Last week when the Alberta Government released its budget, certain third party agencies and councils were relieved of their duties. Much of the focus was on the death of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), but there were others put to rest.
The Alberta Farm Safety Advisory Council was also cut and dismissed. What? A council focused on farm safety was cut in the budget with all of the farm safety issues abound from the wake of Bill 6 this winter? I thought the Alberta government was concerned about farm safety?
NDP dissolved Alberta Farm Safety Advisory Council today. I thought they were concerned about farm safety? Bill 6 was *always* about unions
— Sheila Gunn Reid (@SheilaGunnReid) April 15, 2016
I have to admit I reacted the same way. Then I did some research.
The Farm Safety Advisory Council was formed in March of 2011 and the appointments to the council were made by Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden. Its co-chairs were Page Stuart and then ADM Jason Krips. In summary, the mandate of the council was to provide industry and stakeholder-led assistance to the Minister in the improvement and implementation of farm related health and safety initiatives. If you’re really interested, you can read the council’s full report to the minister HERE.
Once the report was filed, the committee had fulfilled its mandate and has not met since 2012. The council basically disbanded itself three years ago.
With the formation of the AgSafety Coalition, it would appear that there is an overlap of mandates. With Page Stuart being a co-chair of both the Alberta Farm Safety Advisory Council and the AgSafety Coalition, this could be a natural succession to the new structure.
The current AgSafety Coalition represents over 97% of the farm cash receipts in the province. The Farm Safety Advisory council did not.
From some initial calls to former members of the Farm Safety Advisory Council none of them seem too shaken that the council was disbanded. “We fulfilled our mandate by submitting the report in 2012.”
When I directly asked Page Stuart for her reaction to the situation, her reply was:
The Alberta Farm Safety Advisory Council was struck specifically to advise the Minister of Agriculture on outcome-based ways to reduce farm injuries without increasing regulatory and financial burden on producers. It was a privilege to work within this 15-member council of highly invested people representing provincial farm safety organizations, agricultural organizations, municipalities and farm workers. The formal presentation of the Farm Safety Advisory Council’s final report to government in early 2012 represented our final work, and we were dissolved at that time. The recommendations of this council have since been leveraged in a number of ways: including the adaptation of Ontario’s FarmSafe program to Alberta, an enhanced liaison between AAFRD and the Temporary Foreign Worker Advisory Office, and communication of multiple learnings to Work Safe Alberta’s Joint Strategic Advisory Body in 2014.
From a primary producer’s standpoint, I believe the dissolution of the former structure will lead to a clearer ability for the industry to push the government on farm safety issues under the the new Bill 6 legislation.
As an industry, we still have a virtual third party agency to represent producers’ interests on farm safety, but it is up to the government now to work with the AgSafety Coalition as they promised they would.