Bill 6 meeting brings out 500 disgruntled farmers in Bassano

Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
RCMP direct traffic as a convoy of concerned residents leave Strathmore on the morning of Dec. 5 on route down the Trans-Canada Highway for the Bill 6 meeting at Bassano organized by MLA Derek Fildebrandt. Strathmore Standard

Just as the sun was rising over Strathmore on Saturday, a convoy of pickup trucks and farm equipment was gaining momentum as they drove down the Trans-Canada Highway en route to Bassano. The small farming community 140 kilometres east of Calgary was the site of a Bill 6 town hall meeting.

“I grew up just south of Strathmore, so when this bill came around, we didn’t hear about it until two weeks ago, and it hits a little bit too close to home,” said Katrina Janzen, a member of the convoy who had anti-Bill 6 posters plastered on the side of her horse trailer.

“I think this bill has been rushed and the proper consultation, I feel, hasn’t been there,” she said.

“All we want as farmers is information.”

At least 500 disgruntled farmers and ranchers packed the Bassano School gym holding signs, such as one that read “Naughty Notley.” They chanted “Kill Bill 6,” and stomped their feet.

The event attracted young and old alike.

Morgan Hale, a 14-year-old 4-H Club member, attended the meeting with her brother Blue Hale. She takes part in the Beef project for 4-H, meaning she raises, feeds, grooms and shows a steer throughout the year and prepares it for sale.

“I wanted to speak out against Bill 6,” she said. “If it passes, it affects my future.”

“We knew this was not good for Alberta,” said Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

In attendance were moderator Kelly Christman from Bassano, Bow River MP Martin Shields, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barns, MLA Rick Strankman from Drumheller-Stettler, and MLA David Schneider from Little Bow.

The meeting was organized by Fildebrandt, and also featured NDP Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier. The new minister was heckled several times during the meeting.

“We are all angry, we are very upset about the way this happened,” Fildebrandt said.

“You deserve to be heard,” he told the crowd.

Aleta Steinbach, the first member of the public to speak, outlined how the process of farm succession works and how the bill would affect many people in the area. She noted 98 per cent of the farms in Alberta are family farms.

“We deserve the right to choose WCB, or private insurance that suits our operation,” she said.

Carlier tried to assure the crowd that the WCB legislation would affect only paid farm workers. He apologized for the way the provincial government handled consultations and the perceived lack of clarity in communications with the public.

“We should have provided the details about how we planned to protect farmer-ranch families when we first introduced this bill,” Carlier said. “Officials are currently working on amendments that we will share very soon that clarify those attentions.”


Sandra Desmet, from the Strathmore area, asked the minister and NDP government to get their facts straight in regards to statistics for agricultural deaths versus highway and construction deaths.

“Regarding OH&S, I am afraid,” she said.

“Give me a break, you’re going to keep us safe?” she said, emphasizing that there has been an increase in construction deaths from 45 fatalities in 2006 to 254 fatalities recently.

“How can you put legislation through without the figures in front of us, so we know what you are trying to mandate?” she asked.

Over the past two weeks, demonstrations have been held on the steps of the legislature in protest of the farm safety bill. Approximately 1,500 people protested on Thursday.

Some aspects of the bill would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The bill would subject farms and ranches to occupational health and safety regulations, and would force farms and ranches to acquire Workers’ Compensation Board insurance for paid workers.

The bill is in its second reading.