SELECT COMMITTEE ON
THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION ACT
Mr. Michael Baker
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would ask Mr. Johnson to introduce himself.
MR. GORDON JOHNSON: Gordon Johnson, Legislative Counsel.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would also ask the consultants to introduce themselves, starting with Mr. Neville.
[The committee consultants introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome - I don't know if he is still in the room, yes, he is - Donald Downe, the MLA for Lunenburg West and Deputy Premier. Thank you very much, Don, for taking time out of your schedule to be with us here this afternoon.
At this time I would like to do a brief explanation of the format that we have been following in our presentations. First of all, we would like all members of the public to be aware of the fact that our committee's mandate is to review the Workers' Compensation Act and, of course, consequently, the regulations and policies that go with that, to determine how it can be made better, to hear your concerns, your suggestions concerning the Act. Unfortunately, we are not an appeal body so that people who come and make presentations should realize that while the changes we make may affect their particular case, we are not here to review particular cases. We certainly are glad to hear about people's particular situations as an illustration of how it affects them and other people in the system so that we know how to look at improvements but I just want to make it clear to people that we are not an appeal body in case anyone would think that.
The other thing, of course, is that our committee will be doing a report back to the Legislative Assembly, hopefully in time for the fall sitting of the Legislature which commences on October 15th of this year, so we are in an effort to try to do as much of the important work as needs to be done as soon as possible.
Without further ado, then, I would like to call on our first presenter this afternoon. Aubrey Coombs. If you would sit right there, Mr. Coombs. Just for your information, Mr. Coombs, and the other people here who are doing presentations, we are trying to ask everybody to stick to an approximately 15 minute maximum time for presentations. There will be an opportunity after your presentation for members of the committee and the consultants to ask questions. But if you could try to keep your presentation within that time-frame.
There is also a number of preliminary questions that I generally ask someone. I take it, sir, are you involved in the system as a person who has had a claim in the past, or an injured worker?
MR. AUBREY COOMBS: Yes, I have had a claim in since 1967 when I was originally hurt but I am one of the ones that the case went to Supreme Court and I know nothing now what is going to come out of it, when or anything. I am just waiting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have some preliminary questions for you that we generally have asked just to help get some of the information out for the benefit of our consultants. We have your name, of course, sir. Where do you live?
MR. COOMBS: I live in Milton, Queens County.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What was the date of your injury, 1967 you said?
MR. COOMBS: June 12, 1967, 10:30 a.m.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That ties her down pretty well, sir.
MR. COOMBS: Yes, I will always remember it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What was the general nature of the injury you suffered?
MR. COOMBS: Back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think you indicated that your case had gone to the Supreme Court or to the Court of Appeal and you haven't heard anything since?
MR. COOMBS: No. All we heard was that they wanted them to rule on it and they wouldn't rule on it. They set it aside and now, as far as I understand, I am supposed to come up, maybe, this November, I don't know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: How long ago was it, the last time that you heard anything with respect to your appeal?
MR. COOMBS: Oh, months ago, I think. I can't remember the date.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you presently represented by a workers' adviser in the Workers' Advisers Program?
MR. COOMBS: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Before that, were you represented by workers' counsellors in the private lawyers in the old system?
MR. COOMBS: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: How did you become aware of the Workers' Advisers Program? Did they contact you or did you contact them?
MR. COOMBS: I think it was through CBC told us about it so we went to see them and one person who is representative now is a Member of Parliament.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It must have been Mr. Deveau, would that have been?
MR. COOMBS: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess the final question is, before you start with your presentation, are you presently under a doctor's care for your injury?
MR. COOMBS: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you seeing a specialist or just your family doctor?
MR. COOMBS: I have seen specialists. In my case, there is nothing that can be done. It all stems from the milogram that I was given years ago. The first one I had was in 1967. The second one was in 1974 and the dye, they neglected to remove it all from my spine and now it has crippled me. There is nothing anybody can do. I have tried, not only through workers' compensation, but on our own, my wife and I, we have tried every way and every place we try it just comes back, it is impossible to remove. It was an oil-based dye. At the end of the presentation, I won't go through it . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: You may as well start up with your presentation. I am sorry for sort of throwing you off your stride by asking these questions.
MR. COOMBS: I don't intend to stick word for word with this. You people all have a copy of it and I will just hit on some spots. I was hurt June 12, 1967 and it has changed my life in the last 31 years. I have suffered with pain ever since the injury in 1967 but I have been willing to keep going. Over the years, Bowater has been good to me. They found me, in the later years, easier jobs.
One concern of mine was, I worked in the paper department, which was a lot of bending and I wasn't blessed with being tall, I was patted on the head and said I was good so that made me shorter. It was harder for me to do the bending and it weakened my back and I had to have a second fusion. So then I did go back on a paper machine until 1978 and then I transferred from there to the mechanical department as tool room attendant which was a lot less money but I was willing to work. Then the opportunity came up that I had a chance to go in the stockroom and I went in there. I worked right up until April 21, 1992. That is the last day that I worked.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What year was that, sir?
MR. COOMBS: In 1992 I had to give up. Over the years, even when I was working in the paper department after I did have the surgery, there were a good many nights that I worked 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. that I would come home and I would still be sitting up in the morning when the sun came up. I just couldn't lay down, the pain was so great but I done things, I kept going and I enjoyed working. You go so long and you can take so much.
Then the dealings I had with workers' compensation are unreal. When I was first hurt in 1967, I was on a striker bed for three months. I was operated on December 21st and I will always remember. My birthday is December 18th, I went in the hospital on December 18th and was operated on on December 21st and it was some time in March before I got out of the hospital. They got me up off the striker bed on a Sunday - I will always remember it because I fainted when they got me up - and they wouldn't let me go home then. They wanted me to stay to go to workers' compensation the next morning. So my wife and sister took me
to workers' compensation and they said, you have to see our doctor. Well, I don't know if the gentleman is still living or not, I won't mention his name but he was there. I wore a big back brace after laying flat on your back for three months. I went in, he said, open your shirt. I opened my shirt. He said, I see you are wearing a brace. He said, take it off and bend down and touch your toes. I said, what do you mean? He said, bend down and touch your toes. I said, I just got off a striker bed. I have been laying down for three months and you want me to touch my toes. I said no. I couldn't even walk. I had to have two people help me walk. This is just one case that I went through. We had words but I don't know if it done any good or not. I think anybody with common sense wouldn't ask a person to do that after being that much in the hospital. Then when I came home I was in bed roughly three months after I came home. I could get up in the daytime, move around the house, but then I used to have to lay down. I was off work approximately, I think, 18 months. I am not sure, but around that time.
Then, different times I have gone in and met with them. The last going off, now, when I go into doctors, they don't go over me too much because it bothers me too much for them to move my legs. Before, I would go in and they would take your foot and try to put it up in back of your head and then you would lay there and the water would be running off you with pain and they would ask you if it hurt. I think I have told them enough now that they don't bother doing this when I do go in for a check-up.
I think with workers' compensation, what they should do, they should have a school somewhere and send them all to it and let them learn common sense. I am not being sarcastic or anything but I think a lot of them, if they really would come down and think on the level of an injured worker, it would be great. My wife and I, we always went to these injured workers association meetings. They had them in Coldbrook. The last one, I think it was, we were to, the president or the head person at workers' compensation was there and one of the board members from Liverpool, Jim Saba - you probably all know that he is a board member - was there and I was talking to him. Jim knows me, well, we practically grew up together. He said, are you going to say anything? I let everybody say and then I stood up and started to say, you know, a few things, the same as I am here and he told me to sit down. He didn't want to hear the facts. This is what it appeared to me. Maybe it wasn't, I don't know, but he just didn't want me to say any more. He asked me to sit down. So I sat down but I could have said a lot more.
I can't remember the gentleman's name but he was, at one time, the Deputy Minister of Labour, from what Party, I don't know. He was the Dean of Law at Dalhousie University and the President of Workers' Compensation so he is making a big salary. When you are looking at an injured worker living on starvation wages, a man to say that, I didn't think it was very manly of him to do it but he seemed to do it.
Getting back to what is wrong with me now, as you will see as you read through it, there are going to be a lot of changes in my life and they are coming faster than what I want them to be. It has affected me a lot so far but they do feel that I will be, eventually, in a
wheelchair. My kidneys can go on me, my bladder. It affects so much of your system and it is really scary when you go into detail of what it is on just something that was, I say, neglected to be removed from my spine. I feel that I shouldn't have to fight with workers' compensation to try to, you know - I am not trying for a lot. I feel my case is worth more than $296 per month.
Talking about that, there was another thing in Coldbrook, the head person for the finance was there one year. We got these interim cheques. There were quite a few of us who had gotten interim cheques which was $103 every two months. Well, I got over $400 a month and it was good. He stood up in front of us, the same as you people are sitting here, and he said, in no way will you lose your interim cheques. You will never lose what you have now. You will probably gain. The next year we went back, they took it from us. All I got was $96. Out of the $206, they were kind enough to let me keep $96.
So the next year, we went back up and that morning before we left home, I was reading the newspaper and I see where they wanted another accountant in the accounting department for workers' compensation. There is the year that the head fellow was there and I asked him. I said, I see this morning in the paper that you are applying for another accountant and that. He said, yes. I said, are you putting them in the liar's school, the same as you done with the other fellow? I think that might have upset him too, but that is the way I felt. I mean, I thought, well, they all have to go through a liar's school to fill this position.
Anybody can sit back, I mean you people can sit back and look at me, I am all tanned up and everything, I look great but you don't know the pain I am going through. Nobody can tell you the pain that you go through, when you go to bed at night and you wake up in the morning and you feel worse when you got up in the morning than when you went to bed at night and there is nothing you can do about it. I have tried everything. I am living on Tylenol 3, anywhere from 1,200 to 1,300 Tylenol 3 a year plus when I do get bad, I go the hospital and they give me needles. Sometimes they load me right up and they tell the wife, you better get him in the car right away. If you don't, he is going to be asleep and I will go home and sit and up and I won't even close an eye. The pain is that severe.
I can't enjoy anything. I used to enjoy working. We have quite a property at home. I enjoyed looking after it. I used to have a greenhouse. We sold that. We had a cabin. I have sold that just because I couldn't, I am a person that I hate to stand back and let somebody do my work. I know I am going to have to change. When I did find out what was wrong with me, one of the hardest thing was, the disease I have - well, whatever you want to call it - that didn't bother me as much as to know that I would never work again. When you are 47 years old laying in bed and you see a specialist come in and stand at the foot of your bed saying, sorry, there is nothing we can do, you will never work again, it takes a lot out of you and it is something you will never, especially when you have a daughter in college - luckily it was her last year.
Talking about her being in college, I was talking to somebody with workers' compensation, I don't know the gentleman's name, and I said, it is time that maybe I did get something out of workers' compensation. I said, after all, we have a daughter in college. He said, that is not my fault. If I could have got my hand through the phone, he wouldn't have talked to anybody else. I mean, I don't know him. Probably I shouldn't be saying all this stuff but it is just the way I feel.
Originally, when I was hurt, I was hurt in June and I went from June until sometime in November before I got a cent out of workers' compensation and they kept saying that they didn't get the doctor's report and I mailed one myself. I got a report from the doctor and took it to the post office and mailed it myself. Then I waited a couple of weeks and called them and asked them if they got it and they said no, the doctors never sent. I said it is a funny thing, I mailed it. Once I said that, then things started.
I don't know how it could be fixed. It is not the injured workers' fault, it is not my fault that they are millions of dollars in the hole. They are not giving it to me. I just don't know how. Hopefully, you people can sit down and hear the side of the injured workers and sympathize with them a little bit and see if there at things that can be done to change it and where I was hurt in 1967, everything only goes until 1990. Anybody who was hurt before 1990, they just push them under the carpet. It seems to me, like when I go in, okay, you was hurt before such and such a time. We don't want anything to do with you. This is the feeling that I get. Now whether it is right or not, I don't know but this is the way that I feel, that they are treating us.
Another thing, this lost wage program, they sent all the information out to me, wanted me to fill everything out. They had it, you know, you are going to qualify for it. They wanted this, they even wanted me to figure out what money I have lost from going from one job to the other and the difference of wages. I filled it out and sent it into them and then they sent a letter back a couple of weeks later, I didn't qualify for it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will give you the two minute warning gun, there, Mr. Coombs.
MR. COOMBS: In closing, I just hope that, you know, there is something that you people can do for us that is hurt before the deadline of 1990 and another thing, in closing, when you do go into their doctors, it is the same as walking into a meat shop. They have a chart on the wall and, okay, that is a prime side of beef, we will give you so much for that. That is the way that I feel. When you go in, everything is on a chart and it is the way that they assess you is on a meat chart, is the way I feel. I heard a lot of people saying this, too.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think the technical term is the clinical rating system but it is commonly known as the meat chart.
MR. COOMBS: In closing, thanks for listening to me and hopefully it will help. If it doesn't help me, maybe it will help somebody along the road.
MR. CHAIRMAN: One question, sir, is what kind of a percentage disability have they rated you for on the scale?
MR. COOMBS: I think it is right now around 30 per cent.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine. Now some of the other members of the committee may have some questions for you so I will ask them if anybody has any questions. Do any of our consultants have a question they would like to ask Mr. Coombs?
Thank you very much, Mr. Coombs, for taking the time to be with us here today and I hope you can stay around a little while and listen to some of it.
MR. COOMBS: Oh yes, I intend to stay around for a while.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Is Mr. Lambert here? Mr. Lambert, would you like to come forward? Take your time.
MR. ROY LAMBERT: I am wearing a cap to cover up the bald spot that came on its own, that was forced to come out.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand, sir.
MR. LAMBERT: After I got injured, over the years here, and tormenting, I developed cancer and I had to lose my hair along with it. I have been fighting with the Workers' Compensation Board since August 1990. It is always one battle after another. You never know what you are going to do from one day to the next. They forced me to go to school for a GED. I only had the Grade 4, 25 or so years ago. I said, me get a GED, you know, with a Grade 4? Anyway, I got it. So then I wanted to go to school in Cape Breton to get my ship masters certificate. The fishing masters that I had was only good for a captain on a fishing vessel only. When the fishery went under the heel, it went down, the only hope of me of ever trying to do anything would be to change my fishing masters.
So they approached me, they got me there, I got about three parts the way through and they said, well, we are not putting you through no more. They come up with story after story after story and I still had six weeks left in school to finish my big certificate but they still won't allow it yet. I had a lawyer working on my behalf from Human Resources, not chosen by me, chosen by them. It was Kenny LeBlanc. As a matter of fact, the last year, here, he has been trying to get me back in school. So they took him off my case. He is no longer allowed to represent me and he said that they should be made to pay me for my lost wages. When they sent them the letter for them to pay me my lost wages, that is when they sent me a letter
saying that I would be no longer represented by Mr. LeBlanc at Human Resources and any other legal fees that I would want, I would have to find it on my own, which is no good to me.
So I was trying everything last year to see if I could get back in school to finish these certificates and I got sick. I didn't feel well. I didn't feel well at all. Running enough tests in the QE II in Halifax, come to find out I had lung cancer. So I had treatments all winter, went in in February, had my assessments done. Everything looked good. Oh, was I happy. Cancer is gone. Get back in school, I was determined to have myself one of these supply ships going to the federal offshore bringing the oil ashore. Went into the doctor's twice, oh yes, everything looked good, the cancer was gone.
Two months later, I started getting pains down my arms, my hands were pins and needles, getting headaches, real bad headaches, dizzy spells, you name it, I was getting it. Come to find out, I only found out about three months ago, that I have cancer in the shoulder, in the neck, going down the arm and the leg, and the most damaging of all to me for trying to get anything done, or get a headway in anything, the one that was causing the headaches and the dizzy spells was the one lodged in the brain. They can't touch it.
I went through much pain, so bad that the last couple of months - as matter of fact, I just came home yesterday. I don't know when I might have to go back, probably tomorrow or Monday or Tuesday of next week.
What I can't understand is why at the Workers' Compensation Board, anybody at all can walk in through that door, close the door behind them, and make up any decision they want, any time they feel like it, at any good given time. What gives them the right to do it? No matter who walks in there, they say, we are taking your paycheque, you don't need it, put it on the floor and scratch on it.
I have a family, I have bills to pay, I have a mortgage. I am going to lose everything I have. They owe me for lost wages, it was right in the papers, the government itself put it in the papers here, and sent me a copy of it, that they are definitely going to pay injured workers for lost wages. Where is it? They won't send me none. I am fighting like hell just to try to get my light bill paid, or a bank payment made, or to try to get a few groceries. It is frustrating.
You get a letter coming from them in July or, one week it said, looks good. They have to pay the lost wages up and down. The next week, you get a letter from the lawyer saying that are not going to pay anything, not only that, I am not allowed to represent you anymore. That all came here a couple of weeks ago in the mail. Where does it leave me? It doesn't leave me anywhere, does it? That is why I can't understand why they should be allowed to do as they please.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Lambert, what was the date of your injury?
MR. LAMBERT: August 8, 1990.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where were you at the time you were injured? Were you working out at sea?
MR. LAMBERT: At sea, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What was the general nature of the injury you suffered?
MR. LAMBERT: Back injury.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where you on a ground . . .
MR. LAMBERT: Yes. That was the year the government, the Canadian Government, had some foreign ships coming over catching some underutilized species of fish that we don't catch, like if we sold the quota to the Japanese, and we caught it for them. In order for them to come in and fish in our waters, they had to have a Canadian crew on board, or a partial crew. I went out as a Canadian captain. There was a breeze of wind come up, and we are little bit different, Canadian fishermen, than those fellows, there was a conveyor belt about the length of this table, all we had to do was a bunch of fellows pick it up, shift it over and tie it fast. Breeze or wind, it is not going to blow it around and beat everything up, right? When I picked up my end, I picked it up a little bit sooner than the other guys.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you know where your appeal or your case is in the system? Have they turned you down and that is the end of it, or can you tell me where you are in the system?
MR. LAMBERT: No. This was the fourth time I have been to the appeal board. Three times I won it. This time here, I never got a chance to finish it. Like I said, they cancelled us out, they cancelled my lawyer. Kenny LeBlanc, Human Resources, he sent out all my files in a cardboard box, there only last week or maybe the week before last. I just have them sitting home, because like I said, I went to Halifax and went in the hospital at the same time. I never really had time to go through anything. I called them up, and there is nothing they can say.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Before you were represented by the Workers' Advisers Program in Halifax, you had a workers' counsellor, a private lawyer?
MR. LAMBERT: I had a lawyer with Goldberg Thompson, in Halifax, Mr. Peter Rumscheidt, he was working with Goldberg Thompson. That is when they took him, and took my papers from him, and gave them to the workers' adviser. Now they took them from Kenny at workers' advisory, and sent them back to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sure that some of the members of the committee may have some questions for you. First of all, I will see if any of the members of the committee have a question about your situation?
MR. LAMBERT: For the six weeks it would take for me to finish my goal in school, if I had never gotten this cancer, and I was able to proceed, which I still might be yet, for the money that it cost them over the years, for six weeks to eight weeks for them to allow me to go back to school, if things should happen to provide the way that I am hoping that it would, it could make a big, big difference in my career, in anyone's career. Because if I were to come back out as a crew member, like I am today, here is what I am facing, getting around with a stick, or how can I bend over and drag stuff around with a stick or anything like that? But if I got my certificate, my master's, all I would do is sit in a chair, press a few buttons and navigate. That would be about the most there would be to it. So if they went through all this torture, getting me up to this level, why would they just throw it all away? That is what I am saying. I don't know what makes them tick. Something is not right with them, to tell you that your money will be there, your money is coming out, all your lost wages right back to August 1990. I don't know how it is coming, but it is not on any express that I know of, because I haven't seen it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Godin.
MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Hello, Mr. Lambert. Thank you for coming in today. It has obviously been an effort for you to get here today considering what you are going through, and even yesterday, just getting out of the hospital. You said that you received your files in a cardboard box recently. Was there a letter accompanying that, to tell you that everything was finished, that your appeal was finished, and that that was the end of any contact you were going to have with the WCB?
MR. LAMBERT: Yes.
MS. GODIN: There was a letter with it?
MR. LAMBERT: I wouldn't bet any money for sure, but I think that is the way I read it, that the lawyer was not representing me anymore, and I can take this file and do whatever I please with it.
MS. GODIN: But that everything was finished now with the Workers' Compensation Board?
MR. LAMBERT: Yes. That is why I went to Mr. Suermann, and . . .
MS. GODIN: So you have sought legal advice on your own, since that time?
MR. LAMBERT: No, I saw the MLA of . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dr. Bitter-Suermann.
MS. GODIN: Oh, your MLA, sorry. This committee is travelling the province looking for recommendations. You have been dealing with the WCB for the last eight years, since your injury. If you could come up with some kind of suggestion or recommendation that might have made things easier for you, going through the process, and I hate to put you on the spot, but, is there something that you can think of that might have helped, even today, that might help you in your dealings with the WCB?
MR. LAMBERT: I was thinking about it, I heard on the news a few times, that the government is cracking down on these small boats, that they are not really qualified boatowners. They are not qualified enough in the field to be navigating around in the small boats because they don't know the rules of the road, as we call it, like the lights and the buoy systems, they are cracking down on that. I was going to go to the Coast Guard and apply for a job, rent a classroom in one of the schools and I would teach navigation on what you would call small inland waters.
MS. GODIN: So, what you are talking about is prevention in the first place, so that people aren't injured, and don't have to go through this?
MR. LAMBERT: Yes, it is just a safety program. That is all it is, it is like somebody taking and teaching you for your driver's license, instead of just going out and doing it without . . .
MS. GODIN: You obviously have a file number with the WCB or you did? Do you have a file number?
MR. LAMBERT: I probably do, I don't know.
MS. GODIN: You don't know what it is today?
MR. LAMBERT: I don't know.
MS. GODIN: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Lambert.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anybody else?
MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Lambert, when you received notification that you had six weeks left, and the WCB was not going to finish your retraining for you or fund it, was there any reason given - when you had put obviously that much work, effort and time, and had
accomplished the training and met all the requirements - that they would stop it with six weeks left?
MR. LAMBERT: What happens in these certificates, sir, is that they are done one paper at a time, in a line. What you do, is you go in and you do a watchkeeping certificate, then you do a mate's certificate - there are three or four levels of mate's, first, second, third, chief - and then the same thing with the master's certificate. What they have come up with now is that they want you to have so much sea time in between each certificate before you are allowed to write the next one. So when I decided I was going to school, I went to the Coast Guard, to a Captain in Dartmouth, and I got a letter from him in writing, that I could go and do the watchkeeper's and go for a command endorsement without any sea time, so I could carry right on through.
When I finished watchkeeper's, Frederica - she wants to be called Fred - I was trying to explain to her, that you do your papers, I did my watchkeeper's, each paper that had to be done. Then you don't go and jump to the next paper, you have to do them one at a time, in stages. Because I failed one, and Fred jumped to the opportunity, well, I failed a paper, so it is no good to me. I got a letter from the principal of the school stating that was just how it was.
All I had to do was wait until September, the two papers, meteorology and ship's management, that I wanted, they would be started in September or October, the fall. Only two papers, six weeks. By the time they are run, there is only a small crew in that field for those two papers. Then the watchkeeper's will be ready to move right in. All I had was six weeks to go in and do the two papers, and I am all finished. And I still am. As a matter of fact, I am still down for this fall, because when I came out of school in February and my reports were so good and I felt so good, I called the school and registered so that I would be on the papers come September. One way or the other, I was determined to get it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anything else? Any of the consultants? We thank you very much for coming in, Mr. Lambert. It is good of you to come in and give us your views. Thank you, sir.
I believe next on our list is Beverly Veinotte.
MR. LAMBERT: I want to thank you gentlemen for taking the time to listen to us people.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hopefully we will bring forward recommendations that will make a difference in people's lives whether for you or anybody else who is an injured worker now or for people down the road, who we will also be thinking of. Thank you very much. We really appreciate your coming in.
Do you want to start? You can give me your name first. It is all being recorded, so we will have your name on record.
MS. BEVERLY VEINOTTE: Beverly Veinotte.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you want to go through your presentation here? We haven't seen it yet, did you want to just talk about the nature of your injury, how it happened, how long ago, that sort of thing?
MS. VEINOTTE: I think everything is in here, unless you have questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, we haven't had a chance to look at it yet. So, perhaps you could just talk a bit while the committee is reviewing it. I realize everything is in it; 1986 you were injured ma'am?
MS. VEINOTTE: The first time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The first time. After that, I am just going through here, you were . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: I had two different claims.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Are both claims active still?
MS. VEINOTTE: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps if some of the others could ask some questions here, as we are trying to review it. Sorry.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: I would like to ask you, Ms. Veinotte, what is the current status of your claims?
MS. VEINOTTE: They are in the tribunal, both of them, and I had a lawyer but I do not have one now. I had Mr. Dempsey.
MR. DEWOLFE: A private lawyer?
MS. VEINOTTE: No, no.
MR. DEWOLFE: He was appointed through the . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: Yes, yes. I was told that he was; I mean at least I could call and ask him a question and he could find something out for me. I called these new people and I was
told that until I heard anything from workers' compensation they could not do anything for me at all until I got an answer from them. So now, over a year, there has been nobody that I could even talk to, and at least with Mr. Dempsey, he was very good, I could call him and if I needed to find something out, he would find out for me, but I have nobody now.
MR. DEWOLFE: Did they notify you that you would no longer be receiving . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: They notified me that he would not be representing me. There would be a group in Halifax and I was given the number. I called, but they told me that they had nothing on me, nothing on my files or anything until I heard something from the tribunal. So they don't know my case; they don't know anything about me and I do not know how that works. I do not know too much about it.
MR. DEWOLFE: How long has your case been before the tribunal? How long have you been waiting?
MS. VEINOTTE: They are both I think - now, do not quote me. I could be wrong - but I think it is over a year.
MR. DEWOLFE: Over a year?
MS. VEINOTTE: Yes, or it will be a year.
MR. DEWOLFE: And you have not really heard anything from them in the meantime?
MS. VEINOTTE: No, nothing, no.
MR. DEWOLFE: You do not know what the status is or how long it is expected to . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: No.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any other members? Ms. Godin.
MS. GODIN: Yes, Ms. Veinotte, I just wanted to mention - I am not sure it was mentioned in the beginning - that there are representatives here from the WCB and you might want to just stop and have a chat with them and maybe they can help you find out the status of your claim, where it is in the system.
MS. VEINOTTE: Well, I called. They just keep saying, well, we have got nothing on it, you know.
MS. GODIN: But maybe someone from the WCB can give you an answer so that you understand where it is.
MS. VEINOTTE: Okay.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do any other members have a question for Ms. Veinotte? Any consultants, do you have anything? (Interruptions) Yes, by the way, Ms. Veinotte, we will be reviewing your presentation. It is part of the record and as you may also be aware, obviously the proceeding is being recorded as well. So it will form part of the official transcript of the work of the select committee. So, I really appreciate that you took the time today to come in to see us and give us your story. I would also, again, encourage you, after we are finished at 5:00 p.m. today, there are people in the room that you might take the chance to talk to. If nothing else, you might find some information out that will be helpful with respect to your own particular case, so I really would encourage you to stick around and then after that today I am sure someone would be glad to talk to you and just try to find out a little bit about where you are because I can tell that you have had some difficulties getting answers.
MS. VEINOTTE: I sure have.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, thank you very much.
MS. VEINOTTE: You don't want me to read this?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. Generally, when people are kind enough to write their presentation out, we do not require that they read it, because we are going to read the material anyway and it certainly is part of the record. Thank you very much.
MS. VEINOTTE: I just hope that there is somebody here who can make some changes. I would feel that if you have gone to four or five doctors and they all feel the same and then you can be turned down by one - aren't doctors of the same category; I mean do they not get the same degrees? - where does one, how can one dispute so many and come up with no answer?
Through this I have lost my dignity, my self-esteem. I have lost everything and I do not think anybody had the right to do that to you, not when things have happened at work. There are some things in this that I would like to bring out because I am really frustrated. I have been hurt. They have taken my health but I still have a little fight left in me and I am going to have to fight back if I want to survive because I don't think any department of government - I have gone to, I have letters from all of the Members of Parliament two years ago that were going to help me but they are no longer there. They seem to change like a lady changes her underwear, excuse me, but I am just to the point that I can't survive. I have worked all my life and this happened at work. Somebody soon has to hear this.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, certainly I hope that for you the change ends up being an improvement.
MS. VEINOTTE: I hope so.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We do appreciate that you did take the time to come out and we hope that you would be able to stick around for awhile this afternoon and, as I said, there will be somebody that would be glad to speak to you after the break at 5:00 p.m., or approximately 5:00 p.m., to find out some more information. Thank you very much.
MS. VEINOTTE: As long as it is the truth they are telling me. I do not want any more lies.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, I understand that. Our next presenter is Theresa Sarty. Is Ms. Sarty present?
MR. MICHAEL POWER: Mr. Chairman, to you and your committee, I should point out that I represented Theresa Sarty under the Workers' Counsellor Program. I would not want my presence here to restrain her in any way so if she wishes me to be present or not, perhaps we should clarify that. Do you have any objection?
MS. THERESA SARTY: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Power. Ms. Sarty, I am going to ask you a few preliminary questions if you would not mind. Again, it is in the spirit of trying to get some of the pertinent information out for the benefit of the committee members and our consultants. So your complete name is Theresa Sarty?
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where do you live, Ms. Sarty?
MS. SARTY: Bridgewater.
MR. CHAIRMAN: When did you injure yourself?
MS. SARTY: May 30, 1990.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I see. What type of injury generally did you suffer?
MS. SARTY: My back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What is the status of your case in the system?
MS. SARTY: Right now it is at the tribunal.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you are at WCAT, are you, Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal?
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Has leave been granted or are you still waiting for your leave application, or is yours one of the cases that does not require leave? Okay, I am speaking in legalese here, I can tell. All you know is that your case is at WCAT and you have not heard anything, right?
MS. SARTY: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, that is close enough.
MS. SARTY: I do not have a lawyer or nothing anymore.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That was actually my next question. You, obviously, were represented by Mr. Power under the Workers' Counsellor Program?
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you have a workers' adviser? Under the new program did you end up with a lawyer or workers' adviser?
MS. SARTY: Not as of yet. They said I wouldn't have anything until I heard back from the tribunal and then I would be represented by the ones in Halifax.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you have not been contacted by anybody from the Workers' Advisers Program in Halifax yet?
MS. SARTY: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. When your case went on appeal, was it Mr. Power's office who had filed the documents on your appeal or did you do that yourself?
MS. SARTY: No, Mike Power has done all that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I think those are all my preliminary questions. So if you would like to make your presentation, ma'am, that would be fine.
MS. SARTY: I will have to read what I have here.
Since I was injured May 30, 1990, I have been fighting with workers' compensation to compensate my wages and, when I found out I had a permanent disability, for a disability pension, and I have done everything that was required of me. They did send me cheques for varying amounts and, when I returned to school, they sent me a cheque every two weeks while I was in school. I attended school at workers' compensation request. When the doctor made me quit, saying I could no longer participate in this activity, at that time workers' compensation cut me off, and to date it is still before the tribunal and I have not received a cent in almost three years.
I saw a nerve specialist, surgeons, my family doctor, therapists, and workers' compensation doctors, and I am still on Demerol and Tylenol 3. I have had milograms, EMGs, nerve blocks, CAT scans, therapy and numerous other tests. I still cannot function enough to do my own housework or enjoy a quality of life without severe pain, much less return to work. I understand that they must review with the tribunal; what I cannot understand is why it takes so bloody long to do it. The concerns and the well-being for persons with disabilities are not taken into consideration and leaves the person very depressed. They rob you of your self-esteem and leave you feeling frustrated, very depressed, insecure and finally, angry, very angry.
I think the tribunal should realize that we are people with a need and that need is not being met by workers' compensation or the tribunal. It really amazes me that after I have been seen by my own doctor, specialists and surgeons and had the required operation, nerve block, et cetera, that I still have to be seen by workers' compensation own doctor for an evaluation that takes 20 minutes at the most. Do they think I had all the other procedures done just for the hell of it? I think not. What do they think their doctor can tell them in that amount of time, when I have seen Dr. England, Dr. Alexander on more than one occasion, who knows my case history?
I, for one, would certainly like to see the tribunal process speeded up and my compensation reinstated. If they paid me up until I had to quit school, what is their excuse for not paying me now? I fail to see the logic. I was disabled before and I am disabled now. If I had been able to attend school, would that have made me any less disabled? I don't think so. I had to quit on my doctor's advice. If I did not take his advice, workers' compensation would have something else to say. So it is a no-win situation.
I have documents available to verify my account of the above and will provide additional information if requested. I would like at this time to thank the panel for allowing me to express my frustrations with the Workers' Compensation Act and I hope for my sake, as well as others, that the process will speed up and my compensation will be restored. I do not like living below the poverty level and I know others don't also and, maybe, I can enjoy a quality of life that I don't now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I have just a few brief questions of my own. There may be other questions. Are you presently receiving a Canada Pension Plan disability pension?
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And are you one of the people who has been labelled as a chronic pain case?
MS. SARTY: Well, actually, I just heard that on Monday, that that is what it has been. I have been to see Dr. Alexander again in July of this year and I went to get my reports on Monday. That is what my doctor told me, that no more operations, or whatever, would be requested, as of now anyway, as of the near future; that it is chronic pain.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is why I was wondering because your case sounds like one of the many cases we have heard, where people have been labelled and this is the name they have given it, a chronic pain case.
Are there other members of the committee who have some questions? Mr. Corbett.
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Ms. Sarty, thank you for coming. I have just one very quick question. Do you see the difference between WCAT, the tribunal, and workers' compensation, do you see them as the same group or a separate group?
MS. SARTY: I would have to say pretty much the same. I'm getting nowhere either way. What money I did get, I had to fight for everything that I did get and, if it was not for Mike Power, I likely would have seen nothing because I would not have known what to do or how to go about it myself.
MR. CORBETT: Thank you. That is all I wanted to know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Parker.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was going to ask about the nature of your injury and how you got hurt. Where did you work?
MS. SARTY: I worked at the Tops' L Tavern in Bridgewater. I was a cook. I went into work on May 30th, that afternoon at 4:00 p.m., and it was something after 6:00 p.m. that I went to put a turkey into the oven. I would say it was about 25 pounds. I just lifted the wrong way. It was an oven that, it was not one that was down. It was one that was up and
I had to lift the turkey up to put it in. It was a big oven. You could put more than one in, you know, a lot, and when I did it, it just put me right to the floor; I could not move.
MR. PARKER: Did you ever receive any on-the-job safety training, or in any type of workplace safety at all?
MS. SARTY: No.
MR. PARKER: Do you think that would be a good idea for workers in general?
MS. SARTY: Yes. Yes, it would.
MR. PARKER: Thank you.
MS. SARTY: I have been putting turkeys in an oven for a long time. I never thought that a turkey would ever put my back out and do this to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You never thought that putting a turkey in the oven would lead to being permanently disabled?
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You can be forgiven for that. Mr. Charles MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: You stated that your doctor made you quit. Was that because even going to school was interfering with your back?
MS. SARTY: I found it hard to sit for any amount of time. They told you that you could sit and stand - which I did do all of that - but you get up and you are walking around and, you know, doing all that other stuff, I mean how is that going to do your work in school? I was in his office more than what I was out - in the doctor's office - and he just said I could not participate anymore. If you do not take your doctor's advice, whose advice do you take?
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Yes. Thank you, Ms. Sarty.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any other members who have questions? Do any of our consultants have any questions?
Well, thank you very much for coming and telling your story today. It is very helpful to hear about different people and where their cases are in the system because it gives us a feel for the kinds of problems that are out there. We appreciate you taking the time to come in today to talk to us and we hope that you can stay for a little while and listen to some of the other presentations.
MS. SARTY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for coming in.
MS. SARTY: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is Mr. Harold Selig.
MR. HAROLD SELIG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for coming.
MR. SELIG: Some words I have to say today may not make you feel very good, but I am going to say them as an employer, a former employer, and an employee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. SELIG: I think the Workers' Compensation Board, in bold, plain English, has failed the workers of this province. The present rate the employers are paying is absolutely raping. It is creating unemployment and company cutbacks tremendously, with absolutely no benefit to employees whatsoever. You are going to hear this wherever you go. You are hearing it today, all kinds of it. People are not getting proper service and being looked after. I did not get it myself and I know. I had knee injuries. I waited four and one-half years. I could not work. I had to close up my business and put people out of work doing it. After four and one-half years and I got to be 65, I started to get a little bit of money out of them and that cut my Canada Pension, my Old Age Pension, I suffered on that. They helped me a great deal.
I think it is time that the Workers' Compensation Board be disbanded. I do not really believe it is serving the purpose that the people need in this country. Private enterprise can provide a lot better coverage for half the money you are asking employers to pay today, and it is a goddam shame, in plain English, that people such as yourselves can sit here, with more intelligence than I have, and cannot speak the truth and face it and do something about it. Government has done very little when they undertake things, costing the people of this province horrendous sums of money and a big debt with nothing to show for it. Workers' compensation has ended up in the same way.
I got treated like I was some kind of an outcast when I needed help. I lived on less than $800 a month for four and one-half years, you talk about living below the poverty line. I ran a business and had a fairly good lifestyle and it can ruin a person's life, high blood pressure, anxiety, and family suffering, because people up there who are supposed to be doing a job, you go up there to talk to these people and what do you get, a buffalo run-around. You get tribunals. You get hearings. You get this.
I was presented before a doctor up there at the workers' compensation offices in Halifax that right now is like a jail. You go in and they put a card in the door and they go around and they let you in another room, because workers of this province have been so damn fed up with such political meddling and misinterpretation of honesty that it is a crime. When are you people going to listen to the people who are trying to talk to you? They are not getting anything for the money they are paying. If you going to do something about it, look at what you got set up and how you are going to correct that; then you will do something for the people here.
I was on the receiving end of the stick. I had as many as 12 men hired under me and I did not hesitate to pay the compensation that I was asked, but I do know that I can buy insurance for income at a hell of a lot less money than what employers are forced right now to pay. I know they will get their money because insurance companies will pay it. They do not have to come down and spend time, waste their time, go to get lawyers. I daresay, Mr. Chairman, that the bureaucracy of the Workers' Compensation Board, the bureaucracy has cost almost half as much as they pay to the recipients that need it. What is wrong with it? It is too much government and politics and nothing down to earth. Before they will pay a man his wages, or decent wages to live on and survive, they will put him through hell and damnation. You ask him what he is going to do, how he is going to live. It cost me $27,000, between me and my wife, in four and one-half years for drugs, high blood pressure and everything else.
When I had my knees hurt, they said it is only a simple operation, you will be able to go back to work. I did not want compensation, so I went for surgery and then he says, I am sorry, but you are not going to work anymore. So they operated on my knees, said we did not do the right job, we have got to do it over. So I go back within two years, I get both knee replacements. The pain is not all over yet. I am retired now, but I am trying to start a business up for my family but, as far as compensation is concerned, it is for the birds and if you want to be honest with the people who you are asking questions from, tell them that it is just another exercise because, basically, that is exactly what they are likely to get. If the government had realized its responsibilities to the people of this province, we would not be in the damn mess we are in. You should not have to ask a stupid dummy like me. I have no education, but I always was willing to work.
I still say the Workers' Compensation Board has failed the province miserably. They cheated me out of money and, when I did get it, they took it out of my Old Age Pension. How do you win? How do you survive? Is the bureaucracy entitled to take all of it? Figure up what an employer pays in at $12.50 every $100 wages he pays, and what do the employees get out of it when they really face it and they are up against the wall. Hitler treated the Jews better than that. At least he put them out of their misery, but this government wants them to survive to pay HST. Now, I haven't got too much else to say, sir, and it is not very pleasant what I have got to say, but I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Selig. Our next presenter is Donna Penney, but just before you start, Mr. Power.
MR. POWER: Mr. Chairman, to you and the members of the committee, I have some recollection of having done work for Donna too.
MS. DONNA PENNEY: If you are worried about it, I am not . . .
MR. POWER: No, I am not worried about it.
MS. PENNEY: . . . about you being here, it does not bother me one bit in the world, so if it bothers you, you can leave.
MR. POWER: Thanks for clarifying it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are having Mr. Power's entire practice trotted in front of us today.
Thank you very much for coming. Where do you live, Ms. Penney?
MS. PENNEY: In Bridgewater.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And I take it you were an injured worker, is that correct?
MS. PENNEY: Yes, in 1979.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have a few preliminary questions for you. What was the date of your injury? Do you remember what . . .
MS. PENNEY: October, 1979.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What general type of injury did you suffer?
MS. PENNEY: I lifted a tray of fish and injured my arm.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where were you working at the time?
MS. PENNEY: At a fish plant at Riverport.
MR. CHAIRMAN: With respect to the injury that you suffered, I take it you have made application for workers' compensation?
MS. PENNEY: Yes, sir.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is your case still in the system? Are you still appealing and all that kind of stuff?
MS. PENNEY: No, I finished that five years ago. It took me five years to get something from workers' compensation. I appealed for five years; that is how that gentleman knows me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine. I take it you are in receipt of a compensation pension at present, are you?
MS. PENNEY: A permanent partial disability.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Fine, thank you. I guess those are all my questions that would pertain to you, so if you would like to make your presentation, please start.
MS. PENNEY: What I am here about is the Supplementary Benefit Program. I do not know, maybe you are not aware of it, but I would imagine, some of the qualifications I guess for the Supplementary Benefit Program is you must be receiving a monthly compensation pension; you must have a work-related injury before 1990; you must be under 65; your total personal income must be below $11,000 - which is my situation - and you must be receiving or be eligible to receive if not for lack of contributions to Canada Pension.
Now, I was right up there on all that list, not over 65, I was injured in 1979, so I applied for it. Well, I do know what the Workers' Compensation Board is all about; I spent five years with them. This gentleman represented me for quite awhile and then I was told by the Workers' Compensation Board that money ran out. So I went to appeal it myself and I was told I could not appeal myself; I needed a lawyer. I said, well, show me in your law book where it states that I need a lawyer. I appreciate what the workers' compensation did for me, that they paid for my lawyer, but until you show me in your book the law that states that I need a lawyer, I am the lawyer.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you were the lawyer?
MS. PENNEY: I was the lawyer. Five days later I had another lawyer. Two years later I won, not big, but nevertheless . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: What percentage disability did they assess you for?
MS. PENNEY: Thirty per cent. So after I applied for all this, then I received - well, the reason I don't receive Canada Pension is because, for lack of contributions. It is the reason why I don't receive it - I received a letter from the Workers' Compensation Board stating that they don't think I would have qualified to receive Canada Pension even if I did contribute enough.
I don't think that was a decision for the Workers' Compensation Board; I really don't. It is a no-win situation. They made a decision on my case, telling me that because, for lack of contributions to the Canada Pension, they don't think I would have gotten it. Well, it took me five years to convince them there was something wrong, to start off with. Three years, I had a lawyer. They took one away. Then I appealed it myself. All of a sudden, there was money for a lawyer again.
A doctor would send a report. I would call in, haven't got it. Mr. Power himself sent the letter, didn't have it. I know one particular time I said, you have no letter, no I don't. I said, okay. I went to the city, I went to the specialist, I asked him for a copy of the letter and I delivered it to the Workers' Compensation Board myself. Three days later, I called in and they told me they didn't have the letter.
I know what it is all about. I spent five years, five years, with it. So, for this Supplementary Benefit Program, I don't qualify because they don't think I would have qualified for Canada Pension.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now, did you appeal that decision that they made, where they said that you didn't qualify for the Supplementary Benefit Program?
MS. PENNEY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps you could . . .
MS. PENNEY: Well, I wrote them a letter and the lawyer told me that he didn't think it was going to be any good for him to write a letter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Who was your lawyer?
MS. PENNEY: Dempsey.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Mr. Dempsey, yes.
MS. PENNEY: I said, that is not good enough, but of course I can't afford a lawyer, but I can afford to write my own words, which I did.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Did you ever contact the Workers' Advisers Program in Halifax about having them represent you with respect to possibly appealing that decision?
MS. PENNEY: I did, and they told me that I had already had a lawyer.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay.
MS. PENNEY: Which I didn't understand. They sent me a pamphlet and I called that number and I said, why did you send me a pamphlet then? I assumed that that was why they had sent it to me, for me to call to get represented . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Right.
MS. PENNEY: . . . and they said, well you already had a lawyer, and I said, then why did you waste a stamp to send me the pamphlet? What was the idea of it? To let you know that we have that enforced. I said, well thank you. Nice to know that you have that. It is the same old story. It seems like they get you at every corner, every turn.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just a question for you. Have you appealed the decision yourself for . . .
MS. PENNEY: I have written, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have written saying you are dissatisfied with the decision?
MS. PENNEY: Oh, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am not going to talk legalese to you, but do you know what level or where in the system your . . .
MS. PENNEY: They told me the decision has been made and unless a doctor says that my injury has worsened, or I have paid into the Canada Pension and they make a decision that I could qualify, then they would look at it again, but like I told the guy I was talking to - Williamson or Williams, something like that - on the phone, I said, why should I apply for Canada Pension when I know for a fact that I have not, it is a lack of contribution, why apply for it? The paper came in the mail to send to the compensation saying why I would not get it, which I did, so why am I going to appeal to Canada Pension? I know myself, I didn't pay in enough. Why am I appealing to Canada Pension?
MR. CHAIRMAN: So you obviously feel that you are getting the run-around?
MS. PENNEY: Oh, I am definitely getting that one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now, Mr. Williamson you said, that was the gentleman you spoke to?
MS. PENNEY: Williamson or Williams.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay.
AN HON. MEMBER: Peter McWilliams, I think.
MS. PENNEY: Peter McWilliams, that is right.
MR. CHAIRMAN: He was the person who told you that unless you got . . .
MS. PENNEY: It is finished, basically.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Finished.
MS. PENNEY: In plain English, it is finished.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Did anybody at the Workers' Compensation Board explain to you what the test is for Canada disability, what qualifies you to get a Canada Pension Plan, not the contribution part, but what the qualifications are for a CPP?
MS. PENNEY: No. Mr. McWilliams said that I would have had to pay in a certain amount in order to receive Canada Pension. He asked me, did I pay it in? I said, why are you asking me, you must have the paper in front of you stating that I did not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So, no one talked to you about a prolonged disability or permanent disability or those kinds of phrases? Do you recall people talking to you about that?
MS. PENNEY: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Thank you. Members, do you have questions? Any of our consultants?
MR. LUC ERJAVEC: Just a clarification. Is it that you did not pay Canada Pension when you worked, or you weren't in the workforce long enough?
MS. PENNEY: I was not in the workforce long enough.
MR. ERJAVEC: Okay, because it is my understanding that it is a mandatory contribution, Canada Pension, but you did not work long enough?
MS. PENNEY: I did not work long enough to have paid in enough to receive Canada Pension.
MR. ERJAVEC: You just started a job and then you got injured?
MS. PENNEY: Yes.
MR. ERJAVEC: I understand. Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Power.
MR. POWER: We were just talking about that, about what contribution level she had been at, through CPP.
MS. PENNEY: Very little.
MR. POWER: Very little? I see.
MS. PENNEY: Some, not enough, or so I was told by Canada Pension.
MR. POWER: Just on that point, how long had you been employed with Riverport?
MS. PENNEY: Three months.
MR. POWER: Oh, it is just three months.
MS. PENNEY: I had just moved to Nova Scotia, and I had not worked before that. I worked at Bridgewater Motor Inn, it was then, for maybe three months while I was waiting for a job down there. It was only maybe five months in total. So I was told by Canada Pension, for lack of contribution, that was what was on the form that they sent me, and their letter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I don't believe there are any other questions. We really appreciate your coming here to make a presentation today. You are the first person, I think, who has this particular problem, so it is very useful that you came forward.
MS. PENNEY: Why in the letter do they say that, if they are going to change it, and tell me that the compensation told me that they think, it is their opinion that I would not have gotten it even if I had paid enough in?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand. Thank you very much for taking the time to come in today.
Our next presenter is Barb Dion.
MS. BARB DION: Good afternoon.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon. Ms. Dion, are you an injured worker who has had a problem with workers' compensation?
MS. DION: Oh, yes. One of the many.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Yes, you sure are. Can I ask a few preliminary questions, just to . . .
MS. DION: Certainly.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where do you live, Ms. Dion?
MS. DION: I live in Bridgewater, Bakers Settlement, actually.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What was the date of your injury?
MS. DION: June 4, 1997.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What in particular, what kind of injury did you suffer?
MS. DION: It was a back injury from lifting. I am a home support worker.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Who were you employed by?
MS. DION: Home Support Bridgewater.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine. You have a case in the workers' compensation system at the present time?
MS. DION: The second denial just came in last Friday.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Are you represented by a workers' adviser out of the Workers' Advisers Program in Halifax?
MS. DION: Do you know that I never even heard about them until last week. I was never told that there was such a thing. I was just left to flail around on my own.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. That takes care of a whole bunch of other questions that I would have had. That . . . .
MS. DION: Does that help a lot?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That does help a very great deal.
MS. DION: It certainly didn't do me any good.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It helps answer a whole bunch of my questions. Without any further ado then, if you would like to make your presentation.
MS. DION: Yes. I just came for obvious reasons, like everyone else. I don't feel that workers' compensation was set up for this. I still believe that the system can work with communication. You can't communicate with anyone if they won't talk to you.
I have been to see two different doctors. Dr. Yabsley - I was sent to him by workers' compensation - told me I was too big to fit in the CAT scan machine and refused to give me a CAT scan. I cried all the way home. I know I am big but, trust me, I did fit in the CAT scan machine; I have been there and fit in it with room to spare. This stalled all my paper work. I was cut off because of lack of medical information. I couldn't get it if I didn't get the proper doctoring to get it. My doctor neglected to make, I have two letters written up to the Medical Board about both of these doctors, so I am not shy to sit here and say these things.
It has been a bunch of rhetoric all the way along. Dr. Alexander said it was 10 to 15 per cent disabled, that I would not be able to go back to that job again. I know myself, I can't, or I would be at work. I am single, and I am in the middle of building a house. Why would I choose to go through this?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps you could just describe, for the benefit of the committee, the kind of work you did as a home support worker.
MS. DION: Well, I think what every typical home support worker does. We go in, we do laundry, we make beds, we bath, we change people, the whole gamut, we cook food for people, we do couples, we do bandages, we do diapers, we do everything.
Unfortunately, this lady was totally paralysed, and when I went to take her from the bed to the commode - she had a catheter - I thought I had stepped on her catheter because she made a ooh-uh-uh sound, and I looked down and lost my footing and just everything went. This was a year ago. From where I held onto her so tight, I still have the mark where my watch was. I wouldn't let her fall, therefore, I took the brunt of the transfer. I vomited and had to be taken out in a wheelchair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just thought that it would be helpful if you perhaps described the nature of your work. Thank you.
MS. DION: Yes. May I read you some of the things I think may be helpful with both parties? I wrote a few things down.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure.
MS. DION: I think the workers should be told right up front that there is a Workers' Advisers Program. As soon as the injury happens, we should be told, because we are just left to do it all ourselves.
The board should not be allowed to cut a worker off while they are under investigation and before all the reports are in. They shouldn't be allowed to do that. How the hell can they cut you off when they don't even know the extent of the injury - it is ridiculous - which they do.
The workers' compensation doctors shouldn't be allowed to overrule the specialist. Never; no matter what. Never. That is what he went to school for, he went to be a specialist.
Workers' compensation should not be allowed to coerce an injured worker into going back to work by telling them that they are going to be cut off. That should not be allowed. They shouldn't have the right. Who the hell are they? God? They don't have the right to do that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't mean to interrupt you but, in your particular situation, when you say coerced, can you just describe what happened in your particular situation?
MS. DION: Yes. As a matter of fact, the young man that worked for the board at the time, his name is Paul, he has since been fired. He always said your needs are, your needs are, you need this, and at one point in the conversation I said to him, you are not to tell me what I need. It is between God and me what I need. You don't need to tell me that I have to volunteer my time to get over this depression that I am in because I am working with these jokers. Don't tell me that. He was a very young man. I was not impressed, obviously.
He coerced me into going back to work. It was almost as if he was dangling it over my head. At this point, I was getting compensation. I went back to have a meeting with my boss and stated right then and there that I was not able to do the job without putting my clients at risk. I am working with 80, 90, 70 year olds, people who are sick. I cannot lift them out of a bathtub, if I get the excruciating pain and drop them, and put them at more risk. Let's face it, I am in a compromising situation here. There is no way that I can do that and I told him that, that I couldn't do it. I knew I couldn't; I can't even bend over to wipe my table without being in pain, and to have some snip, who just came out of school, sit there with his arrogant attitude was just so frustrating. It is unbelievable. I could go on, but I won't.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just wanted the information. Thank you.
MS. DION: I also say that nothing is solved without good communication, good communication between the Workers' Advisers Program, the injured worker, the lawyers. How can you communicate with these people when they are so verbally abusive? I found them really rude, to say the least. If they don't want to listen to you, they just choose to say, well, that is too bad, bye-bye, see you. I don't know what it is, I don't know where the communication breakdown has happened, or how that can be resolved, but I am sure that it can be. I am sure that there could be better communication, and then maybe we wouldn't have to have this. Everything is solved with communication. I don't want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. That is why I came here today. How can we do that?
I have been told that workers' compensation has given the government $1 million, monies to pay off the deficit. Does anybody know about that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think I can tell you with some assurance that the workers' compensation system is not giving the government any money. I think you may be confusing it with the employment insurance system. The employment insurance system, I believe, has a surplus, and I think that is where you are confusing it. In fact, . . .
MS. DION: I just thought if they had so much money, why weren't they hiring more people to . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think, just for your information, there is a deficit and Mr. Selig, one of the presenters earlier, referred to it. There is a deficit in the fund; in other words, the liabilities of the fund exceed its assets. Just for your information.
MS. DION: I was just wondering, I had heard that and didn't know if it was fact or fiction.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is somewhat confusing, because people do talk about the surplus in the employment insurance fund.
MS. DION: Well, if they have so much there, why don't they put it over there?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You will have to ask the federal government that. We would love them to give some of their money to us.
MS. DION: Why don't we just try to trade-off a bit? Make everybody happy.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It would make us happy.
MS. DION: I always thought the workers' compensation was set up for employees and employers, but I never ever realized that it was set up just to give people jobs in workers' compensation. I never, ever, realized that. I am, like the gentleman who was up earlier, very verbally strong . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think you are referring to Mr. Selig.
MS. DION: Yes. I felt he had to be applauded. I am with him as well, I feel that so much has to be done. There are so many changes. I am, myself, right now living on an income of $118 a month from Social Services, which has taken my dignity, my pride, and I have never, ever in my life had to go to a food bank, never, and I sure don't like being there today.
Home support, I am sure you have lots of injured workers from home support. I feel that maybe a change could be made because I know the environment is conducive to injuries: small bedrooms, small bathrooms, wheelchairs, paralysed people. They are sending people home from the hospitals - there, for the grace of God, go you and I - very quickly now. People just don't have time to recuperate, and they send them home, and the home support worker is there to pick up the pieces.
The government is not giving us the medical care that we deserve, as we all know - that is another bag of snakes - but I think maybe they should have four workers for the workers of the home support program, they should have maybe a board or people to go in and look over the environment - maybe even just two people, or one person, it doesn't make any difference - to go in and look over the home to find out what isn't safe, and what is safe, and to change what isn't, without making us go in there and do things that, it is just set up for accidents.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you feel, in your particular case, that was a factor, or was it just . . .
MS. DION: Oh, yes, absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Charles] MacDonald has a question.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just on that fact. You were one person trying to deal with a totally handicapped individual . . .
MS. DION: Yes.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: . . . and get them, I take it this one was from the bed to the wheelchair?
MS. DION: Yes, she is totally paralysed. She and her husband, I was looking after both. Yes, she was totally paralysed, she had a stroke on one side and the other side had gone. She had had convulsions many times.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Home care, when you get total care, total care shouldn't be in home care, in a sense.
MS. DION: That is it. Her husband was also a very bad diabetic with numerous medical problems. I went in there two hours a day. I had to cook their meals, make their beds, do their wash, transfer her, bath her, clean her, change her. Two hours a day, I was doing heavy running with a lot on my mind. There just wasn't enough time. So that is home care as well, sometimes not enough time.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: In other words, you were flat out.
MS. DION: Flat out. When I went in there, I was flat out. I was cooking, I put some potatoes on - I had to cook their meals, he didn't know how to cook, and she was paralysed - I was totally flat out the whole time I was in there. Things happen when you are in a hurry as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Charles] MacDonald, do you have any more questions?
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: No. I would think it is next to impossible for one single person to be working in that type of situation.
MS. DION: Well, I wish I wouldn't have been there on June 4th. There are two days I regret: one was my wedding; this was the other one. (Laughter) If I could change either one, trust me, I would be gone. But, if they ever do set up a program that would help, anything for the workers of home support, I would be grateful if you put my name on the list so that I could be helpful. I thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate you coming in today.
MS. DION: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Dion, there is a gentleman here who has a question for you, I didn't see him out of the corner of my eye.
MR. ERJAVEC: It is not so much a question as a comment, and I didn't want to interrupt when you and the chairman were having a discussion, so I looked at my notes and, in actual fact, the claim you made about workers' compensation giving money to help the deficit, according to my notes are somewhat true. When I look at . . .
MS. DION: Yes. I have heard that too; it was on the Internet actually.
MR. ERJAVEC: Yes, because when I look at the 1997-98 budget for the Occupational Health and Safety, it was roughly $3 million: workers' compensation gave $1.2 million, and the Government of Nova Scotia gave $2 million. When you look at the 1998-99 budget . . .
MS. DION: So that is where our money is going.
MR. ERJAVEC: Yes. It is increasing to $5 million . . .
MS. DION: I know that. I saw it on the Internet.
MR. ERJAVEC: . . . and government has pulled their contribution away, so it is 100 per cent funded by workers' compensation so, in effect, they are helping the budget by $2 million.
MS. DION: Thank you for being truthful. Now we know where our money is going, but the point is, if they have an extra number of dollars and monies to give to the government, why has it not been productive and given to the workers, the injured workers? Why? Why can't anybody tell us that? We have no answers. You don't have any answers. Nobody has any answers.
So, see, you were fibbing, because it was given . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, I am going to have an argument . . .
MS. DION: It was on the Internet.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. I am going to just clarify something. The workers' compensation - what Mr. Erjavec was referring to is the Workers' Compensation Program - contributes to the Occupational Health and Safety Program of the Province of Nova Scotia . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: What about contributing toward the people . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN; No, no, I am not, please . . .
MS. DION: What is it contributed to, sir?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Occupational Health and Safety Program, where they go and inspect work sites to make sure that they are safe.
MS. DION: Oh.
MS. VEINOTTE: Why don't they do that then?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is a very good question, and that is obviously part of our mandate to look at that. But just to clarify that, because you may have gotten the impression that there is a surplus going out of the fund every year that is being used to pay down the deficit of Nova Scotia, and that is just not true. No fibbing, nothing else.
The problem, of course, is that there is an Occupational Health and Safety Program, which maybe should be conducted by the Workers' Compensation Board, maybe by someone else. That is the money that is going to the Department of Labour. That is $5 million, approximate numbers.
MS. DION: But it was, there was $1 million or so given towards the deficit. Right?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. That is not . . .
MR. ERJAVEC: Excuse me, if I, I wasn't . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think Mr. Erjavec has given the impression that that money has been used to pay down the deficit.
MR. ERJAVEC: No. Don't misunderstand me. What I am saying is that employers' contributions from workers' compensation are given to the Department of Labour. Workers' compensation does not have money to spare. I apologize, Mr. Chairman, that was not what I meant, I am sorry.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think you were getting the wrong impression from his comments. It is not being used to pay down the deficit; that is absolutely not true.
MS. VEINOTTE: Excuse me, Mr. Baker, are you saying that the Department of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety are the same thing?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Department of Labour, a part of that department is the Occupational Health and Safety branch. So, what . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: That is scary, because they don't do anything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, that is exactly . . .
MS. VEINOTTE: . . . and it didn't even come out.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is a very good point, and one of the things, because there is funding going from Workers' Compensation Board, premiums that are collected, which are going to the Occupational Health and Safety branch, that is something that our committee, looking at the Workers' Compensation Act, has the power, I suppose, to consider. It is a very valid point. I just wanted to make sure that you understood, what I was saying and what he was saying as not contradictory.
MS. DION: No. All right. You just didn't want to be called a fibber. I apologize.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
MS. VEINOTTE: . . . make a statement?
MR. CHAIRMAN; Yes, Ms. Dion, if there are no other questions, I think this lady would like to come back up for a second. Thank you.
MS. DION: Yes, I am totally finished. Yes, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MS. VEINOTTE: Didn't workers' compensation make a comment in the paper . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you like to come up to the microphone? It is just that our technical people prefer that.
MS. VEINOTTE: Didn't workers' compensation make a statement in The Chronicle-Herald that they could well absorb the cost, because of not paying claims and not paying people, they had lots of funds?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Repeat that again, I just want to make sure I understand.
MS. VEINOTTE: Didn't workers' compensation make a statement to the Halifax Herald - I could have brought it in to you - that they could absorb the cost of these claims that weren't being paid, because no one had been paid for so many years, and they had lots of funds on hand? I have a copy of that at home. If that is true, that is sad. To think that we are home losing our dignity and a bunch of people are actually sitting there, getting their pay, going on maternity leaves, getting paid, while I am sitting home suffering for that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps I could make a comment, because I think it would be useful for everyone in the room. The purpose of this committee is, I can assure you, not to try to whitewash whatever has been going on at the Workers' Compensation Board.
MS. VEINOTTE: That is what we have to do sir, if we want to change it; it is a mess.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is right. That is my point. Frankly, the reason the members of the Legislature who are here today on the committee are here is because we realize there are problems in the system. If we didn't think there were problems in the system, the Legislature wouldn't have struck a committee, and wouldn't be sending us around the Province of Nova Scotia to hear from folks like you who have very legitimate concerns about the way they have been treated.
I can assure you we are not part of the Workers' Compensation Board or the workers' compensation system. That is why I, and the other members of the committee, appreciate that you took the time to come out today - and the other people who have made presentations - to tell us how the system has failed you. From looking at the way that it has failed you and other people, we can look at ways to make the system better.
Your recommendations, and the purpose of the committee, is to make recommendations on how to improve the legislation. I don't know if any other committee members have any other comments.
MS. VEINOTTE: I was told that two years ago, from members of Parliament, and is this going to be another two-year thing?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage wants to say something but, before I turn it over to Mr. Fage, I will make one comment. The purpose of our committee is hopefully to make a recommendation to the Legislative Assembly for the fall sitting, which starts in October of this year. I don't think it is anybody's plan here to allow this to go for two years, or even a fraction of that. The idea is to try to address some of the problems quickly, which has not been the case.
MR. FAGE: Thank you. I just wanted to state emphatically, we are members of the Legislature, we cannot speak on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Board or can we really comment on their actions. We are here to hear your comments, gather that information, and we are charged with, hopefully, bringing forward legislation that the House will pass to address some of the concerns that you are telling us. That is the purpose of our being here today, to hear your problems and see if we can find a legislative solution to allow decisions to be made and move this situation forward.
MS. VEINOTTE: But don't you feel a little ashamed to think that, in our province, we have a body of people actually carrying something like this on, and it has been let go for so long? So many people are suffering and in pain. It is going on. I hope that you can do something for us. But this has gone on so long, where was government all these years? They knew this was going on.
I know you can't answer that. Surely there has to be somebody here with compassion to be able to change something in this system, because this is not using people like we are people. They are using, well, I am like an old horse put out to pasture, after I have worked my years. That makes me very sad - after I have worked for a government for 18 years - very sad to think that they would use me like that, especially when they can be pensioned off, and here I am left with nothing after being hurt.
Grant you, I might seem annoyed, I might seem hurt; I am. I am not taking it out on any one of you here, but you have positions of people that have let this go on for so long and maybe we finally have a committee that can do something for us.
MR. DEWOLFE: We hope so.
MR. FAGE: The number of years you have dealt with your situation - and all of you have - the frustration level must be unbelievably high with each and every one of you. Some closure, determination of the situation is imperative. Hopefully, this committee can help in that regard, that legislation or changes can be found that will help address that. That is our hope and our task.
MS. VEINOTTE: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do any of the other committee members have any comments they would like to make at the present time? If not, I believe we have finished our scheduled presenters, I don't know if there is anyone else who has a presentation, who would like to come forward at the present time. We are back here this evening at 7:00 o'clock. By all means, we encourage all the members of the public who were here this afternoon to attend this evening's presentations. Thank you very much for coming.
We stand adjourned until 7:00 o'clock.
[4:49 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[7:03 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: I welcome you to the evening session of the Select Committee on Workers' Compensation. For those of you who were not here this afternoon, I want to explain that the purpose of the select committee doing the hearings throughout Nova Scotia is to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to present their views on the workers' compensation system in an effort that this committee can provide a report to the Legislature, at the fall sitting of the Legislature, in an effort to amend the Act, regulations and policies in order that the system provide better service to Nova Scotians.
We, of course, as part of that process are glad to hear from people who have had dealings with or are having dealings with the workers' compensation system in an effort to learn better what is working and what is not working. We, obviously, heard some of the problems earlier today. Of course, as I indicated earlier today, we are not an appeal body, so that by telling your stories to us here today we cannot effect change necessarily in your case, or in a person's case. What we can do though is look at the overall rules as it affects you.
I am going to ask the members of the committee to introduce themselves again in case some of you were not here earlier today.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
[Gordon Johnson, Legislative Counsel, introduced himself.]
[The committee consultants introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. At this time I would like to take the opportunity to ask Mr. Coady Robar to come forward, please. Mr. Robar, I just wanted to explain that we are trying to keep our presentations to 15 minutes in an effort to allow everybody to be heard and, if you are getting close to the end of your 15 minutes, I will caution you, but it is not designed to cut you off. We just want to try to keep most of the presentations to that length. So, without any further ado, Mr. Robar, I would ask you to give us your views.
MR. COADY ROBAR: This is involved with the Department of Labour. I worked in the woods ever since I was 14 years old. So the Department of Labour, in 1991, sent a safety instructor in to teach me to work without getting hurt. He was there three days and he fell a tree on me. I had a fractured right shoulder, the seventh vertebra broke off. I lost bones out of my mouth and you cannot seem to get nobody to do anything. As far as the Workers' Compensation Board, they are just bouncing you around.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What was the date of your injury, Mr. Robar?
MR. ROBAR: August 29, 1991.
MR. CHAIRMAN: By whom were you employed at that time?
MR. ROBAR: Murray Robar, in Springfield.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The instructor who was sent there to show you safe forestry practices, perhaps you could just tell us briefly about how it happened that you had the tree felled on you?
MR. ROBAR: Well, the tree was 16 inches on the stump and 70 feet long. It was a leaning tree. I told him not to cut it because I was working at one and, I said when I am done with this one, I will fall that tree, and while one of you was standing there dressing it, me and another fellow can go back and start on another load. I told him not to cut it and he said, no, I will not. So I didn't pay no attention to it. I was working along my tree and the first thing, down I go. I told Gary Ramey, I said I have been here ever since I was 14 years old, in the woods - and I was 42 when I got hurt - I said I don't need that. I said I have forgot more than what you fellows will ever learn. Well, you either do it or go home, that's the words I got.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Better to go home.
MR. ROBAR: I could have took five years off for the money I lost.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So after the accident, perhaps you could indicate what your experience was with the workers' compensation system.
MR. ROBAR: Well, first going off, I took three months therapy in Bridgewater. The workers' compensation paid me for four months. They cut me off - it's a long ways back, I forget a lot - so then they figured, January 6th, I should try it back in the woods, so I went back. I got a day and a half out of it. I ended up in the rehab in Halifax for three months, and going in there and coming back off what money I could scrounge up, and the workers' compensation would not even look after that then.
When I got hurt, my teeth was broken off. I could not eat nothing, potatoes with cream on, macaroni and tomato, that was four and a half months before I could sit down and eat a half-decent meal. It didn't seem to bother them fellows any. As far as the Workers' Compensation Board, they caused more mental damage than what they do help, because you just go right into deep depression. It doesn't seem to bother them at all.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You indicated you were cut off. Why were you cut off after four months?
MR. ROBAR: Everybody is cut off after four months. I wasn't the only one. I went into rehab, I think, in April. July 3rd, they told me to come home. The Workers' Compensation Board still wasn't paying me then. Then they sent me down to Noel for assessment, Lunenburg, taking therapy. I was there three months. It bothered me so bad about taking therapy, so then my doctor just cut me right off. I couldn't go for therapy any more, because it bothered me too much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Was compensation paying you any benefits during this period of time?
MR. ROBAR: At that time, they were, yes, and they paid my room and board down there. But then when I got done down there, they cut me off again. Then you just had to go through hearings.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What reason were you given when you were cut off from benefits?
MR. ROBAR: Wasn't eligible for it. I still have the seventh vertebra broke off my neck, muscle damage and nerve damage. Since I got hurt, I have been in the hospital three times with my heart. It just gets right out of rhythm, it is just the stress. Two months ago, I had to get the ambulance to come to the house and get me. It is just too much stress. It does drive you. As I said, they cause more mental damage, than they do help. What I can't understand, you hear about the Department of Labour suing this company or this outfit for unsafe conditions, but this one here, you don't hear anything about.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What suggestions would you have, Mr. Robar, on how the system could be fixed so that it would have worked better in your case and for other people like you?
MR. ROBAR: As far as the compensation, all they have to do is go by the doctor's reports. If they get all the medical reports from this doctor and that one, get doctors that are going to be honest, then they should start paying. Money is not going to make a difference in anybody's life, but you need it to survive. There are people with families, they have to go to school, they have to have good clothes to wear, stuff in the lunch kettle. My young fellow went to school with holes in his sneakers, couldn't afford to buy a pair, on account of Gary Ramey.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you receiving a pension now from the Workers' Compensation Board?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you receiving an income replacement pension or is it based on a percentage?
MR. ROBAR: It is a rehabilitation benefit, lost wages. I receive that. I get Canada Pension. If the Canada Pension classed you as disabled, why doesn't the Workers' Compensation Board? If you get Canada Pension, and you are eligible to go out and earn so much, then they are going to keep it off your Canada Pension. You are losing both ways. Who is going to hire anybody if they can't do anything? I did two jobs. One in Halifax and one here in Bridgewater. I passed out 269 résumés, and went around asking for light jobs. The word you get, we don't need cripples here. I wasn't crippled until the Department of Labour got done with me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Robar, some of the members of the committee may have some questions for you. I will open it up for questions from the committee. Mr. Parker.
MR. PARKER: Mr. Robar, I understand where you are coming from. The inspector or the trainer, I guess, from the Department of Labour, did he take any responsibility for the accident, or did the department itself take any responsibility?
MR. ROBAR: None at all.
MR. PARKER: He was on the job too, working, but he caused the accident.
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. PARKER: It is a different situation than a normal workplace injury; by the sound of it, it was actually under the department's training programs. Was there any special consideration in your case, because of that?
MR. ROBAR: None at all. I was never used any better than anybody else that got hurt. The Department of Labour paid him $100 a day plus expenses to come down from Cape Breton, to teach me how to work. He wasn't fit to be in the woods. As far as the Department of Labour, I never heard anything.
MR. PARKER: Is he still employed with the Department of Labour?
MR. ROBAR: No, he is not. Not the fellow who felled the tree on me, he isn't. He had another incident, he cut a fellow in the ankle, so then they decided to get rid of him. In my opinion, instead of the Department of Labour sending someone to teach me what to do, they should have made sure he knew what he was doing. My opinion of it is, he sent that man down there so that he could learn from us, to go back to Cape Breton, so he could do it up there. It is just a scheme for them to come down here and do it, and get paid for it.
MR. PARKER: Do you think there is some merit in the idea of training forestry workers to make sure that there are safe working conditions, or is there another better way to do it?
MR. ROBAR: Well, nobody wants to get hurt. You take a chance on getting killed when a tree goes on you. They came out with the earmuffs, they came out with the screams, and they said they stood there and hollered. You can't hear anything. You wear the earmuffs, so you don't hear anything. Then they have you half blind, you can't see. People have only three things to protect themselves with, hearing, smell and sight, the same as an animal in the woods. You take one away, you ruin the others. Nobody wants to get hurt.
MR. PARKER: No, I am sure of that.
MR. ROBAR: I didn't. If I had been killed, I think I would have been a whole lot more satisfied, because what I went through since 1991, it is not worth it. Life has no meaning. If you can't work, what can you plan for?
MR. PARKER: Okay, thanks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Robar, I think we can all appreciate the seriousness of your injuries, and also the dangers involved in your type of employment. I would be interested to know if the gentleman from the Department of Labour filed an accident report. Do you know if there was any report?
MR. ROBAR: I can't answer that.
MR. DEWOLFE: There should have been an accident report filed.
MR. ROBAR: I know my employer filed an accident form. He had to file one for the Workers' Compensation Board.
MR. DEWOLFE: Was there any blame in the report, aimed at the gentleman?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. DEWOLFE: There was. You have a copy of that?
MR. ROBAR: I have a letter here in my pocket, Gary Ramey's testimony. He advised that the instructor was not qualified. It was kind of late to find that out.
MR. DEWOLFE: But you have never seen anything from the instructor?
MR. ROBAR: Never saw a thing, no.
MR. DEWOLFE: Any reports? So you don't know what that side of the story might be?
MR. ROBAR: No. There you go. There are always two sides to every story.
MR. DEWOLFE: Yes. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Good evening, Mr. Robar. My questions centre around your situation right now. Do you currently have an appeal? I know you said you are recieving benefits, but are you appealing for more benefits? What is the situation that you find yourself in?
MR. ROBAR: I am appealing, my lawyer is going for total disability, because I have damage in my neck and shoulders and stuff.
MR. FAGE: Have they given you the percentage that they currently have you disabled at this point?
MR. ROBAR: They have me down as 5 per cent. On June 24th, we had a hearing here. I called yesterday, they said there was no medical on file for me to be disabled. But I have the letter here in my pocket, what my doctor was talking about. The way it is with compensation, I take notice of that stuff, but I don't say anything, which I should. There is stuff my doctor was talking about that is not in this letter. So if it is not on file, the Workers' Compensation Board is not putting it on file.
MR. FAGE: Okay. Thank you very much.
MR. ROBAR: You are welcome.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anyone else? Do any of the members of the consultants have any questions for Mr. Robar?
Thank you very much for coming out this evening, Mr. Robar, and telling us your story. One last question for you. You said that you have appealed, and you have a lawyer through the Workers' Advisers Program, do you?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And . . .
MR. ROBAR: Excuse me, would you repeat that, please?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your lawyer, are you paying your lawyer directly, or is it someone through the Workers' Advisers Program in Halifax?
MR. ROBAR: I have a lawyer, and he is doing it on consignment. Walton Cook.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have retained your own private lawyer to represent you?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. That is fine, and your case at the moment, you said it has been appealed, but that you lost the last level of appeal because they said there was medical evidence that wasn't in your file?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you know what level of appeal you go to from here? That may be a question that you may not know the answer to.
MR. ROBAR: No. I do not know the answer to that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Robar, for taking the time to come out and tell us your story. (Interruption) Oh, yes, all right, Ms. Godin.
MS. GODIN: Sorry, I am not clear on something. Mr. Robar, are you aware of the Workers' Advisers Program?
MR. ROBAR: No, I am not.
MS. GODIN: So you are paying, you have a lawyer of your own?
MR. ROBAR: Yes.
MS. GODIN: Okay. I believe, at the back of the room, there is some information about the Workers' Advisers Program; you might want to pick it up. It is a program that is separate from the WCB and, if you call that number, you might be able to get some information that might help you get through the system.
MR. ROBAR: Thank you. I will look when I go back and pick some up.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: The extent of your injury, Mr. Robar, you indicated to me before, was it five discs that were damaged?
MR. ROBAR: One.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: One?
MR. ROBAR: One disc, the seventh vertebra.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: The seventh vertebra, was it?
MR. ROBAR: Yes. The tip is broken off of it.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. ROBAR: But there is other damage in there; there has to be. If it hit hard enough to break the bone, it had to do other damage somewhere along the line. I know there is damage in there, because I am the one who is doing the suffering.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you again, Mr. Robar, for coming here this evening. I hope you will be able to stay here this evening for the rest of the presentations.
MR. ROBAR: I am going to try to stay. Thank you fellows for listening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for coming.
Our next presenter is Peggy Hancock. Ms. Hancock. Good evening.
MS. PEGGY HANCOCK: Good evening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Whenever you are ready.
MS. HANCOCK: Just a moment please.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Take your time.
MS. HANCOCK: Sure. I will do that. I am ready. I have my pen.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Go ahead.
MS. HANCOCK: I would like to address some issues that are on the floor tonight, as well as prior to this night. Hopefully, this night will accomplish something for workers who are injured on the job. I would like to address some of the draft that I see that you have compiled here together. There are some issues in this that I think need to be . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: . . . I just want to correct you.
MS. HANCOCK: Sure.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We didn't compile that draft.
MS. HANCOCK: So where did you . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: We didn't compile the draft. That is a draft bill that the government prepared and it is purely there as an information piece, okay?
MS. HANCOCK: Guideline.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are certainly free to address it, but I just want to let you know that that draft was not compiled by the committee.
MS. HANCOCK: Who compiled it on your behalf?
MR. CHAIRMAN: It was not introduced in the House. It is purely a discussion document that was prepared for the purpose of the hearings. You are certainly welcome to comment on it because that is a useful thing to do, but I just wanted to make it clear for the record that certainly this committee is not advocating that particular bill as a solution.
MR. CORBETT: I think it is important to say, too, Mr. Chairman, that we weren't involved in drafting that either. It is extremely important to say that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It wasn't prepared for the hearings, no.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay, when you say that this was drafted, who drafted this particular paper?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am sorry. Just for the record, if you could indicate your name and where you live?
MS. HANCOCK: I was waiting for that, sorry. My name is Peggy Hancock.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, and where do you live?
MS. HANCOCK: I live in Pleasantville, in this area.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, I know where Pleasantville is. That is fine.
Just for your information, at the last session of the Legislature, at the end of that session, that document had, I guess, been drafted to some extent by the Workers' Compensation Board and it came out; it was only a discussion paper, for lack of a better way of describing it. It is not being touted by the committee or it certainly wasn't introduced by the government in the House or anything of that kind. So I want to make it perfectly clear to you that while you are free to comment on that - in fact, that may be a very good thing to do - you won't be insulting anybody here if you criticize it.
MS. HANCOCK: That is okay. What I would like to ask is, though, this particular draft by WCB, the board itself compiled this to the minister, is that . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: The minister, himself, or the department would have come forward with that as a draft.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay, so he compiled this information as in regard to workers' compensation, Workers' Advisers Program or WCAT. This is his information that was portrayed to the House, his draft?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, it has not been portrayed to the House, that is my point.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay, this hasn't even been to the House then?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, that is right. That is the point we are trying to make, that this is not government legislation that has been introduced. I am trying to make that perfectly clear that that is not. You shouldn't beat the Minister of Labour over the head too hard with that because it was done as a discussion document to give people like yourself something to look at and assist them in commenting on what changes they thought should be made.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay, fair is fair. I am just going to flip through some of these papers here. I have made some submissions. Whatever questions you may or may not have, I am here representing a group as well as my husband, who is an injured worker.
MR. CHAIRMAN: And the group you represent?
MS. HANCOCK: Just a variety of injured workers. I could sit here and list their names if you really needed them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be fine if you want to or, if you don't want to, that is up to you.
MS. HANCOCK: I will just leave it. If it is necessary down the road, I can certainly provide that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine, thank you.
MS. HANCOCK: The addressing that I am having concern with in regard to our WCB, our issues, they have been on the table, on the floor, they have been in and out of Congress - well, not Congress - our House, and what I would like to address today and tonight is what it is doing to our families of Nova Scotia. That is what you are here for. Am I under that same impression?
So now it is a public inquiry and it is back to the public. Obviously, it didn't get where it needed to go in the House, to be addressed, because this particular paper is, as you said, drafted by the minister, who is Russell MacKinnon. Now there were no public inquiries outside of these few brief meetings that you are conducting in Nova Scotia. There has been more documented paper from a lot of sectors, business as well as employment, employers, in regard to the handling of WCB.
I am going to have a lot of comments, as well as a variety of questions that I may or may not put to the panel which I don't know if you are able to answer them or not, so you will let me know if I will get an answer or not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will let you know.
MS. HANCOCK: There are some specific news releases. Am I permitted to allow those to come to the floor tonight?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have very broad rules, within limits, but, yes, if you think it is something that would help us in doing our job, that is what we are here for.
MS. HANCOCK: That is what I am here for. The first change to the Workers' Compensation Act is the appeal system. You are going through possibly 20 levels of bureaucrats and more PR that is put in place, as well as the medical profession. I am not saying it is not beneficial, okay, I am saying that conclusive evidence in regard to the medical aspect under WCB, it is not specific enough to separate the physicians out there in the public sector as well as the internal boards of WCB because they are able to overrule them, override them, they don't even recognize them. WCB's position from what I found, or what I have dealt with or what I have seen in a variety of different cases that I have read, is pure antics. You can call it stalling, you can call it creating carnage, you can call it whatever you really choose to. It depends on which page you are reading from.
The law sector, however, is beneficial in some aspects but right now it is the appeals process and obviously that is a backlog and an issue as we speak. That is one. I feel that that should be changed directly to help the injured workers, sometimes not in full knowledge of the actual system on what is able to be accessed out there. I was first involved in a situation, which I still am 10 years later, that has not had any closure. It seems like it is only beginning, just like every new day.
There are some issues in the Act that is proposed here that I have read briefly, and I have read this paper before, on hearing officers, the Appeals Tribunal, adjudicators. It is like you have to go through how many people to get, you know, you feel like you should walk into the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and hopefully the judge on the bench won't be swayed
because of money that has already been given in premiums to accommodate these unfortunate people. That money paid from companies, which are good premiums, we have the second in Canada, I believe, isn't it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The second highest in Canada, yes.
MS. HANCOCK: I was told that by Don Downe, himself. Number one is Newfoundland, from what I understand.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is right. I think we are number two, yes, I believe.
MS. HANCOCK: We are number two. I just wanted some feedback here, okay? From what I found, in dealing with companies, and I have met with Clearwater, and that is the employer my husband was with at the time he was injured. I met with Clearwater and he told me, accurate figures from his books - which was really none of my business but he produced them for me, anyway - it is $3 million a year. I don't know the ratios on what WCB actually does with this money, I don't really care. I know that it goes to health, to meds or whatever per se, the guidelines to help injured workers either go back into the workforce or have a PMI charting or rating for a degree of long term, there is short term, there is a variety of things in those premiums that employers pay you.
Within the last couple of years, that has changed to a social program. The premiums that are paid to WCB now is a social program. Why I say that is because income tax guidelines provide certain codes and rates on the actual employer in regard to if it is an accident-prone environment; if it is not, that falls under the Department of Labour. Anyway, this social approach that has been labelled from these premiums to people like myself and my husband, $3 million, it is 10 per cent that is claiming that and that isn't necessarily a long term. So out of $3 million that one firm, Clearwater, pays, there is less than 10 per cent receiving benefits.
When I say, receiving benefits, I am hoping he didn't really accurately say that, but that it is new applicants as opposed to the old applicants. I think that is money that has already been spent in government that needs to come back to us, the injured workers. Whatever ratio you do, 85 per cent of or 65 per cent of, I don't know. They change every time. Indexing, there are a lot of things that apply with those and I do realize that.
There are amendments that are brought forth that the minister has addressed that are imperative to changes. There is calculation of benefits. As you see, I have brought forth a piece of paper in my submission that for a decline in a reinstatement, the section that was noted was calculation of benefits, Section 37. Now when you apply for a reinstatement, the Section 37 has nothing to do with reinstatement. It has to do with calculation of benefits. That is just one situation of a lot of many and that is the most recent that I have given you, that are
just absolutely unheard of. I am pretty fair and sensible that when I read the Act I don't see where reinstatement comes into Section 37.
There are a variety of things that don't apply to me, survivors pension, a variety of different things like that. There is a note here where the Auditor General - Roy Salmon is . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Roy Salmon is the Auditor General.
MS. HANCOCK: Which one?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, no. None of these gentlemen over here are the Auditor General. Maybe one of them will be in the future but not today.
MS. HANCOCK: I noted in here that he is going to be paid because of conducting an audit out the accident fund. Is that an accident fund from WCB that he is getting payment out of to do this audit from? Am I reading this incorrectly?
MR. CHAIRMAN: If you are referring to the Auditor General conducting an audit of the Workers' Compensation Board, the Auditor General is given certain funds to carry out assessments, so he is doing that. He is doing an audit of the board and he will be doing a separate report to the Legislature on his audit. I am not sure what you are referring to so I don't want to go any further.
MS. HANCOCK: I will read it to you then. It says, Clause 11 provides that all expenses incurred by the Auditor General, when conducting an audit with respect to any matter relating to Part I or Part II of this Act, which is, I am assuming, the revision part of what he is looking at, is coming out of the accident fund.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think you are looking at the draft bill.
MS. HANCOCK: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I suppose if that draft were made law, yes, it is sort of a what if thing, yes, exactly.
MS. HANCOCK: Now this particular audit that he is conducting now, recently he was prompted to do this, he made one in 1996 and that audit, in relation to the particular audit he did a couple of years ago to today, the changes that are going to occur with that particular audit, because the rules changed in 1996. In some cases it was beneficial and in some not but the audit he is doing today is based on what? Is he going to review the audit he has already done or is he going to just do an open-face audit?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't want to get into the job of trying to answer for the Auditor General but my understanding is that the Auditor General would be looking at the practices and procedures of the Workers' Compensation Board.
MS. HANCOCK: So it is not as in money, it is as in practices and procedures.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's right. The Auditor General's focus is the way the board conducts its business. Our mandate is, I suppose, broader, if you would call it that because obviously the Auditor General cannot pass laws, that is up to the Legislature. So the select committee was struck because it is up to us to recommend changes to the laws themselves. I don't want to get carried away and answer too many questions because that is a dangerous game but I think that helps. The select committee and the Auditor General are, to some extent, doing different things. He is going to do more in-depth study than obviously we could do.
MS. HANCOCK: But how much more in-depth of a study can he do from just doing one two years ago and when was the one before that one done?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The answer to that, I just don't know. The Auditor General's function is how well the money is spent, he did one in 1996, I expect that he may be looking at how things have changed since 1996, too, whether it is being done better, worse. I think some people in the room have opinions on that but that is obviously . . .
MS. HANCOCK: Well, that is why you are here, because we have been opinionated. We have come forward and said, this is enough. People don't choose to live in a poverty setting or a welfare mentality if that is not where they come from and if they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time to be hurt, it could be you or I, it could be your son, it could be your daughter. I am not going to put any puns in but it could be anybody and because you are in management to bring back what you have found in the Province of Nova Scotia and from Nova Scotians, from people like me, to bring back and say, okay, this lady said this, this lady said that but from what I am sitting back there and listening, I am hearing a lot of the same story, some good, some bad. I don't think that the people, like me, or the people behind me and some I don't even know, that the treatment and the taste that the WCB leaves in the mouths of the people out there that are in this situation. Depending on the criteria level of the degree of impairment or disability, that is a judgement call and I can perfectly honestly appreciate that and particulars to recognizing an arm or a price for a leg.
My car insurance is working better than WCB right now and that is pretty poor when the employer has to pay for guidelines to have a company or to accommodate employees to work for them. It is premiums that companies have to pay out there and they are not aware of what this is doing in regard to WCB. I can appreciate the business aspect of what the member, I don't know his name, he was concerned. Prior to him, I think, it was Peter O'Brien was concerned with the business level and the recourse on the premiums in that sector. Well,
excuse me, the money has been paid up a long time ago for a lot of these recipients here. That money is gone out of government's hand to wherever, I don't know, but the money has already been paid to accommodate and to provide some level of standard of living to a functional disability that just happened to happen to them. I mean it is not that we are going to stand here and cut our arm off to spite our face. You can appreciate that people are having it hard out there but if you are living in a standard of living, when you get hurt, and then that is gone, then you have to adjust to a lesser one, which it happens that way, of course, life is going to give you the wrong sheet, and then you live there and then you get that taken away from you, too.
No matter which, Canada Pension or any private insurance, UI you can exhaust with sick benefits, initially when there is an injury, workers' compensation and when you do workers' compensation, you relinquish your company of suing them. When you do that, you are under their guidelines and their protocols and their rules that forbid you to bring that workplace person back to. (Interruption) Okay.
I am just going to read you a little bit of a pamphlet, as well as I have a couple of more notes here. Claims information towards - this is just a sheet that you can get anywhere. From what I have observed is that a lot of this, I found, worked, probably the first two years my husband was in the system as WCB. It said, what is workers' compensation form? This is the introduction. It says, the Workers' Compensation Board, WCB, is the no fault insurance agency established by the provincial government in 1917 to administer the Workers' Compensation Act. The Act was designed to protect Nova Scotian workers and employers from financial loss due to workplace accidents. We insured both workers and employers by, there are two notes here, providing financial benefits, medical aid, vocational rehabilitation services to workers injured on the job and second, protecting individual employers from the risk of having to bear the full cost of major accidents at their workplace.
Now I am looking at that and I am thinking, okay, that sounds good. And it does. But as I go on and read this, it sounds even better but when you are in the system, it is not. When you are told you lied or you are accused of a lot of things when you become intelligent and fight the government, and you do. When you have a case worker call your home and ask why your husband has to go do something, as in rehab, or neurologist analysis or anything like that and she asks, why? I don't get sarcastic but I have. I could sit there and tell her, well, you have a four and five inch thick file on my husband, why don't you go look? Or I could say well, probably because there is equipment there and that is the only equipment in the vicinity of Bridgewater that my husband is allowed to get in. Now that comes straight from the rehabilitation of Nova Scotia, the big guys that see major situations including my husband in that circle because he is supposed to come back every six months for a check-up just to see how he is doing, just to see his comfort level, to see if he can walk any more than what he did, a variety of different things.
Specifics, my husband was injured in January 1989. He worked with a sequestrum disc for probably about six or seven months. You are talking about a man who is physically fit, very much so. Unfortunately, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing or actually not the wrong thing, that was his job to do and he got hurt. He worked that way for a few months. Come July 1989, he couldn't do any more. His legs don't move any more. A year of therapy, acupuncture, whatever pulling and prodding the medical profession chose to do out there, they did for a year until they decided to get intelligent and put a CT Scan on him to see really what was going on inside. They did. Within a month he was on a table, had an operation, two of them in one, it lasted a half an hour, the operation, left that and subsequent surgery, he could not move his legs.
He had a lot of doctors around him for a little while because they were very concerned at what had happened. Back and forth to doctors for many years, rehab, rehabilitation as in schooling. The floors killed him. Then we went back to finally a neurosurgeon as opposed to an orthopaedic or that sector. We went to a neurosurgeon. He found that there were disc fragments in his spinal column. They had to be cleaned up. It is not something minor, it was something major. He kept telling doctors for many years in between 1990 and 1996 in December, it is a bunch of bull, you will feel fine, you will get better. When the man doesn't move too far and has to get an ambulance to a hospital on various occasions to get a shot or whatever part of his medical, that WCB does have, finds himself back on a surgery table, five hours to clean up for something that happened seven years prior to that situation.
Now to me, that is the scenario that is my situation right now but that is in many scenarios that are out there from what I am aware of from other individuals that I have spoken with. My husband is just one in that big pot you have. Now what I would like to find is the physicians as well as the WCB medical officers, I would like to see them go by the same guidelines. You have senior administration that decides these cases under the lawyer aspect of it to see which one can ride, which one is going to go away, which one is going to do whatever they choose, either under Workers' Advisers Program or private industry or anything or here, as in a public inquiry where you have to listen to me or I will be walking out with an RCMP sort of an idea because that is what I am here to do. I want you to understand that there are a lot of things in the rule books that you keep changing and you keep having for guidelines which we have to have them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I hate to interrupt you but you kept saying you . . .
MS. HANCOCK: You as in the panel here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, the panel doesn't make the rules. The WCB, I think you are talking about the policy, right, of the . . .
MS. HANCOCK: Well, actually, if you could answer me who actually makes the policies, then I could actually indicate to who I mean who.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Just for your information, and we are not shedding responsibility, but just so you understand the system, the WCB makes policies. Now one of the criticisms that is sometimes made is maybe those policies do not conform with the Act. That is the criticism. Whether that is justified or not, I am not saying, I am simply making the point that when you say you made the policy, the "you" is not in the room.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay, the policy was made for you to guideline as I do. Now, how's that? Okay, I stand corrected, please.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, no, I am just, for the record.
MS. HANCOCK: The guidelines that are put forth by our senior administration, whoever that may be, which is the board itself, am I correct on that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The senior administration of the Act is the board, yes.
MS. HANCOCK: Is the board, okay. Well, right now, from what I understand, there are two, I think they are called Acts, polices that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is prompting the WCB, as in David Stuewe, to correct this error that is obviously continuing, that seems to be getting through the loopholes somewhere along the way. The promptness has been made by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and I notice somewhere along - a paper that I read here - you are looking at October 15th to report back to the House?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The House resumes then.
MS. HANCOCK: Okay. Now I understand that the minister has been asked to resign because of his involvement in private backroom conversations to our heads within workers' compensation, as in Anne Clark, Workers' Advisers Program; WCAT, Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal, Judith Ferguson. There are probably quite a few. David Stuewe is there too, because he is the CEO of Workers' Compensation Board, that there has been a suggestion from the minister as of right now to stop all chronic pain decisions, all chronic pain action for six months.
My issue isn't here just primarily on chronic pain. That is something that you need to look at to put in effect, to pass as law, in a Statute, under legislation. Now, the particular involvement to the minister's aspect, in our judicial system, which he cannot do, which he has done. It is a news release. It has been out in the public knowledge. Some do not hear. I go looking actually, as you can obviously see. The matters that are attentioned to what you are compiling to bring back to the House need to address those situations: that people cannot be put on hold for the rest of their life, sort of hanging out in limbo; to rights that we feel that we have to constantly fight for, which I thought were guidelines and policies that we both follow, and they are not. They are not being met as well as followed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am just going to warn you that the two minute gun has sounded, so if you would just try to wrap up.
MS. HANCOCK: Sure, no problem. Is there anyone who has a question, outside of me closing with what I want to close?
MR. CHAIRMAN: If you could just wrap up your presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions from the committee.
MS. HANCOCK: Sure. There are a couple of sections that I have been reading that I found, so I am not permitted to address the consultants at all?
MR. CHAIRMAN: There will be an opportunity for the consultants to ask questions. Perhaps you can indicate what you think is wrong or what changes you think should be made. It might be a good way to wrap up.
MS. HANCOCK: I think you already know what seems to be the system that needs to be changed, the appeals process, probable doubt, balance and probabilities, . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: I take it you would advocate the return to the benefit of the doubt for the claimant, is that what you are indicating?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay.
MS. HANCOCK: And doctors to go from the same page, that is pretty easy and obvious, I think. I think they all go by the same code or at least, from what I found, that seems to be what is enforced for them as that factor, right? I feel that as a select committee for the House, our present program under the WCB heading and the WCAT and Labour Minister and all that, the public inquiry that leads to this day, presently, is to convene you to listen to the voice of the people. Am I proper with that item?
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is a good way to put it, yes.
MS. HANCOCK: And you the body, appointed government officials, bureaucracy, I cannot say that word, these administrations that are to characterize the specifications for functions under fixed rules and hierarchy of authority as in who you need to go back to address. There needs to be some closure and that is what people are seeking to a long drawn out situation where they are inconvenienced, their violation of their rights, their entitlements, and that the senior officials, they are not here to answer to that. They are not here for us to apply any questions to as why they have let this system go too long and changes in Acts and
guidelines, and I can appreciate that through time there is going to be change and with change comes difficulty. However, I think this is really out of hand and that is closed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. I will open it to the members of the committee now who might have a question. Do any members have any questions? Mr. Parker.
MR. PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just briefly, Peggy, you mentioned about Clearwater, your husband's employer at one time?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes.
MR. PARKER: And you mentioned $3 million in premiums. Was that over a period of time?
MS. HANCOCK: One year.
MR. PARKER: It would be just in one year?
MS. HANCOCK: One year.
MR. PARKER: That is the amount they actually pay out in premiums?
MS. HANCOCK: That is what he told me. I am not specific. I understood it was his company that he oversees because he runs an office outside of head office. So I cannot give you a clear accuracy as if it is all of Clearwater or just his firm, which is in Lunenburg.
MR. PARKER: It sounds like it must be the whole integrated company?
MS. HANCOCK: I do not know. I do not know those numbers.
MR. PARKER: It is a lot of dollars but, anyway, the second part was you mentioned that only 10 per cent of that amount, which would be $300,000, I think, would be coming back as pay-outs to workers who were injured in his company, was it? So, in other words, they are paying 90 per cent more premiums than what was actually paid out in that particular company?
MS. HANCOCK: That is exactly true.
MR. PARKER: Okay, I just wanted to verify that.
MS. HANCOCK: That is what was told to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any other questions from the committee? Do any of the consultants have a question? Thank you very much, Mrs. Hancock. We appreciate that you took the time this evening to come out . . .
MS. HANCOCK: I hope so.
MR. CHAIRMAN: . . . and point the difficulties out that you have faced as a representative of injured workers and as a spouse of an injured worker. Thank you very much for coming out.
MS. HANCOCK: Thank you. Hopefully, we will not have to meet like this again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be very nice.
MS. HANCOCK: Well, actually, yes, it would be, if the things would work out as they should, yes, I will not waste my time in coming to speak here and pour my heart out on what I believe and what I see to be truthful. I just hope you all read from the same page and I mean I can appreciate we all have a different personality and all that, but I really do hope you actually sit down and read from the same page to some accuracy as to what and, of course, you have your own way and rules of separating legitimate as non legitimate and that is what senior administration is for. It is not my job to tell you this person does not claim and this person, you know, but I can appreciate that when you do go back to the House, okay, you really address that there is a lot of situations out there that just should not be happening and then it falls back on where, the provincial leaders, and it does not seem to be coming back in a positive effect to us, the people.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Our next presenter, I believe, is Heather Gregory. Is Heather here? Good evening, Ms. Gregory.
MS. HEATHER GREGORY: Good evening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Ms. Gregory. Some of the information that I am going to ask you is probably going to be in your presentation. Where do you live, Ms. Gregory?
MS. GREGORY: Right now I am living in Upper LaHave.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You had an injury. What was the date of your injury? I am sure it is in there, but it will just save me from looking.
MS. GREGORY: It actually wasn't a one-time injury, it consisted of months of work. It is like an overuse syndrome. I finally ended work in April, 1991.
MR. CHAIRMAN: This may sound like the same question, but sometimes it is not. The date you feel that your injury occurred, does that agree with the date the Workers' Compensation Board says your injury occurred?
MS. GREGORY: Yes, I suppose.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You think so.
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sometimes that is not necessarily the same thing, that is why I asked the question that way. Again, this may be in your paper that you just passed us but do you have a case presently in the system under appeal?
MS. GREGORY: Yes, I do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you know what level it is in the system on appeal?
MS. GREGORY: It has been sitting there since 1993.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would this be one of what is called the chronic pain cases? Have you been labelled as a chronic pain case?
MS. GREGORY: That is part of it. That is part of the denial.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine. You are waiting for a hearing at the WCAT, the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal, is that correct?
MS. GREGORY: Yes, I am.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Did you have a workers' counsellor under the old program, where you had a private lawyer?
MS. GREGORY: Well, it was through them, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MS. GREGORY: Patterson and Kitz.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is right. And then after that, do you now have a workers' adviser under the new Workers' Advisers Program?
MS. GREGORY: The only time I have seen or heard of them is when I went in to this, ADR?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Alternate Dispute Resolution?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That was the first time that you heard about the Workers' Advisers Program?
MS. GREGORY: Well, that is the only contact.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you presently under a doctor's care?
MS. GREGORY: Yes, I am.
MR. CHAIRMAN: A specialist or family doctor?
MS. GREGORY: Family doctor.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think those are the preliminary questions. I will let you go ahead and make your presentation. Thank you very much.
MS. GREGORY: I am just here to say that I wouldn't be hurt if it wasn't for the job that I was doing. If you look at the paper, I think it is quite a bit of work for a person to be doing. Just because they had paid into the Workers' Compensation Board doesn't give them the right to make a person work over their capability. That sort of distinguishes all their - they have no, I don't know how to say it. They just washed their hands free once they did the damage, then you go on to somebody else.
The workers' compensation did say I was hurt at work. They did pay for two and one-half years. Because I felt I couldn't travel, because of my circumstances, they cut me off. I explained why I couldn't go. I am still being treated by doctors. I just don't think it is fair that they can say this and this when they did at one point say, yes, you are injured, and yes, you do deserve to be compensated. Then all of a sudden, it is just cut off.
What I would like to know is, if they are in there working, if they are supposed to be working every day, like normal people work, why is there such a backlog? I wish I could have their job, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. They take all your self-esteem from you, your pride, your independence. My marriage broke up because of financial reasons. I hear behind
me, all these people with stress, depression. You are going to have more medical problems with that, as well as what you are having with your injury.
Basically, I just wish they would hire more people to get the backlog out, or something. I don't know what they are doing in there. They are definitely not working.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you presently receiving a pension?
MS. GREGORY: I am receiving a Canada Disability.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But you are not receiving . . .
MS. GREGORY: No, I am not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are not receiving any workers' compensation benefits?
MS. GREGORY: No.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You were turned down at the last level of appeal, and your appeal has been waiting there for years, and . . .
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. That is fine.
MS. GREGORY: And in the meantime, you lose all pride and everything else you have.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is right. And all your income, your total income is with Canada Pension?
MS. GREGORY: It is just Canada Pension, on my own. My marriage broke up. I have nothing. I lost my house, my car, everything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand.
MS. GREGORY: I don't think, I was working, yes, at a $20,000 a year job. I didn't deliberately go out and get hurt and want to draw compensation. Basically, that is all I have to say.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. There may be some questions from members of the panel. Ms. Godin.
MS. GODIN: Hello, Ms. Gregory. I am sorry, I may have missed this, but I am reading your presentation, and you said that you went to ADR. Then you say, in the presentation - and I remember you saying that - nothing was even offered to me.
MS. GREGORY: Right.
MS. GODIN: What do you mean? Do you mean that you went to ADR? Did you hear anything from anybody after that, or do you just feel like it was dropped?
MS. GREGORY: No. I had set up the appointment. The day before I was supposed to go in, the workers' adviser person called me and said, we have been going over the papers, nothing is going to be offered. They felt it would be a waste of my time to go in. I said, well, I am going in anyway, and I would like to have my say . . .
MS. GODIN: Okay.
MS. GREGORY: . . . just so that they could hear what was going on. When I was there, they did listen, they were very nice. A lot of what I said and explained to them about my situation, they didn't have any idea but, through the wording of the system, there is nothing that they can offer me. I went in anyway and just had my say.
MS. GODIN: Okay. Were you told on the day that you went in that there was nothing they could offer you?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MS. GODIN: Who was it that suggested you not go through the process? Was it your workers' adviser?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MS. GODIN: It was?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MS. GODIN: Okay. Thank you.
MS. GREGORY: I mean, I have a stack of papers. They are just papers. They should be doing something about it.
MS. GODIN: I think we are finding everybody has a stack of papers.
MS. GREGORY: Well, instead of a paper trail, why can't they just do something?
MS. GODIN: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Corbett.
MR. CORBETT: Hello. How are you tonight?
MS. GREGORY: Fine.
MR. CORBETT: Just one quick question really. Would you be categorized as a repetitive strain type injury?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. CORBETT: Is that . . .
MS. GREGORY: I have compressed nerves in my arms and shoulders. I am diagnosed with this overuse syndrome from doing the work I was doing for such a time. I didn't have time, I guess, to build up my system. I worked at a fish plant for 10 years prior to this. The work I was doing at the hatchery was totally labour work. That is what happened.
MR. CORBETT: . . . besides being a repetitive strain, like carpal tunnel syndrome, and so on.
MS. GREGORY: I have been checked for all that. I have not.
MR. CORBETT: But it was also, besides being repetitive, is it fair to categorize it as heavy lifting work too?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. CORBETT: Rigorous manual labour.
MS. GREGORY: Right. It was the heavy lifting and the way I was doing it, up over my shoulders, that is what caused the nerve damage.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Corbett.
Mr. [Hyland] Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Ms. Gregory, you said you were getting Canada Pension disability.
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Was that a long process as well, or did they approve that fairly quickly once you applied?
MS. GREGORY: They did deny me, and I appealed and won within maybe two years after my injury.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: They would have paid you retroactive to your injury date?
MS. GREGORY: Yes.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: They have never questioned it since, whether you still qualify or not?
MS. GREGORY: No.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do any of our consultants have any questions for this lady?
MR. JAMES NEVILLE: Did the Workers' Compensation Board ever inform you that you were under the chronic pain unit that they have?
MS. GREGORY: They had mentioned something about chronic pain. I am not quite sure about all the ins and outs, just that they don't pay for chronic pain at that time. That is probably why my doctor is going to send a new letter in. Since I have moved, I have a new doctor.
MR. NEVILLE: And you receive Canada disability pension for your injury?
MS. GREGORY: Yes, I do.
MR. NEVILLE: That is all, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Ms. Gregory, for coming out this evening.
MS. GREGORY: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have any further presenters? Don't be bashful. If there is someone else who has a presentation they would like to make, or some remarks, this is the opportunity.
Yes ma'am, do you want to come forward again?
MS. DION: I'll just sit here and . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, you can't. One of the very few rules we have is you can't just sit there. Have a seat.
MS. DION: I hadn't planned on this; I planned on being very quiet. What I was asking about compensation is, does anybody win? Does anybody win the appeals? Seriously, I don't know anybody who has won.
MR. POWER: Do you want me to try to answer that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Mr. Power, I think is going to . . .
MR. POWER: I can't say I know of anybody who has won totally. There seems to be little victories, but no big victories, if I can put it that way.
MS. DION: Just enough to keep you hanging . . .
MR. POWER: Yes, somebody said that.
MS. DION: . . . in hopes that you go and get a piece of rope and really hang yourself.
MR. POWER: I would not say that.
MS. HANCOCK: Why are the companies paying workers' compensation?
MR. POWER: I am sorry, I did not hear that, ma'am.
MS. HANCOCK: Why are these employers paying workers' compensation?
MS. DION: What they paying for?
MS. HANCOCK: Yes. What are they paying for if it is not to protect the workers?
MS. DION: Where is this money going to?
MS. HANCOCK: Where does the money go?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We better not or we are going to lose control here, but I mean your question is a valid question, I think your concern is that people are paying benefits and what is happening with the money.
MS. DION: Poverty makes you make some decisions that you would not normally make. It is nice to know that some people do win but, unfortunately, I do not know anybody who has won an appeal or to give you any force to go on to say, okay, people do win. So that is why I was just asking that question.
MR. POWER: If I could follow that, Mr. Chairman, one of the statistics that was brought out through these hearings was that there are about 30,000 claims through the workers' compensation system a year. About 1 per cent of those, pardon me, 10 per cent of those are appealed, so you have about 3,000 appeals approximately a year. I think that is the correct statistic that I recall from another day. So there are a number of people who do go through the system without a lot of, shall we say, appeals. You are absolutely right on when you ask about, in the appeal system itself, how many people actually have a complete vindication of their appeal, and I would hasten to add, probably not many.
MS. DION: Do you know the reason why? Is there a reason why that happens?
MR. POWER: That is what I think this committee is trying to find out.
MR. ERJAVEC: As a suggestion, maybe the WCB - we have had a lot of questions about where does the money go - maybe at the back of the room they could put some annual reports, statistics on where the money goes, how much is collected. It also gives down some things on appeals and what, so maybe that board will want to provide annual reports.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I might hasten to add that I think if anybody would like a copy of the Workers' Compensation Board Annual Report, I will ask somebody to put up a sheet at the back of the room and I am sure that we can arrange for you to receive a copy of the Workers' Compensation Board Annual Report. For what it is worth, it will at least give you some overview. So I will ask somebody from the staff to put a paper at the back of the room and we can arrange to have it mailed out to you, if that would help at all.
MS. DION: It is traumatic; there are such long periods of time go by without any financial gain for the injured worker. I told you this afternoon, the predicament it has put me in, but there are all kinds of people who are worse off than I am, obviously. It is sad. It is really pathetic that it is not working for the workers. How you can change that? Hopefully, this can be resolved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.
MS. DION: You are welcome.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Hyland] Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Just one comment there on I think what the last lady was asking, which is a very legitimate question. Those 30,000 claims that come in, many are settled right away, but I think everybody who has come to our committee since we started hearing in Yarmouth a couple of days ago have been long-term claimants - it is not the short-term - I think that's a lot of the emphasis, we have not heard from anybody who says, you know, if it was three months, or three weeks, or seven days. Those who are coming, it is the long-term applicants and claimants where the problem is and that is where the backlog is and it gets to be long-term because, you know, the backlog is so large as well, so (Interruption) No.
MS. HANCOCK: If you were working and you did not get paid at the end of that two weeks, I would hope, you know I would say I have worked for you for two weeks, I do expect to get paid, okay? So it is no different on both ends of the spectrum, as in becoming an injured worker or being employable.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: I just wanted to clarify that everybody who has come forward are all long-term claimants and not the short-term, either there is no problem or they are not coming before us, or haven't come so far, but everybody we have heard from have been people who are looking for a long-term solution.
MS. DION: I feel like I am a baby on this thing because my injury . . .
MS. HANCOCK: I have a suggestion.
MS. DION: In fact, it sounds like nothing has changed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The technical people will completely shoot me if we allow ourselves to have people make comments from the back of the room, because one of the purposes of this and the reason for doing it, recording, is to make sure that we have a record so that when we go to write our report, what people say is on the record.
The reason that those two gentlemen over there look so perplexed is, when you folks talk from the back of the room, although everybody here can hear you perfectly well, it will not pick it up on the microphone, so you end up with a one-sided conversation in the transcript. We are not trying to cut anyone off, it is just that if people have a presentation, they have to come to the microphone because, otherwise, we lose it. Right, fellows? Okay. I just want to make that clear that that is the reason for that.
Anyway, I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to come here this evening. I know many of you folks, it is a very difficult thing to do that, and we truly appreciate the time and effort that you, the members of the public, have made in coming here this evening before the select committee.
I see there is one last gentleman, Mr. Selig, who would like to come forward and say something. Mr. Selig, would you like to? We have been very generous here this evening in letting people have more than one kick at the cat. You are very lucky you live in the South Shore.
MR. SELIG: Mr. Chairman, I do appreciate the opportunity of coming here and I express my thanks for this committee trying to help, hopefully, the recipients of a decent satisfactory settlement for survival for injured workers. We do appreciate this.
I apologize, I was angry this afternoon when I made my presentation because of the frustration that I felt personally and, as I had said before, as an employer as well as an employee. There are ways to better the system. Right now it is a must, anybody, any small business is under a penalty if they hire so many persons, they are forced to pay compensation or, under the law, you are guilty of a crime; therefore, why isn't it a crime for the workers' compensation not to look after their obligations and responsibility. They should reciprocate in kind. Putting people off for all this time and the suffering and anxiety, the high blood pressure it has created, extra medical bills because they cannot survive in a normal decent lifestyle, I had said earlier I felt it was true that the Workers' Compensation Board has definitely failed the workers of this province. They have failed to give the employers a fair value for their dollar.
I think it is time for the Workers' Compensation Board to be totally reconstructed. Remove such a terrible bureaucracy, therefore a lot of costs, money will be saved and instead of putting people through a torturous process and in gaining reasonable compensation or reasonable income to live by, allow employers to get as good or better policies for injury or accidents at a whole lot better rate than what the government is imposing on the employers, and I think by doing so a little competition in this tragic episode of the Workers' Compensation Board and the state that it is in, maybe they will clean up their act.
I know it is not a money-making process, but I think the Workers' Compensation Board has contributed to that, not the injured workers. They will spend thousands of dollars to avoid paying a person who rightfully, should be expecting a cheque to live by.
Now, having said that, I will take up no more of your time. I thank you. I apologize if I showed a bit of anger today but I realize that anybody going into the compensation office in Halifax, that you go through a process there like you are going through jail. The expectancy is so high and the anger out there is so great that it is almost like going through
a jail process, because they are scared to death that somebody is going to come in there and do something justifiably to get even with them.
There is terrible anger out there in the province with the injured workers and, by heavens, a few people do not understand this. I think it is time to shake up the board, a bunch of bureaucrats, I believe, who are absolutely failing the people of this province. I think something can be done. I believe it should allow employers to get better coverage for their workers at an awful lot less money, they don't have the arguments and waiting years, 10 years and some of them longer - from 1967, as I have heard today, and still getting very bad results - and all they get is discontinue this, we will discontinue that. These people have a right to have a reasonable, decent lifestyle.
As inflation increases, these guys' incomes are deflating, they are going down and it is taken away from them. You gentlemen must understand and realize that these injured people are human. They have a right to be treated like humans.
I made an expression this afternoon, maybe I did not have a right to do that, but I think I am right on the money. Unless you look at it honestly and realistically, nothing is going to happen. I believe you gentlemen have the capability of doing just that and I do thank you for your time, coming to Bridgewater today. Thank you very much, sir.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Selig. (Applause) With that, I guess we will move to adjourn. Thank you very much.
[The committee adjourned at 8:22 p.m.]