 per cent of attendees voted in favour.
“The biggest thing is, the people who wanted to defend what the province is doing, don’t come from a farm and have no agriculture inclination what so ever,” said Tolton. “(They) don’t understand, and they put out there that farm owners don’t care about safety. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
In addition to the rushed timeline, council also expressed concern of farmers having no option but to get Worker’s Compensation, even if their own insurance has better coverage. Krizsan explained that farm workers, through WC, could either sue the employer or go through the board for rehab and lost wages.
“That’s why OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) is tied to this, is because if there is an injury then it triggers – in the event of an injury that requires hospitalization or death – it triggers an OHS investigation,” said Krizsan. “These are the industry standards, so let’s say, as an employer, let’s say you have repeated injuries this (WCB coverage) rate increases, just like private insurance would. The difference between this and private insurance, is WCB deals with that employee… you’re not directly involved with it.”
“The sad thing is, when you’re harvesting, you got a window of good days, and all of a sudden you have an accident, and accidents can happen. All of a sudden your operation is shut down for two weeks for an investigation, that’s affecting your livelihood,” said Ben Elfring, M.D. councilor. “That’s the only thing that scares me; not the only thing, but one of the things.”
Bill 6 was given its third reading and passed on Dec. 10.
“I certainly don’t disagree with the idea of it, farm safety and safety for workers, but it certainly would have been nice to have a lot more detail exactly what the bill is going to (do), or how it’s going to effect us,” said Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D.
“I was disappoint with the way it was done, to be honest with you… the lack of consultation and the fear of the unknown.”