ALBERTA

Alberta Farm Safety Bill Faces Growing Opposition

12/01/2015 12:28 EST | Updated 12/01/2015 12:59 EST
Lisa Kyle Young via Getty Images
A farmer controls the combine auger to dump wheat into the grain truck.

EDMONTON — Opposition to a proposed new farm safety bill is growing, with hundreds of farmers and ranchers protesting in front of the legislature while others took to the province's highways with messages of discontent.

Bill 6 would make Workers' Compensation Board coverage mandatory for farm workers and would cancel the agriculture sector's exemption from occupational health and safety rules.

Farms would also be subject to employment standards covering areas such as hours, vacation pay and minimum wages.

Hundreds who oppose the legislation waved placards and chanted "Kill Bill 6'' on Monday.

"What I don't understand is why you want to take all those industrial rules and apply them to a family farm."

It was a bigger and more boisterous crowd than the one that gathered in the same spot last Friday.

In southern Alberta near Fort Macleod, farmers also parked large pieces of farm equipment on highways, bearing signs such as "Stop Bill 6.''

"What I don't understand is why you want to take all those industrial rules and apply them to a family farm,'' farmer Shawna Dennis said at the legislature. "It's just wrong.''


The government has been sticking to its guns.

"This is really about safety and we just want to work with the farming and ranching sector to make sure people are safe on farms,'' said Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson.

But many at the protest said they worry the new rules will mean their children will no longer be able to work on family farms.

"My kids are growing up with it — that's everything to them,'' said farmer Brad Robins.

"It's time [the NDP] saw Albertans with a strong voice.'' — Wildrose Leader Brian Jean

The issue is one of the first in which Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government has been faced with large public protest, and that left some opposition politicians barely able to contain their glee.

"I like seeing the NDP squirm,'' Wildrose Leader Brian Jean told Monday's crowd. "What goes around comes around, and it's time they saw Albertans with a strong voice.''

Officials say 25 people died from farm-related accidents in 2014 — nine more than the previous year. Earlier this month, a 10-year-old boy was killed at a Hutterite colony. Relatives said he had just finished cleaning up some hog barns and was driving a forklift on a gravel road when the machine toppled into the ditch.

Alberta is one of four provinces without mandatory workers' compensation for farmers. The others are Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Prince Edward Island.

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