Understanding the Current Environment in Alberta: Bill 6, the AgCoalition and Farm Safety (PCN Fall 2016) SEP 19 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Nevin Rosaasen, APG Policy and Program Specialist
Much has transpired on the policy front in Alberta over the past 10 months involving Bill 6, farm safety and the AgCoalition. How do all of these fit together? At times, there has been misinformation, confusion, lack of communication or any true meaningful consultation between government and industry on the topic. It is important to understand the new legislation, the groups involved and, most importantly, how producer concerns are being communicated to government.
This legislation was brought forward in late 2015 and included an amendment. The amendment was an exemption for farm owner operators, directors, family and unpaid labour from Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) investigations and serious incident reporting. This exempted over 90 per cent of all primary producer labourers in the province from having the same incident tracking and reporting as formally paid labour.
Within Bill 6, mandatory WCB is now in place and policy surrounding the implementation of OH&S standards, labour relations, and technical standards is being developed. The backlash and reaction from the agricultural community resulted in an unprecedented coalescing of the industry to form the AgCoalition.
In early 2016, more than 35 boards, commissions and primary producer groups representing farmers, ranchers, vegetable growers, and beekeepers came together and agreed to speak with one voice when engaging with government. This was to ensure the concerns of our membership were heard loud and clear. The government announced a table process, in which they would select producers, farm labourers and union representatives to sit at various tables to discuss the implementation of standards regulations stemming from Bill 6 legislation passed by government.
The AgCoalition presented delegates from the membership for these tables from which government could select participants. The AgCoalition delegates that were selected by government will strive to engage in meaningful dialogue with other table members with a coordinated AgCoalition voice.
Nothing has changed. Legislation without extension and education will do little to change the culture of safety on farms and prevent injuries or fatalities. With the passage of Bill 6, there is now tracking of incidents and collection of statistics for the small percentage of labourers that are not exempted, however, it does not improve the statistics and reporting for everyone else. Numbers allow the industry to identify hazardous equipment and practices, while also providing measurements to assess our safety performance.
The previous statement of nothing has changed is actually not entirely true. Producer boards and commissions are more determined than ever to work collectively to improve the culture of safety on farms and ranches across Alberta. The importance of tracking incidents and taking measures to protect owner operators, our families and our unpaid volunteer labour is paramount, and the resolve has never been greater for industry to take the lead on safety.
In summary, there are three distinct pieces at work in the current environment. Bill 6 is passed and government is currently in a table process to discuss implementation. The AgCoalition is the group representing producers in discussion with government on how the bill will be implemented, specifically, policy and regulations. Farm safety is an important part of extension and education amongst producer commissions. There is a commitment to work together collectively, to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities on Alberta farms and ranches.
APG will continue to be engaged with the AgCoalition, continue to fund farm safety initiatives, and work collectively with other crop and livestock commissions to foster a culture of safety on Alberta farms and ranches. Visit www.agcoalition.ca for more information.
If you have any questions on Bill 6, the AgCoalition or specifics of APG involvement in Farm Safety funding and initiatives, please contact Nevin Rosaasen, Policy and Program Specialist at 780-986-9398 ext. 5 or firstname.lastname@example.org.