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Consultation Critical to Making Farm Labour Legislation Workable: Manitoba Farm Leader

By: Kelvin Heppner

December 1, 2015

View the non-AMP version.

Doug Chorney

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Details of Alberta’s proposed farm workplace regulations have yet to be formalized, but it’s important farmers remain engaged in shaping what any rules look like, says a farm leader from another NDP-run prairie province.

Bill 6 would subject Alberta farms and ranches to Occupational Health and Safety Legislation while making Workers’ Compensation Board insurance coverage mandatory for workers.

Manitoba farms have been subject to mandatory Workers’ Compensation coverage for employees (not family members) since 2009. Workplace Safety and Health regulations have been in place since the late ’70s, explains Doug Chorney, vice-chair of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council and past president of Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers, in the video above.

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“We’ve worked very hard at helping our members transition and consulted closely with government to make it practical for farmers in this transition,” he says. “I would recommend, if Alberta is looking for suggestions, that they keep talking and consulting with government to ensure the challenges farmers face because of the unique nature of agriculture are brought to the attention of decision-makers so that they bring things forward that make sense at the farm level.”

He says Workplace Safety and Health authorities in Manitoba have been flexible in allowing farmers to become compliant with workplace regulations. KAP and the Manitoba government (through SAFE Work Manitoba) have hosted safety workshops and hired a consultant to visit farms at no cost to the farmer to identify and assess potential compliance issues.

“There have been some farmers who choose to reject any type of change and that can be really difficult for them when they become the focus of an investigation,” says Chorney.

Farmers and farm groups in Alberta are frustrated the government did not hold meaningful consultations with them before introducing the legislation. There are serious concerns the changes will not be practical, with many people worried new restrictions will lead to the demise of the family farm lifestyle.

While Alberta’s situation is completely separate, Chorney says that hasn’t been the case in Manitoba: “It is a manageable issue for family farms to continue their lifestyle and still deal with all these compliance issues.”

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