Smoky Lake Signal – July 17, 2018 HAD: Farm workers benefit from increased protections

By Colin Piquette, MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater

Life is getting better for the thousands of Albertans who are paid employees on farms and ranches – and for the farmers and ranchers who employ them.

But for decades, the PC government had ignored the need to modernize the rules to reflect the realities of work in Alberta’s agricultural sector, and too many workers were left without the same protections the rest of Albertans take for granted in their workplace. Prior to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, Alberta was the only province without comprehensive occupational health and safety laws for farm and ranch workers, a state of affairs that no responsible government could allow to continue.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding these long overdue changes. Who can possibly forget the furor over Bill 6?  Sparked at the very beginning by admittedly confusing and even misleading statements by some WCB and OHS employees, the opposition did everything they could to exploit these initial missteps for maximum fear and consternation long after they themselves knew better.  As a person who grew up on the farm myself and as a farm insurance agent until my election in 2015 I know that although the great majority of farmers have always striven to work safely, there has always been room for the kinds of improvements only good legislation can bring. That’s why every other province has done just that, most of them decades ago.

To be clear, none of their dire prophecies have come to pass. Both family and non-family farms continue to survive and to thrive (depending on weather and commodity prices of course!)  in Athabasca, Thorhild Smoky Lake, and Sturgeon counties, and the rest of the province.  

That’s why I’m so pleased to see that my colleagues Labour Minister Christina Gray and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier have been able to work with industry stakeholders, and in consultation with Albertans, to make sure workers get the protections they deserve while still recognizing the legitimate concerns of farm operators and continuing to repect the unique multigenerational family farm culture.

This didn’t change when the act came into effect Jan. 1, 2016. What did change is that since then more than 1,860 paid, non-family agriculture workers have had their workers’ compensation claims accepted. They’re getting the supports they need, when they need them, if they’re injured on the job. All workers deserve these kinds of protections, and so do the families that depend on them.

Our government promised that any changes we made to rules on farms and ranches would be made alongside those in the industry and only with the input of all Albertans. And that’s exactly what we did. Over the past two years, stakeholders all across the province and everyday Albertans have been part of the discussions.

The technical rules for workplace health and safety, which come into effect Dec. 1 this year, are common-sense solutions developed in extensive collaboration with farmers and ranchers and with the consensus of industry stakeholders.

The result is that we’re able to enshrine in regulation the strong culture of farm safety that the vast majority already practice, and with the assistance of our ag partners we’re able to support producers with a grant project to help in establishing health and safety practices and procedures that will make their farms and ranchers safer for their workers and their families. A lot of hard work to be sure, but Albertans have never shirked hard work in a good cause and we’re not about to start now!

Question Period – May 8, 2018 Athabasca University – Keeping Jobs in Athabasca

Athabasca University – Keeping Jobs in Athabasca 

Mr. Piquette: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Athabasca University provides Albertans with a high-quality university education no matter where they live. In my riding it is also a pillar of our community, providing high-quality jobs and educational opportunities. The staff of AU and the greater Athabasca community are grateful for the support our government has provided to keep the university strong in Athabasca. However, recently there have been concerns over professional jobs being lost to big urban centres. What is the government doing to make sure that Athabasca University is sustainable and that jobs in Athabasca are protected?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Advanced Education.

Mr. Schmidt: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for the question. He’s been a powerful advocate for Athabasca University and the town of Athabasca. We’re proud of the work that we’ve done to put AU back on track and to keep it in the town of Athabasca. We commissioned a third-party review, written by Dr. Ken Coates, and we’ve been working with AU to implement its recommendations. We’ve made clear that as progress is being made, jobs in the town of Athabasca must be protected. The Coates report calls for enhancing the role of Athabasca University in Athabasca and states that “AU should be able to maintain if not expand the size of its operations in the Town of Athabasca.”

The Speaker: First supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that under the previous Conservative government there were grave concerns about roller coaster funding and the long-term financial sustainability of AU, what has the government done to provide financial stability?

Mr. Schmidt: Well, we know that one of the favourite Conservative pastimes was making cuts to postsecondary education, and that made the problems at Athabasca University worse. We’ve been proud to increase our funding by 2 per cent for our universities and colleges every year that we’ve been in government, including at Athabasca University. We were very pleased to see that the financial reports from AU last year were positive, and thanks to our support, they are now on much more stable financial footing. If the Conservatives ever got the chance again, they’d make more cuts and undo the progress that we’ve made at Athabasca University.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that the Coates report provides a way forward for Athabasca University to thrive in the years to come, what is the minister doing to make sure that the third-party report is being followed through on?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Schmidt: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. We’re working closely with Athabasca University’s new president and board chair to see this work through. AU has been consulting and recently presented a strategic plan, which outlines a path forward and clear goals and objectives through 2022. I’ll be visiting Athabasca in the coming weeks and providing further updates on our government’s support for Athabasca University, and I look forward to having the hon. member there with me.

Introduction of guests – April 30, 2018

The Speaker: Welcome.
The hon. Member for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m pleased to introduce to you and through you to all members of the Assembly guests who are here today from the Alberta Common Ground Alliance, including representatives from Alberta One-Call, ATCO Gas, the Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops, the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Telus communications, Alberta Roadbuilders & Heavy Construction Association, and the Alberta Public Works Association.

    April is national dig safe awareness month. The Alberta Common Ground Alliance is reminding all Albertans to visit clickbeforeyoudig.com before any digging project, no matter how big or how small. I will speak more on this later today. Now I’d like to ask my guests to rise and receive the traditional warm welcome of the Assembly.

Sturgeon Refinery Update: A good news story

On April 19th I gave an update to the Alberta Legislature on the commissioning of the new Sturgeon Refinery. I was happy to report that things are going well.

Video and full transcript below:

“At the current stage of construction this refinery is able to process synthetic crude into diesel and other value-added products. Over 2 million barrels have been refined and shipped within western
Canada already, and the refinery has started paying off.”

Sturgeon Refinery Update
Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to give an update on a project that I’m proud to have in my riding, the Sturgeon refinery. It is a good-news story. The refinery is now nearing completion. Nine out of 10 units are now in the commissioning phase. This past December the refinery produced its first diesel, and I was honoured to attend the celebration in Morinville along with my colleague the MLA for Sherwood Park. At the current stage of construction this refinery is able to process synthetic crude into diesel and other value-added products. Over 2 million barrels have been refined and shipped within western Canada already, and the refinery has started paying off.

The Sturgeon refinery is state of the art and a testament to Alberta ingenuity. It’s the world’s first refinery with integrated carbon capture and storage. At completion this refinery will capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. The CO2 is safely sequestered by injecting it into depleted geological formations deep beneath the Earth’s
surface. This is the equivalent of taking nearly 300,000 cars off our roads. The refinery also protects the environment by producing an ultra low sulphur product with low carbon intensity. From a peak of 8,000 workers to around 2,500 today this refinery has logged over 50 million hours of employment. During one of the worst downturns in recent memory this project has provided a decent income to thousands of Alberta families.

Further, this refinery has stood out as a leader in ensuring an equitable and representative workforce through partnering with organizations
such as Women Building Futures and working closely with First Nation communities. It is also known as a good neighbour by the farmers nearby and is a huge supporter of the local community.

Seventy-five per cent of Albertans want to see more refining done in this province. The Sturgeon refinery was the first new refinery built in years and was done with the novel funding arrangement that has made this project possible. The North West Redwater Partnership is to be commended for creating something successful and truly made in Alberta. Thank you.

Town & Country – February 6, 2018 Pipeline training centre progressing despite lack of provincial funding

Athabasca-Sturgeon- Redwater MLA Piquette said in an interview the project “makes huge sense” for the province and for Boyle, due to it being a focal point of pipelines in the province. “Considering the kilometres of pipeline we have across North America, and how important it is not only environmentally – but also politically — to be able to demonstrate that pipelines really are the safest way to transport oil and bitumen, having a worldclass training facility to make sure the next generation of pipeline workers and inspectors have the best training they can get, i think it makes a lot of sense and that’s what I’ve been communicating,” he said.
The current New Democratic government has not announced funding for the project to date. Piquette said he has highlighted funding for the PTC as a priority in Budget 2018, and he is “hoping for the best.

Looking for help this summer? Why not hire a student! Financial assistance for wages is available

 

The 2018 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) application deadline for employers is February 2, 2018Canada Summer Jobs is a Government of Canada initiative. It provides funding for not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees to create summer jobs for students between the ages of 15 and 30.

The application form as well as the applicant guide are currently available at www.canada.ca/canada-summer-jobs. You can submit your application online, by mail or in person at any Service Canada Centre.

We encourage you to submit your 2018 application online. By doing so, you will benefit from a fast, easy-to-use, and secure way of applying as you will:

  • have access to the Canada Summer Jobs application 24/7, from any location, allowing you to complete it at your convenience;
  • ensure your application is received immediately by Service Canada;
  • receive an instant acknowledgement confirming that your application has been received; and,
  • avoid postal delays.

There are two systems available to enable you to apply online:

  1. Grants and Contributions Online Services (GCOS): If you already have a GCOS account, please use this online platform to submit an online application; or
  2. CSJ online application form.

More information about how CSJ benefits both students and employers is available on our YouTube page

For more information:

Click: www.canada.ca/canada-summer-jobs

Call: 1-800-935-5555 (ATS: 1-800-926-9105)

Visit: a Service Canada Centre

If you are interested in attending an information session, please reply to this email (W-T-CSPD-SCEP-CSJ-EEC-AB-GD@servicecanada.gc.ca) providing the following so we can provide you with the teleconference number:

 

 

Date of session:

Your name:

Your organization:

Your telephone number:

Your email:

Anticipated number of organizations to attend the session:

 

TELECONFERENCE SESSION DETAILS

Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Friday, January 12, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Friday, January 19, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Thursday, January 25, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

 

Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Time: 10 am (MST) and 1pm (MST)

Speaking in the House – Agricultural Exports and NAFTA – December 13, 2017

The Speaker: The hon. Member for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.

Agricultural Exports and NAFTA

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last year 40 per cent of our agriculture products were exported to the United States, bringing in $4 billion to the Alberta economy. The North American free trade agreement, or NAFTA, has played a critical role in giving Alberta producers access to the American market. To the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Farmers in my riding are curious to know: what is the government doing to protect Alberta’s agricultural interests under NAFTA?

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. We understand how important it is for Alberta producers to get their products to market. It makes life better for farm families, makes life better for small communities, small rural communities. It’s important for diversifying our economy and creating jobs that support families. We’re working closely with the government of Canada and with other provinces to defend Alberta’s interests during the review of our trade agreements with the United States and Mexico.

The Speaker: First supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: how is the government ensuring that the supply management of agricultural products is protected in any proposed changes to NAFTA?

The Speaker: The hon. minister.

Mr. Carlier: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. Our government strongly supports supply management. Together, SM5 commodities accounted for 6.9 per cent, or $891.6 million, of the total value of agricultural production in 2015. The latest demands to scrap the supply management system in the United States are unacceptable to us and industries like dairy. They’ve made unsupportable suggestions like this on other issues before. We’ll continue to advocate for a system that ensures stable access to safe, healthy food.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Mr. Piquette: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: what is being done to diversify Alberta’s agricultural exports to make us less dependent on exports to a single market such as the United States?

Mr. Carlier: Mr. Speaker, the world knows our reputation for good, safe, and quality products. Our government will work to open those opportunities for producers. That’s why I’m pleased to participate in trade missions that showcase our amazing products, places like China, Japan, Korea, and Europe. We will continue to monitor developments in the U.S. very closely, and we will take a pragmatic, long view of any proposed changes to ensure that we’re protecting Alberta’s interests. The United States is Canada’s biggest trading partner, and we value that relationship. We also know that we need to diversify our markets so that more people around the world have the opportunity to enjoy amazing agricultural products: beef, pork, grain, and oilseeds.