Tax and regulatory relief are coming in the fall for Alberta farmers, the Kenney Government announced yesterday.
In its Throne Speech, the new government announced the Farm Freedom and Safety Act will be brought forward during the fall session of the Legislative Assembly. It aims to reduce the tax and regulatory burden on farmers and to strengthen property rights and competitiveness.
The Notley Government passed Bill 6 in December 2015 amid widespread protest from the Alberta farming community, who said there wasn't proper consultation. The bill subjects farms and ranches to occupational health and safety rules and makes it mandatory for operations with paid employees to carry workers compensation coverage.
Last summer, Kenney vowed to repeal the farm safety bill but the UCP has since discovered aspects of the bill have value.
"As a party, we recognized that safety is a major concern in the agriculture industry and we recognize that we need to have those protections for the workers, so we want to make sure that stays in place," says Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie, who ranched for several years.
Before any action is taken, though, the government intends to undertake extensive consultation and not repeat the mistake of the previous government.
"We'll go out, we'll have a consultation and then when we repeal Bill 6 we will have something to replace with," explains Guthrie. "So we will look for deficiencies in Bill 6, get that feedback and then we won't be left without covering all aspects pertaining to the bill. The industry, I think, is going to be pretty pleased.
"One of the things they were upset with last time around was the fact that they weren't properly consulted," he continues. "One of the things we want to make sure to do--and it doesn't matter the portfolio--is consult with the public and all those stakeholders who have an investment."
Leading up to the election, the UCP heard concerns over the lack of competition for insurance coverage, says Guthrie. There's currently only one provider.
"That's an issue, so we want to give the private sector the opportunity to provide insurance," says Guthrie. "As long as the farmer and the rancher have options and they're getting the coverage that they need then we want to allow competition in that field."