If you’ve taken parts or equipment home but they’re not working as promised, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta all have farm implement acts providing for the dealer to repair or replace them. But while the three provinces have some similar protections, they also differ significantly.
All deal with the sale, lease and lease-purchase of farm equipment and machinery. Likewise, none cover trucks, snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles.
They also state that all farm machinery and equipment must be covered by a one-year warranty from the date of first use, and that replacement parts be available for 10 years after purchase. All Prairie farmers are also granted a trial period of 50 hours for new machinery, or 10 days starting on the first day of use.
Saskatchewan requires licenses for farm implement dealers and registration of distributors. Licensing extends to manufacturers in Manitoba, and to distributors (which includes manufacturers) in Alberta.
The Agricultural Implements Act in Saskatchewan applies to the sale and the lease and lease-purchase of new and used ag implements, but for the other two Prairie provinces, outside of repossessions, the stipulations deal only with new implements.
In Saskatchewan, dealers and distributors have seven days to get a new farm implement in satisfactory working condition. If the implement is not working within seven days, the dealer and distributor must provide the farmer with a satisfactory substitute until the implement is in working condition.
Seven days also applies in Manitoba’s Farm Machinery and Equipment Act, but stipulations for replacement only apply in the case of replacement parts in emergency situations. If the dealer isn’t able to make the equipment satisfactorily perform its intended purpose, the purchaser may, within three days after the seven days, reject the equipment and cancel the contract.
Alberta also specifies seven working days, but if the implement isn’t in satisfactory working order within the seven days, the dealer or distributor must provide a substitute within 48 hours of the seven working-day expiration, says Janet Patriquin, assistant in the Farmers’ Advocate Office.
In Manitoba, when a purchaser orders repair parts for new machinery and equipment, they must be available within 14 days of the date of the order.
Saskatchewan’s purchasers are to obtain all necessary parts “within a reasonable time” at the distributor’s place of business.
Alberta, however, calls for repair parts within 10 working days.
There are also stipulations for emergency repairs, which take into account the time constraints of seeding and harvesting.
In Alberta, during normal season of use, purchasers must receive their parts within 72 hours from the business-day request time, says Patriquin.
Saskatchewan’s provisions for emergency repair service and parts currently require that a dealer and distributor ensure emergency repair parts are available at the dealership within 72 hours of the order being made — not including Sundays and holidays.
Changes to the act, however, are to be proclaimed this fall, which will remove Sundays from the 72-hour time limit, says Becky Hoehn, director of board governance and operations in the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.
Manitoba’s emergency situations also call for equipment repair parts to be provided within 72 hours, but that doesn’t include Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.
If a dealer or vendor isn’t able to deliver within the time limit, Manitoba’s act requires they “without delay” provide or arrange for the provision of alternate machinery or farm equipment. The substitute must be approximately the same capacity and capability to carry out the intended purposes of the original, and at half the normal rental rate.
The Prairie provincial acts also offer processes for resolving performance issues, with boards that can receive and investigate complaints and return decisions and recommendations.
“We are very fortunate that our experienced Farm Implement Act inspectors have been able to work with the parties to resolve the vast majority of issues without the need to have a Farm Implement Board hearing,” says Patriquin.
She notes Alberta’s decisions are final and can only be appealed through the courts based on a judicial review.
Most Manitoba concerns relate to warranty and repairs, says Marnie Carey, legislative analyst with Manitoba Agriculture’s policy branch.
“We encourage farmers to review their sales contract and be aware of the details contained in it, especially the dates and warranty provisions. Ideally, the farmer should attempt to resolve the matter directly with the dealer and vendor.”
Hoehn says no cases have come to Saskatchewan’s board in two years.
“We do have some that are resolved through our staff working with the two parties, and often we can help them to reach an agreement, but I would say most of the time it’s the industry looking after themselves and making it work, and they do a very good job of that.”
All three provinces provide opportunities for farmers to apply for compensation if there are losses resulting from the breach of a sale or lease agreement.
“We have a penalty of up to $50,000 that could be levied to a dealer or distributor, but it has to go through the courts,” says Alberta’s Patriquin. “The courts can give a fine to a dealer or distributor that’s in contravention of the legislation for up to $50,000.”
In 2014, Alberta drafted changes to legislation that would have boosted the maximum fine to $100,000. Although they received royal assent, the changes haven’t been put into force.
Compensation is also available, but the Farm Implement Board can’t pay out more than the amount in the compensation fund for levies, assessments and penalties, Patriquin says.
“Changes to Saskatchewan’s Act will increase various penalties in the revised legislation. The maximum amount of compensation will increase from a maximum of $10,000 to $50,000,” says Hoehn. “The maximum amount of a penalty fee on a dealer or distributor is the amount of compensation awarded to the farmer.”
Contraventions to Manitoba’s legislation can result in fines up to $5,000, and up to $10,000 for subsequent offences. Compensation is capped at $50,000.
Co-operation but not harmonization
Prairie provinces communicate on provisions, but common legislation has been elusive
In 2010, Alberta reached out to harmonize farm protection legislation with its neighbours.
“When we tried to achieve similarities across all the provinces, each province was still restricted by their current legislation,” says Janet Patriquin, assistant in the Farmers’ Advocate Office. “The complexities of legislative changes across three provinces were not a reality, but a commitment to work together collaboratively was.”
Alberta unilaterally made amendments to its own legislation in 2014, partly to better align with equivalent legislation from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
But after a change in the provincial ruling party in 2015, the changes have not been implemented, resulting in Alberta still having two separate acts, the Farm Implement Act and the Farm Implement Dealership Act.
Marnie Carey, legislative analyst with Manitoba Agriculture’s policy branch, says the province regularly communicates with its Prairie counterparts to share information.
Saskatchewan works closely with the others when it reviews its own legislation, adds Becky Hoehn, director of board governance and operations in the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We try to keep as current as we can, but people make regulatory changes on an ongoing basis and so, to interpret how our act would perform in relation to theirs, that’s a challenge, even for us when we’re doing our jurisdictional reviews,” says Hoehn.
While co-operating as much as they can, Hoehn agrees there’s no formal approach to harmonization.
“I think we all would want to have some consistency, but within the limits of our current legislation.”