Peace Region farm workers benefiting from increased protections

Marg McCuaig-Boyd
MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley

You don’t need to drink the water of the Peace River and return to know what an incredible agricultural resource we have in this region. One visit is enough to see the rolling fields and pastures for miles and miles. The Peace Region has some of the best agricultural land in the province, and we have some of the best producers to match.

But much has changed since the earliest days of our agricultural industry, and it’s important that our government has acknowledged the changing industry and adapted to it.

The recent announcement from Labour Minister Christina Gray and Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier that government and industry stakeholders have come to a consensus about the technical rules for family farms is great news for everyone involved. And it reflects the spirit of collaboration that has allowed Alberta’s agriculture industry to thrive for generations.

For too long previous governments in this province have ignored the evolving industry, leaving Alberta’s paid farm workers as the only ones in the country without coverage under an Occupational Health & Safety code – and through that neglect increasing risks to both employees and employers in the process. Paid non-family farm workers now enjoy the same benefits and protections as their counterparts in other industries and in other provinces.

And since the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act came into effect into effect Jan. 1, 2016, more than 1,860 paid, non-family agriculture workers have had their workers’ compensation claims accepted. They’re getting the supports they need, when they need them, if they’re injured on the job. All workers deserve these kinds of protections.

Our government promised that any changes we made to rules specific to farms and ranches would be made alongside those in the industry and only with the input of all Albertans. And that’s exactly what we did. Over the past two years, stakeholders all across the province and everyday Albertans have been part of the discussions.

The technical rules for workplace health and safety, which come into effect Dec. 1 this year, are common-sense solutions developed in extensive collaboration with farmers and ranchers and with the consensus of industry stakeholders.

The result is that we’re able to enshrine in regulation the strong culture of farm safety that the vast majority already practice, and we’re able to support all producers with a grant project to help in establishing health and safety practices and procedures that will make their farms and ranches safer for their workers and their families.

Opposition members have advocated for rolling back these important changes, but industry groups and many of the constituents I speak to understand that the way of life that’s sustained their families for generations is protected with the modernized rules, and is sustainable for generations into the future.


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