Alberta Ag Minister Oneil Carlier finally announced the make-up of the Bill 6 technical working groups that will be meeting to discuss the guts of the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act.
That bill was passed at break neck speed in the face of rallies and outrage from rural Alberta and now six months later, the NDP are finally getting around to setting up the regulatory part of it all.
How could the NDP draft and pass legislation without knowing what the legislation would look like in the end? That’s just not how it’s done. Don’t worry. The NDP had a plan for that from the very beginning. And a back up plan for that plan in case it failed.
Plan number one: stack the technical working groups with NDP friendlies.
To no one’s surprise, these groups are stacked with union activists. The technical working group for labour relations has a total of 12 members. In that group, there is one person from the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, one researcher from the Alberta Federation of Labour, one in labour relations for the United Nurses of Alberta and one union lawyer. There were only four actual farmers on that panel and some of those are doing double duty also representing producer groups.
So the Western Wheat Growers came out with an epic statement. Their statement said:
“So today the government announced (on a Friday before the May long weekend, while grain growers are still seeding) the six chairs of the Working Groups, which include: A specialist in ‘grievance mediation,’ a ‘professor’ and ‘labour mediator,’ a ‘Certified Professional Facilitator,’ and three lawyers—not a farmer to be seen.
Beyond the chairs, 78 Working Group members were announced, with 23 being part of the AgCoalition, which means the AgCoalition’s representation of over 97% of the ag sector in Alberta will represent 29% of the government Working Group tables—and 0% of the chair positions.”
Farmers expected this all along. Thousands had volunteered for this process but now we know that they were turned away and excluded so that union activists and NDP loyalists could sit on the technical working group panels instead.
But what if the plan to stack the groups didn’t work out? What if that 29% farmer minority on those panels talked so much good ‘ol fashioned rural common sense that they changed the hearts and minds of enough union activists and NDP loyalists and the balance of power was swayed to benefit the farmers?
Well, Ag and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier has a plan for that too. In an exchange with a reporter during an NDP press conference, where the finalization of the technical working groups was announced, Carlier made a startling admission.
Carlier doesn’t rule out imposing his own rules if the groups don’t come back with the findings he and his NDP government want to see. Carlier says there is a “slim chance”, his words, that he could impose his own regulations. I imagine Carlier is pretty confident it won't have to come to that. He stacked the panels, remember?
So why do any of this?
The whole process was a sham. From the NDP’s first meeting with the Alberta Federation of Labour about Bill 6 just days after being elected, it was always about pleasing their union friends. Bill 6 has never been about farm safety. The whole process had a predetermined outcome from the beginning. The rest has all been theatre.
The NDP think they are fooling farmers. They aren’t fooling anyone.