By MLA Jason Nixon
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the NDP in recent months, it’s this government loves regulation.
In just seven months they have launched initiatives to regulate the energy industry, the environment, education, labour…the list goes on and on. Regulate, regulate, regulate. Regulation is this government’s hammer, its tool of choice for nearly every job.
Now the NDP has turned its attention to life on family farms. We all agree that farming practices have changed and will continue to do so. This is exactly why agriculture leaders continuously seek ways to improve safety. In addition, the government of Alberta has revisited this issue on many occasions, always in consultation with farmers.
Here’s the rub.
The NDP, unlike any previous government, is attempting to approve its new farm regulations so they come into force just45 days after first being made public – without consulting farmers first.
As you may have heard, the new legislation outlines Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Workers’ CompensationBoard (WCB) regulations for farms, opens the door to new employment standards, and expands the Labour Code to encourage the unionization of farm workers. It is transformational policy and farmers deserve the right to be consulted about it before the bill becomes law.
My office has already received a flood of concerns. Farm families are worried about what these changes will mean for themselves and their children. Some are concerned that Bill 6 greatly expands the definition of who is considered a farmworker, and even imposes regulations on unpaid friends and neighbours who offer a helping hand.
Others have noted that complying with time-consuming OHS paperwork and practices will disproportionately affect smaller operations, yet this bill does not differentiate between large operations with dozens of full time employees and smaller family farms.
By imposing blanket regulations, this government betrays its lack of basic understanding about the nature and diversity of rural life. This bill may treat all farms as agri-business profit centres in dire need of unionization, but we know that simply is not true. For many of us, the family farm is our home. Nobody cares about farm safety more than the moms and dads who live there. For them, farm workers are more than employees; they are friends, neighbours, and in many cases family.
They deserve a real voice in the regulation of their homes.
If you are concerned that farmers are being ignored, the only solution is to speak up. Talk to your family. Get in touch with my office. Make a call. Write a letter. Do what you have to do to get the word out.
We have to fight for our voice, because we know how this government loves its regulations. Regulation is this government’s hammer. When we don’t speak up, we get nailed.