Broken bond of trust between rural Alberta and government not healed by NDP election    

(December 1, 2015)  Readers from outside Alberta may be amazed at the tempest being generated over the Alberta NDP government’s move to protect Alberta’s farmers and ranchers from ambulance-chasing lawyers and private disability insurance providers.  What could there possibly be to dislike about Workers’ Compensation (WCB) legislation (Bill 6 – “Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act”)  which not only provides people employed by farmers with disability insurance but makes their farmer and rancher bosses immune from lawsuits?

Nothing at all really, aside from a few technical details easily ironed out in the regulations as they have been in other provinces.  But that has not stopped a swell of outrage and a well orchestrated protest fanned by fears being spread by extreme right-wing groups associated with the almost as extreme Wildrose opposition.

However, the reason this nonsense has so much traction is an entirely justified distrust created by the decades of abuse of process by the Government of Alberta aimed at rural landowners.

The well-documented instance where supposedly impartial government energy regulators hired spies to snoop on landowners, violate their lawyer-client confidentiality, and pass the information on to private energy companies is only one example among many.

In this context wild and inaccurate fears of heavy-handed government inspectors counting the hours children spend gathering eggs for grandma or farm and ranch husbands and wives having to register for WCB coverage and being forced to knock off work after eight hours during calving or harvest season have credibility with rural Albertans and have been widely circulated.

However the real villains in this whole debacle are the neo-conservatives that have long found a home in Alberta’s bureaucracy and later infested Ottawa under the Harper regime.  The drafting of this legislation and communication about it was left in the hands of Alberta government bureaucrats.  Now there can be little doubt they certainly bungled, and perhaps sabotaged the NDP’s efforts and created much fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the rural community as a result.  Why else would they have provided such scatter-gun legislation with information about it spread across 10 wordy and almost incomprehensible fact-sheets spread across the province’s web site?

They left the new Occupational Health and Safety Minister Lori Sigurdson and Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier spinning in the wind on this one.  So there is a lesson here for the new Liberal administration in Ottawa which is as valid today as it was in the 16th century when Niccolò Machiavelli advised a new administration to swing the ax widely when it first took power.

This type of bungling by the Notley NDP should be a sobering lesson to the new Trudeau administration that they immediately need to swing a wide ax across the top level of the civil service and the appointed Boards and Commissions if they expect the machinery of government to run smoothly for Canadians.

The likeable but badly stumbling Notley government has provided an object lesson to Ottawa Liberals on the importance of the de-Harperfication of the mechanisms of the state.  Until this happens, Canadians, like Albertans, will not be able to have confidence that their governments are operating impartially and their democratically expressed preferences are not being sandbagged at every step by an illegitimate cadre of ideological zealots ensconced in the public sector pretending to be civil servants.


  1. Joyce Hamula

    My husband was hurt in a truck accident in Jan 2012. Totalled off a loaded gravel truck. He was in the hospital for almost a month.
    He is an amputee with only his right arm. One of his injuries was 7 broken ribs. WCB only covered him for 3 months as according to them that’s how long it takes ribs to heal. Well one never did because they sent him back too soon. He is now on disability which we know is barely enough to get by. WCB made billions of dollars profit last year although they are suppose to be a non-profit group. Sure don’t think they need to stick their nose in farm business. They are NOT there for the injured workers….

    • Thank you for the comment Joyce and I’m sorry to hear of your husband’s injury. Stories like your husband’s are not unusual in the Alberta media and this concern about the WCB not being there for workers is something I have heard from more than one of my farming friends as well.

      This is because most farmers work alongside their employees, so the WCB being there for injured workers is more than just a talking point for most farmers and ranchers.

      The government introduced amendments to the Bill yesterday that show they are listening to farmers; I hope the Minister of Labour does the same thing for injured workers. After over 40 years of Conservative management the Alberta NDP has a big job ahead of it.


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