Farm safety and tax reforms part of Alta. throne speech

The speech says the new UCP government will bring forward
the Farm Freedom and Safety Act this fall

Alberta farmers can expect the new United Conservative Party government to move on reducing tax burdens and reforming safety legislation as part of its mandate this year.

The measures, outlined May 22 in the provincial throne speech, are expected to be introduced this fall and tabled as the Farm Freedom and Safety Act.

The act will roll back the previous NDP government’s farm safety rules, but will include new regulations that aim to ensure farm workers are safe.

Premier Jason Kenney has previously said the new legislation would allow farmers to choose private or Workers’ Compensation Board insurance.

As well, he said, it would exempt small farms from legislation, potentially ones with fewer than three workers.

Farm groups said during the election campaign they would like to see changes, particularly on having the option to choose private insurance or WCB.

Current legislation requires all farms with paid employees to have WCB.

It isn’t clear if the new government will keep the NDP’s workers guidelines, which were developed after two years of consultation with industry.

In the throne speech, the government said it will also move to strengthen property rights, aiming to give fair compensation when public projects require access to people’s property.

Kenney has said new property rights rules would bar adverse possession claims, ensuring squatters can’t make legal claims to someone else’s property.

The throne speech was billed with the theme of renewal.

Kenney said the government is taking action to get people back to work by restoring the province’s fiscal and economic advantages.

“By removing obstacles for growth, we are sending a clear message to investors, job creators and entrepreneurs that Alberta is once again open for business,” he said.

The government will introduce bills this spring to axe the carbon tax, change labour regulations and cut corporate taxes.

It will also make changes to enable municipalities to use property tax incentives as a way to attract investment.

The UCP government will also introduce a bill to cut what it calls red tape.

Kenney has struck a panel to comb through Alberta’s finances, with the goal of finding efficiencies in spending.

However, he doesn’t want to cut front-line services, like teachers and nurses.

“There will have to be spending restraint,” he said, adding there will be a reduction in the public sector hopefully through attrition.

Kenney said when he was working in federal government, he helped reduce operating expenses and programs without layoffs.

“I think we got used to there being more and more money but, as I said in the campaign, we’re broke. We will not be reducing spending in health and education, but we will no longer have spending increases that are faster than inflation.”

As well, the government plans to make it easier for newcomers to work in jobs that they would be qualified in their home countries, enforce a tiered system on large industrial emitters that aim to tackle climate change, create a corporation to provide opportunities for Indigenous people, and introduce protections for victims of human trafficking and expand protections for victims of domestic violence.

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