Alberta premier Rachel Notley is pushing ahead with Bill 6 despite protests across the province to delay or kill the farm safety bill.
“We will pass this bill this fall, those paid wage-earning farm workers (in an accident) will receive compensation and will have the right to refuse unsafe work. Over the months to come we will engage in respectful common-sense dialogue about how to tweak the other newly applied rules in a way that respects the family farm just as it has been done in every other province in the country,” said Notley in a news conference after returning from a climate change conference in Paris.
Notley apologized for the confusion and miscommunication around the bill that has led to protests around the province.
When the bill was introduced it said Alberta’s 45,000 farms and ranches would no longer be exempt from farm safety rules, workers compensation requirements and labour standards.
With no detail of how the legislation would apply, farmers feared they would be put out of business by the legislation and uncertainty the proposed bill created.
“But what was explicitly stated and what was intended, fear and miscommunication has filled the gap and I take full responsibility for that,” she said.
The government plans to introduce amendments to the original bill clearing the confusion, she said.
Notley would not apologize for introducing the bill that she believes will save lives. According to the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, between 1990 and 2009, there were 355 agriculture related deaths. For each person who died another 25 were hospitalized.
“These deaths and injuries can be prevented, but we can not prevent them by doing nothing and we cannot prevent them through endless delay. We can not prevent their deaths if we can not investigate their causes, learn from them and where required hold people accountable for them and we cannot compensate families for those who are injured or killed in paid wage earning farm jobs unless we provide assistance to compensate them for their losses.”
Notley said the legislation was never intended to interfere with a family’s ability to teach their children about farming and pass on their way of life. Nor will it interfere with neighbours helping each other, or children participating in 4-H and other programs.
The government introduced the legislation to ensure farm workers the same rights as other workers, she said.
“What drove us was there had been this gaping hole in what is a fundamental human right in Alberta for decades and I felt personally very strongly for a very long time that we needed to move on it and to be clear I ran on it. It was part of the NDPs position for a very long time.”