I am extremely proud of the Alberta farmers and ranchers who have flooded the Alberta Legislature with loud cried for fairness and consideration. It is essential that we keep the pressure on the government at this time to ensure that our voices are not drowned out or forgotten.
It is crucial that we do not become complacent and rely on the actions taken today to maintain the impetus we have garnered. Continuing to be vocal about the fashion this bill is written in is essential, until it is either cancelled or amended to provide for family farms. The NDP can try to convince us that this legislation will bring Alberta out of some sort of “Medieval” type of farming, and on par with other provinces. While this is true when concerning large, corporately owned agricultural operations, other provinces across Canada have recognized that family farms just don’t fit under standard OHS regulation. 98 years, Alberta has farmed without OHS. 98 years, we have not asked for this legislation. 98 years, and we don’t want it now.
Bill 6 is invasive and inappropriate legislation which does not take into account the special situations of family farms. I believe the bill is genuine and well-intentioned, as farms are definitely dangerous places. Protecting the people who live and work on them is a noble cause, no doubt, but safety cannot be legislated. Safety is a mindset, a way of thinking critically, a pattern of awareness and alertness that can be taught, not enforced.
Much of the concern farmers and ranchers have around the bill involves its overtly invasive nature. Under Bill 6, as it is written, OHS inspectors would have the right to investigate any building, office, farm or family records. As the bill does not expressly limit these powers, this means that an OHS officer could potentially stroll into your yard, comb through your barn, equipment shed, and garages, as well as demand to see health records for the farm labour (which is the family), income statements for the business, expense records, medical bills, etc. There is no line between farm business and family matters in many cases, and the inspectors would have the legal right to look through pretty much everything. This is a major issue for all families involved.
Further, the bill could impact where children can be on their own property, what they can carry in their hands, and how long they can be outside for. Farm children, of which I am one, don’t abide by the “home before the street lights come on” rules which govern urban kids. We frequently spend entire days and sometimes nights at the side of our parents, watching, learning, and doing as we are able. This is an integral part of being a farm kid, and living a farm life, and there is no provision in Bill 6 to protect the rights of farming parents in raising and teaching their children.
Farmers and ranchers of Alberta, we cannot sit idly by and allow the NDP government to infringe on the rights of the family, no matter the reason. Safety must come first in all decisions made on the farm, no argument. This cannot be an excuse to implement government control of agricultural families and our way of life, which is also a business. Don’t let up the pressure on the government! The demonstrations today at the legislature can’t be the last the NDP hear from farmers in this province.
KEEP FIGHTING THE FARM FIGHT!!
Congratulations to all of you who have stood up for Alberta farmers and ranchers, today at demonstrations and across the province at town hall meetings with MLA’s and their representatives. Keep up the good work.