RIMBEY, Alta. — Alberta’s United Conservative Party will kill the province’s farm safety legislation if elected, launching new consultations over the issue with farmers.
UCP leader Jason Kenney announced the repeal plan today on a farm near Ramey, as well as other components of the party’s agriculture platform.
“The NDP’s ideologically driven agenda, including Bill 6, is undermining Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food industry,” Kenney said.
The controversial farm safety legislation recently came into effect after the government spent nearly two years consulting on it.
It was originally met with much resistance, but the AgCoalition, a farmer-led organization made up of producer groups, has said it supports the changes.
However, despite previous consultation and support from some in the industry, Kenney said the legislation needs another look.
He said new recommendations would be made and passed into law later this year if elected.
“We’ll listen to the work that was done, but we will go back to the drawing board,” he said.
“I have not yet met a single farmer that supports Bill 6, even with the changes that were made and even with the consultations that were done.”
The current legislation doesn’t apply to farm families or neighbours; only people hired to work on the farm.
As part of its agriculture platform, Kenney said the UCP would allow farmers with employees to choose either private or WCB insurance.
He said he would exempt small farms from employment legislation, pointing to New Brunswick as an example, where he said farms with three or fewer employees are exempt.
Legislation in Alberta currently requires all farmers with paid employees to have WCB coverage.
Kenney said he would also reduce red tape in the agriculture department by one-third, appointing a minister with the task of finding efficiencies.
As well, oversight on agriculture research will likely change.
Kenney said agriculture research has become increasingly controlled by government, rather than being led by producers.
A UCP government would also streamline the AFSC in an effort to improve responsiveness to farmers.
Producers have been wanting clear answers on certain issues, he said, adding it can be months before they hear back.
The UCP would consult on potentially auctioning more crown land for farming purposes, particularly in northern Mackenzie County.
Kenney said he would talk with First Nations in areas before moving forward with auctions.
He said he would also fight back against what he says are attacks against agriculture by special interest groups and would advocate that the industry is safe, ethical and environmentally responsible.
As well, a UCP government would continue to push for market access for Alberta’s agriculture products and work to reduce interprovincial trade barriers.