RED DEER, Alta. — An online survey by Alberta crop commissions hopes to gather farmer input about new farm safety legislation.
Within hours of the survey being released Jan. 15, more than 300 people had filled out the survey, a sign farmers are interested in helping to shape the controversial farm bill, said Kent Erickson, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.
“We felt it was important for us as commissions to get a sense of where everybody is at and nail down a direct understanding of where farmers are at with workers compensation, private insurance and how that is going to work on their farm,” said Erickson.
The survey asks farmers and others for their opinion on working hours during peak and non-peak times, minimum wage, unionizations and mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage and other issues.
In December, the Alberta government passed Bill 6, which eliminated many labour, worker compensation and safety regulation exemptions that once applied to farmers and farm workers. Farmers accused the government of introducing the legislation before consulting them about changes and protested.
At an Alberta Horse Industry Conference in Red Deer, Alberta agriculture minister Oneil Carlier said the new legislation triggered a lot of “raw emotion and confusion.”
“I want to apologize for how this bill was communicated. Our government is committed in strengthening our relationship with the agriculture industry and rebuilding trust. Over the coming months we will be working closely with the agriculture community and other stakeholders to develop regulations that make sense and recognize the unique needs of the agriculture sector,” said Carlier.
In February, chairs and members of six round tables will be appointed to help design workplace regulations in the new bill.
“This process will take working groups, stakeholders and experts that will make recommendations on how employment standards, occupational health and safety and labour relation requirements should be applied,” said Carlier.
Erickson said he hopes the survey will give the grain commission’s input on how the regulations should be implemented.
Gary Millar, Horse Industry Association of Alberta director, said the fractured horse industry must also come together to ensure horse owners have a voice in how the new bill is crafted.
“We are in this together. I don’t care if you jump, dressage or chase cows this is going to affect you,” he told a group of horse owners. “The bottom line is we are going to be OK. This isn’t going to be a big issue. The real problem with the bill was about how it was implemented,” he said.