"So which ones are the boys, and which ones are the girls?"
That was the question I was asked 13 years ago, when a small family of city slickers came to visit my family's little cow-calf operation of 50 head. It took me half an hour to explain to this lady the difference between heifer, bull and steer. They almost learned the hard way that you don't walk between a cow and her calf, especially if you are a stranger and the calf is new.
Around 8 years before that, I remember an individual from school visiting our acreage for a party of some kind who decided he thought it wise to try out an experiment with an electric fence. So he urinated on it.
I haven't seen him since high school, so I have no idea if he has kids.
When I think of Bill 6, I see this exact same kind of lack of understanding about farm operations. When I read that an NDP MLA advised ranchers to turn out their bulls only during the daytime to ensure daytime calving 10 months later, I wasn't shocked. They, like the city slicker asking about boy and girl cows and the teenager testing his tallywagger, just don't get it.
When I read Bill 6, it too was just too simple. It felt like someone had said "just take the farmers' exemption out of the other legislation, that'll do the trick." However, the variety of agricultural operations that exist require more effort in order to understand the problem before trying to fix it.
And make no mistake, there is a problem. With an average of over 20 farm-related deaths every year, and an average of 25 hospitalizations for every death, farms are dangerous places. I can recall multiple times a hospitalization was required for a member of my family from farm work. I also consider that my family's was largely a hobby farm; we were by no means a large cattle operation, and we didn't delve into the large-scale agricultural practice of producing crops. I can only imagine the dangers that lurk there.
If there is any agricultural operator in Alberta, family, commercial or otherwise, that opposes Bill 6 because they don't want protections for their workers, then I have a problem with those operators. That is particularly un-Albertan, so I doubt that is the case.
However simply using whiteout to previous legislation shows a complete lack of understanding. It reminds me too much of the old blonde joke "how do you know a blonde has been using your computer - there's whiteout on the screen." They simply just don't understand what they're working with.
By the way, I have nothing against blondes, they are a perfectly good breed of beef animal. Blonde d'Aquitaine.
Even politically speaking, the NDP should have known better. Like the teenager urinating on the electric fence, they should have done a tiny bit more research before introducing this bill. Had they done that tiny bit of research, they would have recalled the reaction farmers had with Bill 36 in 2009, which became the Alberta Land Stewardship Act. Farmers, rightly, boiled. They did so because they were not consulted on the bill. As a friend of mine put it, "politics was done to them, not with them."
The Alberta NDP do not have a reputation as being the voices of farmers, having only just broken into rural Alberta this past election (and perhaps for different reasons than being the voice of farmers). A party that needs to prove they are the voice of all Albertans should ensure they consult with the Albertans they are less familiar with, in an attempt to bring them onside. It should have been a perfect opportunity for the NDP to connect with farmers. Instead, the lack of consideration has driven them away.
This is particularly dangerous. It means that the important work of protecting employees of agricultural operations will be lost in the din. Farmers were being treated as too simple. Like the teenager who urinated on the fence, the NDP are being shocked, which makes me shake my head, because it would have taken little effort for them to know better.
If Bill 6 passes, farmers need to push for regulations that make sense. If the Wildrose is successful in convincing the NDP to put the bill to a committee, farmers need to push for farm workers' rights while protecting the viability of all agricultural operations.
Either way the work, quite simply, isn't finished.