When the Bill 6 town halls started in the fall, Christina Gray was a private member in Alberta’s Legislature, under the New Democratic Party. Now, she’s Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal. That means, part of her portfolio involves work with the Enhancement of Protection of Farm and Ranch Workers.
On Friday, RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney caught up with Gray, to talk about the process, beginning with the compliance around mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage, which, last we reported, was at 60%.
“We’re really pleased with the progress that’s being made, and I’m happy to let you know it’s actually at 70% now,” said Gray. “Anyone who hasn’t signed up, can do so, and should do so.”
Gray says the government expects more farms and ranches to register employees for the summer, and there are no plans to implement another deadline at this time.
The priority now is to get the consultation started with the technical working groups, which were announced last week.
“I think we’ve struck a really solid balance,” she said, of the roundtables, “and I’m looking forward to starting to see the results once they get a chance to meet.”
The tables are made up of 72 members of people from various demographics and backgrounds. Though this seems to sit well with the government, many primary producers are adamant the proportions are not representative. Estimates of the number of people directly involved in the farm and ranch community have pegged the ag representatives at roughly 50%.
“Actually, the farm and ranch owners and workers are roughly 70% of the representatives. So, of the 72 members, 50 of them are farm and ranch owners, managers or waged farm workers,” Gray said. “So I absolutely think that that is a good, representative sample.”
Gray added that 12 representatives were selected because of their experience with Occupational Health and Safety rules in “complicated workplaces” in the province.
The roundtables will meet for the first time in June, with the overarching goal of offering recommendations to the government. Those recommendations, explained Gray, will be turned into sample regulations and taken to the public for feedback.
As for a timeline, Gray echoed Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier, saying that the consultation process will not be rushed, and they are “going to take the time needed to get it right.”