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!

Athabasca Advocate – May 15, 2018 – Ag minister tours region

Agriculture and forestry minister visits Boyle, Athabasca

…Boyle Crop Production Services manager Robert Kiteley said meeting with Carlier was very informative.

‘It means he’s accessible, he’s willing to come out and meet with the producers of Alberta,’ Kiteley said in an interview. ‘That he knows there are definite issues that producers deal with in Alberta.’



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.

Alberta Supply Management SM5 – Alberta Turkey Tour – October 6, 2017

Thank you to Marc and Hinke Therrien for inviting us to their turkey farm.  I appreciated an opportunity to see first hand the hard work done by Alberta turkey producers.

The people represented by Egg Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Alberta Milk and Alberta Turkey Producers contribute so much to our province and our communities. 

Alberta stands firm in support of forestry

June 27, 2017 Media inquiries

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier issued the following statement in response to the United States’ anti-dumping action against Canada and Alberta’s softwood industry:

“We continue to stand with Alberta’s forest workers, their families and the communities that rely on a robust forest industry.

“International tribunals have consistently ruled in our favour following U.S. allegations of Canadian lumber subsidies and we are confident we will prevail again for the fifth time.

“Defending Alberta jobs and fair market access remains our top priority as we work closely with the federal government and other affected provinces.

“Together, we have developed plans to help support Albertans in addressing the possible effects of a prolonged trade dispute.

“We are also working with industry to increase domestic use and access to other international markets to open up new economic opportunities for our forestry sector.

“As we move forward, we will continue to advocate for secure access for our lumber products into the important U.S. market.   

“Our Washington, D.C. office remains heavily engaged on this file and is working closely with former Canadian ambassador Gary Doer who is providing a strong voice in Washington, on behalf of our government, Alberta’s producers and our softwood lumber interests.

“At the end of the day, it is in the best interests of all parties that a new Softwood Lumber Agreement is reached to continue our strong trade relationship, create certainty for consumers and support working families and businesses in the forestry sector.”