The “Legislate First, Ask Questions Later” approach to Bill 6 is still not flying with Alberta farmers and ranchers.
By Jenn Webster
They came in sprayers, grain trucks, round bale haulers, tractors, combines, on horseback and in a variety of agriculture modes of transportation. There were elderly folks with walkers, feedlot workers, mother and baby strollers, members of Hutterite colonies, team penners, grain producers, hay suppliers, horse trainers, cattle producers… literally thousands of Alberta agriculture folks united against Bill 6. Some might tell you hundreds of people showed up. Some may show you angles of images that make it appear only a “few” of Alberta’s farmers and ranchers showed up – simply not true. The agriculture industry joined arms today and met the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Oneil Carlier and the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, Lori Sigurdson, head on.
The turnout in Okotoks today was impressive, to say the least.
A convoy left from the Fort MacLeod Agriplex at 6:30 a.m., met up with folks in Granum, who met up with folks in at the Claresholm Weigh Scale area, who met folks at the Stavely MD building, who – well, you get the point. Frustrated farmers and ranchers continued on to the Best Western hotel in Okotoks where an Alberta Farm and Ranch session was being hosted by the Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour. The session was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and was initially supposed to be housed inside the hotel meeting room where attendees were required to preregister for a seat. The topic of discussion was Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
It was decided today that the Okotoks meeting would be held outside in the parking lot, as there were so many people in attendance, officials couldn’t possibly address the masses any other way.
“Our officials are currently working on amendments that we will share very soon to clarify our intentions…” said Carlier.
“Specifically WCB coverage and rules will only apply to paid employees, unless the farm or ranch operator chooses to opt their family and neighbors into the coverage, as some already do. On Occupational Health & Safety, the rules will set minimum safety standards – only paid employees will be included. These amendments will take effect at the same time the Bill does. Rules that relate to employment standards, (things like hours of work and other employment standards) won’t take effect until spring 2016. The same is true for labour relation-related provisions. We need to make sure that the specifics of how the Bill is implemented works for farms and ranches and that’s why we’ll continue our consultations with you throughout the winter…”
It was at that point that someone from the crowd yelled, “We don’t want the Bill!”
Pretending not to hear, Minister Oneil Carlier continued on, underscoring what could have perhaps, began the entire feud in the first place.
Sigurdson had her turn on the stage but was met from the beginning with more of the same vocal opposition from the crowd.
“I understand there’s a lot of passion out there…” she started.
Which was immediately countered by an angry voice – “A LOT OF PASSION?!?”
This is farming and ranching we’re talking about. Bill 6 might be a very passionate topic, but that’s because the people it affects are the ones feeding the world, teaching your kids to ride, harvesting grain, calving out calves, producing honey, producing eggs, hatching fish, etc. etc. etc.
Their way of life isn’t only about passion. It’s who they are.
Bill 6 is causing a showdown all across the province this week as people of the farming and ranching community have come out in droves to let the government know what they think. And it appears they all very passionate about safety – after all, our families are precious to us.
So what is Bill 6 really about?
Unionization? A tax grab? A decoy to distract the masses from the Alberta Carbon tax bill?
While the answer to that question is still not clear, one thing is for certain– another convoy is planned for southern Alberta tomorrow. Destination, Lethbridge. And for those in more northern parts of the province of Alberta, a rally is planned for the steps of the Legislature Building in Edmonton, AB.