Regulations for contentious Alberta farm safety legislation may be more than a year away

Otiena Ellwand, Edmonton Journal

It could take another year or more before regulations are drafted to give teeth to controversial farm safety legislation that sparked raucous rallies and fractured relations between many in rural Canada and the government.

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier announced Friday that 78 farmers, ranchers, researchers and other industry experts have been selected to steer six working groups advising government on how to shape the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, commonly referred to as Bill 6.

Carlier said they will help government develop regulations that “make sense and recognize the unique needs of the agriculture sector.” But the groups, which are set to meet in mid-June, have no timeline for when their recommendations are required.

“We’ve taken the time necessary to make sure we get this right. I’m going to give a lot of leeway to these technical working groups,” Carlier said at a news conference.

“We don’t have a hard, set deadline on when we’re expecting those recommendations; sooner better than later, I suppose, but we’ll give them a lot of flexibility.”

He said he was hoping for regulations to be drafted by next spring, but reiterated the process won’t be rushed.

That could mean a ballooning bill for the government.

Each of the six working groups are made up of 12 members and a chair. Chairs are paid up to $1,000 a day, plus eligible travel expenses. Members can make up to $427 for more than eight hours of work.

The working groups will develop recommendations on topics including employment standards, occupational health and safety and labour relations requirements.

Wildrose agriculture critic and MLA Rick Strankman said he has concerns that any positive work that may come out of the consultation process will be “superseded” by the government.

“The NDP government continues to be vague on details and timelines, as well as the compliance that will be necessary for farmers and ranchers while regulations for Bill 6 are developed,” Strankman said in a statement.

The public will also have a chance to provide feedback once the working groups are done deliberating and draft regulations are complete.

The government passed the law in December, requiring agricultural producers to have Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for paid employees as of Jan. 1.

Canada farm and ranch workers also now fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which means OHS officers are allowed onto their properties if there has been a serious injury or death, but have no legal authority to issue an order. They can investigate matters and make recommendations on a case-by-case basis with the farm owner.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been four farm and ranch incidents, including two fatalities involving paid workers in April. Both fatalities are under investigation.

In the other two cases, the employers were co-operative and volunteered to take steps to prevent future incidents.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: