LACOMBE -- It’s unclear at this point whether United Conservative Party (UCP) plans to repeal Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act if elected government this spring, is a good idea or not.
That according to Lacombe-area farmer Albert Kamps, former Chair of the now disbanded Ag Coalition.
Kamps admits some basic problems with the Bill when first introduced but adds some of those issues were later ironed out through consultations with producers.
“The Bill was introduced and then consultation happened,” says Kamps. “After a lot of consultation, parts of Bill 6 became acceptable to farmers. The workman’s compensation portions specifically became more palatable to farmers.”
Kamps say changes made included common sense rules, like not having to have port-a-potties in the field when working in the fields.
“If the UCP is willing to do consultation with industry before putting the law in effect, then I think industry would support that,” adds Kamps. “The parts of Bill 6 that include labour unions for farm workers are very problematic, so we would have some concerns with those. But other parts of the Bill I think through extensive consultation and a lot of hard work by industry, we have come to a pretty good landing place.”
However, Kamps hopes clearer heads will prevail once the election is over.
“We’re all in favour of safety,” declares Kamps. “Before the province came out with Bill 6, I know Alberta Milk had a whole safety program we were pursuing on our own already. So many other commodities were in the same boat.”
On Mar. 12, the UCP announced if elected, a UCP government wouls immediately launch comprehensive consultations with farmers, ranchers, agriculture workers and others on how best to balance the unique economic pressures of farming with the need for a common sense, flexible farm safety regime.
The release says the goal of these consultations would be to develop recommendations for the introduction of the Farm Freedom and Safety Act (FFSA), which would be passed into law in 2019.
Key elements of the proposed FFSA include repealing Bill 6, requiring employers to maintain workplace insurance for farm workers, but allow employers to choose whether to purchase insurance from the market or from the WCB as long as basic standards of coverage are met.
Others include exempting small farms from employment legislation, ensure basic safety standards, recognize that operating a farm is unlike operating a conventional business and that farmers and ranchers require much greater flexibility in meeting employment standards.
In addition, if elected, the UCP has vowed to eliminate the Carbon Tax, cut taxes on the agricultural sector through a Job Creation Tax Cut and cut red tape on agribusiness by one third through the UCP’s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan.
Jody Wacowich, Executive Director for AgSafe Alberta, says their organization will not comment on any comments made by Alberta’s political parties regarding farm safety, saying only, “AgSafe Alberta’s main focus is to support producers in building a culture of safety on their farms and ranches.”
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