More than 9,000 people have signed a petition against the Alberta NDP government's new farm safety legislation.
If Bill 6 is passed into law, Alberta farm and ranch workers would no longer be excluded from Occupational Health and Safety protection — a right already held by agricultural employees in every other province in Canada.
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The Increased Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act would also force the agricultural sector to provide minimum wage, vacation pay and Worker Compensation Board coverage.
But Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson says the province may extend the consultation period on the contentious bill after the growing backlash.
"Why would you need to legislate safety on family farms?" wrote Rebekah Jenson in the comments section of the online petition.
'Accidents happen, you know, like that's just part of life.' - Shandele Battle, Delia, Alta.
"If the fact that the safety of their spouses, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends is at stake does not motivate farmers and ranchers to take the utmost precautions (and I am convinced that it does), no bureaucracy will," Jenson wrote.
Michelle Renschler in Botha, Alta. posted, "This is ridiculous, we need to be supporting the family farms/ranches, not making it more difficult for them. I say no to Bill 6."
Shandele Battle, who lives on a farm northeast of Drumheller, Alta., launched the petition on Sunday.
She says the new law should be directed to large agricultural operations, but not small, family-run farms and ranches.
"They could have hefty fines which would completely, completely destroy some the smaller guys that are around for sure," said Battle.
"They do everything they can to make sure their children are safe, their employees are safe. Accidents happen, you know, like that's just part of life," Battle told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday morning.
In an email, Debby Devlin, a former Occupational Health and Safety Advisor for Alberta Health Services, said she was "disgusted" by Battle's interview on CBC Radio.
"Her whining reminded me of that Gone With The Wind kind of pining for slavery. As in, how will we ever keep our wonderful way of life if we have to care about someone else?" said Devlin.
Shandele Battle spoke to David Gray, the host of the the Calgary Eyeopener. This is part of their conversation:
DG: People who run family restaurants, coffee shops. They're all regulated by the province. Why not farms and ranches? Why should there be a different set of rules?
SB: I guess, because farming is really the only industry left that, we're still free to do what we want. And by the government legislating this it is going to take that freedom away. We're the people that feed the province. So, you know, we should actually be able to say what we want.
While the province is holding town halls on Bill 6 in rural communities across Alberta before Christmas, Battle says most will take place after Dec. 3 — the last day of the fall legislature.
"It would be implemented Jan. 1 and then where's our voice?" said Battle.
"For me that's not democracy, that's dictatorship. They should be consulting the farms and ranches directly and seeing what they'd like done, instead of just saying this is what you're doing."
The province has already added more town halls in December but all but one are fully booked.
Sigurdson said Thursday she is open to extending that period past mid-December.
"Yes, we can expand it," she said in response to a reporter's question. "We may have more consultations in the new year."
Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon said those sessions will come too late if the government passes the bill during the current sitting of the legislature.