SELECT COMMITTEE ON
THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION ACT
Mr. Michael Baker
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
[Gordon Johnson, Legislative Counsel, introduced himself.]
[The committee consultants introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Just a couple of notes I guess before we get started. This committee of nine members was formed as a result of a resolution that was passed in the House of Assembly in the spring session. We were asked to bring forward recommendations to government. We're really non-partisan. There are three members on the committee from each Party. We are out to hear your concerns. We're going to be in at least 11 different locations, or 11 different times, the days we'll be sitting, hearing the concerns of injured workers, businesses, or anyone else who wants to come before us.
In order to ensure that everyone has an ample opportunity to say their part without running out of time, we try to limit it to 15 minutes for individuals. So if you have a presentation to give us and it takes about 15 minutes, we will take a few minutes for questions, if any of the people have questions for you, and then we will move on to the next presenter. If you are representing a group, we've been allowing approximately one-half hour for the group to make their presentation and then questions.
Now, if you have a written presentation, you don't have to read it to us. It will form part of the material that we'll have and we will review as we come forward with recommendations. So you may feel if it's reasonably short, that you would like to read it. That's fine but it will go into the record whether you do or you don't. We like written material. It's just something that's before us and so if you've got something like that, we will accept it.
I may think of some other little rules as we get started but we will ask you to come up to the table here as your turn comes and speak into the microphone. Everything that is said is recorded. It will be a part of the public record. So if there's something you feel that you want to say or you don't want to say because, in fact, at some point in the future this will be open to the public record and anybody can see it, so we just caution you of that. If you have something that you feel is personal that you don't want to say or you don't want the public to know about, then I would ask you to hold that back because, in fact, all this will be a public record at some day in the future.
Our first presenter this afternoon is Lloyd MacKenzie. I invite you, Lloyd, to come to the table. Yes, that will be fine. Mr. MacKenzie, just for the record I guess, and as we are being recorded, perhaps you can give me your full name, your description of injury, the date and stuff like that to kind of fill us in a little bit for the record.
MR. LLOYD MACKENZIE: My date of injury, I think, was February 3, 1993.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What type of injury did you have, Mr. MacKenzie?
MR. MACKENZIE: Well, I broke my wrist and I smashed my elbow and my shoulder when I fell through a window.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Were you working on construction or what were you doing at the time?
MR. MACKENZIE: Yes, at the Aberdeen Hospital, a demolition.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Where is your appeal with workers' compensation now? Where is your file now? Do you know where it is?
MR. MACKENZIE: It has already been put in there about the - what did you call it - wage loss thing plus the other part is the WCAT. There's no decision on that yet and there's no decision on whether I would be eligible for chronic pain. So I don't know where I am to tell you the truth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. So you can go ahead with your presentation, Mr. MacKenzie.
MR. MACKENZIE: I would like to just run through first, like since I got into this, I had two nervous beakdowns. I lost my family. When I was working, I had two cars and I had at least something, you know. Now I have absolutely nothing. I'm living in a rooming house where you have to come out in the hall to change your mind. There's nothing ahead. I get some money from provincial family benefits. I think it's like maybe half injury thing and half mental disability supposedly. I didn't really even want to come here today. The reason I'm telling you is because my doctor, I was there last week, and I said I wanted to go because it may help somebody else. I know it probably wouldn't help me because for the fighting I did with them on the phone and arguing and them cursing me out, or not cursing me out, but I mean arguing and going on like I am a nut case, which it comes to that. That's all there is to it.
So, like they say, when poverty comes in the front door, love goes out the back door. I'm into my second marriage. I have two kids from my first marriage and one from the second. Like the other ones, I can't pay child support, the guy that I have now, which I guess eventually I'm supposed to, but I couldn't pay that if I wanted to. What would I pay them. So I'm just pointing out to you that through all this garbage that went on and fighting and arguing. They sent me to a barber school which I finished but all the time I was going through the barber school I was having problems going to the doctor with my arm and all that. They would let that go by. I called them and told them. They didn't care. They said, just finish the thing and we'll see what we can do later on.
So, anyway, like after all that stuff, I finished the barber course and all this, and I opened my own shop, which they said I did good and all this other garbage, opened it myself and took money out of my own pocket to open it and I was still having problems with that. The thing is they don't listen to anything. I even got a letter from the instructor, who is Alec MacInnis, in Pictou. Alec wrote a letter saying, he has been going to the doctor, he is having problems. Oh, well, we don't want to hear that which is the way with a lot of people I guess. When they have something that is concrete evidence, or whatever, they don't want to hear that. It's like that.
Then the other thing is unfair decisions. I said to one woman, I got a decision back from one of the women up there, and hers, the second one that I got, was the same as the first. I said, well, I thought maybe you might take a look at these other things that were wrong. She said to me, oh, I wouldn't go against her decision. I said, well, what the hell are you there for? I said you're supposed to be not on my side, you're not an advocate for me I don't think, but you're supposed to be my representative in there. I'm supposed to have some representation inside the Workers' Compensation Board which she was supposed to - I couldn't understand. I said, what the hell are you saying to me anyway. This is crazy. I said, who the hell am I supposed to ask, the guy on the street up there, to help me out here. Oh, well, I can't do anything about it, she said, that was her decision and I can't go against her decision. Well, I said really what's your function there? That was another thing. Is this what you want to hear, like the things that were wrong?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're here to hear your concerns. We're not part of WCB. We have nothing to do with it.
MR. MACKENZIE: No, no, I understand.
MR. CHAIRMAN: At the end of your presentation if you have some suggestions for change that we can bring forward to the government, we would like to hear those but we're here to hear you. It's your audience. We're travelling around the province to hear injured workers, other businesses and everybody else. So you just feel free to say what you wish.
MR. MACKENZIE: The other thing is people making decisions on claims. As far as I'm concerned, they're not qualified. If they make a decision, if a doctor writes in a letter, then the people at the Workers' Compensation Board, whether they look at it or not I don't know, but they shouldn't be allowed to say, well, this is my opinion of it. Like I say, in your opinion, I said who the hell are you? You're not a doctor. You're what, a clinical therapist, or whatever they are, who work there, I mean. That's what most of them are as far as I know. They got a Bachelor of Science or something and as far as I know they don't have - they can't make a decision on a medical thing. The doctors that work there, the ones that work for the Workers' Compensation Board, anybody that works for somebody else and they're being paid by that outfit, then what sort of decision would you or I be getting from those people. It's like, what do they call it, the fox and the chickens.
The doctor that saw me, he said he wrote out a report, a five page report, I think it was. He saw me for something like 11 minutes and I said, buddy, you should be up for, what do you call that award you get there, I said you should be up for that award if you're that brilliant that you can make that decision. I had an injury to my wrist and he's getting me to bend over and I said I'm not here for an oil change. So that was another thing.
A lot of it is the arrogance of the board. It's the arrogance of the people on the board that they think, because I said, look, because you have a three piece suit on and silver grey hair and dancing slippers, I don't give a shit who you are. I said I'm telling you, I said I don't care. This is my livelihood I'm talking about here, not whether you can show me how smart you are or anything else. I said I'm talking about my kids here and my wife, they're like dust in the wind. They're all gone. So what the hell, you know.
As I said, like people losing their families and some die, which I guess they're looking forward to that. I mean if you die, they don't have to pay anybody I guess. Then I have three main numbers in my mind from through my life. One was from Kingston Penitentiary, one was from Dorchester and one was from this outfit here. The one in Kingston was 6450, the one in Dorchester was 111, and the one here is 1545622. Another one is SOF 104191 which was my earning number but these numbers, these things stick in your mind because of the relationship you had with them or the fighting, or whatever you were doing at the time. I
mean those are things that stick in my mind and it is like big block letters, hate put there, because of that one outfit here.
That's why I had to get away from that. I went to St. Martha's in Antigonish for a month, partially because of a gambling addiction which in my mind I guess I thought I was going to get ahead by winning money or whatever the hell you want to look at it and the other was because my nerves were completely gone.
Now I am on two different medications and sometimes they help and sometimes they don't. I said to the guy up there, I said, you know, look, not in my lifetime, I'm too old, I'm 51, and I said I'm too old to be bothered. One of these days you people, if you're not careful, somebody is going to take this to heart, and figure maybe they can do 30 years. I strongly believe that and that's up to them and that's up maybe to you people here. If you're going to be bothered, I might say to put an effort into it. I was on that walk there in front of Province House and I was down at the Workers' Compensation Board picketing, when the election deals were going on and on and on.
Mine has been I guess close to eight years. What is it, 1993 to, so I'm just saying you get halfway into something. It looks like somebody may be going to do something to change it a little bit and the government changes hands and just says, well, we don't know anything about that because we're no longer the government. I mean this is bullshit. It's no different than the stuff at Shelburne. It's no different than the stuff at Westray. It's all the same deal. Everybody puts in their two cents worth while the thing is hot and then when they change hands, they have nothing to do with it anyway and nobody has to answer for it. The Workers' Compensation Board definitely doesn't have to answer to anybody and that's true. They don't answer to nobody.
I mean I've had those people tell me, they came to my barber shop one time, three strong, pulled up across the road. They had a little meeting at the back of their vans. They had two vans, one would have been sufficient for three people. Then, before they got their foot in the door of the barber shop, they started spouting to me about money. We can't give you any more. We paid for this and we paid for that, I said, listen, this has nothing to do with money. I'm trying to cut hair. My arm is bothering me and I said it has nothing to do with money.
It has to do with my self-respect which through the years I gained a little back from my youth or whatever you want to call it, but I said it doesn't have anything to do with money. I said this has to do with the fact that I'm trying to make a go of it. They were still paying me a small amount of compensation. I was taking that money out of my own compensation money to meet the rent because with a barbering course you have to build up a clientele before you can show any sort of a profit.
Then, I went right in this motel, I went to one of those things which is embarrassing. I mean it was embarrassing. The lady who was, I will call her a lady but she was running the meeting, she said, oh, yes, no, that's right, oh, yes, anything, you know what I'm saying, like here are some strawberries.
They said put your hand on the Bible. I said, no, I'm not doing that and they said why, they thought it was religious thing or something like that. I said, no, it has nothing to do with religion. If those people aren't here that are lying about me and telling lies about me and they don't have to put their hand on the Bible and they can still get up there and send me a letter tomorrow and call me crooked and everything else they want to call me, then have them sit here with me and I'll put my hand on the Bible and they can put their hand on the Bible. That's what I said to her.
So they said, oh, well, we'll compromise a little bit. What we'll do is we'll just take your word for it, you know. So I said I don't think that's a lie anyway where I have to put my hand on the Bible. My own lawyer was trying to tell me, well, that's right, it should be like that and all this. I said I know how honest I am. If I get caught in a lie, then what are you going to do, pinch me, go ahead, that's what I said. I said I don't think I should have to because they didn't have to answer to me or anybody else.
It was just all these things but I mean like as far as the Workers' Compensation Board itself, the only thing I could contribute to it at all is it has got to be a little more humane for one thing. They've got to drop the arrogance because we're all just people and I don't care if you've got a three piece suit on or clickity ass shoes or whatever, I don't care. You are just a human being and we're all going to the same place and the guy upstairs knows what the hell is going on. I'm not a religious fanatic or anything else. I'm just making a point here that people who get in a position of power and they abuse the power, then they should be taken to task for it. That's all there is to it.
One guy, I mean this may be just a story, I don't know, but he dressed up in a doctor's suit and had his picture put on the wall to impress people coming into the building. They had pictures on the wall of people that were success stories as far as vocational rehab, or whatever it was, but that's maybe one in 1,000. I don't know the stats on that or anything. Then the other thing was I had a lawyer in Pictou. I got a letter from her on the 12th that she said she was out of business on the 11th. She had my papers for a year. So then what they did, they switched it, and I ended up by moving around like a gypsy here for a couple of years, in and out of jails and everything else. The guy that took it over, then he had to start from scratch with the little bit of stuff that she had thrown in but she had that for a year and I almost got it ready to send in. In the end I had that appeal but I mean for all that waiting it didn't make any difference anyway.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I was going to say, Mr. MacKenzie, you're pretty well out of time, if you have a few other comments and you want to wrap up. Then I will ask the committee if they have any questions for you.
MR. MACKENZIE: Then the other thing was in that Act where they said the injured worker is supposed to be given the benefit of the doubt and I would suggest to you that they're never given the benefit of the doubt about anything. There are a few people there that may help you or try to help and there are some lawyers but I'm saying too that the lawyers get paid their money. They get paid for representing me and you go for say a year and one-half with each one of them until you go through the whole bunch of them and then you're left with nothing. You get a denial on your last paper, and you are left with absolutely nothing. They walk away with whatever they walk away with, I don't know. But they have a hell of a lot more, they are not eating baloney sandwiches, I can tell you, which I do. Peanut butter and baloney is one of my favourite meals, right now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie. Do any of the committee members have any questions? Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie, for your presentation. I am interested in your retraining. Taking up barbering, was that choice yours to go into, to try?
MR. MACKENZIE: This is the way it was laid out to me, let's get off our arse here and do something. I looked at being a butcher, and I said, I can't do that, I can't lift a side of beef on a good day, but I said, barbering, I will give it a try, but I want you to remember that I am telling you this and I want it written down, that I am having problems with my arm and my wrist.
MR. DEWOLFE: Was it early into your retraining where you discovered that it was going to be very tough on you to continue with it? You indicated that your instructor had written a letter and so on.
MR. MACKENZIE: That is since I first started. The problem was there too, I asked him first, I said, would you mind writing the letter. I said, if not, I will go and ask the people that are taking the course, they knew that I went to the doctor.
MR. DEWOLFE: There were no other options for you presented, there was no other option . . .
MR. MACKENZIE: No. It was the kind of a thing, where, at that time, this is before that Act was changed, I believe, and it was kind of a thing where they wanted you to take something, whatever it was. They sent me for that GED thing, which they brought that up to
me later, and said, well, gee, we sent you to school, and you finished Grade 12. I said, listen, I finished Grade 12, it cost you $20 to pay for the thing, what is the big deal? You didn't do anything, I went to school for four nights, then I went and took the test and passed it. But I said, you didn't do anything. Who the hell are you, anyway? I could have paid the $20 and went and got it myself. So they brought that up. This is the way, the things. I said, no, no.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anybody else? Ms. Godin.
MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. MacKenzie, what happened to your barbershop? Do you still have that barbershop?
MR. MACKENZIE: No.
MS. GODIN: And you are not working as a barber today?
MR. MACKENZIE: I haven't worked since 1993.
MS. GODIN: Oh, you haven't worked since 1993?
MR. MACKENZIE: Outside of that short stint, eight months, in a barbershop.
MS. GODIN: And that is because you are finding it too difficult because of your injury?
MR. MACKENZIE: Yes. And just for a second there, if you don't mind, they made a plastic cast for my wrist. This was after the break was supposedly healed and the whole business. They made a plastic cast for it, which apparently I was supposed to wear. It came from here up to here, and it was all plastic here, by one of those therapist people. It molded into my hand, I guess, you couldn't hold clippers. Clippers are this round. You couldn't hold the clippers in it. I mean, the thing was, I said, what good is that to me, but the woman came to my house, and likely charged them $600 to make it. And here I am, they are cutting me off compensation. I said, I don't want that. So I made two airplanes out of it.
MS. GODIN: Since that time, have there been any other offers of any other vocational training?
MR. MACKENZIE: No.
MS. GODIN: Is there anything that has crossed your mind that you wanted to do?
MR. MACKENZIE: No. But that was in the thing where I went up to the board meeting, to sit on the board right? I went up there, and I said, well, whatever you can suggest, I don't know. I have come to my wit's end here. I don't know. What the hell would you suggest. I don't know. They said, well, the bottom line was, all we can suggest is, we will make you another plastic cast. I said, well, gee that is good, that will be wonderful.
MS. GODIN: But the intention there would have been that you could continue barbering if you had this cast, right?
MR. MACKENZIE: That was their answer. I guess so. They said, listen, we retrained you, and we did this, and we did that. I said, yes, most of it I did myself. I did. I had to get people to help me paint the walls. I had to get people to help me move the stuff in, I couldn't move it myself, and everything.
MS. GODIN: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Lloyd, thank you very much for your presentation. It is pretty compelling. You indicated that the lawyer who was assigned to your specific case had your file and would you just run through that again? Had your file for a year, and there was no communication, and then the lawyer bowed out?
MR. MACKENZIE: There was communication. She would send me a letter, which I have, I have papers here that, they have probably cut all the woods in Lorne, that she was going to do this, and she is going to try this, and she was going to do that. Every once in a while I would get these letters, and say, oh yeah, okay. So I am waiting for her to say, okay, we have a date set up for a sit-down hearing. I said, okay, that is good. I was waiting for that, and it never came. I got a letter on the 12th, dated on the 11th, saying that she had got a job with the Crown Attorney, maybe you know who she is. I can't think of her name, I am trying to forget it, Calder, her name was.
This is all on record. My next lawyer even said himself that, he said, it sounds a little funny to do that, but maybe she couldn't help it, I don't know that. Maybe, they said either come now, or whatever. But to leave a person in the lurch, and then have to start all over again. At that time, I wasn't getting any compensation, then. I wasn't getting anything.
MR. TAYLOR: Thanks, Lloyd.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Lloyd, are you on any benefits at all now from the workers' compensation side? There is none whatsoever?
MR. MACKENZIE: No. They sort of gave me a final offer, it was $300 and some. That was their solution to the whole problem, I guess.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: $300 and some.
MR. MACKENZIE: Yes. It was my final payment for the thing. They said, well, I guess that is it for you. I said, well, that is like when the cat dumped behind the piano, that remains to be seen, I don't know. I said, but I am not going to forget this, and I am not going to leave it alone. So that was it, I guess.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Are you still under a doctor's care? Do you still have to go back to the doctor?
MR. MACKENZIE: Yes. I go every couple of weeks to see him. But not a shrink, I don't go there. I am trying to get through this stuff here myself, but it is kind of hard. When you had a little bit, I am not a personal possession person, but when you had a little bit and you were doing okay a couple of times in your life, and then the whole arse fell out of it, after a while you kind of lose interest, sort of. At one time there, I was mad at them, and I told them, and I told my psychiatrist, the one I had at the time, that maybe I might do something, I don't know. It crosses my mind. There were nights in bed that I felt like busting ass or whatever.
MR. CHARLES MADONALD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Parker.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. MacKenzie, I am just trying to figure out, are you presently appealing within the system? Do you have an open claim? Where are you at? Have you given up on WCB?
MR. MACKENZIE: No. I have not given up. I wouldn't give up, not supposing I was 90 years old.
MR. PARKER: Do you have a lawyer at the present time, representing you?
MR. MACKENZIE: No, because they told him to hit the trail.
MR. PARKER: Do you have a workers' adviser?
MR. MACKENIZE: Somebody. Now, look, I have that many names there from the compensation board, I don't know who the hell is who. It could be the janitor, and he would probably do a better job too.
MR. PARKER: There is a Workers' Advisers Program where they are assigned to a claimant and they are lawyers in most cases, and they work with claimants to try to get them through the system.
MR. MACKENZIE: That is what I was saying to you before, when I was saying about the lawyer. That is the guy who represents you.
MR. PARKER: That is your private lawyer that you had.
MR. MACKENZIE: A private lawyer. But who is he paid by?
MR. PARKER: He is paid by the WCB.
MR. MACKENZIE: Right.
MR. PARKER: So, you are still in the system? You are still appealing . . .
MR. MACKENZIE: Well, I have the thing in for the WCAT, which I guess that is the final straw right there. That is it.
MR. PARKER: That is the Appeals Tribunal?
MR. MACKENZIE: Plus the thing of, what do they call it, pain . . .
MR. PARKER: Chronic pain.
MR. MACKENZIE: Chronic pain. That is supposed to be going through too, you see. But chronic pain, there are so many different things in there . . .
MR. PARKER: It is hard to define.
MR. MACKENZIE: They are saying, if you have arthritis, well, that is too bad, you probably got that from mixing drinks or whatever. On top of that, I told them all along, I used to drink heavy and I was half-foolish and the whole business, but I haven't had a drink for nine years. It is no big deal, but they can't use that, but they would pick that up, quick, with anybody here. These people that are here too. Anything that they can use against you, the Workers' Compensation Board, they will use it, and half of it is made up.
MR. PARKER: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Any of the consultants? Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie.
MR. MACKENZIE: Okay.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Our next presenter is Karen Taylor. Is Karen not here? We will move on to the next, ABSDA. I would like to welcome John Ward.
MR. JOHN WARD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. For the purposes of the record, my name is John Ward, President of the Atlantic Building Supply Dealers Association. The gentleman on my immediate right is Don Sherwood, Vice-President of ABSDA. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, at the outset, allow me to say that ABSDA appreciates the opportunity to make a presentation and a submission to your committee this afternoon.
By way of background for the members of the committee, ABSDA is the trade association of the lumber and building material retailers in Atlantic Canada. In this province, ABSDA represents over 160 retailer, distributor and manufacturing members in all geographic areas of this province. These members range from small, family-owned retail organizations to large, multi-store chains.
By way of introduction, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, to our position, let me say very clearly and unequivocally that ABSDA supports a workers' compensation that has three fundamental principles: firstly, a system that provides prompt and reasonable income and medical benefits to work-accident victims or income to their dependants; secondly, a system that strives to eliminate the unnecessary payment of legal and other administrative expenses in connection with hearings, appeals and adjudications; thirdly, a system that encourages employer interest and participation, particularly in the prevention and rehabilitation through experience-rating systems and other mechanisms.
As an introductory comment, Mr. Chairman, to some of our additional comments, allow me to enter, if you would, in the record the concern of ABSDA with respect to the current financial situation of the board. Currently, the board in the Province of Nova Scotia has an unfunded liability of $370,485,918, to be precise. This amount places the board in the worst financial position of any of the Workers' Compensation Boards in Atlantic Canada. I think, in order to put this crisis of financial matters in context, it must be looked at in the context of Page 40 of the current financial statement for the year ended December 1997, where the financial statement says, where the, "Probability and magnitude of the increase in liabilities are presently undeterminable due to, (a) earnings loss procedures; (b) chronic pain benefits; and (c) survivors' benefits.".
In order to put it, ladies and gentlemen, in a specific context, the rate that the building supply retailer in the Province of Nova Scotia pays compared to his counterpart in the Province of New Brunswick is 214.2 per cent higher. The debt-servicing portion of this rate, along with the other changes are a very substantial deterrent to a small employer who is looking at his rates and his benefit from experience rating. ABSDA suggests very strongly, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, that your committee and the government cannot ignore the assessment cost and the issue of rate increases due to legislative changes and the removal of the rate freeze in the year 2000.
Mr. Chairman, we will elaborate further on the matters which we believe will impact rates, client service and stakeholder information.
A key concern which we, as an employer, have with regard to the assessment base and the current legislation and regulation deals with the definition of an assessed employer. The current regulations exclude such employers and banks, financial institutions and a number of other major employer categories. ABSDA strongly suggests and submits that a form of modified universal assessment must be adopted in order to create a more level playing field within the compensation system. The three-or-more regulation, in terms of assessment, should be applied to all employers with farming and fishing registration to be on a voluntary basis.
We say that, Mr. Chairman, in an ideal world - as is very close in some other jurisdictions - there is almost a form of universal assessment. Quite frankly, my colleague and I cannot sit here in front of the committee and propose to you today a working system that would deal with farming and fishing on a universal basis. We believe it to be the ideal situation but our philosophy has always been, if we don't have a solution, then don't try and propose something or bluff your way through.
The second reason, Mr. Chairman, that we feel the assessment base needs to be enlarged and modified deals with the current funding. Under our interpretation, the assessed employers under the current workers' compensation system fund the entire Occupational Safety & Health Division of the Department of Labour. We believe it is grossly unfair that a section of employers or a group, collectively, of employers in this province who are doing business in the province are avoiding their cost and their fair share of occupational and health safety costs.
In our view, there are two main cost drivers to workers' compensation. The first is legislation, that which outlines and determines the benefit levels, the accident definitions and the appeal process under which the board must work. Mr. Chairman, we suggest very strongly that your committee must proceed with extreme caution in recommending legislative changes that will add to the current assessment cost and assessment rate. We suggest that your committee and the government should look in that vein in terms of legislation at a mandated requirement for the annual report to be available to all stakeholders by April 1st of each year. The report of the appeal commissioner and the workers' advisers office should also be included with this document. There is provision in the current legislation for those reports to be presented but there is no specific timetable that spells out when they should be presented.
The second area of concern with regard to cost drivers is our perception of administrative processes and management procedures. I am sure that the committee, over the course of your hearings in the province, has heard much from many folks with regard to the provision of accurate and prompt response to inquiries and data of requests. We believe that this is a key area in terms of the administration of the system in order to make it function
efficiently for all parties. The regulatory requirements should further detail that the standards and reporting methods which will measure administrative progress and performance must be against stated objectives and they must be included and on a mandatory basis in the Annual Report.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we further believe that there must be increased communication by the board within the medical community in this province to develop new programs for disability management. These programs should result in timely return to work and programs that would benefit all stakeholders because the employee wishes to return to work, the employer would like to have him back because he is a valuable employee.
We must further express concern that current government policies can result in a shortage of physicians and specialists and this shortage can and will lead to extended waiting periods which prohibit early, timely and appropriate intervention.
The Workers' Compensation Board and the province have recently approved new policies to deal with chronic pain as a result of the Doward decision. This court decision has resulted in appeal delays, financial uncertainty and confusion within the system.
ABSDA must place on record, Mr. Chairman, our concern regarding this decision and we realize fully it is a court decision but it flies in the opposite direction to the position of most provincial jurisdictions in this country.
Our concern with respect to chronic pain is perhaps best summarized by the letter from the Chairman of the Board dated July 22, 1999 which said the Workers' Compensation Act has introduced a strategy to eliminate the unfunded liability. This strategy, combined with an approved economy and the reduction in the number of accidents has resulted in WCB now being 50 per cent funded. The average assessment rate for business has been held steady since 1994. As the program stands, it is anticipated that there will not have to be a rate increase as a result of the chronic pain program. Yet, Mr. Chairman, if we look at the Annual Report of the board in 1997, on Page 40, the auditing and the actuarial firms state: "The probability and magnitude of such an increase in the liabilities resulting or relating to chronic pain benefits are presently undeterminable.".
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, that divergent expression of opinion, one from an actuary and an auditing firm and the other from the board itself, causes us substantial concern. The number of appeals that are currently outstanding in this province are undermining the credibility of the system. In addition to delay between the hearings and adjudication process period is totally unacceptable. This delay, along with long waiting periods from medical specialists, can result in an unnecessary frustration for an injured worker.
As I mentioned earlier, we are unable to offer a plan to expedite the appeal process at this time. We understand that - in fact, the current process is totally under review by an organization totally outside this committee. We look forward to the public distribution of the report and will comment further at that time.
The number of days that, in many jurisdictions that lapse or fall between an appeal being heard and an adjudication being rendered, is running somewhere in the 44, 45 or 90 day period. We suggest to the committee that that is reasonable, that it provides the injured person, it provides the employer with a direction, with an understanding.
We believe that a very large part of the difficulty that the system in this province is facing deals with this inordinate and unnecessary delay, and a lack of direction and a lack of understanding of what is actually taking place.
Mr. Chairman, we do not disagree with the concept of workers' compensation. It has served employees and employers in this province and other Canadian provinces well since its introduction in 1915. We believe it must be stated very clearly and unequivocally here that it has served much better than privatized plans which would weaken the principle of workers' compensation and not meet the needs of all the stakeholders.
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, our view is perhaps best expressed by the words of the Honourable Mr. Justice MacGillvary in a very widely respected report concerning the purpose and funding principles of workers' compensation that workers' compensation, ". . . should be considered for what it is and was originally intended to be, namely, a scheme by which compensation is provided in respect of injuries to workers in industry. It is not a system for dispensing charity, it is not unemployment insurance, it is not social legislation for the purpose of elevating the standard of one group in society at the expense of another.".
In summary, we encourage your committee to review the Act with caution, with prudence and indeed with the wisdom of Solomon to deal with a system that must reflect the changing face of our workplace in this province. We thank you for the opportunity to express our views and we are fully prepared to and will attempt to answer any questions from any member of the committee. Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, John. Do any committee members have any questions for either one of these gentlemen? Mr. Parker.
MR. PARKER: Thank you for your presentation, it was well thought out. I want to come back to the section you had there on all employers perhaps being part of the workers' compensation . . .
MR. WARD: Mr. Parker, I am glad you asked that.
MR. PARKER: Okay. Certainly it is my understanding, at this time, that less than half of the employers in the province are actually included under workers' compensation. You mentioned farmers and fishermen, in particular. You felt that should be voluntary. Why do you say that?
MR. WARD: Quite frankly, I don't have an answer to put to the committee in terms of how - in the fishing sector - you deal with the payment of the assessment. Is it by the boat, is it by the captain? Who pays that assessment? That, Mr. Parker, is really our key area of not being able to say to you, specifically, this is how it should work because the number, my understanding, not only in this province but in some other jurisdictions within Atlantic Canada, that it is, from an administrative standpoint, a very difficult issue and one that requires a good deal of thought and I don't have an answer. In an ideal world, as I said, then all employers would be assessed. We make that proviso that in the case of the farming and fishing community, that that is an issue that needs to be addressed.
MR. PARKER: I believe there some fishermen right now that are under the program.
MR. WARD: Yes, but I suspect the percentage to be very low. In most jurisdictions where it is that way, the percentage of registrants or assessed employers in the farming and fishing community is relatively small.
MR. PARKER: They are both very dangerous occupations, as you can well imagine. What about farming, then, is there any particular reason why they couldn't pay into it?
MR. WARD: In the case of farming, I believe it to be the same way. You have some family farms where you may have a father and a son or you can have a family ownership and operation within that farm that, again, makes it, I think from an administrative standpoint and an interpretation standpoint, less than clear-cut as far as how you deal with it.
MR. PARKER: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. ERNEST FAGE: John, fine presentation. We had a suggestion at one of our previous meetings where an employer said he was new in business. I believe lumbering was the business. He felt that it wasn't his problem, the $370 million unfunded liability, that new businesses should be struck at a different rate and that the existing businesses should assume all that liability. What would your view be on that situation as proposed by that individual?
MR. WARD: I think, Mr. Fage, our view would be very clearly, if you are an employer in this province or any other province, if the rate for your particular industry is $4.67 and you are in that industry, the rating system reflects what, in reality, has happened to that industry. Admittedly there may have been claims which have been incurred or did, in
fact, happen four to five years ago. By the same token, there are many situations where an employer has gone out of business and the current employers within that rate group are still paying a portion of the claims and the costs of that firm that is gone. I think it is a situation where, if the rate is, whatever it may be for lumbering or mill work or a mill, then if the rate is $4.65, then he should pay.
MR. FAGE: So the current policy under the Act now, where your individual record with accidents reflect on your rate and if you have had a good record, it lowers your rate, would certainly be sufficient, in your view, as a new entrance policy into business rather than use it as an economic tool, use it as it was intended, as you have stated, this is for the prevention.
MR. WARD: Now, quite frankly, we think that there are many small employers who, under the current experience rating system, do not fully benefit from the 20 down, 40 up kind of thing. I think that is something that needs to be reviewed because if we do look at the demographic composition, there are many more small employers who are not deriving full benefit from their experience rating. That, in many cases, is a deterrent to them. On a personal basis, I believe that the demerits should be higher than they currently are.
MR. FAGE: One last question. The current classification for assigning WCB rates to employers by classification is quite extensive. We have had a number of submissions by individual companies and industry representatives who feel that it didn't quite suit their particular line of work on their vocation. They felt that there should be much more definitive roles in those industry lines. Does your association have any problem with the current structure of rates for industries?
MR. WARD: The method that is used for rating by the provincial jurisdictions varies quite substantially across Canada. For example, in P.E.I., they probably have one-third of the number of rate classifications that Nova Scotia does. By the same token, looking down the road to the new SIC codes, I believe that within three or four years the introduction on a national basis of the SIC codes will allow for a much more definitive definition. I think that will be in the process of evolution and regulation that we are all going to be, whether we like it or not, governed by, regulated by and a part of an SIC code that is different.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Mr. Corbett.
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Thank you for your presentation, sir. Is it fair to categorize most of the people you represent as small- to medium-size employers?
MR. WARD: Yes. The average number of employees is 12.
MR. CORBETT: I was taken by one of your statements about the ability to work kind of hand in glove with your employer group and WCB to get people back to work. There are some forms of that but, as you said before, you don't like giving examples or facts about problems if you don't have a solution. Can you tell us where you see your membership benefiting from this? I am thinking of it in a lot of ways because they are such small employers. Other jobs are usually multi-functioned. We are not looking at a highly unionized industry here.
MR. WARD: I think, Mr. Corbett, the best answer I can give you to that is that some two years ago, ABSDA, as an association, undertook the development and publication of a manual on occupational health, safety and claims management for our members. This is in process and I have the final draft, as a matter of fact, in my briefcase right now. It was written specifically for us by a firm within this province and the reason we did it is for the very reason that you say. In the majority of small businesses, you do not have a full-time human resource manager. You are dealing with a number of clients. You are dealing with the purchase and the sale of goods and you are trying to keep the banker happy. That is the reason we developed this particular manual. Quite frankly, our members will benefit from the thing and, as an association, we have totally underwritten the costs for that very reason.
MR. CORBETT: Kind of working along that same line, I suspect too, it is not uncommon for your members to have probably an ancillary business working alongside in their lumber yard. I am thinking maybe someone may be building roof trusses, may be building baby barns, those type of things, like a value added type situation. Do you see those people paying the same rates as the person who is maybe operating the fork lift and picking up the flat of plywood or the bags of nails or would you see your membership better splitting that type of operation off, for insurance purposes, not business purposes?
MR. WARD: In some cases, if it is a separately incorporated company, then they probably, in this province right now, would have a two level rate structure. In some other cases, if the function, as you say, of building trusses or whatever, is not a significant percentage of the overall time that the person spends during their working day, then they may be under one particular rate. Quite frankly, I do not favour split rates within a company.
MR. CORBETT: That is where I was going.
MR. WARD: I think that is what you may have been coming to.
MR. CORBETT: Yes, that is where I was going. Slash the next question.
I want to get back to the idea of chronic pain and the unfunded liability. You alluded to, I think, a statement from Mr. Stuewe this summer and he talked in terms of that we are basically getting our house in order but if you look at the books, we are not. They seem to contradict each other. I am not here as an apologist for Mr. Stuewe and certainly not speaking
for him. Do you believe that could have come out of the sense that they drew borders or put a circle around who they felt were chronic pain sufferers they could pay and therefore identified a lump of money as opposed to at one time their big fear was it would be me too, from anybody who ever worked in a workplace and stubbed their toe would come back and say, I have chronic pain.
MR. WARD: I, personally, believe that the definitive allocation of the amount of money that is required for chronic pain is virtually impossible to forecast and that within the compensation system you will hear such divergent cost estimates that would lead me to believe that it is virtually impossible for anybody to accurately forecast what it is going to cost.
MR. CORBETT: Don't ever say I am saying this statement because I agree with the policy of the board, but the board has basically laid out a set of rules that says here are the criteria if you are in the system so obviously then the number becomes determinable.
MR. WARD: I believe there has probably been an attempt on someone's part to make that definition or make that definitive amount. I would submit to you, sir, that it is an almost impossible task that it is trying to say, well, fine, I am going to throw this package of Jell-O and it is all going to stick on the wall. I don't think it can.
MR. CORBETT: Without putting words in your mouth, then, can I say that there may be a fear, you think, as the board went to court again over Doward, that somebody else will come to the board now wanting to expand the parameters of chronic pain? Without putting words in your mouth, do you think that is a possibility?
MR. WARD: That is a very realistic possibility. Mr. Chairman, there is, on our part and I am sure on every other employer's part within this province, a genuine belief in the system itself but at some point, someone has to pay the bill. Now I, for example, have very substantial concerns as to what may happen if, for example, Devco suddenly disappeared. What happens to that unfunded liability that currently exists? Is there an arrangement in place that the federal government has guaranteed to the government of this province that they are going to pay that, or is it one of those things that has been - it will be a delight for Mr. Power's profession where it will have to be arbitrated and discussed. I view that, sir, very seriously that what will happen in the long term to that kind of situation. Who pays the bill?
MR. CORBETT: I kind of agree with you on the Devco situation. I think there is money in the works there but that is for another time and place.
Just one more really short question, and I have asked this one of a few business groups, and that is, the timeliness of paying the assessments. That is in a kind of a two or threefold way. One is, should assessments be done quarterly and should they be done after
the fact as you would as businesses remit their other monies to the Receiver General, like your EI and your federal taxes? Do you feel that would help your industry?
MR. WARD: May I make a comparison, with the agreement of the Chairman, to what has happened in another jurisdiction. We were part and parcel of a pilot program where the employer remitted their funds or their assessment on the 15th of the month following based on the actual payroll in the preceding month. It is an excellent system because what it does, firstly, you are dealing with real numbers. You are remitting at the same time that you are making your remittance for CPP and other matters. You are evening your cash flow over 12 payments. I believe it to be a very reasonable system because from the standpoint of cash flow, the workers' compensation assessment is something that any employer is paying currently in this province, say at the worst period of the year.
So I think, if I may, to address your question, yes, I favour it and it does work and we have been a part of it and would be happy to share our experience with you and other members of the committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Taylor, a short question.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the presentation, Mr. Ward. I find particular favour with your second principle there and you were encouraging the Workers' Compensation Board and perhaps the all-Party committee to strive to eliminate the unnecessary payment of legal and other administrative expenses in hearings and appeals. A lot of injured workers comment, and I think with just cause, that legal fees on a ratio basis, when compared with the benefits that are paid to the injured worker, greatly exceed the benefits paid to the injured worker. You embellished on your first and third principles but I noted in your submission, and you mentioned that you were unable to offer a plan to expedite the appeal process, but can you offer something short of a complete review of the legal and administrative procedures in the system because I really think that is part of the problem. Could you perhaps offer this committee a practical solution or suggestion to that concern?
MR. WARD: Mr. Taylor, I believe that the appeal process has become too adversarial, it has become too legalistic and there is far too much time between the appeal and the final decision. The effort that I see being made in terms of alternate dispute resolution, I believe has some merit. I think there are ways to deal with the appeal process that make it less, if you would, confrontational, that you take away the concern that many people have in appearing before the process because they are in a forum where they are not totally comfortable and it is a foreign forum to them. I believe that there are ways that realistically that can be achieved.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Ward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just a short question, Mr. Ward. On your occupational health and safety costs, do you feel that basically it either should be taken out of the compensation process so that it applies to all and take it from general revenue, or if it is left in compensation that we expand that side of it to all employers?
MR. WARD: Exactly. If the committee is not prepared to recommend that the assessment rate be enlarged, then the cost of the operation of occupational health should be transferred to the general expense of the province. That way, you are equalizing the expense of the operation over the entire employer base and certainly we are not advocating, in any sense of the word that any employer get a free ride. That is why we are saying it is something that would probably not be very popular with a lot of folks, that the assessment base should be expanded.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Neville.
MR. JAMES NEVILLE: Just one question, Mr. Ward. Do you agree that the banks should be exempt from paying into the workers' compensation in Nova Scotia?
MR. WARD: Do I agree that they should be exempt? Absolutely not, unequivocally. The courts have determined and I believe the gentleman on your left will tell you that no is an answer. No is an answer to that.
MR. NEVILLE: Good. Thank you, Mr. Ward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Erjavec.
MR. LUC ERJAVEC: Just one quick question. The committee has received some criticism on the two-fifths deductible where the worker doesn't get paid for the first two days when they are injured. In your experience with your members, you have had members in all provinces, provinces such as New Brunswick brought something like this in, and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Have your members noticed a drop in the short term to one, two, three, four day claims where it is a slight injury but people decide, boy, I will take the financial hit or maybe I will go to work today and work through that injury? Have you noticed that?
MR. WARD: I think, Mr. Erjavec, two things have happened. One, the sort of marginal claim has disappeared in the three-day waiting period. Secondly, there has been a more cooperative kind of approach with the employer and the employee in terms of saying, well, look, I am hurting but I can come back and do a little of this if you can find me something on a modified basis that I can do. I think that that kind of an approach, sir, is beneficial to both the employee and the employer.
MR. ERJAVEC: One more quick one. I just did some quick math on the numbers you gave us and when you look at a supplier in Nova Scotia versus another province, you are probably talking several tens of thousands of dollars in assessments per year. Who do you think is winning or losing in that equation? Are the employers in other provinces making a lot more money or is it employment is dropping in Nova Scotia or are consumers paying more for their building products?
MR. WARD: I believe, sir, it is twofold. Firstly, it is a cost of doing business and if you are looking at locating a distribution facility in Cumberland County or in Sackville, workers' compensation costs are something that you look at. Sir, it is a payroll cost. Your payroll bundle, if you would, encompasses a number of issues. Now it includes your EI premiums, it includes workers' compensation costs, all of those issues. Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia it doesn't include a payroll tax.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to, on behalf of the committee, thank you, Mr. Ward and Mr. Sherwood, for your presentation. I am sure your experience in dealing with some of the companies you represent from other provinces is included in your presentation and I thank you very much for that.
MR. WARD: Thank you very much. The one point, Mr. Chairman, that we would like to make is that statistically the earlier and the sooner the intervention, then the greater the probability of that person returning to work. That is something that the system, regardless of where you are as a stakeholder, that is one of the objects.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Just before I ask for our next presenter, our scheduled hours were from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. or until we finished the afternoon, and then from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Now I have on my list here, six individual citizens and one group yet and to provide the timing that I did before, we are going to be here until after 6:00 p.m. That doesn't bother us any but if anybody has something else to do, we will try to take them in order.
If someone else would rather defer until this evening, the lady just down at the back corner, if you would like to have your name taken off the list and added to this evening, if that is more convenient for you, that is fine. Otherwise, we will sit through until this section is finished. I just want to give you that opportunity, if you care to defer to be first or second on the agenda this evening, that will be fine with us as well. You can just indicate to Kim here, and she will let me know.
Has Karen Taylor arrived? Okay. The next presenter I have on my list is Mr. Gary Smith.
MR. GARY SMITH: I don't have a whole lot to say, so I won't take up too much time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. [Gary] Smith, and welcome. Can you give us the nature of your injury, and when it happened, perhaps?
MR. GARY SMITH: This injury doesn't apply to me. It applies to my wife, Loretta. I am here to speak on her behalf.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fine.
MR. GARY SMITH: I am going to read this as I have it written down, but I can leave a copy with you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That will be fine.
MR. GARY SMITH: It has been over eight years since Loretta filed a claim for compensation. Her claim was originally disallowed by the board, however, the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board overruled the decision and awarded Loretta temporary total disability based on the report from two outside-Halifax doctors. Only a few months had passed when she received a letter from the board telling her to appear once again before their medical adviser. Once again, Loretta's claim was disallowed.
It was because their medical adviser could not literally see what was wrong with Loretta. Therefore she was denied benefits. The hearing officer openly admitted, "I have found that Loretta Smith, the worker suffers from pain, but I cannot conclude, based on the evidence before me, that she suffers from a permanent medical impairment.".
Gentlemen, I want you to know this, it is absolutely essential that the benefit of the doubt be given to the worker. For example, the doctor said, after examining the worker, it is in my belief that her chronic low back pain was a direct result of her injury, and her current disability stems from that injury. These are what two other doctors have said, but yet the compensation doctor, he says, I can't see anything wrong with you, Mrs. Smith. So, what is the point in having a review officer, a hearing officer, because they are going to say the same thing, they are not going to overrule the doctor. By the way, I am from Springhill and I know this man's face, Ernie, right? You are from Amherst, Ernie?
The board's doctors, their medical advisers have so much influence over the worker's claim that there is no point in having a review officer. No point in having a hearing officer, because if the compensation doctor gives the worker a zero per cent rating, the review officer and the hearing officer will not overrule that, as I just mentioned. Therefore, the case should go directly to the appeal board for a decision based on the outside doctors' reports. That is the way it was. We are going back since 1989. That is the way it was at one point in time when you had the appeal board, not the tribunal. She is presently up against the tribunal now, with the last submissions, with the lawyer apparently from the advisory board.
I just have a couple more comments here, with regards to the advisory board, the Workers' Advisers Program may be a great thing for people in the Halifax area, but it certainly is no good if you live up in Springhill, Cumberland County, you drive all the way down there. We should have a counsellor in the area. That is about all I have to say, really. I hope I have made my point quite clear.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What type of injury did your wife have, Mr. [Gary] Smith?
MR. GARY SMITH: My wife worked 16 years at the nursing home in Springhill, and while lifting - I know her case so well, I even know the lady's name - Jenny Black up in the bed, a very heavy woman, she hurt her back. Her hip is numb, her left leg is numb, and that is the way it has been. She is in pain 24 hours a days. I know, because I live with her. I am her husband. That is what happened, it was in a nursing home, lifting someone up in a bed that slid down and trying to get her up on the pillow.
After 16 years of working there, this happened. Now it is a fighting battle to be compensated. This is why people pay in to compensation, this is why you do all of this, to be compensated for an injury that took place on the job. You have two professional doctors in Halifax that say, yes, it is in my opinion, we can't very well see, it is not like you broke something in two, and now we have two parts, it is not quite that simple, maybe. The compensation doctor, like I said, I could repeat myself forever, he says, look, I can't see anything.
So what do they do, the review officer, the hearing officer, they have no choice, they are not going to go against that doctor. They would lose their jobs if they did. You can do away with the hearing officer and the review officer in that particular case. Anyway, that is my point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. [Gary] Smith, for coming in on behalf of your wife. Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just one question. Do you feel that we should have an independent final appeal either be it a legal or a different body, something separate from WCAT altogether or workers' compensation?
MR. GARY SMITH: Most definitely. You are talking about taking this thing to the appeal board?
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Yes.
MR. GARY SMITH: Yes. It has to be a different body. They have to be some people involved that have nothing to do in any way, shape or form with compensation. They have to be able to be open, and most of all, the worker has to be given the benefit of the doubt. If
there is a doubt, if it is a cut and dried case where there is no way a person should have compensation, that is fine, but boy, I will tell you, if there is a doubt, give that person the benefit of the doubt. Bring Section 24 back. Somebody took it out.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anybody else? Any of the consultants? Yes, Jim.
MR. NEVILLE: Mr. [Gary] Smith, what year was the accident of your wife?
MR. GARY SMITH: June 29, 1989. I don't even have to look at the paper to tell you that.
MR. NEVILLE: I just wanted to see what year. When they cut her benefits off, did they ever assess for a permanent medical impairment pension?
MR. GARY SMITH: They did. There was a doctor, compensation doctor, and he gave her a zero per cent rating.
MR. NEVILLE: Zero.
MR. GARY SMITH: A zero rating, unbelievable. I won't mention their names, but the two doctors in Halifax, I call them outside doctors, they had said, one said 15 to 20 per cent, the other said 20 per cent. I just can't see it now, but in my mind, the doctor had clearly illustrated that it was in his belief, without a doubt, the pain and suffering that my wife goes through on a daily basis is directly connected to the incident of 1989. Now, I have been involved in this thing so much, to help her out, I didn't even have to read that part of it. These are facts that I am telling you.
I can't believe how two doctors, specialists in Halifax, can be so sure of the thing, and yet all of a sudden, you are getting some benefits, you are getting your compensation, all of a sudden you get a letter, the letter says, appear before Dr. so and so at the Workers' Compensation Board. You go down there, and you think, well, he is going to ask a few questions, everything will be all right, we will just speak and tell the truth about everything. All of a sudden, that is fine, you are there for 10 or 15 minutes, and about three or four days later in time, you get this registered letter, you are disqualified. The guy took a look at you, he lifted your leg, and he says, the other doctors don't know what they are talking about. They are wrong, I am right, and you are disqualified.
That is the system you have. It has to be changed. You have to change it for the worker. The worker is number one. He or she is number one, because I will tell you, without people working, you have no country, you have nothing, you have no force.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. [Gary] Smith. We appreciate you coming in very much, on behalf of your wife. We invite you to stay, if you feel like it, to hear some of the other presentations. We sincerely thank you.
MR. GARY SMITH: Thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The next presenter is JoAnne Craib, representing North Nova Forest Owners Cooperative Ltd. Welcome, Ms. Craib. The floor is yours.
MS. JOANNE CRAIB: Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is JoAnne Craib. I am the Manager of North Nova Forest Owners Co-op Ltd. I am here today to speak to you on their behalf. North Nova is a forest management group venture co-op that was incorporated in 1976, with a current membership of 165 small private woodlot owners primarily in Cumberland County. Our land base consists of approximately 40,000 acres under active management. Our office is located in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Our staff consists of three full-time people, a manager and two forest technicians. It is our job to consult with the landowner on their objectives for forest management of their properties, and to make the necessary arrangements to ensure the work is carried out by qualified contractors.
It is our responsibility to identify the work to be done on our members' property and make these recommendations to the landowner. We then hire a qualified contractor to carry out the treatments recommended. After the initial layout of these treatments, our primary responsibility is to supervise the work being completed. The three permanent staff members of North Nova do not actively engage in any of the treatment completion aspects of these jobs. We do not own equipment such as power saws, clearing saws, processors or forwarders that is required to carry out these treatments. We hire only contractors that have their own workers' compensation coverage, and we do not do the work ourselves, nor do we have a crew on payroll to do any of the work. Our staff's job is as a consultant/agent only for our landowners.
When it is necessary for a member of North Nova's staff to visit a job site, it is to consult with the foreman or supervisor of the contractor who has been hired. It is our policy that all contractors have their own workers' compensation coverage to work for North Nova. We require proof of coverage from all of our contractors before they are hired. There is a copy of that attached.
North Nova is committed to complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and to that end have developed an occupational health and safety policy. We have and will continue to organize training sessions for our sub-contractors, such as first aid and WHMIS. We also are committed to ensuring that all of our contractors have the opportunity, at a reasonable cost, to participate in various other training programs designed to create and maintain a safer and healthier workplace. Attached is a copy of our policy.
Up until 1996, North Nova was classified under forestry management and consulting, using the Standard Industrial Code system of classification. In January 1996, our classification was changed to SIC lumbering. This changed our assessment rate from 44 cents per $100 to $9.25 per $100. Our workers' compensation costs increased in 1966 by $8,818. Our 1997 and 1998 assessment rates continue to climb higher and higher despite a clean record in those years. Our 1998 assessment rate was set at $11.45 per $100 of payroll assessment. Under the correct classification of forestry management and consulting, we should be paying $448.80, but instead we are forced to pay $11,679.
Despite proceeding through the absolutely frustrating appeals process with the Workers' Compensation Board, we continue to come up against a brick wall with regards to this matter. It would seem that the current structure for classification is intent on ensuring that the maximum amount possible be extracted from small companies to enable the larger companies to enjoy a lower rate. During one of the appeal decisions, I was told that "my firm is providing some of the less hazardous occupations in the forest industry", which I find far from comforting, considering that this is just the kind of thinking that creates such a burden on small business in this province. I cannot understand the Workers' Compensation Board's rationale of having the same rate classification for a person using a power saw or operating heavy machinery in the woods as a person making recommendations on paper and doing the administrative work.
Although I understand that through mismanagement in the past, the workers' compensation system carries a large unfunded liability, I do not believe that forcing small businesses such as North Nova out of business is the answer. It would seem that the only concern of the Workers' Compensation Board in setting and enforcing this system is the almighty dollar. Fairness and reason is once again thrown out the window. It is ironic that in times that everyone is giving lip service to their desire for job creation, that policies such as this make it nearly impossible and uneconomical for a business, large or small, to continue to operate.
Nova Scotia is the only Atlantic Province that would classify a firm such as North Nova in the lumbering category. Indeed, if North Nova were to move across the border to New Brunswick, we would be rewarded by a far more reasonable workers' compensation rate. The same is true for both Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain competitive when companies can come into Nova Scotia and
offer the same services for much less, due to our overhead being at least 11 per cent higher. In reality, it is near impossible.
In closing, I must admit that over the past two years, I have felt a high measure of frustration in dealing with this issue, and have found that the Workers' Compensation Board and its employees have refused to listen to reason and even consider the damage this classification system is causing to small businesses such as North Nova. It is important to recognize that small businesses carry a very heavy burden on their backs in this province with the current workers' compensation system, and if we are not careful, we will see those backs start to break.
I have included several attachments, such as copies of our occupational health and safety policy, a letter stating North Nova's policy for workers' compensation coverage, contractor clearance letters, and copies of various correspondence that I have had with the Workers' Compensation Board over the past two years. These attachments support the information contained in this presentation.
At this time, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. I would hope that we will see some positive changes in the near future. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Craib. You might be interested to know that this is the second presentation we have had from a group such as yours with exactly the same problem. We appreciate your coming. One thing, I just scanned ahead while you were giving your presentation, and in the correspondence from you to the workers' compensation, you haven't included their response. I would be interested, and the committee would be, in seeing what their response was and how they wrote back to you. If perhaps, over the next week or so, you could get that to the committee, we would appreciate it, because I would be interested to see what they are saying in their response to you.
MS. CRAIB: Sure. That will not be a problem.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any questions, anyone? Any from the consultants? Well, I think it has been very clear what your request is, and in our deliberations, it will certainly be something we will be looking at as well, because as I said, this is the second time, it is exactly the same. Classification, something seems to be amiss in it. I guess it is not for us to change it, it is up to us to review it, and to make recommendations to government. Thank you very much.
The next presenter I have on my list is Mr. Dave Coleman. Is Mr. Coleman here? Good afternoon, Mr. Coleman, and welcome. You can start whenever you feel up to it.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: My wife was going to come down here and do this presentation with me. The presentation we have made up, she wrote it up as if she was going to be here reading it, but she had to work today, so she couldn't come down. I will just read it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Can I ask you a question or two before you start, Mr. Coleman?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The nature of the injury, when did it happen and what, and where were you working, and that sort of thing?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: I was working at the Shipyards in Halifax. I had a fall at work and injured my back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: When was that, Mr. Coleman?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Back in 1987, 1988, I think it was.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. That is great. That was just for the record, so that we could have that down. Go right ahead, Mr. Coleman.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: All right. "I am writing this letter to you so that I can express my feelings of anger and disgust, that in today's society an organization, namely the Compensation Board, which in my understanding is in place to protect the worker, has been allowed to get away with what they have for so very long. The adverse affect that they have had on people and their families is without a doubt devastating. The reason I am expressing my views in writing is because unfortunately I am working today and unable to attend this meeting. This concerns me because my husband David has a difficult time expressing himself and therefore it puts our situation at a great disadvantage in my opinion. So I ask you to be patient and listen to our story as I remember it to the best of my ability.
When David first injured himself at work, he went on temporary benefits. He was sent back to work after three months. He was unable to complete one shift and was put off again. It was the Compensation Board and their doctors along with our specialist that agreed that David would never be able to go back to his trade at the shipyards of a Marine Electrician. The Compensation Board then transferred David to their own Rehab section of the Compensation Board. They came up with the bright idea of David opening his own business in photography. A 1 hour photo store to be exact . . . they told us that they would only offer one year of re-training and if he went ahead with this business he would indeed get a pension.".
They told me that I would get a pension after this business was set up.
"They put this man in this business and gave him $25,000.00 in lieu of training . . .". I can't read this the way she has got it written here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just take your time, Mr. Coleman, don't feel any pressure or anything. Just say your piece and don't worry about it. Just read it the way it is. Don't try to to fill in for your wife, just read it the way it is. It will be fine.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: "I would like to point out that this man never finished high school and . . .".
MS. LAURA COLEMAN: Can I read it for you.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Here, you can read it probably better.
MS. LAURA COLEMAN: "I would like to point out that this man never finished high school and they never once gave him any business training, nor did they ever send him for stress testing to see if he would be able to endure 12 hour days. A man with severe back problems. Can you imagine and these people are supposed to be professionals. Well shortly after buying the business we received notification that David would not be receiving any form of a pension. In their opinion he didn't qualify. David was only operating the business for a period of three months and he ended up in hospital for two weeks on complete bed rest because of his back. I had a government job and I had to quit it in order to run this business because we had mortgaged our house in order to come up with additional funds to buy the business. David was never able on the advice of doctors or specialists to go back to work at the business. We had a lawyer at the time and David was put back on temporary benefits at that time. We then had to fight with the Compensation Board to get David to the pain clinic. Actually I had to go to my ombudsman in order to get that accomplished. The pain clinic recommended a stay at the Rehab Center in Halifax, but Compensation Board would not approve it and yet they said he was not eligible for a pension. Anyways after many fights and many months we finally got David into the Rehab Centre where he spent six months. I was left to run a business 12 hours a day that I never wanted, nor was I ever to be involved with from the onset. Not only that we have two children and the affect it had on them was devastating. Our son who at the time would have been about seventeen never completed high school. Instead he went out west to work. The stress was just too much for him. Our daughter who would have been about ten at the time started wetting the bed again. Her mother was never home. I almost had a nervous breakdown and ended up on prosac in order to cope. My children's lives and personalities have definitely been affected by this ordeal and nobody seems to care. I lost a good job, David and I lost our security. In my opinion my son lost his education. Sure he could go back now but thats not the point. If some independent company or person was responsible for destroying someone's life as the Compensation Board has with us they would become liable for a major law suit. Perhaps when you people gather all your data together maybe they should be sued.
Anyways David now has MS and the Compensation Board is trying to use that against us. But every specialist, just check stands behind us not them and says that the MS has absolutely no bearing on David's back problem. They also say that the back is definitely a compensatible injury and that David should be given a substantial pension. Did you people know that MS is suppose to be a painless disease, but my husband still after approximately 9 to 10 years suffers from severe back pain. We sold the business at a loss and will probably be in financial trouble the rest of our lives. Am I bitter. You bet I am. Let's look at the facts. The Compensation Board said David could never be a Marine Electrician again. The Compensation Board said he could do this business without business training or more importantly without stress testing to see if he was physically able and when he wasn't and the doctors and specialist's backed us up they took no responsibility for the financial loss incurred on us, for the mental anguish we felt or for the devastation the incompetency that that staff caused us. Even our MLA Mr. Murray Scott cannot believe that in our case the Compensation Board has been allowed to get away with what they have. We are still after three years waiting for the Tribunal to get around to our case. How long do we have to wait for justice. Are you going to help us seek justice? I surely hope so because I don't know where else to turn. Thank you.".
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could I have your name, ma'am, for the record.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: That's my wife's mother.
MR. CHAIRMAN: What's her name so we can just record it?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Laura Coleman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Do you have anything else you want to add off the cuff, Mr. Coleman?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: It is just that they said that I would get this business and they told me that I would get a pension. The girl that I was talking to at the time, who was looking after me, she said that I would get this pension and then all of a sudden they come up and they say, no, no pension. The day that I went down there, like they had me back on full benefits again after the Ombudsman happened, and they had me down there to see this general practitioner. I don't know who he was but he was no specialist or nothing. They had me go in and see him one day. I don't even think he looked at an X-ray and the next day they tell me there's nothing wrong with me, I should be able to go back to work. I can hardly stand up. I will never go back to work and it's just they give you the run-around so much. They wonder why people are getting savage towards them down there. If you play with a person's mind enough, then they're going to get mad, and a lot of people are.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Coleman. We appreciate you coming. I am going to give an opportunity to the committee to ask you a few questions before you leave. Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just one, Mr. Chairman, have you used a walker ever since, Mr. Coleman?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: No, the walker has been in the last three or four years maybe, canes before that.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: But you always needed some assistance?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Yes.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dave, have you felt you've been dealt with in a forthright and serious manner whenever the Workers' Compensation Board has dealt with your case or with your inquiries?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: I don't feel like I've been treated right by it. One of them says one thing. Another one is saying another, you know. Every time I got somebody down there that wanted to do something for me, they got rid of him and then I would get another person. The lady that I had at the first of it, she seemed like she wanted to help me. She said I would get a pension. I don't know what happened to her. I never seen her again. It seemed every time that there was somebody there who cared, or seemed like to me that he cared, they got rid of him.
MR. FAGE: So when you would make inquiries or those types of things, you were answered in a reasonable time fashion, that you weren't waiting long periods of time to get answers to your questions, whether it was yes or no, and that you were dealt with in a serious manner by their employees or did you feel you were being put off at times?
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Put off a lot of times. This Appeals Tribunal that I've been waiting for, that's three years now.
MR. FAGE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Anyone else, any of our consultants? We sincerely thank you for coming before us today. I might say that we're not an appeal board or anything but we certainly are wanting to hear the workers' concerns with the system as it is now and when we
prepare our report and make recommendations, then if government carries them out, hopefully, it will advantage people like yourselves. We don't deal with the specific cases with the Workers' Compensation Board overall but we appreciate you coming very much. Thank you.
MR. DAVID COLEMAN: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The next presenter is Tom Fisher. Is Tom Fisher here? The next name I have is Marion Pettigrew. Bill Markie? Welcome, Mr. Markie, and whenever you're ready, you go right ahead.
MR. BILL MARKIE: I'm just here to air some frustrations and want some answers of why things aren't happening.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's fine.
MR. BILL MARKIE: To start off, I had two accidents, one in 1988 in the woods which busted the posterior cruciate ligament in my knee. It is torn and I'm too young for a knee replacement so I have got to stay on hold until I'm about 60 years old. I developed arthritis in both knees from hard work. I worked on the rigs in Alberta. I've delivered meats, truck driving, furniture and freight, all kinds of labour work. Most of the injuries are from labour. My knee, I got that brace.
The second one was 1989. I fell off a roof. The roof caved in and I went 20 feet head first on a cement floor. Cut my hands and my shoulders, fractured skull. My inner ear is gone. My balance is kaput. My shoulders, I had them both operated on. They sawed bones off both of them because I had tendonitis there, they had to relieve that, and carpal tunnel release. I kept trying to go back to work doing a little less and less each time I tried and, pain, I had to keep going back for operations after that. I had two operations on my knee, one on each shoulder, one on my skull.
I want to bring up this thing about the meat chart they have for me. They have my knees, 25 per cent; flexation, 5 per cent; shoulder, this totally frozen shoulder is 35 per cent; and shoulder joint, they had 15 per cent there and another 5 per cent. That comes up to 85 per cent disability on my accidents. They are paying me a 14 per cent permanent disability. Since the new Act came out I have lost about $300 a month. They've cut me way the hell back for no reason at all. I don't know why it is but I've been to five or six specialists and there's nothing they can do with my shoulders anymore to relieve the pain or my knees. The pain is there for the rest of my life. They're pumping me full of pain pills and they're still going to give me more because the pain is getting really worse. I can't sleep. I lost all my ability to sleep.
Dr. Dobson checked me. He gave me a 2 per cent increase in my shoulders which I have never seen none of that. I've been to the pain clinic and he has a report here. I'm into multiple areas of body pain. His last words, he says here, I do not believe this man will be successfully rehabilitated back into the workforce. But the Workers' Compensation Board says I might be able to do a little bit for a little while but then I'm laid up for a week, maybe longer, with pain. I'm just taking pain pills and no sleep. It's murder.
For that 14 per cent, they sent me to Dr. Stanish, he is the reigning expert in Nova Scotia over all them. They don't care if there's a workers' compensation doctor or not. He has given me a 20 per cent permanent disability for my knee and the Workers' Compensation Board is not even looking at that 20 per cent and he's overall for the whole eastern provinces here. Anyway, I'm too young to have any knee joints or anything put in. They say I can do a little for a little while but they don't know what.
They told me the rehabilitation, they give me three months to go find a job. That's what Gerard Benoit told me, I will give you three months to find a job. After that you're cut off. I said what the hell am I going to do? Who is going to hire me? What jobs can I do? I thought you were supposed to retrain me at something? I said I would love to have your job, just going around telling people that they have got to find a job or they're going to lose their compensation, which isn't fair.
I mean you pay car insurance. You have an accident and you get paid. It's the guys at the bottom that do the hard labour work. They're the ones most likely to get hurt on the job but if anything happens to them, their insurance is not going to cover them. It's the guys at the top, the bosses, they're getting the big salaries for jobs well done. The guy at the bottom, he can go on welfare, unemployment, the hell with him. Our job is done. He's just disposable. That's what it's getting to and it's really frustrating me.
I've been going to lawyers. I've been transferred to one lawyer company back to the workers' adviser. Every time they say, yes, come back, you call me Thursday. I call them Thursday, oh, they're gone on leave. I started with Kevin Deveaux. I never seen him since. Then it was another one. She disappeared. Then there's another one now. I don't know where the hell she's at. Then at the Workers' Compensation Board I had one adjudicator after another. They just get to know my case and they're gone.
It's the same as government, you put somebody on like Joe Clark, or something. They take a position, Attorney General, Tom McInnis or something, they just get to know that job and they take them off it because they might know something. So somebody else fills in that doesn't have a clue. He's got to learn it. As soon as he gets to learn it a bit, he is put onto another situation. That is the same as workers' compensation. They won't stay situated on one person's claim and they are not communicating with the head doctors.
They use their damn own doctors like Dr. Dobson here. He checked me out and he says, I can't be let back into the workforce. Did I ever hear back from that? No. I've been to the pain clinic and they confirm I am well into chronic pain. This is years ago. I've been fighting them now 10 years and no satisfaction.
To take me, I am just getting my life -well, I wasn't getting around very well but - $300, I was living on that and they took it from me without any explanation. The new Workers' Compensation Act just cut $300 out from my pay just like that. They have no explanation, never explained anything.
The new Act was supposed to help me. I'm under the old Act. They're supposed to govern me under the old Act. This chronic pain and back payments, I will never see that. They tell me I will. I have been down to Canada Pension. My doctors and lawyers, they sent me down to Canada Pension. I've been to a tribunal last week. They told me something should have been done about this a long time ago. Moneywise, it is getting really tight. It is really starting to hurt.
Workers' compensation, they were going to put me in an office job or something. All the specialists and doctors say I can't sit or stand too long and it's frustrating. Both shoulders, I just can't do anything with them. I can't sit there and write, reach and sit all day. I had my pelvis busted up in a car accident. That is not the point here, it is the compensation. I should have been killed in that fall. They would have had to dish out more money then to my family. They don't look at that.
They also agree that I cannot be retrained. My lawyers say I should have a pension. Why they won't give it to me, I don't know. Then they put me on temporary earnings and say, well, you can be just cut off at their leisure, whenever they say, that's it, that's it. I'm on my own and I'm scrounging for a job. Who's going to hire somebody in my position?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We thank you, Mr. Markie. I'm just wondering if any of the committee have some questions for you, if you wouldn't mind. Anyone have any questions? Mr. Neville.
MR. NEVILLE: You said you're getting 14 per cent, Mr. Markie?
MR. BILL MARKIE: Yes.
MR. NEVILLE: For what injury was the 14 per cent given to you?
MR. BILL MARKIE: I got 7 per cent for my knees and 7 per cent for my shoulders and head, skull and the carpal tunnel.
MR. NEVILLE: Were you assessed for a frozen shoulder?
MR. BILL MARKIE: Yes, they gave me 35 per cent for that, 35 per cent disability. I have the meat chart here with all the - it all adds up to 85 per cent and they are willing to give me 14 per cent, just temporary earnings replacement. That is the new Act which shouldn't be covering me at all, I've been told.
MR. NEVILLE: Under the old Act.
MR. BILL MARKIE: There was a lawyer at Canada Pension that said chronic pain and stuff like that, he says, your accident was before 1990. You should be getting a lot of money back from them. Then I called the workers' advisory and they said he had no business saying that, there is no such thing.
Workers' advisory always tells me a different story every time I call them. They have got to be paid by compensation. Compensation has got them wrapped around their finger to get the answers they want. That is what is frustrating. That really pisses people off because you're not getting a straight answer from anyone. They're always saying, well, it's the other guy's problem. It's not right.
MR. NEVILLE: Did you qualify for Canada Pension?
MR. BILL MARKIE: I don't know. I've been through the tribunal last week and I won't know for six to eight weeks. My doctor says I should, my specialist says I should. They have wrote down that I cannot be working.
MR. CHAIRMAN: When was the last time you worked, Mr. Markie?
MR. BILL MARKIE: Oh, God, end of 1993 or 1994. I had to have several more operations. I work a while, have to have an operation which made it worse, can't go back, work a while again, another operation. The more I try to do something, the more I'm damaging my body. If I try doing something again, I will probably end up having another operation.
My rotary socket here on my shoulder, that is completely gone now. It is crunching like hell. The pain is keeping me awake all night. There is no sleep at all. I'm taking 8 Percocets a day, two at a time and he is planning on 12 a day, if possible. But the health nurses and stuff are talking, why not give you morphine at night so that you can sleep, this sort of thing. I have been on sleeping pills. I went to Mental Health, they gave me sleeping pills that should knock out a horse. He said, if I took one-fifth of that, I would be out like a light. Nothing. Well, I would get out of bed more tired than I ever was. My sleep is just completely gone. This has been going on and off since 1989.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have no more questions, Mr. Markie, but we really appreciate your coming in and expressing your frustrations in your dealings with the board. Those are the sorts of things we want to hear and we really appreciate your coming. Thank you.
MRS. JACKIE MARKIE: My name is Jackie Markie, and I just wanted to ask you a question.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you care to come up here and introduce yourself, so that we can get it on the record for our deliberations.
MRS. JACKIE MARKIE: My name is Jackie Markie, Bill Markie's wife, and I just wanted to ask you people a question, just one question. His family physician and, I believe, two specialists have said, I am sorry, Bill can't return back to work. He can't be rehabilitated. Why, I don't understand, the Workers' Compensation Board doesn't take this into consideration. These doctors are saying, no, I am sorry, he cannot be rehabilitated. They are saying, well, go back to work, go back to work. Why? Why do they not listen to the physicians, to the specialists and to his own family doctor? Can anyone answer that for me?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, I can't answer the why. I can tell you though, if it is of any comfort to you, that we have heard that over and over, over the past three weeks. It is one of the questions that we will be addressing. I presume we will be addressing that when we come forward with our recommendations, why when specialists assess people and make recommendations that a board doctor reverses those. We can't answer that. We don't work for the board. We have nothing to do with it. We weren't a part of the new Act or the old or anything. We are all new MLAs, except for Mr. Fage, who has a year or so experience. This is all new to us, and this is why we are going around. We want to hear your concerns, so that we can try to address some of those in recommendations we will be making to the government. I can't answer your question as to why that is.
MRS. JACKIE MARKIE: Does the Workers' Compensation Board actually see these people who have been injured, or is that they just look at papers, and say, well, gee, let's give this one guy and this guy nothing. It seems like it is a draw of the hat. It is like, well, gee, let's give this guy something, and every second guy might get something, and they might not. They don't seem to look at the doctors' recommendations, saying this person cannot return. He or she has a back problem, or whatever the injury is, they don't seem to take that into consideration. They seem to look at it, like, well, we are not going to give it to him, because maybe he is just lying about all this pain and all these injuries and all these surgeries he has actually had.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, again, I can't sit here, none of us can, and answer for the board as to why that is happening. But I can tell you that we have been told that over the past two or three weeks, that it is in fact happening, and it will be something that we will address. We can't answer the why, as to why it is being done. Ms. Godin.
MS. GODIN: I do believe that there is someone in the room that Mrs. Markie could perhaps ask these questions of, Mr. Brad Fraser.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. He is not an adviser.
MS. GODIN: No, he is not an adviser, but he does work for the WCB, and in previous cases, when someone else was here from the WCB, who I don't see here today, she took the case numbers and promised to do some follow-up. I just think that Mrs. Markie should have the same treatment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: This gentleman over here, on the left of the table, if you would like to talk to him, he is with communications with WCB. He is not really an adviser or anything, but he can perhaps take the information from you. Other than that, we can't provide an answer to you. I am sorry.
MRS. JACKIE MARKIE: Okay, thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We appreciate you bringing the concern forward, though. This is the type of concern we want to keep hearing, because this is what is going to formulate what we will be bringing forward to the government, and we certainly appreciate you coming.
MRS. JACKIE MARKIE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. MACKENZIE: When I first came here, I was out in the hall, and I asked was there anybody here from the Workers' Compensation Board. They said, no. This committee here, I am not trying to be ignorant or anything, but it seems to me that it is one of these wash over things, where you have say, a couple of companies that come here, that has nothing to do with injured workers that I know of. I don't know. Say, like a small company, I talked to a guy who had a small company, and his main concern was that he had to pay higher premiums, that is all he was concerned about. I was on compensation at the time, and the guy turns around and says to me, all you are is, whatever he meant, a burden to society. Now, I said, listen, maybe you don't understand what you are talking about.
Then when I asked this gentleman here with glasses, I believe it is, right? First on your left here. I met this guy in New Glasgow before. When we went to a meeting down there, it turned out as a meeting for the injured workers, supposedly, and it ended up a discussion over premiums and the Act says this, and all bullshit like that. I know you guys, it sounds like you are trying to do something here, or at least you are going to make an effort. Really, I hope you do. You might be party and parcel to killing people. That is what I am saying to you.
If you don't, and you know there is something wrong, then you can get all the flowers and roses or whatever the hell it is you want when you step down as a politician, but you remember what you left behind you. That is all I have to say about it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Just in response to that, our committee was struck by a resolution of the House. We have had discussions informally, and I think to a person here, we are committed to seeing that there are changes made to the Act, but we specifically don't deal with individuals. Individuals are coming to us, we are not individually going to refer to case number so and so, da, da, da, but overall and in general, I think our task is to try to improve a situation which people are coming and telling to us is not good enough right now. Hopefully, and I can truthfully say to you sir, it is my feeling that we are going to honestly come forward with the best recommendations we can.
MR. MACKENZIE: And who do these go to? They don't go to the Workers' Compensation Board?
MR. CHAIRMAN: They will go to the government, because if the government is going to bring in new legislation or change the legislation, we want to have an input in what the legislation looks like so in the long term, injured workers now, hopefully, will be tended to, as long as we don't allow ourselves to get into the situation as to workplace changes down the road to another day.
MR. MACKENZIE: But you know, the last time they changed the Act in the Workers' Compensation Board, I was in that at the time. Right? And what it looked like and what most people said was the compensation board wrote that for themselves and the government rubber stamped it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie, for those comments. I understand that Marion Pettigrew is present. Ms. Pettigrew, I would like to welcome you to our meeting this afternoon, and you can start whenever you like. Do you have a presentation you would like to make, or . . .
MS. MARION PETTIGREW: No. I didn't prepare a presentation, because I had no idea what it involved until this morning, so I just came to speak my mind.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We welcome you to come and say whatever you would like. I guess, a couple of questions I would like to ask you is, first of all, what type of injury have you suffered, and when was that, and what were you doing at the time?
MS. PETTIGREW: I broke my hip five and a half years ago, and I was a personal care worker at a home for special care in Kentville.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you presently on benefits, or are you in the appeal process somewhere?
MS. PETTIGREW: No. I am not. No. First of all, there is nobody here from the Workers' Compensation Board?
MR. CHAIRMAN: We people here, I guess you weren't in. We are all members of the Legislative Assembly. We, all nine people on this committee, are elected people. We were established as the result of a resolution that passed for a select committee to get information and bring recommendations for changes in the Workers' Compensation Act. We are touring the province, listening to workers' concerns and business concerns as well, we have heard some of those, but mostly injured workers and people who feel that they have been done wrongly by the WCB or somewhere through the process.
MS. PETTIGREW: But why isn't there anyone here from Workers' Compensation Board? That doesn't make sense to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But there is no reason for them to be here . . .
MS. PETTIGREW: Well, I think they should hear these things.
MR. CHAIRMAN: It is our job to go out and hear them and bring forward recommendations for changes to the Act as we see them, based on what people are telling us out in the field. We are an independent group, three members from each Party, it is really non-partisan, and what we would like to hear from people is how they feel they have been done wrong by the WCB or anything like that. We are not an arm of WCB or anything to do with them.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. They are very frustrating about everything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We will be reporting back to the House of Assembly when we have our report completed.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. And will that do any good?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hopefully. We have given up a goodly amount of time travelling around the province. We certainly hope so. I guess what we would like to hear from you is, if you have felt you have been done wrongly by the WCB or any recommendations that you feel would improve it. We would like to hear those as well, because that is important. When we look at all the evidence that people have presented to us, and all the documentation that people have presented, when we sort all through that, we are going to have to summarize and prepare a report. Some things we have heard, the second-last presenter, things that we have
heard over and over again, and some new things which we haven't heard yet. I guess that is why we invite as many individuals as we can fit in to come before us and speak your piece.
MS. PETTIGREW: Well, it has been nothing but frustration since I first broke my hip. First, it took six months before they even acknowledged that I had broken my hip at work. It was as plain as the nose on your face. I broke my hip at work and it took them six months before they started to give me anything, before they finally said, yes, okay, you broke your hip at work and we will give you some money. I don't think a person should have to wait six months.
Now they paid me right back to the date when I broke it, which was fine, but still, having to go through what I went through in those six months. Then, they paid me for almost three years; it was just before Christmas 1995, they sent me a letter saying, as of January 1, 1996 you are cut off benefits. With no word of warning, nothing, just out of the blue. We are not going to give you any more money.
It has been so long now, it is hard to remember exactly everything. But they said that a vocational rehabilitation officer had been in touch with me. Who that person is, I have no idea. I still don't know to this day. That person hasn't been in touch with me. They sent me to the work hardening centre, finally. They sent me home at the work hardening centre in Halifax saying, it is useless. We are doing her more harm than good. That was in April, the beginning of April of this year. I still haven't heard anything from them concerning that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: When did you go to work hardening?
MS. PETTIGREW: The beginning of April 1998. They sent me home. I was there five days, I believe. He said, we are doing you more harm than good. I haven't heard anything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Can I ask you what happened between January 1, 1996 and April 1998, that caused you to go to work hardening? You must have been in contact with them at some time through those two and one-half years.
MS. PETTIGREW: Oh, yes. I was in contact all along. I have been to more therapy, chiropractors, water therapy, you name it. Finally, I said okay, I know it is not going to do me any good to go to this work hardening centre, but if I have to, I will.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Were you receiving compensation then?
MS. PETTIGREW: No. I haven't since 1996. The 1st of January. Nothing. I just find it very frustrating, the whole system.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I can understand that.
MS. PETTIGREW: It is like, they are not out to help people which they claim they are. They are not. They are causing more problems than good, as far as I am concerned.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have any questions? We just want to keep it going. If there are other things you would like to tell us, or any changes you would like to see made, or how do you feel that the situation could be fixed, we would like to hear those comments?
MS. PETTIGREW: Why does it take so long for everything? It is so cut and dried, when they sent me home from the work hardening, why? I have been waiting months and I haven't heard anything from them. Nothing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Have you tried to contact them?
MS. PETTIGREW: Yes. I have. They said that they would know their decision by July 9th. It went to some hearing officer or something like that. July 9th. I still haven't heard anything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage, did you have a question?
MR. FAGE: Do you have a workers' adviser?
MS. PETTIGREW: Kevin Deveaux, but I haven't been in touch with him for quite some time.
MR. FAGE: He would have been a private adviser, or is he a government appointed one? He is not a government appointed one right now for you, would you have one this summer?
MS. PETTIGREW: No.
MR. FAGE: Okay.
MS. PETTIGREW: He is with the workers' advisers board. He isn't any longer?
MR. FAGE: He is a member of government now, he got elected in March.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. Oh, yeah. That is right. I heard his name.
MR. FAGE: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Corbett.
MR. CORBETT: How are you, Ms. Pettigrew? This seems kind of a redundant question but when you received notice that your benefits were being cut off, the letter had no explanation in it, just an effective date that you would be cut off?
MS. PETTIGREW: I had seen a worker at the work hardening centre in September, I believe it was, of 1995. He had assessed me. He put me through an assessment. According to how he assessed me, that is what they based their . . .
MR. CORBETT: Their decision.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right.
MR. CORBETT: I know you might have said this already, but since that point, you have not received one penny of assistance from WCB since January 1, 1996, except for work hardening and so on, they paid for . . .
MS. PETTIGREW: No. I did receive some money last summer, 1997, based on my 15 per cent disability, according to their doctor, I was 15 per cent disabled. That is according to their doctor, not my doctor, again. The same old thing comes up again. And that was their second doctor I had seen, their first doctor, I had seen him once, they switched doctors with me, because he had been my family doctor when I lived in Kentville. They thought that maybe he shouldn't be assessing me, so they put me onto a new doctor, a young woman. She said I was 15 per cent disabled. That is what she assessed me at.
MR. CORBETT: So, at that 15 per cent, did you receive any of those monies, or did they try to pay you a lump sum?
MS. PETTIGREW: Yes. Yes. They did. They sent me some money last summer.
MR. CORBETT: A lump sum?
MS. PETTIGREW: Yes. Right.
MR. CORBETT: And did you appeal that?
MS. PETTIGREW: Well, an appeal was going through at that time, because I went up before a hearing officer in Amherst in August of last summer, 1997, so there was an appeal going through. I took the money that they had sent me, I took it and I kept it anyhow. But still, it was nothing to what I felt they owed me. It was just like they were giving me a lump sum of money, and saying, here take this, go home, and shut up.
MR. CORBETT: Yes. So, you didn't go through a program called ADR? You haven't heard of that?
MS. PETTIGREW: No. I have never heard of it.
MR. CORBETT: Without putting words in your mouth, is it fair to say that you felt maybe the cheque they sent you was retroactive or back time, whichever phrase you want to use, money they owed you from January 1, 1996?
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. Yes. That is what I thought.
MR. CORBETT: So, it wasn't, in your mind, clear that this was a lump sum payment? This is your lump sum, you are finished, you have your money, go away, and unless you get new medical evidence, you are finished.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. I phoned my worker up and I said to her, what is this for, is this for a couple of months, what they owe me? That was all it was any good for. But she said, no. That is not what it is.
MR. CORBETT: What did they describe it as then?
MS. PETTIGREW: I can't think of the exact words, but it was just more or less, this is your payment, shut up and leave us alone.
MR. CORBETT: I don't mean to be too harsh when I say this, that is it, we are finished with you? I don't mean to be pushy with it, but that is the inference certainly you received.
MS. PETTIGREW: Yes. That is it.
MR. CORBETT: I am very sorry, but thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Godin.
MS. GODIN: Ms. Pettigrew, have you heard the word, mediation used in anything? A mediation process?
MS. PETTIGREW: No.
MS. GODIN: Okay. I just want to ask if you are keeping all your files, all your correspondence, are you keeping track of it?
MS. PETTIGREW: I have tons of papers. I have so many papers from everything.
MS. GODIN: You did refer, just a second ago when you were talking to Mr. Corbett, about your worker, and you said it was a she, are you sure that is not a workers' adviser that you have now?
MS. PETTIGREW: No. This was Marjorie Harnish, workers' compensation.
MS. GODIN: Okay. I would suggest to you that because Mr. Deveaux isn't with the Workers' Advisers Program any longer, that you contact them and tell them that you used to have Mr. Deveaux and that you may need a new workers' adviser.
MS. PETTIGREW: Right.
MS. GODIN: And that will help you get through some of the red tape. Okay?
MS. PETTIGREW: Right. I am just getting tired of waiting. It is ridiculous. There is no need for it. I don't know. I just keep thinking, what are they hoping, that you will die? Or that you will just give up? Or what? It is frustrating, very, extremely frustrating. When you have to live off welfare, they don't know, they have no idea. They are sitting high and dry.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Just to clarify, when your workers' adviser, did you consult him or her about this offer from WCB last summer?
MS. PETTIGREW: Kevin Deveaux. Yes, I did.
MR. FAGE: What was his recommendation?
MS. PETTIGREW: I said, well, should I keep the cheque or should I spend it or what? He said, go ahead and spend it. He said, because it will make no difference.
MR. FAGE: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Erjavec.
MR. ERJAVEC: Just one quick question. I am interested about the six months where you waited to get a cheque. Did you file an accident report when you were hurt on the job?
MS. PETTIGREW: Oh, yes. Definitely.
MR. ERJAVEC: It was filed right away? Your accident report was filed by your employer right away?
MS. PETTIGREW: Oh, yes. Right away. That very night.
MR. ERJAVEC: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Just coming back to that point about recommending you to spend the cheque, was there any discussion, to your knowledge, that you were advised by this adviser or that by doing so you were terminating your claim to any future money? It didn't advise you that?
MS. PETTIGREW: No. No.
MR. FAGE: Of where this decision was taking you?
MS. PETTIGREW: No.
MR. FAGE: Okay. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: There being no more questions, I would really like to thank you for coming. If you have any other comments, we will take them, otherwise we really appreciate you coming, and for your input. Thank you.
MS. PETTIGREW: You are welcome.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am going to ask one more time if either Karen Taylor is here or Tom Fisher. That is the end of the scheduled presenters for this afternoon's session. I thank you all for coming, and for those of you who have stayed through the afternoon. We will be reconvening again at 7:00 p.m. at the same location. We stand adjourned for now. Thank you.
[5:31 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[7:03 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN (Ms. Rosemary Godin): I would welcome you here tonight. We are a committee that has been travelling the province and we're happy to be here in Truro tonight. We have been listening to people's presentations and recommendations to help make the workers' compensation system work better here in Nova Scotia. We hope to hear your recommendations and get some input from you tonight. I would ask everyone who speaks to try and limit yourself to about 15 minutes. We have a lot of speakers on the agenda tonight
and we would like everybody to get a chance to speak. For some people, as you can understand, it's difficult to sit for a long time. So we would like to get through the presentations. I will be giving you a two minute warning when it's getting close to your 15 minutes. Before we start I would like the committee members to introduce themselves, starting with Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
[Gordon Johnson, Legislative Counsel, introduced himself.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The consultants will introduce themselves as well, starting with Mr. Neville.
[The committee consultants introduced themselves.]
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We have travelling with us Kim Sheppard, who is over here, and if you have any questions or if someone would like to speak and they're not on the agenda, could you please see Kim. Doug Laurie, is Mr. Laurie here? Wayne Hines, could you come forward and sit at the microphones up here. Everything is being recorded and I also would like to mention that at the back of the room there's a list where, if you sign your name and your address, you'll be able to get a transcript of tonight's proceedings and because it's being recorded, Mr. Hines, could you just say your name for the record and perhaps the community that you're from?
MR. WAYNE HINES: Wayne Hines from Truro. I didn't realize it was just for recommendations. I thought this was about some problems that we've been having with compensation.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: That's fine. We've been hearing about the problems and that helps us come up with recommendations. Perhaps in the questioning after we hear you speak, we can ask you how you would like to see things maybe work a little better for you.
MR. HINES: Well, it would certainly work a lot better. If it worked, it would work better. I've been fighting with them since 1982 and I haven't seen anything work yet.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are you an injured worker?
MR. HINES: Yes, I am.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Could you give us the date of your injury and perhaps what your injury is?
MR. HINES: I had a back problem in 1982, I think it was. I can't remember the dates but I had a spinal fusion. It went pretty good for two years and then I started having trouble and I had to have a second one. At the end of the first spinal fusion, I had returned to work in three months and they gave me a 12 per cent pension. Three years later I had a second fusion. To this day I've not had a doctor that said I could go to work and the Workers' Compensation Board, in their wisdom, increased my pension to 16 per cent. I've been fighting with them ever since to have it increased and to justify only increasing it 4 per cent after the second operation. I have had nothing but problems since the second operation with my back and the Workers' Compensation Board.
I think your doctor down there pretty well described it all this year. I was down for a re-evaluation. It was two or three days before that I couldn't get out of bed to go to work. I explained that to him when I was down for the re-evaluation. He told me that it was a good thing that I didn't have to go down that day to see him because had I gone down to see him to be re-evaluated for my back problems, he would have sent me home and not re-evaluated me. What the hell is the sense in having a doctor? Nobody from the Workers' Compensation Board has ever seen me when my back is bad. The only time they want to see you down there is when everything is great.
I've been fighting with them for two years, well, a year pretty near now. I have gone back to work, obviously. You have to live. I tried to get the Workers' Compensation Board to pay me for the days off that I can't go to work. They will not do that without a medical certificate, a report from the doctor. So I asked them to explain to me, if I can't get out of bed in the morning to go to work, how the hell am I going to go see a doctor? I don't know about any of you people's doctors but for me to get in to see my doctor it's going to take a few days. So nobody, again, gets to see me when my back is bad.
They told me to go see a doctor when I was feeling better which means they would not pay me without the doctor's report. I take that as not believing I was off because of my back but it's okay for me to go tell my doctor, two or three days or a week later, whenever I can get in to see her, and go tell her I was off last week with my back. She'll send a report in and then they'll pay me. It's stupid. It's just so idiotic. I'm quite sure that most people here tonight, injured workers, got better things to do with their time than fight with the Workers' Compensation Board. I fought with them for a long time. I've gotten nothing out of them and I've got no enjoyment out of fighting with them. All I want to do is be treated fair and get what's entitled to me.
By the way, they have decided to pay me for days off that the doctor does send a report in. They send me a cheque for every day I'm off for $29.94. Now, I don't make very big money, I will admit that, but that's a long way below minimum wage. One time before I was off and I had doctor's reports, they paid me whatever it was, 70 per cent of my gross wages, or something. I don't have a problem with that formula, that's great. This time they tell me that my $29.94 a day is based according to what my pension is supposed to cover for
part of my time being off. I get $265 a month from my pension. I've seen months where I've been off, if you took my pension and the $29.94 a day, I still lost money.
That's about all I got to say. You fellows heard this all before. If this does any good, it will surprise the hell out of me. I came more for my own, to get some frustration out somewhere else. I'm sick and tired of arguing with them in there.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Do you have an appeal going on now?
MR. HINES: Yes, ma'am, I do.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Do you have a worker adviser?
MR. HINES: Yes, and that's pretty good if I'm still alive in two or three years' time when they get to hear it because that's how far they are behind right now. That should, obviously, tell somebody something, that something is wrong, if you're two or three years behind in the appeal process. I dropped one of my appeals.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hines, some members of the committee may have questions for you.
MR. HINES: Fine.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have a question for Mr. Hines? Do any of the consultants have a question? Mr. Neville.
MR. NEVILLE: What year did you get your assessment done, Mr. Hines?
MR. HINES: The last one?
MR. NEVILLE: Yes.
MR. HINES: It was in this spring sometime. I was down in April, May or June. It was this year, the last one I was down for anyway.
MR. NEVILLE: And they brought you up 4 per cent?
MR. HINES: No, no. They haven't increased it since, 1987 I believe was the last time. It was when I had the second operation, they increased my pension 4 per cent then.
MR. NEVILLE: Under the compensation policy, if you have surgery, you get up to 20 per cent; multiple surgery, you get 30 per cent. That's their own rules.
MR. HINES: I was to an independent doctor through the Workers' Advisers Program and he said the minimum I should be is 25 per cent and probably 26.5 per cent, but they still said no on the appeal, or on the reconsideration, or whatever.
MR. NEVILLE: Their own policy is 30 per cent for multiple surgery, for a fusion.
MR. HINES: No doubt it is.
MR. NEVILLE: Thank you, Mr. Hines.
MR. HINES: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have any more questions? Thank you, Mr. Hines, for coming. Is Doug Laurie here? Jim Johnson? Allen Taylor? Hello, Mr. Taylor, if you would just give your name and perhaps the community you're from?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: Allen Taylor, Upper Stewiacke. I think the first thing we'll do here is Russell MacKinnon. That's our Labour Minister. I placed a 10,000 word appeal in front of the Nova Scotia Medical Board on April 6, 1998, about the ethical behaviour of the doctors at the Workers' Compensation Board. In 1976 my entire spine was X-rayed with no abnormalities, no fractures, no nothing. In 1978 I had my injury showing straightening of the normal lumbar curve. Dr. Dobson sees it differently. I am the same as Dolly, the sheep. I'm a medical marvel. I was born with this injury so they state.
A letter was sent to Mr. MacKinnon that there was an appeal laid in front of the Medical Board for a ruling on April 6th. On May 9, 1998, in a press release Mr. MacKinnon stated he was creating a Medical Review Commission. In the Act of 1994-95, under Section 203(2), there is hereby established a Medical Review Commission. So now all of a sudden since there was an appeal in front of the Medical Board, Mr. MacKinnon is going to hire a whole great big bunch of doctors from over there. Why? They already have it. Is he politically interfering with my appeal because I had an appeal sent back from the Medical Review Board that, no, the doctors done no wrong.
Now, gentlemen, if my back in 1976, when I was X-rayed showed no injuries, and in 1978 when I got hurt, it shows straightening of the normal lumbar curve and they said, no, the doctor has done nothing wrong. Now, mind you, I haven't been trained in the medical field but I do know documentation. This man should be investigated for political interference. It has only been, what, three or four days, a week tops, that he decided to do this after he was notified that there was an appeal laying at the Medical Board.
Now, we'll go to O'Brien on an appeal at the Workers' Compensation Board. In 1983 my appeal was allowed on the grounds of 159(e). In 1986 the appeal was appealed by a workers' adviser, for what I have no idea, and lost. That's doing real good, isn't it? After the
first appeal, this is the medical evidence that was entered into the file, after 1983's appeal was allowed. The X-rays of March 12, 1985 shows mild orthopaedic changes are seen about the dorsal and lumbar vertebrae, the lumbo sacral articulation and sacroiliac joints are not remarkable. Dr. Canham, February 17, 1986, states he may well simply have an injury to his spine. Dr. Canham also states on February 24th this is what the Appeal Board should consider in making their decision, probably should consider the possibility that this man is truly disabled. Now, this is a man from sports medicine. This was added to the file after the appeal was already allowed. You tell me?
Now, I don't know too much about fraud but I'll tell you I can read. Here is a Robert MacDonald. This is a review officer, denied, omitting evidence, medical facts, changing medical facts, it's here. You fellows have it there, right. Now, I want you to look close under forgery, what forgery states under the Criminal Code. Everyone commits forgery who makes a false document. Now, if you go back to the beginning of the review officer's reports, the first thing he has here, these are the facts. Really. He changed sprain from strain. Don't sound like much, does it, in writing. Look in the medical terms. They're in the file, a big difference, real big difference. You put ice on a strain. I don't imagine you could put ice on a straightening of the normal lumbar curve or I never heard tell of it.
Now, under forgery, everyone commits forgery who makes a false document, knowing it to be false with intent, has to be intent. I have to act on it. He knew it was false when he omitted the medical evidence. We only have 15 minutes so I'm just going to run through all this forgery, fraud and corruption.
Bev Andrews, a real sweetheart, Internal Appeals Department, a pleasure to deal with. She sends me a letter, March 7th, I fired my workers' adviser because I found a copy, and I went in to look at my file and I found a copy in there from a Deborah Boltz. Apparently she's a, I don't know, I got another name for her but, anyway, she's on something at the rehab centre, not very bright, she signed it. Well, I'll tell you I might not be very bright but I ain't going to make a statement like that and put my name to it. Anyway, Bev Andrews, letter of March 7, 1997 said:
"A review of your file indicates that it has been returned to the Internal Appeals Department by the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board in June 1995. In June 1995, we received a Notice of Readiness completed on your behalf by Diane Piquette indicating that she was representing you and that she was ready to proceed.
In February 1996 Ms. Piquette was advised that your appeal would be proceeding by way of paper review in order that she could prepare a written submission. She was also advised that the Board was not granting any further delay on these files. When we set the file down for review and advised you of
the date for the final submissions you should wish to make any on your own behalf.".
Like I say, we only got 15 minutes. I had a real good speel. I got rid of my workers' adviser on March 27, 1996, and that was sent directly to Mrs. Andrews. On March 7th, 1997, when I notified the internal appeals department that I would be doing my own paper review, this is the letter I got. Now, in this letter she states she reviewed this file six times. You fellows know about as much as Diane Piquette as I do. What is she doing here? Nothing like fraud, is it, when you review a paper for six times from the Internal Appeals Department and then make a statement like that? I mean I never signed no paper. There's not even no paper down there with my name on it and they give them $5,500 a year raise because Mr. MacKinnon don't want to lose them to the public. Thank God, I would give them $10,000 to keep them there.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Two minutes. Is this our copy? We can keep this?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: Yes. Here is the file that I've been requesting since 1993. There's a David MacKenzie, medicals. This file you can't read. I've been trying to get it since 1993, okay, dealing with these corrupt people. Now, for two minutes, first and foremost, the workers are to be restored to full benefits where medical is warranted. Now, never mind this here foolishness of you fellows going back and making regulations so they can go in there and dot the t's and sign the i's and all this foolishness and I don't want to hear my benefits are in the mail, I want to see my benefits. I want to see my benefits next week because I will tell you I'm only one book away from Civil Procedure Rules to take this here Workers' Compensation Board to court on a civil action.
There are 3,000 disgruntled workers here. If everybody bands together and donates $2 a month, in three months, we will have $18,000. We will hire ourselves a lawyer, not one from Nova Scotia, and we will proceed at this Workers' Compensation Board with a libel action that will scare you because I want $1.5 million in damages for the damages that they created for my wife, my child and me for 20 years when they've been told I can't work no more. If you can't work no more, I'm entitled to my benefits. Under the Hayden report, they violated that. They violated the Supreme Court ruling in 1994. You have an interpretation of this Act that I interpreted and it was supposed to be made so that you could literally read it. Anybody could read it.
[Premier] MacLellan, he was trained in the field of law and he said it's a very complex Act. Well, if it is a very complex Act to somebody that was trained in the legal field, how does he expect somebody else to read it? I will tell you what is going to happen here. I want this Act sent back. I want this Act rescinded because if this Act isn't rescinded, like I say, there are enough workers, employers and workers alike in this province that there is going to be labour unrest and, believe me, it don't take long to circulate information through unions to get the backing of the people. I want this Labour Minister investigated for politically
interfering at the Medical Board because he has already been noted to do it at the Appeal Board on this here chronic pain.
Now, I've been trying since 1993 to get my file. There is what they sent me. You fellows are a legislative body. I'm telling you right now I want my file. I want the policies. I come under Section 343 of the old Act. I want it. I want the policies. I want everything in that Workers' Compensation Board pertaining to claim numbers, and they are in there, and my name. I want them within 10 days, gentlemen. You fellows are elected. You have been notified about the fraud. You have been notified about the corruption. It's in that file and if that is not laid at the RCMP to be investigated for fraud, the onus is on you. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Allen] Taylor, people may have some questions.
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: I thought I only had two minutes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have any questions? You fired your workers' adviser?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: I guess. I won one appeal in 1983 and lost one in 1986, I am sure.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: So you don't have one?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: I don't need one. I can read.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, the Workers' Advisers Program only began about two years ago.
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: No, don't need nothing.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: So you're talking about a different program?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: Yes. No, all I need . . .
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I wasn't clear. If you want those files, you're going to have to write the WCB. We can't give them to you.
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: You are an elected official. I tried to write to the Workers' Compensation Board. There is no response. You are an elected official. I presented it to you. You are responsible and if you don't want to accept the responsibility, I suggest you're in the wrong business. Anybody got any questions?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. [Allen] Taylor. Does anyone have any questions?
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: Are you fellows doctors over here or is there anybody there in the medical field? Is there? Is it possible to have an X-ray in 1976 showing no injuries and then in 1978 have an injury and it can be classified as congenital? Is there a possibility of this in the medical field?
DR. ANTHONY LAMPLUGH: From what you say it does sound unlikely.
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: Thank you. Now, the Medical Board ruled on this in favour of the doctors at Workers' Compensation Board, that I sent a letter to the doctor of the Workers' Compensation Board, Dr. Dobson, and under the Act he is supposed to answer all my requests which he didn't. So now he is in violation of a Statute. So is poor old Stuewe. He's the CEO. He has only had that job, what, about six months and he is in it now up to the eyebrows.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, [Allen] Mr. Taylor.
MR. ALLEN TAYLOR: You are welcome. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Timothy Keenan? Hi, Mr. Keenan, could you please state your name and your community?
MR. TIMOTHY KEENAN: My name is Timothy Keenan and I am representing the Colchester Forestry Management Cooperative based in Tatamagouche. If the committee doesn't mind, I will just present my material verbatim from the text.
Honourable members, forest industries in Nova Scotia are beset by a multitude of problems these days. There is a great deal of harvesting going on, so much so that it is argued we are over-cutting our resource in a big way. There are continuously declining levels of funding available for forest improvement and reforestation, a situation which aggravates the depletion of the resource and threatens our long term sustainability. There are environmental threats which put added pressure on the volume and quality of standing timber, specifically, insect infestations, fire, acid rain and disease. Our forest industries, as you well know, contribute significantly to our provincial economy and support vast numbers of our rural population. It is in this climate of turbulence that private forest management companies like ours are vital.
Colchester Forest Management Cooperative Limited is a Forest Group Venture. Our companies were founded and are still owned and controlled by private landowners for the purposes of managing their forest resources in a sustainable and profitable manner. We provide forestry expertise and administration of forestry-related activities on these properties, as well as protection for these landowners from rapacious forestry practices and unscrupulous contractors. We subscribe to, and operate under, the highest standards of forestry practices, voluntarily and willingly, because that is our mandate. In so doing, we are instrumental in the preservation and enhancement of the province's forest resource, over half of which is owned by small private woodlot owners. Furthermore, we facilitate the delivery of primary forest products to our domestic wood-using industries, providing important fuel for the economic engine which supports so many households in rural Nova Scotia.
Our company employs three people directly: a manager, a forester and an office supervisor. Not one of us participates directly in logging activities, yet, we pay a logging rate to workers' compensation. We pay an additional levy on top of already staggering rates to support the Forestry Safety Society of Nova Scotia. We engage independent contractors for all of our field work and will require from each and every one of them proof of registration with the board as a condition of the contract.
Our forestry consulting business encompasses both forest improvement and forest harvesting aspects. As a result of cutbacks in forest improvement funding mentioned earlier, we are forced to rely more heavily on harvesting activities and wood sales in order to operate profitably. The onerous compensation rate which we pay on our payroll has the same effect. If the rate were comparable to those in neighbouring provinces for forestry consultants, we could reduce harvest levels by nearly 1,000 cords of wood per year to achieve the same bottom line.
In summary, we are engaged in the business of forestry consulting, not logging. It is unfair that we are required to pay a logging rate on our staff payroll. It threatens our viability as a company and, thus, it threatens the interests of small private woodlot owners whom we serve and the communities which rely on the economic activity which we create. The application of a logging rate in situations like ours is contributing to the more rapid depletion of Nova Scotia's forest resources by forcing employers like us, who are forestry consultants engaging logging contractors, to cut and sell more wood.
We respectfully request this committee to make the following recommendations:
(1) That the Workers' Compensation Board adopt a standard industrial classification code for forestry consultants;
(2) That the board establish a compensation rate for this SIC that fairly reflects the very low risk inherent in these activities; and
(3) That bona fide forestry consultants receive a retroactive rebate on compensation premiums paid in excess of the new forestry consultant rate over the last two years.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Keenan. Does anyone on the committee have questions for Mr. Keenan? Mr. [Brooke] Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Tim, thanks for your presentation. You mentioned the Forestry Safety Society of Nova Scotia, and the fact that you, along with most other stakeholders, except for the big pulp mills pay an additional levy over and above the regular workers' compensation rate. I am just wondering if you could perhaps expand on that a little bit, the Forestry Safety Society and the rate that you pay in, and whether or not you achieve any benefit from that society?
MR. KEENAN: The additional premium which we pay is 3 per cent of our basic premium, and as far as I know, and contrary to what you say, I believe that the pulp companies also pay that, although unwillingly. I may be wrong. If they are not paying it, then I shudder to think that the system can be that unfair. But the purpose of the society and its activities is to lower compensation rates by providing safety training and promoting safety in forestry in general. The society has only been in existence now for about a year, and it is starting to have some effect. We have participated in some training, which they have provided, training for us as employers to adopt and implement safety policies, which has helped us. We are in the process of doing that.
I don't see that it has no value. On the other hand, its purpose is to lower compensation rates, yet we see them going up and up, and because we are paying an additional amount to support that society, it has gone up. Although it may be too soon to tell whether it will in effect have the desired effect, that is to lower rates overall, I just can't pass judgement on it, but it is an added burden. We don't mind that so much, if it was 3 per cent of a reasonable rate, that wouldn't be so bad, but we are paying almost $10 per $100 of payroll for people who do not engage in logging. We have a small staff, but that is a significant amount of money for the size of our company.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Erjavec.
MR. ERJAVEC: Just one quick question. How much direct control do you have over your subcontractors? On a day-to-day basis, are you out there with them while they are cutting, saying cut that tree, cut that tree?
MR. KEENAN: Our contractors are independent contractors. They know the specifications of the wood products, in the case of harvesting contractors, that they are required to produce roadside. We have, in most cases, long experience with our contractors. They require very little supervision, other than to lay out the work, that is to define which
areas will be treated, and subsequently to inspect the quality of the work that is done, whether the right trees were cut, the right trees were left behind, the wood that is put roadside is of the proper specification, and that is pretty well it.
MR. ERJAVEC: You are not standing next to a tree while they are cutting it or anything?
MR. KEENAN: No. You are not allowed to do that, even if you work for that company. No. We certainly don't.
MR. ERJAVEC: Okay. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Any other questions? Thank you very much, Mr. Keenan.
MR. KEENAN: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Is Blaise MacDonald here, from the CAW? If you would just state your name for the record, please.
MR. BLAISE MACDONALD: Blaise MacDonald. I am the President of the CAW, Local 4612 at Crossley Carpets. I would like to read from the text.
"To award Workmen's Compensation is not to grant relief or direct aid. No social stigma is attached to the injured workman or his family. It is not designed to permit him to make a profit but is designed to preserve his dignity or his self-respect.". Chief Justice Alexander H. MacKinnon 1958 Royal Commission Report.
In 1917, workers gave up a civil right, the right to seek redress from our employer in civil court. In the past 80 years, the Act has been amended several times. In this period, the employer has been given rights while the rights of workers have been reduced.
Our members are being asked to wait and suffer undue hardships, all for the sake of being injured while performing a service on behalf of their employer. This, we believe, is contrary to the one basic right provided by the Act to injured workers. The right to financial assistance when workplace injuries impair earning capacity has remained unchallenged and intact through the many Royal Commissions, Select Committees of the House of Assembly and ministerial committees. This is the right we believe is being denied to us.
As Chief Justice MacKinnon articulated, "To award Workmen's Compensation is not to grant relief or direct aid . . . It is not designed to permit him to make a profit but is designed to preserve his dignity and self-respect.".
When we were able to sue our employers, the system was too costly. We received the Workers' Compensation Act in 1917. The right to appeal to an independent board was implemented in 1975, operating with essentially the same grounds of appeals as the present appeal board and its predecessor, the Medical Review Board.
In 1992, we received the new nine-member board, to cut into backlog, and in the Act today, under Bill No. 122, we have a waiting period reintroduced and an experience rating system for employers implemented.
The most significant changes introduced January 1, 1996 were of particular importance to employers: changes to the appeal procedure; the establishment of the experience rating program; and changes which allow employers to influence their rating assessments by opposing claims on all issues relating to claims, including whether or not an injury occurred in the course of employment. Now, the carpet worker who can't work because they were injured at work shouldn't have to put up with an Act that should be called the employers protection Act.
Employers are paying an insurance for no civil actions. They file the claims to the board, they pay the assessments to the board, they can file appeals to the board; all decisions which are of a financial importance to the employer. Any decisions which would cause an increase to the monies the employer has to put into the system is greeted negatively by the employer. Yet, we can't sue, and it is our labour that produces the money used to run the system. We file claims, wait for benefits, have claims rejected, wait for appeals, have appeals, wait for decisions. These decisions are of financial importance to the injured worker.
Most of us live paycheque to paycheque. We understand debt, because we have our own. Being granted financial assistance allows us to maintain our lives, our dignity and self-respect. As workers we are subjected to waiting periods of undue lengths, lack of funding for rehabilitating injured workers, employer involvement and failure to follow the Act.
The waitress that is burned by hot coffee, the truck driver who sprains his back changing a flat, the personal-care worker physically assaulted, the check-out person verbally assaulted, the school teacher affected by a sick building, the factory worker with a broken finger; none of those workers asked for their injury. Any interruption to their lives is no easier to accept or endure than the hardship that any MLA would suffer by being injured while working for us, your employer. Someone shooting an MLA should not mean that the member asked to be shot, or in being shot, they could turn a profit from a reduction in their income. To suffer this unduly is not morally right.
At a time when other social programs have been cut, the injured worker is cut adrift from the financial assistance that allows them their dignity. Waiting periods in the health care system directly impact the waiting periods of claim approval. Even if an injured worker's claim is approved, there is a waiting period that penalizes the worker and a reduction to
normal take-home pay to 75 per cent, which does more than ensure that we don't profit from our injury.
We want what any person would reasonably want. We want claim approval in a timely manner. We want access to return-to-work programs applied to every worker and employer uniformly. We want employers and worker groups or unions to recognize the duty to accommodate. We want the injured worker given the benefit of the doubt. We want the Act to ensure the dignities of the workers of this province. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. [Blaise] MacDonald, for your recommendations. Does anybody have any questions? Do any of the consultants have questions? Thank you very much. Danny Cavanagh? My e-mail buddy, right?
MR. DANNY CAVANAGH: That's me.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Cavanagh, if you could please say your name and the organization you are with.
MR. CAVANAGH: Danny Cavanagh, I represent the Truro and District Labour Council. I faxed through our submission and what I did was just do a brief outline of that submission. So, I will just go through that.
Good evening, and first of all, let us thank all three Parties in Nova Scotia for the opportunity to be heard. As we all know, the workers' compensation system has not been so great for workers in Nova Scotia in the last few years. Workers in the province have given up their rights to sue an employer when injured at work, in return for the benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act we have today.
Changes in 1996 to the Act reduced all the benefits paid to workers injured on the job in Nova Scotia. Injured workers today must accept one of the lowest compensation benefits in Canada. That is shameful and must be corrected. It is time to review and balance the Workers' Compensation Act and restore lost benefits for injured workers.
Many of the changes in 1996 were implemented without consultation by those most affected. We ask the select committee to assess each of the benefits cuts since 1996. At least two select committees of the Legislature have previously recommended that the Workers' Compensation Act include universal coverage for all workers and employers in the province. Bill No. 122 initially provided for universal coverage. For unknown reasons, the minister at the time provided far less than universal coverage. Universal coverage would ensure all workers are protected by the Act in the Province of Nova Scotia. We feel the select committee must recommend universal coverage.
How do we address injured workers' concerns, is the question? Many times these injured workers are not given the benefit of the doubt. As we know, provisions in the former Act required that the Workers' Compensation Board give workers the benefit of the doubt in considering his or her claim. The problem is that strict proof is required with this practice. We feel most injured workers are honest people who end up in a system that is not friendly towards them. They end up in the system through no fault of their own. We can't imagine a worker injuring himself or herself to get benefits, that simply doesn't make sense.
The system today is rigged towards much legal and technical jargon, and doesn't really give injured workers the benefit of the doubt. We feel this provision should be eliminated and the previous provisions be restored. The Act should be changed to become a user-friendly system that gets to the bottom of claims quickly and in plain language. We must remember, it is supposed to be a workers' compensation system and should be adjusted to be just that. We feel too often high-priced legal beagles have been used to simply fight the injured worker and their claim. We feel the whole system would be better off if workers could present their case to a tribunal and receive a simple response in plain text.
In 1996, the Workers' Compensation Act reduced all benefits then paid the workers injured on the job in Nova Scotia. Injured workers have had to accept virtually the lowest compensation benefits in Canada. The 1996 Act reduced weekly benefits by 25 per cent, changing benefits from 75 per cent of gross pay to 75 per cent of net pay, and after 25 weeks the benefit is 85 per cent of net pay. We feel this should now be changed to 90 per cent of net pay, which is the level of benefit enjoyed by most Canadian workers. The 1996 Act penalizes all workers by denying benefits until two days of wage loss due to an injury. This two day penalty should be eliminated. The Act reduces benefits if the employer pays an employee an amount to make up for the difference between their lost earnings and the workers' compensation benefits. This restriction should be eliminated.
Employers should be free to give any top-up to employees, and the union should be free to negotiate top-up payments without penalty in the collective agreement.
For several years, workers on permanent or partial disability pensions from the old Act, have received no indexing to their pensions to compensate for inflation. The 1996 Act banned any indexing for a period of five years. The indexing formula in the old Act should be restored to protect the value of these pensions. The 1996 Act introduced an elaborate system of appeals which has created an enormous backlog of unresolved cases. We feel it was simply designed to fail.
The Act should be amended to establish a fully independent appeal tribunal with the authority and the mandate to apply the Act to the facts of each case without limitation by the board, procedures or policies. Eliminate the requirement of leave to appeal and establish a broad right of workers to appeal unfavourable decisions by the Workers' Compensation Board. Eliminate time-wasting precipitation by employers and permit employees to present
their case in writing or in a short, simple hearing before an independent tribunal. Eliminate restrictions on the use of new evidence to permit workers' entitlement to be decided without referral back to the Workers' Compensation Board and long delays in resolving the worker's case. Mandate the appeal tribunal to give workers the benefit of the doubt rather than require strict legal proof.
Eliminate elaborate decisions with lengthy reasons. Require simple, one or two page decisions with brief reasons in plain language. Ensure that workers receive the benefit to which they are entitled to under the Act without being forced to give up benefits to get a timely decision.
The 1996 Act contains provisions which made it possible for the provincial Cabinet or the Workers' Compensation Board to eliminate statutory rights to benefits by the adoption of the regulations and policies. These provisions should be eliminated so that workers' entitlement to workers' compensation benefits depends on the application of the Act to the facts of his or her case, not on the powers of the Cabinet or the board.
The 1996 Act contains provisions for the issuance of policies by the Workers' Compensation Board which are binding on its own employees, hearing officers and an independent Workers' Compensation Board Appeals Tribunal. The Appeals Tribunal is prevented from applying the Act to the facts of the cases before them even if they disagree with the validity of the board's policies under the Act. The board's policy-making power of the Workers' Compensation Board should be eliminated to ensure there is a genuinely independent Appeals Tribunal.
The 1996 Act permits the provincial Cabinet to adopt regulations which, with the stroke of a pen or in secret, eliminates benefits payable to workers under the Act. No longer is it necessary to amend the Workers' Compensation Act to deal with benefits payable to workers. These provisions must be eliminated. The abuse of power that occurs with the power to make regulations and the power to make policies is well exemplified in the handling of the issue of benefits for chronic pain. The workers' right to benefits under the Act have been wiped out arbitrarily without hearing and without any appeal on the issue.
For many years, injured workers were tossed about by arbitrary claims by the Workers' Compensation Board that they should receive little or no benefit because of so-called pre-existing conditions. Two Select Committees of the Legislature recommended that the Act be amended to ensure that a worker should have benefits reduced only if a worker had a pre-existing disability before an injury. The former Progressive Conservative Government, supported by all Parties in the Legislature, introduced amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act to implement this change. Like many other favourable aspects of the old Workers' Compensation Act, this protection was swept away in 1996.
Many workers now complain that the board reduces their benefits or eliminates benefits with claiming that they suffered a pre-existing condition before the injury, even when the pre-existing condition had no symptoms and created no disability. The Act should be amended to ensure that no apportionment or reduction of benefits should take place unless a pre-existing condition actually caused a disability before the injury.
At least two Select Committees of the Legislature have previously recommended that the Workers' Compensation Act include universal coverage for all workers and employers in the province. Bill No. 122 initially provided for universal coverage. However, a strong lobby influenced the minister to introduce provisions providing for far less than universal coverage. Universal coverage would permit all workers to be protected by the Act and would ensure that the average rate of assessment in the province is set at a level which would be consistent with other provinces. We feel the committee should, and must, recommend universal coverage.
The 1996 Act eliminated the successful Workers' Counsellor Program which ensured that every injured worker had access to legal representation in dealing with the Workers' Compensation Board in pursuing appeals. The new Act introduced a new system of workers' advisers employed by the Department of Labour. Many workers perceived the workers' adviser to be an employee of the Workers' Compensation Board. The huge backlog of cases and resulting large caseloads of workers' advisers themselves are for workers to obtain the representation that they desire. Although the workers' advisers themselves are excellent representatives who have courageously advanced the case of claimants in their day-to-day work, the system has failed Nova Scotia workers. Without eliminating the workers' advisers group, provisions need to be made for access to independent legal representation where the worker so desires. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Cavanagh. I just have one question before I throw it open to the committee. I believe you are saying that you prefer the Workers' Counsellor Program pre-1996 to the Workers' Advisers Program that is available today? You just thought it worked better, did you?
MR. CAVANAGH: To some extent but people should be free to get a lawyer if they wish.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Their own lawyer, that is what you are saying?
MR. CAVANAGH: Right.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Would that work better for people who are outside Halifax? Is that what you see as the . . .
MR. CAVANAGH: It may. It would end up being a case-by-case issue of what people prefer. Sometimes people get a counsellor and they may not like that counsellor for whatever reason and they may prefer legal representation and they should be entitled to have that.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Although workers' advisers, a lot of them are lawyers as well. So they are still getting the legal representation but what we have heard in the past is it is not legal representation where people know each other so they are not following the case. I wondered if that is why you thought workers' counsellors worked better.
MR. CAVANAGH: Well, like I said, so much of this stuff relies on the individual and how the individual feels, that they should have access to what it is they feel most comfortable with.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Does anyone on the committee have questions for Mr. Cavanagh? Mr. Parker.
MR. PARKER: I will ask a question. Mr. Cavanagh, what do you think of the ADR process? I didn't see any mention of it in your submission here. Do you have any comment on that? What are you thoughts on it? Does ADR work or does it not work?
MR. CAVANAGH: Can you explain that?
MR. PARKER: What does it stand for? Alternate Dispute Resolution, I guess it is. Are you familiar with it?
MR. CAVANAGH: Not all that much.
MR. PARKER: I guess if you are not familiar then you don't know if it works or not.
MR. CAVANAGH: That is why I didn't touch on it.
MR. PARKER: Okay, it is just something new the board is trying. Injured workers have the chance to go in with their workers' adviser before the board and make their case. An offer is made to them at that point in time.
MR. CAVANAGH: I think I touched on that a little, that sometimes that is a way to expedite the claim and sometimes they make an offer that doesn't really give the worker what he is truly entitled to. I think what you are talking about may be a process where they want to rush everybody into a hearing, give them a hearing and say, here is some money, go away and don't come back again.
MR. PARKER: That is sort of what has been happening, yes.
MR. CAVANAGH: That is something that we are totally against. We feel that if somebody is injured, they should be entitled to 90 per cent of what they had earned at work. People get injured at work through no fault of their own and it really doesn't make sense that they should, just to get an expedited benefit, take a reduced claim.
MR. PARKER: Okay, thanks.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Does anyone else on the committee have anything? Mr. Power.
MR. MICHAEL POWER: Do you think the same type of independent, accessible legal representation could be achieved through maybe Nova Scotia Legal Aid, access through that?
MR. CAVANAGH: Well, it probably could if they weren't so backlogged themselves. I don't think today that that would be an avenue because of the workload that they have now. It really wouldn't be fair to put more of a workload on those people.
MR. POWER: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are there any other questions for Mr. Cavanagh? Thank you, Mr. Cavanagh.
Is Barry Rushton here?
MR. BARRY RUSHTON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Barry Rushton, I am from Truro. What I would like to know is how WCB figures out what your PIB and your wage losses are supposed to be. Using their formulas I have received in the mail from WCB, I cannot get the same amount as WCB can. Permanent impairment benefits, which they call PIB, the formula is 85 per cent of your net pre-injury earnings times 30 per cent, multiplied by your permanent impairment benefits. I have used my income for 1992, multiplied it by 85 per cent, which gives me a figure of $28,877 times my 30 per cent which gives me $8,663.10 multiplied by my permanent impairment or my disability, 68 per cent, gives me a total of $5,890.90 per year or $490.90 per month. Now, by my figures, I should be getting $490 a month for PIB. I was told by WCB that I was only going to get $306 a month.
Now my wage loss or extended earnings replacement benefits, their formula is your pre-LOE, which is your pre-accident earnings and your post-LOE which is your after-accident earnings. This is multiplied by 85 per cent, minus your PIB and this supposedly gives you your extended replacement earnings benefits. My pre-LOE earnings, before I was hurt, was
$33,972 a year. My post-LOE, at present I am not working, therefore I have no earnings after I had been hurt. So my loss of earnings is $33,972 times 85 per cent, which should give me $28,877 per year, minus my PIB which is $5,890.90 a year will give me $22,986 per year or $1,915.50 per month. I was told that I was going to get $1,400 a month - that included my PIB, subtract my PIB, according to WCB is $306 a month, leaves me with $1,094 a month which can be terminated after I receive a written notice that will end in 30 days, leaving me with $306 per month by their figures. How do they come up with these figures using the same formulas I used? By my figures and their formulas, I should be getting $2,460.40 per month plus my PIB.
I have requested the information from WCB on how they got these figures. I have not received any information to date on how they got these figures or what formulas they have used. I was told by my caseworker that my wage loss is $1,400 a month. If I find a job at minimum wage, which is $5.50 an hour we will say, there would not be any difference in wage losses from what I was getting from WCB and working because they said I could make $1,400 a month and that is what they were going to take. If I can only find a job at minimum wage, how can they tell me I can earn more money? If I find a job at $8.00 an hour, which gives me $320 a week, $1,280 a month, the difference between wage loss and earnings would be $120. Now this is not a true difference in wage loss. If I was - pardon me - according to WCB I get $1,400 a month that I put in the bank. If I was working, my net income would be $1,400 a month minus my working, which would be $1,280. There would be a difference of $120. I'm mixed up, excuse me.
Okay, the $1,400 from WCB is what I put in the bank as a net income. Now, $1,280 I would receive working is before deductions. If I take $1,280 from $1,400, that leaves me $120 in difference. One is a net income and one is a gross income. Now, how can they call it a fair system by this policy? I call it an insult to the injured worker. I would like an honest answer from anyone who can tell me how WCB can tell me that this system they are using is fair to the injured worker.
WCB is forcing people to do jobs that the worker cannot perform safely. I am using myself as an example. WCB is telling me that I can drive a truck. I have tried to drive a truck but cannot do it. I could not shift gears fast enough to stop in an emergency situation. A man with two hands can split-shift in about one second. I need about four seconds. That leaves me three seconds to kill someone, while a man with two hands has slowed down or stopped in time. WCB is forcing injured workers to do jobs that they are not safe to do so that WCB can save money to get that raise in pay. WCB will find a way to take the money from an injured worker by any means and call it justifiable.
I feel that there should be more injured workers working at WCB. How much education do you need to answer the phone, make out an expense cheque or pass the buck to someone else? (Applause) I feel that WCB thinks the injured worker can only do what they tell us to do. Unfortunately, the injured worker - this is true - when looking for a job, if you
don't do what WCB tells you, they terminate your benefits because you are not participating with the system. When you do what WCB says, they terminate your benefits anyway because they say you were capable of earning money by their calculations.
I think that the new and fair system WCB is using should be reviewed, adjusted or thrown out. The only one this system seems to be fair to is WCB and not the injured worker. Thank you. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Rushton. I want to tell you that you can teach my kids math any time you want to. I just have one question.
I guess I am concerned about the fact that you have worked this all out and you have got it down on paper, yet, you haven't been able to find any avenue to actually sit down with somebody at the WCB, go through it step by step and have them explain to you why their calculations are not the same as your calculations. This has never happened.
MR. RUSHTON: This has never happened. Unfortunately, I was in Halifax on Friday and I tried to talk to either my adjudicator, my counsellor or my case manager and as at present, I don't have any of the three. I had Diane Peters who is now no longer my case manager because she has been transferred and at this time I have nobody working on my file. How can I get answers?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Was Diane Peters a workers' adviser?
MR. RUSHTON: No, she was my case management.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Do you have a workers' adviser?
MR. RUSHTON: Yes, I do.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay. Does anyone else have any questions for Mr. Rushton? Mr. Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Rushton, I am just interested in when you were injured and what happened, I guess. What were you doing at the time?
MR. RUSHTON: I was working for a private contractor and in October 1992, I was electrocuted in the power lines.
MR. FRASER: Did you receive compensation immediately or shortly after and then they tried to retrain you to do other things that you found impossible to do?
MR. RUSHTON: Yes, this is true. I received, almost immediately, thanks to the Safety Coordinator from F.A. Tucker, who stated to workers' compensation that the accident was no fault of my own, I immediately received WCB benefits from that point.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Brooke] Taylor?
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thanks for your presentation, Barry. I just want to tell you that I certainly agree with what you are saying about driving a truck. I know it is difficult enough to drive some of those rigs with two hands. I just wonder how you made out. Did you get WCB squared away regarding driving a truck? Are they convinced now that, in fact, there is a difference?
MR. RUSHTON: Right at this point in time, according to the last time I was talking to Diane Peters, they are using truck driving against me as a wage loss and they are going to deduct all my benefits for that reason. They feel that I can make, supposedly, what my wage loss is from driving a truck.
After my three trips to the United States, I was in mental stress, I was anguished. I have gone to a psychologist, a therapist and a psychiatrist to, I guess, relieve the fear of killing someone. The best way to relieve it is not to do it but they are still going to use it against me because they feel that is what I am qualified to do.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Take them for a drive. (Laughter)
MR. RUSHTON: Yes, I'd like to.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Barry, what type of rig were you running, just for my curiosity?
MR. RUSHTON: I was driving an 18-wheeler. It was a Volvo 18-speed over.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I can certainly appreciate the difficulty you would have with handling a rig like that and I commend you for being responsible enough to say no.
MR. RUSHTON: Mr. [Brooke] Taylor, when I was first hurt, I was talking to WCB and I will not mention any names. I had a statement from the Department of Highways to have my Class 1's renewed. The individual told me it cannot be done because you only have one hand. You're stupid. You can never do it because you cannot shift and drive. I proved them wrong and because I did, I'm sitting here now paying for what I proved I could do.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Barry.
MR. RUSHTON: You're welcome.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are there any other questions for Mr. Rushton? Thank you very much.
MR. RUSHTON: You're welcome. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ronald Bruce McNutt.
MR. RONALD BRUCE MCNUTT: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. McNutt, if you could please state your name and community.
MR. MCNUTT: Bruce McNutt, Truro. I was injured back in 1987. I have had to fight with compensation ever since. I have won my case twice. I am in the appeal process for the third time. All this - I call it bullshit - keeps changing to suit compensation. I have had four lawyers, three specialists, two doctors, all agreeing with each other, in my favour. There are a few people at compensation, a couple that are doctors, that just say whatever they want them to say, are very ignorant when you do go in to see them.
I have lost a lot in the past. I missed out a lot with my kids over the years due to my injury. It is just not a fair system. I have been on welfare due to my back and I have always paid welfare back whenever I have gotten back on my feet but it is pretty bad when you have to go to welfare. It is pretty degrading. I don't want to not work. I'm a worker, I want to keep on working but for the days that I can't work, I want some backing. I have lost too much over the years. I'm sitting here now with two back supports on. I'm quite mad and I'm just fed up with the system. I'm not going to waste any more of your time. That is about all I have to say.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. McNutt. I believe there is a question.
MR. DEWOLFE: I just wanted to find out, I'm curious about the nature of your injury and how it happened.
MR. MCNUTT: I was employed with the school board, I was in the maintenance department. I was unloading a small tractor, it overturned on top of me. It crushed two vertebrae. Only I know how I feel. There are a lot of other problems I have had with that injury. But the Workers' Compensation Board says there is absolutely nothing wrong with me.
MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you very much.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Any other questions? Mr. Fage.
MR. FAGE: Mr. McNutt, are you currently still employed with the school board, when you can work?
MR. MCNUTT: No. I am not. The Workers' Compensation Board agreed to retrain me, and when I won my appeal the second time, they started to retrain me. One counsellor wanted me to take another year of upgrading to go into the course that I wanted to be retrained in. They agreed to it. They conveniently got rid of him, put another counsellor on it, said I was ready to go to work without the other year. She gave me five weeks to find a job, or I would be cut off.
MR. FAGE: So, there was no real offer of retraining in that process?
MR. MCNUTT: They started, then they cut me off. Because they said there was nothing wrong with me.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fraser.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: A question, are you on compensation now?
MR. MCNUTT: No. I am not.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: You are receiving nothing from them?
MR. MCNUTT: No. I am not.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: What about Canada Pension disability, are you receiving that?
MR. MCNUTT: No.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Have you applied for that?
MR. MCNUTT: Yes. I have.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: And you have been turned down?
MR. MCNUTT: Yes. I have.
MR. HYLAND FRASER: Recently, or?
MR. MCNUTT: A couple of years ago. I have been fighting with this for 11 years.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Other questions? Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: You say, when you can go to work, and it is all in your back, and some days you just can't go to work. Is that right?
MR. MCNUTT: I was off all last week, without any pay. I work for a small company. I can't expect them to just pay me for not being there. I had to go back to work today, because I have a mortgage to pay. I have four kids to support. You have to do what you have to do.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Are you in the appeal process now?
MR. MCNUTT: Yes. I am. For the third time. They also said that I was paid off until I was 65. They call $9,000 paid off until you are 65. I am 35.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. DeWolfe.
MR. DEWOLFE: Is it my understanding then, you were paid a lump sum?
MR. MCNUTT: No. All they paid me was three months that I was in the hospital, and back time. It was $100 and some a month they awarded me, permanent partial disability pension, it was permanent, and I was to be reassessed after I was retrained, I believe it is, it is in my papers. I was reassessed and they said there was nothing wrong with me. Cut me off.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. [Brooke] Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. McNutt, thank you for your presentation. Did you say that two specialists and two doctors . . .
MR. MCNUTT: Two doctors, three specialists.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: . . . agree that you are injured, and they agree there is medical information to support your injury, but yet the medical adviser, the specialist with WCB, disagrees?
MR. MCNUTT: Yes.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I hear that quite often. There should be some consistency within the medical profession.
MR. MCNUTT: There are a lot of people that just give up fighting. There are a lot more of us out there that are hurt, that deserve to be treated fairly.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much Mr. McNutt. Is Calvin Teed here? Just take your time, we are not in a hurry. Hi.
MR. CALVIN TEED: I am Calvin Teed from Truro. This is my wife, Alexandra. I got hurt three years ago in December. As far as recommendations to the Workers' Compensation Board:
(1) Humanity. There isn't one single person within the Workers' Compensation Board in Halifax that knows what that word means. Nobody. Their idea of help is, hold the line, please, I will see if someone else is in. That is it.
You people have no idea what is going on. You have absolutely no idea what it is like to be hurt. I used to think I knew what pain was. I drove a truck for a living. I hauled feed. And I loved it. Smashed my head around, fall off the truck, stuff like that never bothered me. I used to think I knew what pain was.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: I am right behind Calvin. Obviously, he can't talk. He is in a great deal of pain. My issue to the Workers' Compensation Board, I want to talk about the family members, not only the injured worker, but the whole family suffers. We have two young kids. My husband can't play with them. It is a big chore to come down here. He has had to do absolutely nothing within the last week, just to get his butt down here to speak to you people.
MR. CALVIN TEED: I was down here this afternoon, but I had to leave. I couldn't stay.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: He got run over by a truck. Yes. They paid him his benefits. We went through the motions. We went through everything that was asked of us. We have been to every doctor in Halifax.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Every neurosurgeon.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: We have gotten reports from the States. Calvin has what is called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. They don't know why it happens. They know what it is but they can't fix it. One of the conditions of it is chronic pain, 24 hours of the day. You go to bed, you can't sleep because he is crying with the pain at night. And he is in pain during the day. You can't touch his leg. Even putting on a pair of pants, I have to dress him in the morning. I have to get him dressed at night. Before I go to work - I work eight hours a day - I come home, I still have work to do. I have housework to do. We can't afford to hire a nanny. We definitely can't afford to hire a housekeeper. I have lawns to mow. I have to keep the house up, because Calvin can't do it anymore.
This is a man that used to work 100 hours a week . . .
MR. CALVIN TEED: Every week.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: Every week. He loved to work.
MR. CALVIN TEED: And I loved it.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: And now he can barely walk. Workers' compensation paid him his permanent impairment benefits, November of last year. Now we are caught up in this chronic pain issue. They stopped his benefits, totally. Yes, he is done with temporary disability.
MR. CALVIN TEED: They stopped my benefits, because my condition is no longer temporary.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: It is permanent.
MR. CALVIN TEED: It is permanent.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: So they stopped his benefits. Where is the justice in that? What are you supposed to live on? How do you tell your kids that you can't buy them something? Grant you, our kids come first . . .
MR. CALVIN TEED: When you are used to it.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: When you are used to it. We used to have all kinds of money.
MR. CALVIN TEED: I would like to know when these people are going to have somebody to answer to, because you politicians, we talk to you, and it is very nice of you to be here tonight, but each and every one of you can't stand up in front of me and tell me that any of you have done anything to make people at the Workers' Compensation Board answer for what they do. I read the paper. It takes me 24 hours to read one little paper, but I read it. How would you like to spend your day doing that? And that is it. It is no fun. You listened to a lot of folks here tonight, the gentleman over here on the right hand side, we didn't ask for this. You have to be cuckoo to ask for this. I wouldn't wish this on you people. I wouldn't wish this on them. I don't hate anybody. But I really wish that something could be done. There are a lot of crooked people in this world, out of 100 of them, 99 of them are working down there. And they tell us we are the ones who are faking. You people are looking in the wrong direction.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: I would like to make another comment. Like the other gentleman said, that was just up here, he says specialists, numerous specialists state that yes, there is something wrong with this gentleman, he can't work. We are in the same boat. My husband goes to the doctor every month. Sometimes, I have to drive him, because he can't
make it. We have been to numerous specialists in Halifax. Every last one of them has said, yes, this is what is wrong with this man, yes, he cannot work.
It is bad enough dealing with your injury and dealing with the chronic pain every day, just to get up a flight of stairs, and then to have to listen to that doctor down at Workers' Compensation Board override all the other doctors. That makes no sense.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Dr. Davy Doolittle.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: Davy Doolittle. I call him Dr. Davy.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Five minutes I was in there, guys, five minutes. He said, go home.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: That is one of the first things that should be done with workers' compensation. He has had six different case workers in the last two years. One went on maternity leave, that is fine, I have no gripe about that. One he had for two days, then they switched over. Then they determined, well, let's send him to a shrink. His case went to a shrink. It took a year of nothing going on, because they knew within the last year what had happened. They sent him to a shrink. The shrink said yes, this gentleman is fine. My opinion is he will never work again because of his injury. It is a lifetime injury. So one doctor's appointment in one year, and still nothing has happened.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Do you know what they said about that shrink appointment, we didn't make it, they did? They said, it doesn't matter, it doesn't count.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: They just pick out what they want to believe and what they want to hear, and everything else. My other question is, why should an injured worker be penalized while this process is going on, over the chronic pain? This is what we are waiting for now. First they told us January, then July, now we are into October. Then you hear on the news, there will be no cheques put out until at least October 15th. That is fine, what do you tell your bank in the meantime. He has told them, he can't work. That is about all I have to say.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Just make them listen.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: Just make them listen.
MR. CALVIN TEED: Somebody has go to.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Teed. All I can say is I hope we won't let you down. Does anyone have any questions? Any of the consultants? Thank you for coming forward.
MS. ALEXANDRA TEED: Thank you. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Is Don Wilson here?
MR. DON WILSON: Quite the horror stories, what? My name is Don Wilson. I was hurt in 1995. I used to be a proud man at one time. I am not anymore. What the Workers' Compensation Board has done, I mean, you go to a specialist and those vets at the Workers' Compensation Board tell you they don't know what they are talking about. Come on. Give me a break. When I was hurt, I fell off a car, a rail car. They told me I would have to go on light duties. They locked me in a shed eight hours a day with one little light bulb and a chair to sit on. They would come and open the door at noon hour to make sure I had my lunch. Then they would come back at 4:30 p.m. and let me out. I did that for three weeks.
Then they decided it was time I had a softer job so they put me to work pulling out paper from under railcars that were being shunted all around the yard. This is at Trenton Car Works, this I had to do. Finally, I went to the office and I said, you're killing me with kindness, fellows. It's time we did something.
I went back to my doctor. He told me to get out of there. I went to another doctor. He told me that my neck will be like this for the rest of my life. I went to a specialist and got the same thing from him. Then I turned around and went to the Workers' Compensation Board and those veterinarians down there, they don't listen to the doctors at all. They're all a bunch of liars, them doctors. They don't know what they're doing.
If I was a doctor, I'd be so - I don't know what I'd be. For them to tell me that the Workers' Compensation Board - they don't even know my job. I mean, these are specialists. What are these at the Workers' Compensation Board? They told me that there was nothing wrong with me and they had never even seen me.
What I think you should do with the Workers' Compensation Board - because that is what you are here for - Mr. Hamm joined his election campaign, wanted to get rid of a bunch of bureaucrats. Well, here is his chance to get rid of about 240 of them and start a new system. (Applause) A system that is going to work for the injured worker, because you haven't got a hope in hell of getting around the bureaucracy down there in Halifax.
You've seen the people that were talking here today. What chance do they have? Tell me, what chance do they have? None. They will push them in a corner and leave them there, let them rot. This is supposed to be a safety place, this is supposed to be a safety net that we people worked for all our lives, not the younger people but the older people that made this so. Now this generation is just turned right upside down. Money is more important than anything. They would sooner see you go hungry than give you a bite to eat.
Hard on your family? You're right, it's hard on your family. You go from a good man to a bum. You're supposed to be proud of that? Well, I certainly am not.
Every politician I talk to, we're going to do something, we're going to do something. During the election, the NDP, the Conservatives, the Liberals were all going to do something for the injured worker. They didn't do anything until they pretty well shut the government down, which I commend the people from Pictou for doing. The only thing, they didn't stay long enough. They should have stayed there until it was settled. Once they got rid of them, they wouldn't even let them back in the door. They had no use for them anymore.
Now, when I leave here, I suppose you're going to say, well, that stupid bastard, what does he know about it? I know a lot about it, believe me, I do. If you people are going to do something, I would like to know what it is, except fire them all and start over again.
You think you're just fighting the Workers' Compensation Board? No. You're fighting the companies too. Every time a company has an injured worker, up goes their compensation. When I had my meeting down here at the hotel, there was a woman from the Workers' Compensation Board, a man from the Workers' Compensation Board, there were three people, a lawyer from the company and me. Now, you tell me why the company would be so interested in having three of their people there and a lawyer for little old me if they don't have something to do with it. They have a lot to do with it.
When I was in business here in Truro myself, I had a young fellow hurt and he went to the compensation board and they laughed at him so he came back to me and he said to me, how come I can't get compensation? I said you can get compensation. No, sir, they said I'm not entitled to it. I called up the compensation board and I said, what's going on? This man was hurt on the job and I pay compensation - and God knows I paid plenty - how come he's not being compensated? Well, Mr. Wilson, you know we have to fight these things. Fight nothing, I said. The man was hurt on the job, now you pay him his compensation or I will stop paying mine. The next week the man got his cheque. That is as true as I'm sitting here in this chair. So the companies have a lot to say about it.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Wilson. Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Wilson? Thank you very much. (Applause)
Is Mr. Rector here? Hi. Mr. Rector, if you could please state your name and the community you are from. (Interruption) Your full name.
MR. LLOYD RECTOR: Lloyd Rector, Guess Drive. I was misinformed by my people about what was going on here so I have nothing formally prepared for you but I have a couple of recommendations for you. Correct me if I'm wrong. This is like an insurance policy for us in case we get hurt. Yes? No? The companies are paying premiums to compensate us for our wages if we are hurt, right?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay.
MR. RECTOR: Basically, it is what is supposed to be going on.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Basically, yes.
MR. RECTOR: Then why the hell isn't it working? Plain and simple. We go to our doctors, we are hurt, we got hurt at work. The doctor says, yeah, he is hurt. How much more do you need? Let's go back to the KISS rules. Keep it simple stupid! Plain and simple. We got hurt at work, pay us until we are able to go back to work. If there are fraudulent claims in there, charge the bugger, the same as any other insurance company would but don't make them suffer. Don't try to squeeze them into the corner. Don't try to starve them out. That is basically what they are doing now. There are injured workers out there who are working because they have no other choice. The compensation board has pushed them into a corner and they have no other choice but to work.
The one gentleman here who said about sending him to a psychologist, yeah, they do that. They asked me to go to a psychologist and I said, sure. They went, what? I said, shit, yeah, I'll go. So they play all kinds of games on you.
I was hurt on January 24, 1997. It took them six months to get me into a specialist. I didn't even play with their doctors. As soon as I found out that I was hurt and it was severe, I said, send me to a specialist. It took them six months to get me to a specialist. It took three different types of X-rays for them to see where the injury was and once they found it, then they seen it on the original X-rays when I was originally hurt. They called me into the room with the specialist. The specialist looks at me and says, I need a second opinion. I said, hold on now, isn't that my job to ask for a second opinion if I don't agree with it? He said, no, no, I am going to send you to another specialist.
A year and a half later, I was in for surgery; scar right there to prove it. They got me down to one-third of what I was making, their reason being because I was only on the job three weeks. The company I worked for has applied to get me discontinued twice. Back to what one of the other gentlemen said, that the companies are involved. Twice. I have injuries in both ankles, both knees and the lumbar ligaments in the back. They have done surgery on one ankle, waiting for surgery on the other and they are not sure what they are going to do with the knees yet. My battles have just started. You ask Brooke, I enjoy this type of battle.
So, boys, the simplest thing to take back is, don't put the blame on the injured worker. We've got a doctor, we have a specialist that says we are hurt, pay us, plain and simple. Investigate afterwards. If it is fraudulent, take the proper means but don't starve us out. Thank you. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Rector, there may be some questions for you. Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Rector? Could you, just for the record, explain your injury.
MR. RECTOR: I fell.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: You fell?
MR. RECTOR: I stayed and the plank took off. I fell. I have had two specialists tell me that I am unable to go back to the work I was doing. The compensation board will not retrain me because they said I wasn't on the job site long enough. They also cut me down to one-third of what I am getting because I wasn't there long enough. So what happens to the poor kid that's got his first job, been on the job for two days and happens to get hurt?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are you in an appeal right now?
MR. RECTOR: Oh, no. I am getting one-third and that is as far as it has gone so far. I went over a year with $638 a month. I got compensation board, Canada Pension and provincial disability all in the same room. I said, boys, fight it out. They spit out enough and now I got enough to live on. My family can survive.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are there any other . . .
MR. RECTOR: One more thing, you are elected officials. Don't forget your place. You represent us. (Applause)
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Neil Gilchrist? Hi, Mr. Gilchrist.
MR. NEIL GILCHRIST: My name is Neil Gilchrist. I live in Brookfield. I first got hurt in 1984. I worked for the Department of Highways. I worked up until 1989 and I couldn't work no more. I went to their doctor, did what they told me to do and they gave me one hell of a time, I want to tell you. But I do get a pension every month from them and I get my Canada disability pension also. I want to tell you all here, did they have the right - I am talking about Russ Adams - to tell me, to my face, that I was going to be dead by the time I was 65? Does he have the right to say that? He is the manager of the compensation board. I can prove this. I was even willing to take a lie detector test and they told me I didn't have to go that far, don't do that stuff. I just wanted you to all know this. That is the way they treated me. I have a pack of papers home this high.
They gave me one hell of a time. I went to court in Amherst. The first I went to go up there I couldn't go because the road was closed, my lawyer lied, which I don't have him no more. There was a big write-up in the paper about them because they were taking so long to get us in there. I am sure you people read about it. That is why I couldn't get to Amherst the first time but the second time I did get there. It was in the spring and John O'Brien, which
I got the letter home, says pay this man so he don't take us back to court. Dr. Shears said I was totally disabled, X-rays don't lie. They gave me $347 a month, the pension, that is what they gave me.
I'm supposed to be dead when I'm 65. I've got a year and 11 months to go. I would like to ask you, is there such a thing as human rights? Can I get an apology from him for saying this?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gilchrist, you said it was Russ Adams?
MR. GILCHRIST: Russ Adams, yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Who is Mr. Adams?
MR. GILCHRIST: He's the Manager of the Workers' Compensation Board. Well, at least I heard he was. I know he works there.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Are you finished your presentation, Mr. Gilchrist, because we have some questions we would like to ask?
MR. GILCHRIST: Yes, go ahead.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay. Can you explain to us the nature of your injury?
MR. GILCHRIST: A log. There were seven of us rolling this log up a bank and it was in the fall of the year. The ground wasn't frozen, there was a little snow on the ground and it was very slippery. Anyway, I was in the middle and I didn't get away in time. Everybody started sliding and slipping and I went down at the bottom. The log came right up and rested right on my spine because I went down face first.
They took the log off me, they got me up, I felt all right and the next morning when I tried to get out of bed, I couldn't get out of bed. I had to get help to get to the hospital.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay. That was the injury that happened to you in 1984?
MR. GILCHRIST: Yes, in the fall of 1984, yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Then you were able to come back to work until 1989?
MR. GILCHRIST: Oh, yes. I went to the doctor and it was reported. They gave me pills but I kept lifting and it was getting worse. Then in 1988 I fell in what we call a gopher hole. There are a lot of gopher holes in the woods. I'm sure Mr. [Brooke] Taylor knows this.
When I went to this Dr. Corbett - he's in New Zealand now - he was very thorough. He was also the Medical Examiner here. He was very thorough with me and sent me right down to Halifax. I've been to doctors here, I think, about five or six times.
They told me, first, I was overweight. I weighed 215 and I went down to 185. It didn't make a bit of difference. They asked me if it was any different when it was raining or if the sun was shining. There's no difference.
You wouldn't believe the papers I could show you. They just try to twist you all up. When you phone for information, well, I don't know about your case; somebody else has got it. That is just what they do. They did pension me.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay. Do any of the committee members have questions for Mr. Gilchrist? Mr. [Brooke] Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Neil, you mentioned you were satisfied that the Canada Pension Plan regarding their definition of . . .
MR. GILCHRIST: Disability Canada Pension?
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Yes, severe and prolonged.
MR. GILCHRIST: I got that as soon as the doctors here sent them a letter. I had no trouble getting that.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: No, I just wanted that clarified.
MR. GILCHRIST: Yes.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Any other questions for Mr. Gilchrist? Thank you very much for coming forward.
MR. GILCHRIST: Thank you. I will say, again, what can I do about Russ Adams?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: What can you do about it?
MR. GILCHRIST: I mean, why did he have authority to say that right to my face? He also said that he took it upon himself that he wasn't going to pay me.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Well, no one would have authority to speak to you like that, Mr. Gilchrist.
MR. GILCHRIST: I didn't think so. I told him about getting the lawyer to go to court and they just laughed at me and said, you don't have the money to get a lawyer. I phoned the Labour Board and they said it is a conflict of interest. I went to a lawyer and they said I don't have the money to pay them up front. That is what they call a conflict of interest. I didn't have the money to pay up front. I just want you to know that.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay. Mr. Gilchrist, this is all being recorded and I am sure that Mr. Christie and Mr. Stuewe will read about it.
MR. GILCHRIST: I'm glad it is. I hope they all hear it. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Is Doug Laurie here? Okay, Jim Johnson? Is there anyone else this evening who would like to say something before we adjourn? Come forward please and just state your name and the community you're from.
MS. THERESA HILTZ: My name is Theresa Hiltz and I'm from Truro. I'm with Bruce McNutt. I have heard you ask different times, do you have a workers' adviser?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MS. HILTZ: Well, I was talking to one of the workers' advisers last week and he basically said that Bruce didn't have a chance in hell of winning his case and he didn't really know what he was fighting for. I said, well, he was injured and he said, well, after a certain age they take deterioration into consideration. He wouldn't have had that deterioration, you know, if he didn't have the injury. It is just very frustrating and listening to everybody here tonight, everybody has the same thing. The specialists all say yes. The one doctor says no and you don't get anywhere. It's just a run-around. It has been, what, two years. You get three letters a year saying this has gone here and this has gone there. Nothing is being done and what are you guys going to do? What can you do? You haven't really answered anybody's question here. What are you guys really going to do?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: We have been going around the province and we haven't finished our meetings.
MS. HILTZ: When you do finish them, what . . .
MADAM CHAIRMAN: And we have meetings scheduled already when we will all get together. A report is going to be written and we will be discussing what we have heard.
MS. HILTZ: Okay, and then what comes of that?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Then a report is written and we present that report to the Legislature with our recommendations.
MS. HILTZ: And what happens to compensation? Do they change the law again to suit . . .
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I believe a lot of us hope that changes are going to be made.
MS. HILTZ: What's this, another year or so?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I hope not, no.
MS. HILTZ: I was going to say it is very frustrating. I'm just sitting here and I'm just so mad because it's just like everybody has got the same story and it's just like how many stories do you have to hear before you change the law. It doesn't make any sense but that's all I have to say.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you.
MR. DEWOLFE: Theresa, I just wanted to say that we will be making recommendations to the fall session of the Legislature. We won't be dealing with individual cases but certainly our recommendations we hope will be adopted by the government. The recommendations may affect the case you're referring to.
MS. HILTZ: Hopefully.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Ms. Hiltz, I have a question. When Mr. McNutt went to his workers' adviser . . .
MS. HILTZ: He has never gone to his adviser. We met him through a letter. We have heard from him three times.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: By letter or by phone?
MS. HILTZ: Yes, by letter. Bruce calls him by phone to tell him when he's off work and he goes, well, there's nothing I can do, just keep me updated. So we called last week and he said, Bruce was awarded a settlement. I said he never signed nothing. He was not told it was a settlement and he goes, well, he was paid up until he was 65. Well, take $9,000 and divide it into the years, $265 a year is what he's saying was a settlement. I don't think so.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: What I was trying to get to was the workers' adviser, he's not going to take Mr. McNutt's case, is that right?
MS. HILTZ: No, he said, like he said, I can fight but I don't see what he's fighting for. It's just very frustrating because it's just like what do you mean, don't you want to discuss this case with him. Don't you want to set up a meeting. After tonight, he's going to
his doctor tomorrow, then we're going to the lawyer who handled his case before and we're finding out what he knows about the law and then we're going and we're getting a specialist's letter and we're going to make a meeting with this workers' adviser because you're just getting the run-around. I mean this guy is supposed to be fighting for him and he's telling me on the phone last week Bruce doesn't have a chance in hell of winning it. What's he fighting it for? That's what I said to him. I said, well, why are you fighting his case then if you don't believe he has a chance. He said, well, he was awarded his settlement. I said he was not, there was no settlement and it's just the run-around, continuous, continuous, like year after year. Like I said, three letters a year, you know, I mean I thought this guy was supposed to be helping him, fighting for him, and he's not.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you. Mr. [Charles] MacDonald.
MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Just on the settlement, did he appear before, was it the ADR process or was it . . .
MS. HILTZ: He got a letter, and I have it here, stating what time they were covering for this lump sum and then they were paying him to upgrade and then they were going to reassess him after that, for the rest of his life, and they never did. All we're talking about here is $140 for the rest of his life, besides when he's working and stuff, and 100 per cent when he's off. That's all we're talking about. It's just like I wish they could see how - well, look at him, Christ. I mean you don't know how frustrating it is to fight and fight and fight.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Hiltz.
MS. HILTZ: Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Is there anyone else who would like to say something? Come forward, please, and state your name.
MR. CHESTER MARSHALL: My name is Chester Marshall from Bible Hill. I don't have anything made up for you either. I've been through a lot of it and just disgusted with it but I would like to know - I did mention it before - why the Workers' Compensation Board doesn't work hand in hand with the Occupational Health and Safety Board? I could have been spared a lot of pain back in 1987 when I was injured at Andres Wines in Truro. I was stacking wine on pallets. It doesn't sound like much in numbers to most people but I'm not a giant and when you're doing 55 to 60 pallets a day, every day, that's a ton of pallets that you're bent over the whole while doing.
Now, my back injury is a crushed disc, three compressed discs, but you see you're muscled up for a job like that, then after, the deterioration set in and you notice everything. Your elbows are ruined, your knees, your ankles. I have paralysis on one side of my foot. But, see, for the same reason the gentleman said here, I didn't dare go and put in for this when you
people wrote in the paper that we may be up for pain, to be recompensated on that. I didn't dare because we barely scratch by as it is and I didn't want to lose my benefits because every time you fight the system, that's the first thing that happens.
Our house is in shambles as it is. My truck I've been driving for seven years, luckily I take care of it. It gave up the other day and I don't know if I can afford to fix it yet. So I'm going to be walking and maybe for good because I can't afford to get another one. You can't go to a bank and ask for a loan. You have no job; you don't have enough income to pay it back.
I called the Occupational Health and Safety Board about my job. I said, is this proper to be doing this, 55 to 60 tons a day, every day? They said, well, I don't know what the requirements are for the job, what you're required to do. I said, are there any limits? I don't know. He had no idea. He said, I think there's a 50 pound limit somewhere but I'm not sure just what it comprises of or who would know. He didn't know that either. I mean if the Workers' Compensation Board had been working together tightly with them then - they came up, they didn't evaluate my job.
I worked at the carpet factory for 11 years and when they evaluated you for a raise or anything, they evaluate the job. But no one did this, they didn't. They went into the office and I'll tell you, the assistant manager told me this himself, they came to the manager. They pulled my file and went into the office and talked about it and he was gone. The job was not evaluated at all. I was a troublemaker and I wasn't long being out of there. I was fired from my job within 10 months. Now, you're not allowed legally to even do that for a year.
My lawyer wasn't concerned with that. He wasn't concerned with the liability that should be on the Occupational Health and Safety Board's shoulders. It shouldn't have been on your shoulders, period. It should have been on theirs, not your office, but I can't sue them. So you wind up with $210 a month to live on. So you get a small disability from the province but then if I sell my house, I can't do nothing, I can't make a move, if I sell the house, they take theirs off the top. If they figure I owe them what the house is worth, then there will be nothing left for me. So everything we worked hard for is just behind us, you know.
My attitude has gone from a hard-working person to one who just doesn't really care any more about a lot of things. I used to be a feeling person for everyone and outside of children and old people I don't care a lot for most people any more. They're out for themselves. They don't understand your plight and it is not their problem but I think you persons, it would be nice to have an answer on this, why they don't report to you. If they go out on a job, to assess a job, they should report to you. You should be a part of that. Like I say, him and the boss must have gotten along well. He didn't bother to come to see me. It is a good thing to consider, I hope anyway.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Marshall. That's a very valid recommendation. I feel it is just unfortunate that it is not going to help you in your situation but it is something we certainly will take into account. Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Marshall? Thank you very much.
I believe there was a gentleman at the back who may have wanted to come forward? I'm not psychic, sir, I saw your hand before, if you could just state your name and community.
MR. RONALD TYNES: Yes. My name is Ronald Tynes. First I should say I can sympathize with all of these people that have been before the microphones since I've been here. I got hurt back in 1964. I kept being told by the doctors that it was strained muscles in my back until 1969. I got hurt on the CNR, working on the train. I was opening up a berth in one of the bedrooms, they applied the brakes to the train in the Drummondville yard limit while I was bent over and I just felt that I kinked my back. So both of the supervisors that I was working under, they both made out accident reports and sent them in, and the reason that they did was because the train inspector was on that train that night and he had a room in my car.
I come home and I went to the doctor. I was more or less walking on my tiptoes, or tiptoe I should say, my right foot. They just sent me out, it was Dr. Lavers sent me out to the hospital. They had the X-rays on my back and they just kept telling me it was strained muscles. So I worked when I could and I laid off when I couldn't, took holidays to cover up for the lay-off time, and in 1969 all the pills that they were giving me, none of them was any good. So I called my superintendent at that time because we had a good working relationship. He told me, you come on down and I'll send you to my doctor and my doctor will get the best for you in Halifax. Well, I knew no specialist down there and the specialist was Bill Huestis. Three months later I went in for the operation. I got out. They removed a disc. Everything was going good for about six months and I started going downhill again.
One year from the date I was back in again, spinal fusion. I got back out. It took two years and nine months, I had to learn to walk all over again, and I went back and I tried to work for 11 months because I had enough seniority then that I could hold the easier jobs but the motion of the train was too much on my back. They sent me to Dr. Stevens in Moncton, who was a CNR specialist up there, and he told me I was very foolish to go back because I could have ended up in a wheelchair. So that was fine. He made the papers out and the CNR give me my little disability pension. I went to Mr. Lorne MacDougall, Ron Giffin, and they applied to the Workers' Compensation Board and they just completely turned me down. So Ron said, you got to have something to live off, we will get you Canada Pension disability. So he and Bob Coates got together and they got that set up and fixed up and that was it. Now I went back after the Workers' Compensation Board again and there was a fellow there at that time by the name of Paul Pelrine. He was the one that was looking after the application that had went in. He said that they would get at it right away.
About six months went by. When I called down again, they said your name is here but all your papers are gone to Quebec. Where you got hurt on the train in the Province of Quebec, the papers had to go back. I said do you forget that I was working on rolling stock and that goes home to my home province. Oh, we never thought of that. We will try and get the papers back. Well the papers never did come back but it took me 19 years to gather the papers all up again.
When I got them all gathered up and sent them in, they hired a lawyer. I wanted to see if I could get a lawyer, though. They hired a lawyer. The lawyer's name was Stephen Topshee in Mr. MacDougall's office. He kept working with them and working with them and working with them and finally he got hold of the personnel office in Moncton and he wanted the medical records sent down from there. They asked for a month to dig them up. He had to threaten them and a lady came down and brought the papers down.
The hearing was held out there at the Glengarry and the chairman of the board at that time, that was up, in charge of the meeting, he was very upset about what had happened and these papers that I had gathered up and brought in and he wanted to know why they needed all this time. Well, they were trying to find out how much money I received from Sun Life Insurance while I was off. I said, that's no problem. Six months at $60 a week. That is what I received. Well, what did you do after that? I had to go on welfare but I said you call Harvey MacArthur. He is the executive director over there. Thank God he knew me. So that was fine.
Now getting back to Stephen Topshee. They hired him to process the claim. When he told them that it was a legal claim, they stopped answering him. Two years went by. I go over Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy. I spoke to Alan MacLean and Alan gave it to one of the lawyers in the office. At that time it was Dave Blaikie. He got transferred to Sydney and they turned it over to Jeff Hunt and there has been nothing done from that day to his.
Then comes my wife. She gets hurt out in the hospital here, working on a malfunctioning dishwasher. They had to use it because the dishes and things had to be washed. July 1, 1981. Three days she was off, she had hurt her ankle. She got back to work. On the 31st, she got scalded from the chemicals and stuff that was in the machine. Burnt the lining and things in her ears. Here is exactly what they did. They transferred the three days pay, of the numbers that was on that claim, over onto the other claim and told her she got all she was entitled to, she was getting no more.
Last year, when Eleanor Norrie went in to see them about it, they said they was still studying it. When Jeff Hunt wrote them here in the spring, they said, they are still studying my wife's report. He wanted to know if there was any money set aside for a lawyer to look into it. They said, oh, yes, none of the money has been used for the lawyer. There is about $800 here but Mr. Tynes is the one, there is only $300 left.
But that is how they have been handling me. Like I say, it took me 19 years to gather all those papers up again. Had I not been working in the office in Halifax and knew how to go about these things, I would have never have been able to gather those papers up. I suppose they figured that I would be dead by now, they wouldn't have to give me anything and now I suppose they are saying it ain't going to be too much longer because he is 69 years old now but they have never given my wife or myself five cents.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Tynes. That is an incredible story.
MR. TYNES: It is all the truth. All the papers are up in Jeff Hunt's office up there, at Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy. That is where they are at now.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Tynes.
MR. TYNES: Oh yes, they even went as far as to have the superintendent bring the two train supervisors back in to verify their signatures on these accident reports and they also turned around and both wrote letters, in handwriting, verifying that those were those signatures on that accident report and it did take place. But you see the part that hurt me in the whole deal was, I can understand a new man going in a job and making a mistake by sending those papers to Quebec. I can understand that. I can understand a person making a mistake in a date on the accident forms but when they are showed that it happened once on July 1st and then again on July 31st and then take the first claim numbers and put it over on that last application and say you got all you are entitled to, I can't understand that. Thank you.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: I would like to ask you what has changed in the last 34 years but it might depress me, so thank you very much for coming before us. (Applause)
Is there anyone else this evening? Yes, sir.
MR. RALPH GOSBY: I am Ralph Gosby from Truro.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Yes, Mr. Gosby.
MR. GOSBY: My story isn't much compared to what I heard here tonight and I would suggest you fellows go back and tell these people the very dangerous situation that is brewing. It is shotgun blasts in the office, six people dead, bombs, you know. You can't push these people to that kind of a limit, something is going to happen and it is going to blow so stop it before it does happen.
In my case, I didn't know until three years ago, that I discovered this new form of lowlife that is called the compensation board. (Applause) I worked with mentally handicapped kids and I tried to stop one of them from kicking the tail lights out of a police car and of
course I got a smack in the jaw. I had a partial plate which uprooted the other teeth it was fastened to it and that was it, the end of that. So I ended up in the hospital and had them taken out. Now the compensation, after they told me to sue the kid and all this stuff, a mentally handicapped kid, go sue them, get your teeth that way. I finally got them to pay for a set of false teeth.
Now after a few months, the dentist discovered that the bottom teeth weren't going to stay in. That is why I ain't got them now, because they just won't stay in. There is not enough gum line or something there and it costs a lot of money to put studs or something in or whatever it is they do to them, I don't know. But anyway, the thing is, they said they wouldn't stay in so I went and found some kind of a glue that would stick them in long enough to go to work because I don't like going around with no bottom teeth. So I decided I would ask the compensation board to pay for this glue - whatever it is - it was six dollars and a tube lasts about a month. They said, no, you got your false teeth, that is it. So I appealed it. So they appointed me a lawyer. All I can remember is that the last name was McDonald and it must have been Ronald McDonald, the clown, because he lost it and I lost the claim of $6.00 a month. So I turned around and wrote them a letter what I thought, that they should be getting compensation for the grey matter running out their ears because there is something wrong here when they won't give you $6.00 a month to keep your teeth in so you can talk without them falling out. That is all I was asking.
Once I turn 60 and retire, I will throw them away, I don't care. But no, you aren't getting nothing. $6.00 a month. It is pretty ridiculous. Anyway, the next thing I know, I get a parcel in the mail with everything that the compensation ever owned on me, in a bag, goodbye and that is it. But I am still, or the government is still paying compensation for me, I take it, all that stuff. They are still getting their money but they obviously cut me completely off of anything and that is fine.
All I want to say is that you have to defuse this bomb that is ready to go. I heard it here tonight and I am telling you, you don't understand the violence that can come out of something like this. You put somebody against the wall and you give them no other choice, them are the people that walk in the office and a couple of shotgun blasts and you got 10 innocent people dead because they couldn't take any more. So if you don't do something about it, and this happens, it is all on you fellows' shoulders. You fellows are all to blame because you won't go back and tell them, take the fuse out of the bomb, pay these people. Don't have them going away crawling on their belly like animals, you know, begging for food. It is not right. It is just not right. They are human beings. Treat them like that. You fellows are all making good money, you got nothing to worry about. None of you got any injuries. You know there should be people here - I'm not saying you fellows don't know what you are doing - with a leg missing and an arm gone. Then they would be able to say, you could go back and you would know what they were talking about, what they went through.
I know what most of you think. They are all a bunch of phony people trying to get money because they don't want to work anymore. That is the general idea of it, of the compensation board. They all think that somebody is out to rip them off just because they find one or two bad apples now and again but you are messing with dynamite here and, like I said, I'm not a violent man but I'm telling you, I done some thinking and I don't like what I am thinking. I'm not after nothing. I decided I wanted to give the teeth back to the person that told me I could have them so I went and tried to find out who made this great big decision that I wasn't going to get the glue to stick them in. Can't find out. They are cowards. They are spineless. They crawl on their belly.
They hide behind what they call the compensation board. You can't get a name. Give me a name and I will take you out back and we will have a chat. Maybe we can settle something. You can't. They are hiding behind the board. It is like them teenagers swarming you, when they swarm you and the kick the shit out of you and leave you laying there to die. Who did it? A swarm of people, no names. If it was you, I could go to your house and talk to you or phone you up but you are classed as on the board and the board made the decision. They will never give you who voted for what. They won't give you any names. Because you know why? They are scared. They know that something is going to happen and they won't try to stop it. That's all I got to say.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Gosby. Does anyone have any questions? No. Thank you.
Is there anyone else who would like to come forward tonight? Then I want to thank each and every one of you for being here tonight. We appreciate the recommendations and the suggestions that you have given us and we will certainly take everything to heart. I call this meeting adjourned. Thank you.
[The committee adjourned at 9:19 p.m.]