Question Period: 7 April 2016
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Labour shortage in agriculture

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Over the last number of years we’ve heard increasing reports of labour shortages in the agricultural sector.

A question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries: What is this government doing to encourage Islanders to work in the agricultural sector?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

That’s an excellent question because we’re coming into the busy season right now. As you know, in our agricultural sector we employ over 3,800 people throughout the busy summer months. In fisheries we’re up 8,600 people. We do need people here, we do need our Islanders working, and that’s what we focus on first and foremost. We work with the minister from Workforce and Advanced Learning. We work with the fish plants and with the farmers to assist them in whatever way we can.

There are good jobs here, both seasonal and long-term, and we are working with all the players in that to ensure that we get our locals working first and foremost.

Thank you very much.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, first supplementary.

Farm labourers and Employment Standards Act

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So this government is doing everything it can to make sure that as many Islanders as possible are employed in the agricultural and fisheries sector.

Section 2 of the Employment Standards Act exempts farm labourers from all of the protections provided in the act except those relating to payment and protection of pay.

Could the minister please explain why farm labourers are largely exempt from the Employment Standards Act?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

That’s a very serious question. We look at that sort of thing for sure, and we will be working on things like that. We brought in the – introduced – through the Workers Compensation Board now, so that they – if you hire farm workers, as such, you have to apply through the farm workers compensation. So now they are covered. It’s good support for the farmers themselves, and also for the employees so that they are insured, covered, should there be something like that happen in the workplace.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, second supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I’m talking about things beyond workers compensation and injuries here. This exemption from the Employment Standards Act, sends, to me, a rather negative message to farm labourers. It’s that they are an inferior class of workers, they’re not worthy of full protection.

Given the labour shortage in the agricultural sector, could the minister again explain how this exemption could possibly be an incentive for Islanders to work in the agricultural and fishing sectors?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I think the workers compensation piece is a really important one. We are looking for workers here, first and foremost from our Island. We are, unfortunately, that we have to take in some temporary foreign workers, but when we do we really appreciate them as well.

We have great jobs here, both seasonal and long-term. I think we need to be positive about that. The workers compensation piece was a first step in that. We look very strongly towards supporting our farmers and our workers on the farm, our fishers and those in the fish plant working there, and we will continue to do that, and do whatever is needed to ensure that we complement the fishers and farmers and build programs that will be good for everyone involved.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

2 Comments

  1. Bill Kays 11 April 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Again, these seem to be vaguely scripted answers to milk toast questions. Not enough people to work in the fields, eh, well that’s because the farm workers realized they could get a pension and benefits if they worked for the government or got an office job with one of the professional firms. Now we have too many government workers, bloated professional offices, and not enough people to to fish and farm. Whose bright idea was it anyways to put ‘flakey’ tourism up against ‘rock solid’ farmin and fishin? Musta been wunna dem educated ones from UPEI. Farming and fishing is what made PEI great and gave us our friendly, used to be humble, people. Farming and fishing made us what we are, not tourism, unless you want to start eating tourists, that is.

     
  2. Troy 11 April 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Same old song and dance my friend
    You ask a serious question and i will dance around the answer
    TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS CHANGE ON OLD PEI

     

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