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Ag Minister talks farm workplace legislation with local farmers

Saskatoon Lake Hall was home to discussion and consultation on the Farm Freedom and Safety Act Thursday morning.
 
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen, alongside GP-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews, stopped by for a town hall as part of a provincial tour, as the UCP look to gather farmer input as they look to repeal and replace the NDP’s Farm and Ranch Workplace legislation.
 
“The replacement of Bill 6 is going to be farmer led, very grassroots and that’s why we’re going out to all these consultation stops across the province,” said Dreeshen. “To talk with farmers and ranchers, to get their input on how to get this done right.”
 
Bill 6 was introduced by the NDP soon after their installment into office in 2015, to bring the province in line with other provinces and provide similar workplace regulations as other industries.
 
Though the new legislation brought forward a lot of upgraded health safety regulations by having them protected through workers compensation, many farmers saw it as too restrictive and argued against it, leading to protests and other backlash over a two-year period. That eventually saw the NDP scale back on some of its regulation.
 
But the United Conservatives have said that they want to go back to square one and start fresh when it comes to farm and workplace regulation, beginning with the province wide consultation. This is something the party campaigned heavily on prior to this past spring’s election.
 
Dreeshen says that the issues he heard from farmers in the Peace are not unlike other places he has visited thus far.
 
“Two reoccurring themes that we’ve heard at other stops and we heard here up in the Peace Country was the choice of insurance,” said Dreeshen. “Rather than having to have WCB, to have a choice of a private insurance provider; because lot of farmers, they would end up paying two insurance policies and it was something that they wanted to be able to have that choice.”
 
He further adds that farmers and ranchers want to see more educational programs on occupational health and safety standards. Beyond that, farmers want to ensure that the new legislation is tailored more specifically to the needs of the agriculture industry, which can differ from other industries.
 
“Rather than a prescriptive, you know, ‘here’s how you have to do every single task’,” said Dreeshen. “Which, at the end of the day, when there is such a diversity of farm size of farms across the province, there is no one size fits all.”
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