Southern Albertans will remember the anger and opposition.
Back in 2015, when the provincial government passed legislation to protect farmhands, we heard cries of condemnation from all sectors of Alberta’s agricultural industry.
From Manyberries to Manning, producers warned that provisions of Bill 6 would destroy the family farms and the rural economy they support. Protest rallies multiplied, spreading right to the steps of the legislature.
Nevertheless, Alberta’s farm labourers began to receive Workers’ Compensation protection, like every other paid employee in the province. They were covered by minimum wage and labour standards laws, for the first time. And a start was made on creating safety standards and education programs — just like Canada’s other agricultural provinces.
And life went on. Producers planted their crops, brought in their harvest and made plans for their next growing season.
But something else was going on. Many farmers and ranchers got involved in an extensive consultation process launched by government officials. They spent countless hours discussing farm-safety issues, as they apply to operations of all kinds.
And now? We learn there’s been a meeting of the minds. Alberta’s producers and government officials have reached consensus on a broad range of safety standards.
And when Alberta’s labour and agriculture ministers announced updates to the workers’ protection law this week, a province-wide producers’ group stepped forward to endorse its provisions.
“We feel that these new regulations generally respect the unique working environments of Alberta’s farmers,” said Lacombe dairy producer Albert Kamps, chair of the voluntary AgCoalition group — which represents 97 per cent of the province’s farmers and ranchers.
“We worked hard to ensure that the voices of thousands of hardworking farmers and ranchers were heard in this consultation,” he explained.
And it took time and patience.
“Getting here wasn’t easy,” he added. “We can all remember when Bill 6 was introduced.”
Labour Minister Christina Gray remembers that, too.
“Our government has learned a lot when it comes to recognizing the needs and realities of life and work on Alberta’s farms and ranches,” she acknowledges. And yes, “there may have been some bumps along the way.”
But through dialogue and discussion with the people directly affected, an agreement has been reached. Now, all those who work for Canada’s farmers and ranchers will be covered by basic safety and employment standards.
And really, isn’t that process part of “the Canadian way?” While some political regimes seem to be based on defamation and confrontation — no need to cite an example — the Canadian system relies more on public discussion, consultation and compromise.
It may take longer, but most people can live with the results.
And that’s one more thing to value as we celebrated Canada Day.
Comment on this editorial online at http://www.lethbridgeherald.com/