Last week, Alberta’s government announced details on the Enhancement of Protection of Farm and Ranch Workers Act technical working groups who will bring forward recommendations on what standards will look like under the legislation. After waiting months for the announcement, many in the agriculture community are critical of the government’s plan, including who was or wasn’t invited to participate.
The AgCoalition, which represents 97 percent of Alberta’s ag sector, was formed earlier this year to speak for the industry and work with the government on Bill 6, however only 29 percent of the working groups’ members represent the coalition.
But, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Oneil Carlier, is happy with the proportions of representatives.
“I’m quite proud — quite happy — with the balance we have been able to achieve,” Carlier told RealAg’s Shaun Haney in an interview (included below). “For example, we have 23 representatives from the Ag Coalition…; we have 18 farm and ranch workers; we have 2 folks from the Hutterite colonies; we have a very large majority of our members on these groups are from agriculture industry itself.”
Carlier added that other subject-matter experts are involved as well, like those involved in business and labour, municipal officials and safety experts. But some are criticizing the government for the mix, like the involvement of health care professionals.
“Nurses of course, have a particular expertise, perhaps in health and safety,” said Carlier. “And then, you know, the large number of farming…agriculture industry folks on there would bring the context of their current farming practices…”
The chairs of each of the six working group roundtables also have little to no experience in agriculture, but, according to Carlier, were chosen for their background in facilitation and mediation. Their role is to ease conversation and ensure a smooth consultation process.
When Haney questioned whether farmers should look at the conversations as consultations or negotiations, Carlier answered simply that they are consultations.
“There’s nobody sitting at these tables that are going to make a final decision,” he said. “What I’m looking for is input from the consultation process on these tables to have recommendations going forward to then aid the government…to then make those regulations.”
There is no fixed timeline for the working groups, says Carlier, but “it would be nice to hear recommendations by the end of the year.”