More and more Albertans are voicing their opinions regarding Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, which was announced last month, and very few have been positive.
Even those individuals and organizations in favour of farm and ranch safety legislation have been cautious about expressing their support for the bill.
“We need to not have a knee-jerk reaction,” Laura Nelson, director of the Alberta Farm Safety Centre, said. The non-profit has been working with schools across Alberta to send volunteers into classrooms to teach farm safety — including schools in the Stettler area — since the early 1990s. This year, the group expects to reach its 500,000th student-taught milestone.
“Farmers work with amazingly big, fast and dangerous machines,” Nelson said. “If we weren’t cautious, responsible people, there’d be no farmers left.”
“Don’t fix what’s not broken,” a farmer, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Another added that the bill would “crush everything my family has worked for for generations,” adding that the multi-generational farm remains small and children are being raised to carry on the tradition.
“We are safety-minded,” the first farmer added. “You can’t tell me some city pen-pusher knows anything about farming. I’ve been doing this all my life and I don’t need him to come in and tell me how to be a farmer.”
Nelson said she believed having farm safety legislation would be a good thing — if the legislation was crafted well and with consideration of the many elements that make up farms and the type of farms. With farm operations encompassing small family farms, Hutterite colonies and larger commercial operations, finding a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t going to be easy, maybe even impossible.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to find that consensus, though.
“Every province in Canada except Alberta is functioning under some sort of legislation,” Nelson said. “That means it’s possible. I don’t mean to minimize our farmers’ concerns. They have some valid ones.”
It’s those concerns Nelson said she doesn’t want to see drowned out under a tide of outrage and knee-jerk reactions.
“There are parts that are win/win for everyone,” she said. “Other parts will need some honest bridge-building and compromise, and you can’t have that when people refuse to work at it.”