EDMONTON — Protests against Alberta farm worker legislation keep building momentum.
A hastily built Facebook page opposed to Bill 6 had 24,000 members in only a few days, farmers packed a Grande Prairie hotel ball room Nov. 26 and about 150 farmers protested at the Alberta legislature Nov. 27. Another rally at the legislature was attended by a few hundred people Nov. 30, and farmers rallied in front of the provincial building in Grande Prairie.
Meanwhile, farm equipment highway rallies were held in several locations Nov. 30, including Fort MacLeod, Lethbridge, Welling and Nanton.
Farmers have vowed to continue to challenge the bill if changes are not made.
“I don’t agree with the bill,” said Stan Wilkie of Bashaw during the Nov. 27 rally in Edmonton.
“As farmers, we’re pretty independent and it is an insult that they think they need to tell us how to look after our children. It’s arrogant. The previous government was arrogant and now this one is too,” said Wilkie.
Under the proposed legislation, Alberta’s 45,000 farms and ranches will no longer be exempt from farm safety rules, workers’ compensation requirements and labour standards.
Wilkie said the bill is an added cost that the farmer has to absorb and difficult to enforce.
“It is just going to be a hassle for all the farmers.”
Kamren Birkbeck said his family works off farm to support the farm, but it is a life they have chosen.
“No one can tell us I can’t help calve my calf at 40 below to help us make a living and make our payments,” said a tearful Birkbeck.
Kayla Trautman of Stony Plain came to the Nov. 27 rally to tell government that farmers must be heard.
“Maybe there should be someone listening to farmers before making the rules,” she said.
Alberta jobs minister Lori Sigurdson wandered into the crowd briefly, citing the case of farm worker Kevan Chandler, who died in a farm accident on a southern Alberta feedlot. His widow later sued the farm and it went broke.
“This bill is about safety,” said Sigurdson. “We want to prevent farmers from losing their farm and we want to make sure that we protect the lifestyle.”
In a news release after the rally, Sigurdson said: “I want to assure those families that Bill 6 does nothing more than bring Alberta’s safety standards on farm and ranching operations in line with every other province in Canada.
“Family farms have thrived in those provinces and they will continue to do so in Alberta.”
Nine government consultation meetings will be held across the province until Dec. 14.