Calgary

Bill 6 protest near Nanton joins 1,000-strong demonstration at Alberta Legislature

Farmers protesting along Highway 2 north of Nanton added their voices to the demonstration against Bill 6 at the Alberta Legislature that attracted about 1,000 people today.

Farmers call on premier to delay the passage of controversial farm-safety legislation

Alberta farmers gather along Highway 2 near Nanton on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 to protest Bill 6. (Kyle Kohut)

In addition to the major Bill 6 protest at the Alberta Legislature that attracted about 1,000 people today, farmers also staged a demonstration along Highway 2 north of Nanton.

About 40 farm vehicles and 60 people carrying signs protesting the bill, positioned themselves along the sides of the highway, according to Kyle Kohut, a grain farmer who helped organize the demonstration.

He's worried the legislation, which would make farms and ranches subject to occupational health and safety regulations as of Jan. 1, is being forced through too quickly.

Kohut said more consultation and consideration is needed about the impact the proposed changes would have on the viability of Alberta farms, many of which are "pushed to the limit financially."

"If we are hindered in our efficiencies, how can we pass our expenses on? We can't. We get told what our prices are," he said.

"We have to hunt around for the best price that somebody happens to be offering and just hope that will be over the threshold to get us by into the next year and we can continue farming."

The farm vehicles kept to the shoulders of the highway and didn't disrupt traffic, Kohut said.

Nevertheless, Alberta Transportation issued an advisory to people travelling on the highway Monday afternoon.

While Bill 6, as written, would remove the exemption for farms and ranches under existing labour laws as of Jan. 1, the government plans to hold off on implementing detailed occupational health and safety rules for agricultural operations until  2017, and carry out a consultation process in the meantime.

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said his government will have ample time to consult with operators and address their concerns before the regulations are finalized.

"I wouldn't necessarily agree that it's been rushed," he told CBC Edmonton AM on Monday. "But the response to this is something I'm actually quite happy with, the farmers have been engaged."

The demonstration involved farm equipment being stationed along the side of Highway 2 north of Nanton. (Kyle Kohut)

Kohut, however, said the legislate now, consult later approach makes him nervous.

"They want to word it and change it later?," he said. "Well, once something's in place it's pretty easy to say, 'Let's ignore it.'"

He hopes the premier will shelve Bill 6 — for now, at least.

"I would like Rachel Notley to say, 'OK, I made a great mistake. Let's move on to some other, important issue.'"

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is also calling on the NDP government to halt Bill 6 and send it to committee for further study and consultation before going before the full legislature.

"Alberta farmers have not been consulted properly on Bill 6 — in fact, they haven't really been consulted at all," the association's Alberta vice-president, Stephen Vandervalk, said in a release.

"These major blanket changes need to be thoroughly studied, in serious consultation with the 14,000 wheat growers and 60,000 farmers and ranchers in Alberta."

The demonstration at the legislature saw hundreds of farmers chanting "Kill Bill 6" before the assembly sat for its afternoon session.

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