Newcomer's Take on Bill 6

I'm going to suspend part 2 of our streamlining posts until next week because there has been an important discussion in rural Alberta the last couple of weeks that I'd like to talk about.

Today, Erin and I were on our way to a neighbour's farm at around 10:00. He's a rancher for the most part and he is planning to go to Vegas for a week to catch the NFR rodeo finals (for those of you like me who did not grasp why that's a big deal, I had it explained to me that it's effectively the Super Bowl of the rodeo circuit) so he was getting us up to speed so that we could check in on the place while he was gone. In any case, about five minutes in, our commute was halted by a chain of slow-moving traffic as far north as I could see. It was too late to be commuters heading into Calgary, so I assumed there was a pretty major accident somewhere along the line. It wasn't until we got out at the farm that Erin said to me, “Pretty crazy hey?”

“What?” I asked, having all my usual before-noon wits about me, those being akin to an intoxicated, blind dog.

“All those protesters.” she explained. As we passed the first Quonset and found our way to meet the neighbour, I noticed the plethora of machinery that had been stored in the building and marveled as I have many times over the last 7 months at how well people out here can keep old machinery running and functional. We've both had the opportunity to pitch in on many different family farms and ranches in this area and the overarching motto seems to be “Waste not, want not”. If it can be fixed, and reused, they'll find a way to do it. It shows remarkable creativity and problem solving ability and is a hell of a skill to have in our admittedly wasteful modern society.

So we rounded the corner and spotted the neighbour. He smiled and waved and came over to greet us. “Hey guys, how's it been?”

“Good, good.” Erin replied, “Did you see the protestors?”

The old farmer nodded, “Oh yeah the convoy. They're going to roll up from Fort Macleod all the way to Okotoks to protest Bill 6.”

Now, Bill 6 has come up often in our conversations with friends in the area lately and it's basically legislation to force Alberta Farms to operate under the same safety rules and restrictions as any other business which, on first glance seems harmless and is actually probably a good idea. It isn't until you have a closer look that it becomes clear that this bill would result in some pretty awful outcomes for small Alberta farms. Even the short story I described above would be drastically changed;

For one thing, Erin and I would not be on our way to help out at the neighbour's place. Worker's Compensation rules would mean that we would only be allowed to work on site if we were employees and we certainly wouldn't be allowed to look after the place without supervision for a week (even though that really only means putting out food for the animals and making sure they're all upright.)

Mandated Worker's Compensation rules also dictate that a piece of machinery must be replaced when it has reached a certain age or number of working hours so the farmer's ability to repair and service equipment to keep it functional becomes irrelevant. He would be forced to replace much of it at a cost that would be prohibitive to small scale farms, resulting in the termination of many such operations.

While it's commonly understood that farm work is not a 9-5 activity and that being an industry dependent on the whims of nature (weather, calving, etc.) sometimes people need to work extra or unusual hours. This is another facet that will be regulated by the new rules under Bill 6. Farmers and farm workers will be expected to work an eight hour day, so when mama cow decides to have her baby at 3 in the morning, what then? One of the neighbours actually told us a story about an MP being questioned about it and that his reply was for farmers to “learn to turn the bulls out during the day”. I mean, even coming from zero farming background, that's pretty ridiculous.

The last part of this thing that feels wrong is the politics of it. Do a quick google search to see what our premier's husband does for work. Go ahead, I'll wait. Why, that's right. He's a communications representative at CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) who would stand to create thousands of jobs if this bill is passed, most of which would be bureaucratic positions, writing up safety citations for farms who have been operating without incident for ages.

Look, I know this has been a bit of a rant but I've also never posted anything political (or written anything political...hell, I've barely ever even READ anything political) so please understand what an important situation this is. This bill would be the first step in shutting down and sanitizing the small farming and ranching community that has so graciously opened its doors to us and transforming it into a paperwork driven warehouse.

Thanks again for visiting, check back again Sunday when we'll at long last be posting Erin's first farm entry on the new website.

All the best to each of you.