By Nikki Jamieson
While Bill 6 has passed, input is still needed to form farm and ranch regulations.
Although on Jan. 1, the Workers Compensation Board aspect of the bill was put into power, the Albertan government is still developing its employment standard regulations, and are asking for public input.
In an email received during the regular Feb. 23 council meeting from the Association of Alberta Agriculture Fieldmen, the Municipal District of Taber council was asked to submit a nominee to take part in a series of provincial farm and ranch consults.
For a couple of days in March and the summer, they would go and represent the AAAF and Farmers and Ranchers of Alberta in a series of consultations for the controversial Bill 6, or the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. The nominees must have experience in Occupational Health and Safety and have secondary education.
The Alberta government is establishing six technical working groups, with the purpose of providing feedback for the bill. They want to talk with farmers, ranchers, workers, agriculture sector representatives and other stakeholders to design workplace regulations and provide input on changes for the OH&S and Labour Regulations and Employment Standards legislation along with what is needed in order to implement them.
The Municipal District of Taber is nominating Jason Bullock, agricultural fieldman for the M.D, as a representative. According to council, he would make an ideal candidate for the position, for in addition to his work for the M.D. in agriculture he also has a farming background, having grown up on one.
“On one hand, it’s probably good to have somebody there,” said Merrill Harris, M.D. councillor. “They’re asking, finally, to give the farm/ranch community some input in this legislation,” said Ben Elfring, M.D councillor. “He has a pretty good handle on all this stuff, safety and… I think he’ll have some good input.”
But while some members of council were glad that they could provide potential input, others did not like the way it was being done.
“My first thought was that this is an elected officials job, since they’re the people we represent. This organization does not represent farmers and ranchers, they work for an organization that protects them,” said Tom Machacek, M.D. councillor. “Then I read that one sentence in there, ‘The executive would like to nominate the person, who would best represent the AAAF at the table’. I don’t think those are the people who should be represented there, I think it should be the farmers.”
AAAF is an organization of agricultural fieldmen, who jobs often involve carrying out the interests of an agricultural service board. While their members may have extensive agricultural backgrounds or know a lot about the industry, they do not represent farmers.
However, despite this concern, the question was raised on whether or not councillors themselves could attend, and, if no one is nominated, who would make the rules. In addition, because AAAF works closely with Alberta agriculture, they may have a spot on the table for the provincial committee.
“Do councillors have time to go to this thing? I don’t think I do,” said Dwight Tolton, M.D councillor. “The only thing is here guys, if we’re too selective here, I’ll bet you there’s tons of people in Strathcona County who will go to this thing, they’re 20 minutes from the legislator, they’ll be there making the rules for us.”
“Do you want somebody in there with some knowledge, or do you want somebody from Calgary in there, making up the OH&S rules,” asked Bob Wallace, M.D. councillor. “I think this is the other side of it… If we don’t participate, we’re going to have a rocky view.”