Alberta Agriculture and Forestry minister Devin Dreeshen, right, along with Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr answer a few questions from farmers and agri-business people during a consultation tour stop at Ponoka’s Calnash Ag Event Centre on Aug. 8. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Ag minister hears more on the problems of Bill 6

Dreeshen appears in Ponoka during ag consultation tour

Ponoka was the latest stop on a tour designed to draw out issues, ideas and suggestions on what should be different about the rules surrounding farm operations.

Agriculture and Forestry minister Devin Dreeshen, along with Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, were at the Calnash Ag Event Centre on Aug. 8 to listen and answer questions from the dozen or so farmers and agri-business owners.

A round-table discussion elicited pretty much what was expected — calls for more common sense, less regulation, more flexibility on insurance and changing rules around farm use of large semi-trucks.

With consultations having hit the halfway point, Dreeshen feels all of the talks to date have been positive.

“Farmers really appreciate being listened to and they have been really engaged,” he said, prior to leaving for a tour stop in Olds.

“We have had lots of discussion on occupational health and safety and labour relations. If you want to go out to hear from farmers and ranchers, they’ll come out and open up about what’s practical and what’s common sense.”

Ultimately, Dreeshen has overwhelmingly heard that Bill 6 — enacted in 2015 — doesn’t work for many, but that the majority of topics heard are similar to what’s been talked about the past four years.

“There have been some new ideas and every stop has been a bit different. Though, a common thread has been the need for an education component,” Dreeshen said.

“They want to make sure that whatever piece of legislation comes out at the end of the day, that there is a common sense education, proactive approach. This is how best to teach farmers, workers and family members how to farm safely.”

For Dreeshen, that’s why the government is going through this consultative process.

“We want to talk to them first, legislate second,” he added.

However, there was one subject that was top of mind at every meeting held and one Dreeshen can understand why it is a big concern.

“Having a choice of insurance is something we have heard everywhere. Farmers would have WCB (Workers Compensation Board) coverage because they were forced to, but they would also have their own private insurance,” he said.

“They would keep it and use it because it would cover workers off the job site, the private insurance would pay out better, was more responsive and they were used to it. A lot ended up with two different insurance programs and two premiums. Being able to choose between WCB or private insurance is something farmers want.”

Another issue at the forefront in Ponoka was plans to restructure the driving classification for farmers and their large semi-tractor units.

Dreeshen explained that the transportation minister has simply punted that issue down the field until sometime next year as there isn’t time to properly review it at the moment.

“That said, it will be a priority,” he told the audience during the question and answer session.

“What we have heard through these consultations is that we need to have some type of farmer class one. A couple of other provinces have legislation and that’s something we need to look at with our other departments.”

According to Dreeshen, his ministry needs to take the lead on this issue and come up with a common sense solution for farmers that only drive these units a couple of weeks in the year. He added that his hope is a unique, farmer classification can be brought forward as the current situation isn’t practical.

As for Orr, he feels this visit was extremely valuable as the minister got to hear directly from many local agricultural sector industries as well as individual farmers.

“What we heard here is confirmation of what we have been hearing all along. The challenge now will be to write this into an effective and common sense legislation,” he said.

The consultations will continue around the province until the end of the month, when the government plans to pour over what’s been heard then develop new legislation with Dreeshen stating the new bill will be introduced in the legislature before the end of this year.

 

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orrsits down with some farmers and agri-business people during the round table discussion portion of the Ponoka consultation tour stop on Aug. 8. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Just Posted

Workout challenge more than double fundraising goal

Group takes in more than $13,000 for Kidsport Ponoka

Metal recycler gets support for rezoning application

Ponoka County council not unanimous on decision

RCMP deal with snow-related incidents

The police in Ponoka were a busy bunch as December showed how… Continue reading

Addiction leads to jail for Ponoka man

Man pleads to nine out of 21 charges that included property offences

PHOTOS: Children’s Christmas Shopping Party

Helpful elves: The Children’s Christmas Shopping Party, sponsored by the Ponoka and… Continue reading

VIDEO: Merriam-Webster declares ‘they’ its 2019 word of the year

Declared word of year based on a 313-per-cent increase in look-ups on the company’s search site

Day parole revoked for man who strangled wife, buried body in their Calgary home

Parole Board revoked Allan Shyback’s day parole after he had sex with a massage parlour worker

Alberta plans to reduce surgery wait-times by building operating rooms, using private clinics

Health minister says goal is to have 80,000 more surgeries done over the next 3 1/2 years

Sylvan Lake woman charged with fraud over $500,000

Rimbey RCMP launched an investigation in July 2019 with the suspect turning herself in on Aug. 30

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

No jail but big fine for Alberta store owner convicted of illegal gun sales

At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, the Crown stayed the remainder of the charges against the father

Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

Smash and grab at Bashaw Sports

Police looking to identify suspects in brazen early morning theft

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

Most Read