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Promises are for keeping

On promises, a German proverb says they “are like the full moon, if they are not kept at once they diminish day by day.” And so it goes in politics.

On promises, a German proverb says they “are like the full moon, if they are not kept at once they diminish day by day.”

And so it goes in politics. So many made, so much cynicism created because that initial golden glow of promises is destined to be merely fleeting. They fade away like lost ghosts.

In politics promise has become the buzzword for all parties, whether it is governing or in opposition. It is the fuel for hope of better days, and conversely, the proof of tired, unreliable leaders in power.

In this week's Gazette we have a story on the plight of the province's disenfranchised farm workers, the most marginalized group of workers in the country who have little or no legislative rights on safety or employment.

Up until a year ago they were mostly ignored by the provincial government. But Premier Alison Redford promised in 2011 she would make necessary changes to protect farm workers. A full year has passed and the only movement has been the leaked Farm Safety Advisory Council report in September that calls for increased public awareness with no legislative teeth.

We are now told by Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey, the rural caucus chair, this document is “working its way” through government and that farm worker safety will eventually be addressed by the government and premier. Another promise? Has the full moon's glow begun to diminish yet?

What can't be ignored is the government was told loud and clear in 2008 by provincial court Judge Peter Barley in a fatality inquiry report that farm workers should be covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Barley's recommendation was not binding of course but the government's inaction at least proves it's prepared to sidestep a strong call from the judiciary instead of being accountable and doing the right thing.

But then there is that promise from Redford. The issue was not lost on her a year ago, three years after the Barley report. Oh yes, she was gearing up for an election. Lots of promises and diminishing full moons come and go when that happens.

In the meantime, Eric Musekamp, president of the Farmworkers Union of Alberta, regularly calls the offices of government ministers and the premier reminding them of Redford's promise. Musekamp has not made much headway breaking through the seemingly impenetrable corridors of power but he had made substantial movement in the court of public opinion.

A recent media poll in Calgary showed more than 80 per cent were in favour of the Alberta government moving to include farm workers in health and safety legislation. The poll was far from scientific but it gave a good idea of where public opinion has landed.

However, Musekamp has made promises of his own. He says he's prepared to have family farm operations exempted from new legislation that would provide health and safety protection for corporate farm workers.

This is a huge issue for provincial family farm operators, who run tight budgets, rely on family and neighbourly help, and cringe at government intervention.

With Musekamp's promise in mind, it would be interesting if the Tories, so dependent on their rural base, would be prepared to finally move out of the Dark Ages and prove their progressive name. If yes, there would be no need to compare promises with full moons.

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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