Back to top
February 3, 1995


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Session

9:00 A.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mr. Gerald O'Malley

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call this morning's session to order at this time and commence the daily sitting.

The daily routine.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by some 1,366 residents of the Eastern Shore in the Preston riding. I have added my signature. They seek government support in protecting some very significant wilderness area north of Porters Lake.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.








MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas doctors who perform abortions in the Halifax-Dartmouth area have been subjected to death threats, in the context of recent violent crimes in Canada and the United States, directed at those providing this legal and widely accepted health procedure; and

Whereas our open, democratic society suffers when any group or individual uses terror and intimidation to try to subvert the considered expression of people's wishes in the form of public policy; and

Whereas the rights and freedom of choice, for women in particular, are undermined by this reprehensible behaviour;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the use of violence and threats of violence against doctors and staff of abortion clinics, and thus against women exercising their right to choose, and urges that no Nova Scotian condone such contemptible actions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed? Is there any opponent or objection?

If not, I will put the question. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas long-time Antigonish County Liberal Association executive member, Angus Chisholm, recently said, "the member from Antigonish is in serious trouble - both in the town and in the county"; and

Whereas the long-time Liberal Association member said, "the member from Antigonish promised big things while in opposition," but he has failed to deliver; and

Whereas the Liberal executive member said, "if the liberal leadership review, scheduled for July is postponed or cancelled, the member for Antigonish will be hiring off the unemployment line - if he runs in the next election"; I wish he was here.

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Antigonish distance himself from his friends and attempt to come to peace with his enemies.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Is that the end of it?

The notice is tabled. (Laughter)

MR. ARCHIBALD: You wanted more?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Premier says his priorities rest with the fiscal bottom line at all costs; and

Whereas prior to becoming Premier of Nova Scotia, the member for Dartmouth South was the Mayor of the City of Dartmouth, which rang up a long-term debt, which now stands at $60.3-some million; and

Whereas three years after the resignation of the Premier as the Mayor of the City of Lakes, Dartmouth still has metro's highest per capita debt, which translates into some $901.40 for each and every resident of the City of Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain to the taxpayers of Dartmouth why it was necessary to saddle them with $60.3 million in debt before resigning to make things miserable for all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas many communities were able to take advantage of the Community Futures Program to undertake strategic planning and other steps that are essential for community economic development; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia, Community Futures is being wiped out March 31st without steps to ensure that the community economic development underway through its services is preserved and enhanced; and

Whereas provincial and federal officials are preoccupied with wiping out community-based agencies and establishing regional business services;

Therefore be it resolved that this government should fulfil its pledge to make community economic development the foundation of a jobs strategy by involving communities in decisions on how to preserve and advance the work done under the Community Futures auspices, rather than simply letting any progress expire on March 31st.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas besides attempting to put together a provincial budget for the 1995-96 fiscal year, the Minister of Finance is also finding time to assist the Warden of Cape Breton County with some pre-campaigning prior to the warden officially launching his bid for Mayor of the new super Cape Breton Regional Municipality; and

Whereas despite the hardships being imposed on Cape Breton by the Liberal Government, the Minister of Finance has been able to secure the services of the Premier to assist him with his pre-campaign plans for the Warden of Cape Breton County; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton West said in Monday's Halifax Chronicle-Herald when push comes to shove, I am a Cape Bretoner, not a yes man;

Therefore be it resolved that if the Premier and his Minister of Finance find it necessary to interfere in the municipal election process in the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality, they undertake to campaign for someone who will be more than a yes man to the Premier and his Minister of Finance.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


MR. DENNIS RICHARDS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas there are many reasons to quit smoking; and

Whereas the Canadian Cancer Society offers an eight session, quit smoking program called Fresh Start; and

Whereas 19 participants successfully completed this quit smoking program recently;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly extend congratulations and continued success to these smoke-free members of our province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

AN HON. MEMBER: I couldn't hear it.

MR. SPEAKER: You couldn't hear it? Would you please repeat the operative part of your resolution, therefore be it resolved?

MR. RICHARDS: This is especially for the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly extend congratulations and continued success to these smoke-free members of our province.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that that be put to the question now?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Wednesday, February 5th, Chrysalis House will be celebrating 10 years of survival and growth, in fulfilling its role of shelter, support and advocacy for women and children who suffer violence in their home; and

Whereas Chrysalis House has, through its work with police, other agencies and community groups, increased awareness of violence in the home and fostered prevention; and

Whereas Chrysalis House has survived, thanks to the dedicated efforts of many men and women, including Betty Burrell who has worked there since day one, February 15, 1985;

Therefore be it resolved that this House joins the many friends, supporters and colleagues of Chrysalis House in celebrating its first 10 years of service and wishing such success that the day will come when such services are no longer needed in our society.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived on that resolution?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas far from public scrutiny Cabinet Ministers have been investigating the rapid loss of all remaining inter-city public transportation services in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the recent loss of the second last bus service linking the Yarmouth-Digby area to the rest of Nova Scotia is another nail in the coffin of public transportation; and

Whereas this government is spending more to study privatization of one small part of the highway system that would be required to maintain the public transportation option;

Therefore be it resolved that Liberals who, in opposition and in their constituencies, see the clear need for a comprehensive transportation system, including readily accessible public transportation throughout the province, should take immediate steps to put those words into action.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas thousands of nurses, assistants, technicians, orderlies, kitchen and laundry staff and other health care workers have watched with interest as this government agreed to resume contract negotiations with the Nova Scotia Medical Society; and

Whereas this same government has refused to enter into any such negotiation with other health care providers and has even vetoed the specific recommendation of the Health Reform Blueprint for a provincial labour adjustment committee;

Whereas demoralization, less incentive to improve skills and a decline in working conditions for most health care providers are the inevitable result of this double standard;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should be even-handed enough to negotiate contract and labour adjustment issues with all those whose work is fundamental to health care and health reform, not just with doctors.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine.

[9:15 a.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 147 - New Glasgow Parking Commission Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[9:16 a.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Gerald O'Malley in the Chair.]

[12:50 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

THE CLERK: The committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 125 - St. Mary's Municipal Holiday Act.

Bill No. 141 - Halifax Superannuation Act.

Bill No. 143 - Halifax County Charter.

Bill No. 144 - Oak and Elm Grove Cemetery Company Act.

Bill No. 145 - Dartmouth City Charter.

Bill No. 147 - New Glasgow Parking Commission Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

Also that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 120 - Gaming Control Act.

Bill No. 142 - Halifax City Charter Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable considerations of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that the report be adopted?

It is agreed.

When shall these bills be read a third time, on a future day or now?

On a future day.

Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we move to Public Bills for Third Reading, I would like to recognize in our midst in the west gallery, a very distinguished visitor, Mr. Steve Rankin, the former President of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. (Applause)


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: I, too, would like to welcome Mr. Rankin who resides, at least part of the year, in the wonderful constituency of Richmond. (Interruption) The difference is Mr. Rankin gets to Richmond more often than I do.

Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 122.

Bill No. 122 - Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour for third reading.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Yes, it gives me great pleasure, Mr. Speaker, to move third reading of Bill No. 122, An Act to Reform the Law Respecting Compensation for Workers, known as the Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.


MR. SPEAKER: Forgive me. West.

MR. RUSSELL: The chap that looked at bingo comes from Hants East, I have been looking at casinos.

MR. SPEAKER: East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this is third reading and the final process in a procedure that saw a new Workers' Compensation Act come into being. It would be very nice to rise and say that we now have an Act that is meeting the desires of both workers and employers and one that also reaches the attainment or the goal of the government, which is to take positive action with regard to the unfunded liability. But, unfortunately, I don't think this Act does that. Unfortunately, it falls short on several sides in both accommodating the employers and the employees. Whether or not it falls short insofar as the Workers' Compensation Fund is concerned, putting it onto a healthier basis, I am not competent to know. But I do know that when we went into this bill, the minister said that the present Act would, indeed, alleviate the ongoing problems of the Workers' Compensation Fund and that over a period of 40 years with certain injections of government money that the fund would come into alignment.

I don't think there has been anything that we have done in this legislation which would radically affect, in other words, the changes that we have made, on the positive and negative side have probably balanced each other out pretty well. There may be a very slight negative impact on the unfunded liability but not one that I can think of that is significant.

Mr. Chairman, I said that this Act has pleased nobody insofar as both sides of the equation are concerned, but in effect, I think that unfortunately with workers' compensation that is the way it always seems to end up, that consensus is virtually impossible to obtain and there is always going to be one side or the other, if not both sides, who are going to be unhappy with the result.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that in bringing this bill before the Legislature, that, perhaps, the minister could have taken a different tack in that I believe that, perhaps, after the Law Amendments Committee, before it came into the Legislature, that there could have been time available. I say that knowing that there was a time restraint on the government to get this legislation through in this fall session and the fall session was supposed to be in the fall, but now it is almost, not only into winter, but getting very close to spring.

So, Mr. Speaker, it surely would have been better for the minister to have come forward with his proposed legislative package on day one of the Assembly, gotten it through second reading and to the Law Amendments Committee, and enabled a longer discussion, I think, in the Law Amendments Committee, and immediately after the Law Amendments Committee, before bringing it into Committee of the Whole House for review because there were a number of changes, I think, that were just begging to be made. Some of them, of course, were ones that the government, obviously, could not subscribe to because of the fact that they would, indeed, impact too heavily on the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation Fund.

But there were a number of amendments in this bill, Mr. Speaker, which, in reality, were probably merely housekeeping measures that, indeed, I think, could have made the bill better. Many of these have been adopted and, as a result, I think the minister can honestly say that the bill that has come out of Committee of the Whole House into the Chamber here for third reading is a better bill than he brought into this Chamber at the commencement of the Committee of the Whole House review of the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to do is to talk about some of the changes that we have in this bill and some of the changes that we have not achieved in this bill. I think that some of the changes that we have not got in this bill, three years hence we are going to be back in here, probably, with another fairly large amendment to this piece of legislation.

One of the big problems that I have with this legislation, Mr. Speaker, is right at the beginning of the bill where we talk about injury. Under the present piece of legislation that we have before us, the Workers' Compensation Board has the ability, by regulation, to decide that certain illnesses, certain effects from the work place that make a person unable to be employed or unable to work in that area, are not necessarily injuries insofar as coverage under workers' compensation.

Mr. Speaker, if I buy an insurance policy from a carrier such as Maritime Life or Aetna or any other insurance companies that sell liability insurance, I get, with that insurance, when I start paying my money, a schedule of what I am not covered for under the policy that I have bought. In this case, you are buying a blank sheet of paper. You are buying an insurance policy that says there are certain injuries that you can incur in the work place which we will not cover, but we cannot tell you what they are. In fact, they are open to change. They are not only open to change on a certain day, we can say that this change that we are making today could apply to injuries made 5 years ago, 10 years ago or yesterday. The board has the power to make regulations retroactively. It has the power to make policy retroactively. So there are a large number of injuries that could be specified by regulation or by policy that will not be carried.

[1:00 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you call these modern day injuries or not, maybe they have always been with us, but we have never put a handle on them before and we have never recognized them before as being injuries. I was reading in the Report on Business Magazine, February 1995, so this is current, and they are talking about a new type of injury in the work place. It is one that I spoke about the other day, but I could not find the right title to it and now I have found it; it is called repetitive strain injury.

This was a survey of businesses right across the board. They looked at businesses in mining, finance, services, manufacturing, transportation, construction, wholesale and retail, all those types of businesses were examined in this survey which was done by Dunn and Bradstreet of Canada for the February 1995 Report on Business Magazine. The polling was legitimate and it was right across this country. In fact, I think they sought the views of over 1,700 different businesses. They all said that repetitive strain injury, that is the strain you get from doing the same tasks over and over again, which could be simply sitting at the keyboard of a computer, or it could be slicing up meat in a slaughter house, those kinds of employment that require the same kinds of stroking with hands or with legs or with the torso over and over again create an injury. That kind of injury doesn't show up by a tear in the skin or a broken bone or some other obvious type of injury; it is something that occurs that causes great pain and lack of locomotion.

Now, Mr. Speaker, under this bill, this present piece of legislation we have here, that type of injury probably is not covered. I can't say definitively that it is not covered, however, I suspect to myself that under these other kinds of injuries that can be excluded by regulation or policy, that kind of injury, the kind that we have had in evidence down at the Camp Hill Hospital complex, the environmental sickness, et cetera, I don't think those kinds of injuries would be covered, simply because of the fact that there is no obvious injury that can be shown to be definitely attributable to the kind of work or the actual employment area.

We know already, because on Page 1 of the bill we are told, that, for instance, stress is not considered to be a compensable injury under the Workers' Compensation Act. So, Mr. Speaker, that is one section that I think is going to have to be addressed somewhere down the way. I think that, in all fairness, a schedule should be attached to the bill which identifies those kinds of injuries which, in the board's eye, are not covered. I don't think the board should have the right to change that schedule retroactively. I think that is grossly unfair; it is like buying a pig in a poke. You are buying a policy and somewhere down the road the issuer of the policy says well, look, that particular injury is costing us money so, effective two weeks ago, we are not going to pay any more claims on that type of injury. So, I am quite distressed about that and I am sure that some day in the future we are going to come back and discuss that particular part of this bill at that time.

We spoke about collateral benefits in the bill. I think that the minister has probably answered most of the questions that I have, anyway, with regard to collateral benefits, although the bill still does not reflect what the minister has said he is going to do. He was kind enough to give me a memorandum of intent to exclude those benefits that come from self-paid insurance policies, and that is fair enough. I am very happy and I applaud the minister for making that kind of change.

That still does not cover the other collateral benefit, which is an employer paid benefit, one that to my mind has nothing whatsoever to do with the Workers' Compensation Board, it has nothing to do with this bill. When I go to work for an employer, I have two kinds of salaries. I have the salary that I get delivered to me each week or each month or whenever, which is in cash, I go out and spend. I also have another salary package over here which says that as part of this salary package we will also pay $10 a month into a scheme to provide you with drug coverage perhaps and dental care. We will also pay another $20 a month to provide you with an insurance policy on your life. We will also pay you another $10 a month which will go to provide perhaps long-term disability, et cetera. These are part of the salary package and I believe that that is no business whatsoever of the Workers' Compensation Board.

If the worker goes out and negotiates that package, that is part of the salary package. If an employer, in his wisdom and generosity says, look, I think, Joe Smith, in giving you your salary package this year I will increase your salary by only 2 per cent this year but over here I will give you an additional insurance benefit which will look after you if your are sick or laid off or if Heaven help us you were injured on the job, I will pay a top-up to whatever benefits you draw from any other source whether it be from workers' compensation or from unemployment insurance to give you the same salary as you had before you were injured.

If the employer is sufficiently generous to do that and the worker agrees that that is the way he would like to have part of his salary paid, well God bless them, let them go ahead and do it. What effect does that have on workers' compensation? I know what the answer is, it is simply that the worker's compensation says that every person on earth that is working out there, as soon as they seen this gorgeous package are going to go an break their leg so they can go on workers' compensation. Well, that is absolute nonsense. People don't want to get injured, people want to work. People want to make their full salary, they don't want to make 75 per cent of net or 85 per cent of net, what they want to make is 100 per cent of gross.

I am not saying that workers' compensation should provide 100 per cent of gross but I am saying that if the worker and the employer and private insurance companies together have a package out there that does indeed guarantee the worker 100 per cent of gross, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think it is wrong, I just cannot understand the thinking that would go into saying everybody is going to go and get injured just to draw a benefit.

The next thing I would like to talk about that we didn't get and one that I would urge the minister to think about in all seriousness the next time this bill comes into the House is universal coverage. I don't necessarily believe in big government and I don't necessarily believe that government should be running everything but I do believe that if the government is running something for only one sector or one section of workers, I believe that the economies of scale would say it is better if they covered all workers. I believe that workers' compensation should cover everybody in this province that is considered to be a working person.

Mr. Speaker, there are some sectors that would complain about that. They would say, well we don't have people that have to climb up on scaffolding or people that have to go down to the mines, they just sit behind a desk and they type, they are never going to claim against workers' compensation. Yet, those companies that say that they do indeed have as a part of their salary package an income replacement program - across the road the bank, up there the bank, down the road the bank - the employees of these banks are all covered against wage loss.

You go to any of the trust companies, to law firms, they all cover their employees. They cover them for dental, for medical and for loss of income, very few don't these days. So, for them to come forward and say we don't need it because our employees don't need it, is nonsense because they are already providing that type of coverage. It could be done cheaper through workers' compensation because if they wanted to top it up to 100 per cent they could certainly do so, if indeed this bill allowed them to do so. However, they could do so, they could top it up to 100 per cent.

By covering those workers however, what you would be doing is probably doubling the present income of the Workers' Compensation Board. I would suggest that you would be able to accommodate that doubling of a number of policy holders with perhaps a 10 per cent increase, because of economies of scale again, in the size of the administration side of the Workers' Compensation Board. I am suggesting that this be done because I think it will make the Workers' Compensation Board more efficient. Mr. Speaker, by bringing those people in I would suggest a large measure of the present problems we had with the unfunded liability would be resolved in a much more rapid and satisfactory manner and would also, I would suggest be of considerable consequence to the employers in that it could indeed realistically I believe, reduce their contribution.

The earnings replacement benefit was a subject of considerable debate and while we didn't get exactly what we wanted, we got a portion, we got a small slice of the entire loaf. I don't believe that this is satisfactory at the moment but I think we are moving in the right direction. I am not too sure whether or not the minister still designates that the employer pays for the day or the injury. It isn't in the bill so I assume though, if the person got half a day's pay for that day that would still be considered to be day one and then the following day would be day two and I am not just quite sure how that works.

I don't know if you follow me, Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is, I go to work this morning, at 11:40 a.m. I injure myself and I have to go home and I am on workers' compensation and the employer that I am working for at the present time has to pay for my full day. However, under the new bill it doesn't say that so I assume that perhaps I would only collect if I started work at 8:00 a.m. I would only collect for three and one-half hours pay and then I would go home. The next day, I would not receive any benefits, but, as I understand the bill - I have not worked a full shift on day one, I have work a partial shift on day two, so I have lost one and one-half shifts. The minister is shaking his head, so I presume you have another one-half shift to (Interruption) No? Okay. Anyway, that is a matter that has been resolved to some extent, not all that satisfactorily, but at least it is an improvement over what we had.

[1:15 p.m.]

A number of minor amendments made it through, Mr. Speaker, which were all quite favourable, actually. We had quite a discussion on annuities. (Interruption) Yes, we did. We had a good discussion on annuities. I think that it was a good discussion and I think we made some differences.

Mr. Speaker, what I would really like to talk about for a few more minutes is survivor benefits. I can truthfully say that when I first looked at this bill, one of the first things I said was, that is not fair, that is a giant step backwards. This bill is a bill to reform so you would naturally accept that when you are reforming something, you would do it for the benefit of the widows and orphans, as it has been so often said in the past few days. But, in point of fact, this piece of legislation, as it was before it was amended, took us back many years insofar as survivor benefits are concerned. This is something that is going to cost the fund money.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, the cost to the fund is negligible. It is something less than 1 per cent, I would suggest.

AN HON. MEMBER: One cent per $100.

MR. RUSSELL: One cent per $100, my colleague to my left is telling me, of every $100. It is absolutely negligible. Yet, what we have done, Mr. Speaker, is we have not taken a giant step forward, but we have taken a giant step forward where this would have taken us because this has just brought us back, essentially, to where we are. In fact, I think it has brought us right back to where we are, but at least, at the present time, it is fair and when this bill becomes law, it will still be fair. It is not generous by any means and, certainly, not generous by the standards of some other provinces. But at least it is fair, at least it is not taking anything away from what was there before. So I think that that is something that is fairly reasonable.

We made some changes on compensation, et cetera. We are coming up towards . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Are you finished your remarks?

MR. RUSSELL: No, I am not, Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to find out where I am here. We have got a bill with about 100-some odd pages, so it is sometimes difficult.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the appeal process, if I can find my way to it. I can't find my way to the appeal process because I have got too many - I am going to speak for a couple of minutes about the appeal process. (Interruption) I found it, thank you. In fact it is not one of the major amendments, I think the major amendment to this bill is in dealings with the process put out in the original bill, as it came into Committee of the Whole House, to set up an Appeal Tribunal. At first blush you could look at that and say yes, that looks like a fair system, it might work. Then, when you get into the nitty-gritty of the bill and you look at that Appeal Tribunal, it became very apparent that what it was doing was simply creating another body that was actually attached to the Workers' Compensation Board.

Mr. Speaker, the first thing that I think disturbed those who were insured under the Workers' Compensation Act was that they had lost a very important part of the present bill in that if, indeed, they were aggrieved by a decision of the board, the only other appeal available to them was attached by an umbilical cord to the Workers' Compensation Board itself. So that was the first problem with the Appeal Tribunal.

The second problem with the Appeal Tribunal was the fact that it was so difficult to get into the Appeal Tribunal that it became virtually certain that the number of appeals per year that would go on to the tribunal would be probably less than 100 every year, because of the restrictions and the parameters set out within the bill for gaining entry.

Mr. Speaker, what we have achieved in these past few days with regard to the appeal process is to remove the chairman of the Appeal Tribunal completely from the board. That was step one and it was a good step and one that was not difficult to achieve. The minister agreed to that at a fairly early stage. But the second difficulty was the matter of the process of getting into that Appeal Tribunal, that was one that took a long time to make any progress on.

What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is made the process at least easier to get into. We have made the reasons whereby you could appeal your case at the appeal level, I believe at least equivalent to where it was under the old Act and, at the same time, I think we have put in a place a process that is going to reach a resolution of appeals in a much shorter timeframe and get the results out to the appellant.

We all know the problems we have with the present Appeal Board; one is that it is shackled to providing a written decision, which takes a long time. It is shackled by the fact that it can only hear so many cases a day and shackled by the fact that there are so many people clamouring to get into the appeal process because they feel there are being grieved down in the system.

What we have done, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, is we have made the Workers' Compensation Board, hopefully, aware there is a problem that starts right at the adjudicator level, when the person first comes in with a claim. I believe, and I trust I am right, that the Workers' Compensation Board at that level, that is the first level when you come in to make your claim, now will perhaps operate in a fashion where there will be less people walking out of the counsellor's office, unhappy with the treatment and the decision they received.

If something, however, goes wrong at that level, they then go to the internal appeal board - which is internal to the Workers' Compensation Board - they go in with an appeal from that initial resolution of their claim, they come into the second process and I am hopeful that this process will work well. So the number of persons going through the system and finally ending up at the Appeal Tribunal will be substantially - and when I say substantially I mean probably 60 per cent to 70 per cent - less than they were in the past, so that the Appeal Tribunal will be able to handle them on a day to day, practically, kind of basis. In other words, you have an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, they will hear your case within a matter of days or weeks rather than years. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, the present system is intolerable. A person can go on to the Appeal Board and it is going to take two years, perhaps, before they get a dollar in their pocket.

There may be some cases that the tribunal will still be unable to resolve rapidly, but at least now we have taken care of that by saying that they can make an interim decision which will be putting money into the injured worker's hands while they come to a final board decision on the particular policy or whatever it is that is giving them problems.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I am not entirely happy with the legislation but at least I am happier than I was when I first saw this piece of legislation come into the committee from the Law Amendments Committee. It is a better bill today than it was on that day, I will be voting against the bill, I think, but I will be voting against it with less animosity than I would have two or three weeks ago. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at third reading on Bill No. 122 with no confusion in terms of how I feel about the bill. It is not a very different feeling than I had when the bill was first introduced in this House on November 9, 1994. The bill to reform the Workers' Compensation Act is very clearly, as far as I am concerned, a betrayal to working people in Nova Scotia.

The auspices or the basis on which the bill to reform this workers' compensation was introduced was to correct a problem that had developed over the past 20 years with the unfunded liability at the Workers' Compensation Board. On the basis of that, the government has made a very clear decision that what it will do in order to resolve a problem that resulted from inadequate assessment rates, from administrative incompetence, from political cowardice and ineffectiveness, Mr. Speaker, was to reduce benefits right across the board to injured workers and to their families.

The responsibility for paying for the unfunded liability, Mr. Speaker, for paying for the assessment holiday that was enjoyed by employers in the Province of Nova Scotia over the period from the early 1980's to the early 1990's - in fact, some would suggest that the holiday started back in the mid-1970's - the group that have had to pay for that holiday are working people in the Province of Nova Scotia and those working people that will, through no fault of their own, become injured.

[1:30 p.m.]

I indicated at one point in debate on this bill that as a trade unionist I have had experience dealing with the Workers' Compensation Act, trying to resolve problems that the people I represented had, people employed in health care institutions, nursing homes, people who worked for municipalities, people who ran into problems with workers' compensation. I had some familiarity coming into this House with that Act and with the problems.

On of the objectives of being elected to this Legislature was to try and resolve some of those problems, to make the legislation better, to make the Act better, to make it more responsive to the needs of working people in the Province of Nova Scotia if they were to become injured, also, to make it a better system for all of Nova Scotia, for the employers that pay the assessments, to try to make the administration of the Workers' Compensation Board more effective so that the money was there in order to provide the benefits to injured workers and to provide the services to injured workers to ensure that they were able to return to work at the earliest possible time.

As opposed to popular belief, working people in the Province of Nova Scotia as with working people anywhere in the world want to work, they want to make a contribution to their community. Workers' compensation, let's not forget, is a system of insurance effectively, no fault insurance that came about as a result of an historic compromise between workers and employers in this province and in other jurisdictions around the world, to replace an unwieldy and costly system of liability where workers would sue their employers when they became injured or sick on the job.

The decision was made in order to provide a system that is more responsive to the needs of workers, in order to provide a system of insurance that is more affordable for employers, in order to provide a system that is more effective and administratively efficient. To administer that system the government would become involved and the whole system of workers' compensation came about.

In return for giving up the right to sue their employers if they became injured or ill on the job, workers were provided with certain benefits in the system that would compensate them for being injured on the job. They were not challenged at any stage in the process once the question of identifying and confirming the injury and that the injury happened on the job, once that was done then the issue was simply based on a question of whether it was compensable, whether the duration of that injury or illness was appropriate and that that is, in fact, how the system has operated until this bill goes through in the Province of Nova Scotia.

When Bill No. 122 was tabled in this House on November 9, 1994, workers in the Province of Nova Scotia and injured workers and some of us in the Opposition, in particular, the New Democratic Party caucus, were already participating in discussions with the Department of Labour and the Minister of Labour, as the result of a discussion paper that was released in early October. That paper began to give us an idea of what kind of changes were going to come in as a result of this legislation.

We had already begun to engage with the minister and with his department to try to raise the concerns that we had with respect to the wholesale changes that were being made in this Act. It has been a long, difficult process over the ensuing three months where we have attempted to exercise what sometimes feels like not very considerable power or pressure in this House but we have attempted to do what we can; in consultation along much of the road with organized labour in the Province of Nova Scotia and with groups representing injured workers. We have attempted to fight this government and this minister to try to bring forward changes to many of the provisions that are contained in Bill No. 122.

In the final analysis, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be passing a bill that in much of its substance is not totally unlike the bill that was tabled here on November 9th. There have been some changes made and in some cases with the surviving spouse in terms of the benefit for dependent children we were able to make some games and at least return the benefits that already existed in the current Act.

There were other changes that we were able to get which were perhaps less consequential but nonetheless for those injured workers that will be affected by this bill will, we hope, have some impact and will make a difference. Overall, Bill No. 122 has been a very significant and severe attack on working people in the Province of Nova Scotia, as opposed to the commitments that were made by this government that was in Opposition two years ago, Mr. Speaker, a Party that while running for election in the spring of 1993 made some very significant contributions and particularly during the final days of the election campaign to working people in industrial Cape Breton.

They were going to deal with the unfunded liability problem but they were not going to deal with that problem on the backs of injured workers and that they believed in a dual system of providing compensation, a system that recognized the physical disability in terms of the clinical rating system but also understood that there were other areas that would not provide adequate compensation under the clinical rating system and recognized the need to have a clearly articulated strategy within the legislation to compensate workers for earning loss or for the loss of the capacity to earn and that was a commitment that was made by this Party before they went into government. It was not a dissimilar commitment that this caucus made and has made over the last 15 years probably.

It was the kind of system, the kind of changes that the labour movement had tried to get in the workers' compensation system to ensure that inadequacies that did exist when following and paying benefits under the clinical rating system were dealt with by providing a parallel reason for providing benefits. There were many of us and there have been many of us that have suggested that the provision of the benefit under those circumstances was already there in the Act. But as a result of what is known as the MacKay decision, back in 1990-1991 and the Hayden decision; in the MacKay decision it was a challenge by Devco in terms of what kind of a system that was going to be paved and that the question there was that workers were to be paid on the basis of the actual income that they were to lose. In terms of the Hayden decision, Mr. Speaker, it required, specifically, earning related compensation and suggested that that direction was not provided in the current Act and needed to be so.

You may, also, remember, Mr. Speaker, that we approved a couple of amendments to the workers' compensation legislation in the spring of 1992 in this Legislature that were supposed to overrule the effects of MacKay and Hayden in a manner that ensured the workers were paid for, not only their disability, but also that supposedly would ensure that workers were able to be compensated, not only for their disability, but also for loss of income and loss of capacity to earn.

But, unfortunately, those were changes that were brought in in a very hasty manner under some considerable threat and they were not implemented, Mr. Speaker, by the Workers' Compensation Board. In fact, workers who were seeking compensation, many of them were put on hold, with respect to permanent disability and other types of claims, by the Workers' Compensation Board because they said that there was a vacuum in terms of the policy that had to be followed with respect to compensating injured workers.

So now we have policy, Mr. Speaker, five years later, three years after that supposed change. There has been, probably, three full years, if not four, of a sort of policy vacuum in a number of ways. Now, we have a piece of legislation which has established, I guess, what I would call a blended system, as opposed to a dual system. That there is some recognition of a permanent impairment disability and there is, also, primarily, compensation based on earnings loss. But there is a cap on that. There is an earning related cap on all benefits that will be received by injured workers.

In other words, if the worker is on a temporary total disability of, say, 75 per cent for that first 26 weeks and they, also, are receiving a PIB, a permanent impairment benefit, that total cannot exceed the 75 per cent or the 85 per cent of their net wages or pre-accident earnings, Mr. Speaker. So, that is, primarily, the reason why I say that this is a blended system, this is not a dual system.

It has been suggested that the changes would not come at the expense of those workers who have been partially disabled, but, in fact, Mr. Speaker, many of the benefits for partially disabled workers, including those disadvantaged by that earning cap, are being cut. Let's look right off the top at what happens in terms of temporary total disability benefits. You may recall that the present system is based on a replacement of 75 per cent of gross, which has been identified as effectively representing 100 per cent of net. In other words, a worker, when injured, when away from work because of an injury that is work place related, it is compensated under the Workers' Compensation Act, will have their total wages replaced.

[1:45 p.m.]

Well, in fact what has happened now under this bill is that for the first 26 weeks, that benefit has been reduced by 25 per cent, right off the top. That is lessened somewhat after 26 weeks to 15 per cent. It is 85 per cent at that point, instead of 75 per cent. That is a considerable reduction.

That is not all. There is also a penalty, and you can't call it anything but a penalty, Mr. Speaker, imposed on working people as a result of Bill No. 122, of a waiting period. In other words, if you are injured on the job, you have to give up or sacrifice - initially it was three days and now it is two days - wages as a result of having been injured. It is almost as if, for the benefit of being injured, you have to pay, you have to give up two days' wages. It is nothing but a reduction in benefits to injured workers; it is nothing but a penalty, very clearly and simply a penalty on injured workers, a penalty on people who have been injured on the job.

We have heard yesterday when this bill went through the Committee of the Whole House and there was a slight modification of that waiting period, from three days to two days, as a result of fairly intensive lobbying on the part of the labour community and injured workers, hopefully, with some help from ourselves, that waiting period was reduced from three days to two days. What did we hear from a representative of the employer community, Mr. Speaker? Oh my Heavens, that is going to cost us millions of dollars and that is going to be shifted on the backs of the employers and what a giveaway.

What that representative failed to acknowledge, that under the system that exists now in the Province of Nova Scotia, the employer has to pay the first day that the worker is injured. Then, on the second day, or the day following that injury, workers' compensation kicks in. Under this bill, Mr. Speaker, employers don't have to pay a thing, period. For those first two days that the workers has to wait before compensation kicks in, employers don't have to pay a cent, unless, of course, there is something that is in and has been negotiated between employee representatives and the employer.

If the employers want to get rid of that, they can do that through negotiations, and I am sure they will attempt to do that at some point, those who are that mean-spirited that they want to make sure that that kind of benefit is not provided in their work place. For anybody to suggest that there has been this huge injustice placed on employers in the Province of Nova Scotia as a result of that change, I would suggest to you is absolutely misrepresenting the situation. The fact still remains that there is a two day penalty as a result of this change, as a result of Bill No. 122, workers are penalized two days for getting injured and no longer are employers obliged through the Workers' Compensation Act to pay those first days of wages. I would say that is not a bad situation for employers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

For those employers who wanted the government to do their job of removing a negotiated provision that provided a top-up for example, which is what was in Bill No. 122 initially and what is still in there in part, I say to them, do your own dirty work. Don't ask this government to do it for you. On the question of top-up there has been some modification in the way that matter was handled initially when Bill No. 122 came in. Not good enough clearly but there has been some modification. Now, if collective agreements provide for payment of a top-up, that it can remain, not to exceed though 85 per cent of temporary benefits, not to exceed that 85 per cent or three-fifths, if I stated correctly without going back to the amendments of the workers' income.

So, the government through this bill is still interfering in that situation in that relationship of free collective bargaining between employees and employers. But, at least it's been changed somewhat. The other thing of course, is that once that collective agreement expires this government through Bill No. 122 has told employers and employees in the Province of Nova Scotia that they cannot negotiate any such provisions in the future, they can't negotiate any additional top-up after that collective agreement or employment contract expires. I know that there are private sector unions and employers in the Province of Nova Scotia that would probably challenge that. They would probably challenge the fact that the government is interfering in their right. In fact, it has been suggested that maybe the government is doing this in order to relieve itself of some considerable expenses that it has because some of the public sector unions in this province have that type of provision.

I know that the private sector unions that I have spoken to have said that if the minister and his government want to do that, the public sector workers in this province, as they did similar stuff through Bill No. 52, then let them do that. But, they have absolutely no right interfering in the private sector in this province. Mr. Speaker, I am trying to outline some of the most abhorrent reductions in benefits for injured workers in this province that are brought forward in Bill No. 122.

The other matter is around the whole question of a disability or another matter. A question of the determination of the disability benefits. I have talked about this before but the change now, in fact, in the way that benefit will be calculated for workers with permanent injuries or disabilities may result in a loss to some workers who are affected by this legislation of up to 70 per cent. I use for example the case of a coal miner who had a 20 per cent rating under the clinical rating system of lung function disability, a loss of lung function of 20 per cent as is determined under the clinical rating system. My understanding is that that tends to be the average disability for that type of illness. That results, without question and it was recognized under the workers' compensation bill under the section of automatic assumption, a benefit, a right in fact that coal miners in the Province of Nova Scotia have fought for for a number of decades in this province.

Now what is happening under the predecessor Act, for example, the benefit calculation is with a coal miner that is earning $695 a week is it 75 per cent of gross or in this case $519 a week. In other words, 75 per cent of that $695 a week. Then you take that $519 and multiply it by the disability rating which in this case is 20 per cent and you come up with the pension which is $415 a month, irrespective of whether the coal miner is able to work or able to earn anything. The rationale there being is that this worker as a result of the work place has lost 20 per cent of their lung function. I would suggest that that benefit is a small price to pay for that kind of commitment that has been given to the work place by that employee.

Under the proposed bill you have the same coal miner earning $695 gross a week, it is now 75 per cent of net for the first but in this case it will be 85 per cent of net after that 26 weeks but that is now it will be determined for PIB. So, you have 85 per cent of net which in this case is $425 times 85 times 30 per cent. Now the 30 per cent is the amount that will be factored into the calculation of that original 85 per cent of net. Then that is further factored in by the percentage of impairment, in this case, 20 per cent. The amount now that that coal miner gets who has been rated, automatic assumption, 20 per cent lung dysfunction, $87 per month. Under the current Act, the predecessor Act, $415 under the proposed bill $87. I think you would agree with me that that is a pretty significant difference.

Under Bill No. 122 and it remains unchanged the Workers' Compensation Board and the calculation of pre-accident earnings will now take into consideration unemployment insurance benefits. The people that that has the greatest effect on are seasonal workers who are in our province because of the economy that has existed over the past number of years and may continue unfortunately for the next few years, are construction workers who in some parts of this province, this is an industry that has had an unemployment rate in the area of 50 per cent.

What will happen now is that if a construction worker or anyone else, a seasonal worker, Mr. Speaker, is injured on the job, regardless of what they are earning, they will not have their benefits paid on the basis of what they are earning at the time of the injury, which is what happens now, but their earnings will be averaged out over a period of 12 months or three years.

[2:00 p.m.]

Now, it has been suggested in debate that is not going to be such a bad deal for some people that are now on unemployment within the last 12 months, and I say that, Mr. Speaker, because of the fact that we tried to get the three years changed to 12 months, because of the fact that what has been suggested to us is that as a result of downsizing and so on, you are getting a lot of people that are losing their jobs right now or have in the last 12 months and if you take in their three year earnings, then they will receive a greater benefit. But I disagree with that; I disagree with the whole inclusion of UI in the first place. Let's not forget that UI, right now, is calculated at 57 per cent of your regular earnings before it is that you apply. The expectations, I think, from everyone in this country are that as a result of social policy reform in Canada, that that will be further reduced to 50 per cent.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is going to have a significant and disastrous impact on not only a great percentage of workers in the Maritimes and in Nova Scotia but, as importantly, it is going to have a significant and disastrous impact on many communities in the Province of Nova Scotia and throughout the Maritimes. If injured workers' benefits are further based on the UI that they may or may not have earned over that period of time, that could be a further reduction, on top of the 25 per cent or 15 per cent, of another 25 per cent.

Now, not only is it not fair that injured workers are going to be penalized to that extent but, Mr. Speaker, what we seem to forget is that those workers live in hundreds of communities around this province and they own homes, they rent, they have vehicles, they buy goods and services in their communities. When they are injured and not able to work for a short period of time, they still have those payments; they still have those obligations. If they have their benefits reduced by 25 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent, 50 per cent or 70 per cent, what is that going to do in terms of them being able to meet their obligations?

We have seen that already as a result over the past number of years of the Workers' Compensation Board being incapable of making decisions relative to the provision of benefits. In far too many cases we have seen workers who have been cut off arbitrarily and, as a result of the dysfunction at the Appeal Board, have not had that problem resolved and they have lost houses, have lost cars, have lost their families, Mr. Speaker, as a result of the financial burden that had been placed on them for no other reason than the fact that they have been injured.

Additionally, if you reduce those people's benefits because of the fact that they have been injured, you are reducing the money that is in the economy in that particular community, Mr. Speaker. You are going to further impair that worker's ability to buy goods and services at all the local small businesses in that community.

When I hear the representatives from the small business community, I sometimes think that he forgets that point. You are taking money out of the pockets of people who buy goods and services from the very members who make up that organization, Mr. Speaker. I sometimes feel that that point gets lost in the equation, in this drive to reduce costs for employers at the expense of the injured worker. I think that is a serious problem and one that needs to be addressed.

There had been further reductions provided in Bill No. 122, one of them being the benefits to the surviving spouse and the other to the dependent children, Mr. Speaker. Again, as a result of pressure from the worker community, from injured workers, and, hopefully, to some degree, from us here in the NDP caucus and, as well, from the Official Opposition, we have been able to get the government to reinstate the benefits that exist in the current Act for those two categories of people.

For many of us who were so opposed to Bill No. 122 in the first place, it was like this removal of the death benefits and the cap and so on, was almost a reflection of the degree of mean spiritedness towards workers and injured workers in this province that this bill seemed to epitomize, Mr. Speaker. Thankfully, we have been able to get some changes in those particular provisions.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that the focus of this bill, the focus of the changes to the Workers' Compensation Act have been the unfunded liability. The benefit reductions that have been presented in Bill No. 122 make up almost the entire amount that is going to be used to pay off the unfunded liability over the next 45 years and the other addition is the $4.5 million a year for the next five years that will be contributed by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. In return for that, the average assessment rates for employers has been frozen at $2.54.

Some of us have said that this is being paid on the backs of injured workers and employers have had their assessment rates frozen at $2.54. Some employer groups have said, Mr. Speaker, well, that is not for everybody. I mean, there are some increases. Some of us are going to suffer increases. Well, that is true. Some of them will. But all workers who get injured, every one of them, not some of them, every one of them is going to suffer a serious reduction in benefits that they get under workers' compensation, not some of them, all of them, every one.

It was not a question of averaging the benefit losses, Mr. Speaker, so that some would win and some would lose, all of them are going to lose. There has been some suggestion that there are many more employers in this province who will be winners than will be losers, as a result of the freezing at the $2.54 level for the next five years.

Another, and perhaps one of the focuses of the opposition to this bill was the whole question of the appeal process and what was being done with the appeal process. Under the Act that now exists, the appeal process is completely external. It is not bound by board policy, it is not bound by the direction, it is bound simply by the law, simply bound by the evidence that is presented to it, Mr. Speaker, has the authority - the Appeal Board - to make decisions based on fact or whether or not decisions made by staff of the Workers' Compensation Board are consistent with that law. If there are policies that are inconsistent, in other words, they prevent the payment of a clearly compensable injury, if they are arbitrary and without basis, then the Appeal Board has been able to act upon that inconsistency and overturn the problem.

Now, we have had a serious problem in this province with the way our Appeal Board has operated. To say that it has been dysfunctional over the last few years, Mr. Speaker, would perhaps be an understatement because of the fact that we have a significant backlog of upwards, at any time it seems over the last number of years, of 2,000 claims, the board seems unable or incapable of dealing with those appeals, of dealing with those injured workers who have their cases before them.

Part of the problem has been the lack of clarity by the government and by workers' compensation on their policies and how, in fact, a worker will be compensated has been part of the problem in terms of the method of paying benefits under this bill, but there has also been a dysfunction that has resulted over the last couple of years in terms of how the Appeal Board is going to carry out its functions. The whole question of whether providing reasons for a decision has meant that you have to provide something that will pass judicial review, that every individual case requires a 10 or 12 page dissertation that would be comparable to something coming from the Court of Appeal or from the Supreme Court. That has taken a considerable amount of time and created excessive delays and has meant a serious injustice to injured workers in the Province of Nova Scotia and, for that matter, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

Some have suggested that that matter could have been dealt with two years ago, that if we had dealt with some administrative issues relative to how the Appeal Board carried out its functions, that we might have been able to deal with that backlog, or a good portion of that backlog. We had some discussion a little more than a year ago in this House, the Minister of Labour and I, and I put my suggestions in writing to him after having consulted with the worker community and with counsel who have dealt on behalf of workers at the Appeal Board, presented with him a list of suggestions on how to administratively deal with that backlog and try to get it resolved. Things like, it was like a menu, pick one, two, or all of the above if it is deemed to be helpful to resolve the problem. I know that now some of those suggestions are, in fact, incorporated in this Act as ways to deal with the backlog that now exists. I know now that the minister will have the resources made available to him in order to resolve that backlog and that is good. I think that could have been done last year or even the year before that to try to speed up the process, to try to give the chairperson of the Appeal Board more direction in terms of how to write up the cases, how to give the reasons to provide some more latitude with respect to or perhaps more direction even, more specificity that reasons, that decisions could be rendered and action taken within the next day or so to carry out that action and that point form reasons could be provided and only upon the request of the appellant or any one else would it be necessary to provide a full and exhaustive reasoning.

[2:15 p.m.]

The other things about bringing everybody together with similar cases like the Camp Hill workers' environmental illness, bring that group together as a group instead of hearing each and every one of the 300 or 100 or whatever the number of appeals are from that employer now, or employees from Camp Hill that were made sick as a result of that work place, to take those cases as a group. You have many similarities there and try to deal with them all at once.

There were other decisions, some of them good, some of them perhaps not as good; having paper reviews, having a one person tribunal if requested or upon request, some suggestions that come from the experience within the trade union movement of how matters sometimes get resolved through arbitration and from the Labour Relations Board.

We still have the problem before us today and there are changes in this bill that are designed, that the government feels are designed to resolve some of those problems and they may very well be. But, the concern that I have and the concern that I think has been fairly well represented by the worker community in the Province of Nova Scotia is that now the appeal process is not independent. It is tied to the Workers' Compensation Board, it is tied by the policies of the board, it is tied by the decisions that will be made by the staff working for the board and that there is no authority now in this Act for an appeal to be granted on the basis of the fact that the policy of the board was inconsistent with the law or inconsistent with the Act.

There is provision in here for a participant to take a question like that to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. Some of us have argued that if we are going to do that, that is a burdensome provision to put on the backs of injured workers, it is time consuming and that the best way to do it would be to have that same right, that same privilege afforded to injured workers by allowing them to take those questions as well, to an Appeal Board.

We tried our darnedest to convince this minister and this government that at a time when we are changing questions of eligibility under this Act, the fact that now we are giving complete authority basically to the board to decide who will and what will be covered under the Act, a power and authority they have by regulation that we need to have an independent appeal. In other words if, Heaven forbid, members of the board of the directors, a board of directors which, I will say it now before the minister does when he gets up, is bilateral, is representative equally by the employer and the worker community and that is the good of the change that was made in, I think, 1990 and it is a good change and it has made some considerable difference to us improving the workers' compensation system in this province.

Members of that board acknowledge also that there is a huge responsibility that has been placed on them as a result of these changes in this bill and that they, at the present time, commit and have committed a day and one-half, they are a part-time board and that that is an awful lot, a day or a day and one-half a month, to make those kinds of important decisions. They are concerned that they won't always make the right decision. I think that is fair, I think that is a fair concern. For Heavens sake, we are all human, we are all subject to mistakes. Even if you are a worker or an employer you are subject to mistakes. Even if you are a member of the New Democratic Party caucus, you are subject to the odd mistake but mistakes nonetheless.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I wonder would the member acknowledge that if a member of the NDP caucus were to make a mistake would they, in fact, admit it.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order but it is an interesting observation.

MR. CHISHOLM: I just did. Mr. Speaker, we have participated with the labour community, representatives of working people in the province, and council in some fairly intensive discussions with the minister and his staff on this whole question of the independence of the appeal process. I think we made some pretty good arguments but we didn't get very far though. I am disappointed about that. I still believe and I will continue to believe that injured workers should have that by right, that it should be provided in the Act that questions with respect to the policy of the board should be a matter that can be appealed and that the Appeal Board should have the authority to make decisions relative to that. In other words, if it is inconsistent to reinstate benefits, to effect other problems in terms of decisions that have been made at earlier stages. We didn't get very far on that.

We did get some changes which may or may not have a positive impact. We got the government to agree and when I say, we, I mean people that were arguing that. The minister stood and gave credit to the United Mine Workers from Cape Breton and that is extremely appropriate and other members of the labour community and the injured workers and some of us in Opposition, were able to get some changes like removing the Chief Appeal Commisssioner from sitting as a member of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Compensation Board, that is something.

We, also, got some consideration that when the Chief Appeal Commissioner refers something back, a question of policy, to the Workers' Compensation Board, there was a turnaround time of up to 12 months, we have had that reduced to three months. I think that is good. I think that is an improvement.

We have, also, got an agreement that, Mr. Speaker, the Chief Appeal Commissioner has the authority to grant relief to an injured worker who will be aggrieved by or further injured by the process of having his or her appeal postponed or adjourned while the matter is reconsidered by the Board of Directors. I think that is good.

Perhaps one of the major, most significant changes that we have got in the appeal process was the leave to appeal. It was initially very restrictive and we have gotten it wide open now, so that while there is a still a gatekeeper, as the minister almost demanded, pretty much anything can be appealed to the Appeal Tribunal.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I am still as opposed to Bill No. 122 as I was the day it was tabled. I think it is an attack, it is a betrayal of working people in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think it is unfair. I think it is mean spirited and I don't think it is necessary. I think we could have dealt with the unfunded liability in other ways and a more balanced way. The government has made its decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Time, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: We have attempted in this House to try and bring forward some improvements. We have had some success, not enough, but we have gotten some benefits.


MR. CHISHOLM: Let me just say, though, that I will be voting against Bill No. 122. I think that we will come back to the question of WCB reform in this province because I think some of the changes will create more problems than they hope to correct and with those few brief comments, again, I indicate that I will not be supporting Bill No. 122 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The time of the honourable member has expired.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . and I am thankful that we were able to get some of the changes that we were. But, that having been said, it is still not enough and I will be voting against this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I feel it important that I raise a couple of points on Bill No. 122 today. This bill is very important. It is important to constituents in my region and I just want to enter the debate for a very short period of time to advise the House and membership how supportive I am of this particular bill as it comes before us.

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware of the difficulties that the Workers' Compensation Fund had experienced in the last couple of years as it has come to light, the terrible unfunded liability, the situation that was looming that was facing workers who may, ultimately, within a very short period of time, see cheques that could not be honoured by the fund. This would be tragic. This was something that this government could not allow to continue, this threat over the workers of this province. I feel very supportive of this government and this government's bill in that, once again, the bull was taken by the horns. It had to be done and it had to be done quickly.

I wish to speak more from the view of the workers of this province, because the rights of the workers of this province are rights which I feel are very significant. The motivation for myself entering into the field of provincial politics involved the rights of the individual and the rights of the workers of this province. I am very pleased that we have come forward with this type of legislation.

[2:30 p.m.]

I think anyone that had been in the profession that I had been in my other life, knows how unfair it was to have a method of calculation for workers' remuneration, injured workers' remuneration, that was based on the pattern that it had been, based for the last number of years. It just was a method that made no sense. It was unfair. It was discriminatory. This bill corrects most of the inequities in that system. It is something that I feel very strongly about and I wish to support.

Another matter that this bill has tackled and that this department and this minister have tackled is the terrible delays workers were facing in the communities having their applications processed, be it in the first instance, be it in the appeal stages. I am sure you would know, Mr. Speaker, the levels and numbers, the complicated nature of the appeals, the different criterias being used, it was very frustrating. This minister and this bill are going to take the steps necessary to cut down that administrative red tape. That is important because to the average person, he may not understand exactly how all these different levels are working.

I say, as a member from a rural constituency, it was very difficult for people from rural areas who were facing claims, to not have immediate access to the offices in the metropolitan area. It made it very difficult. The counsellor system, it was a system that I certainly was not enamoured with through the years. It was not a system that I would ever like to see in place in a private industry. Therefore, it should not be in place in a government industry. This minister and this bill will go a long way to correct that.

Mr. Speaker, it is well known that delayed justice is no justice. That is what was happening. It is still happening, it still will continue, you can't go poof and make it go away. But the steps that have been taken are going to reduce that problem and in the reasonably foreseeable future that problem should be eliminated. I must say, Mr. Speaker, the method of calculation of remuneration for injured workers and the time it takes to get to the injured workers the dollars that are needed in the households, those are the two biggest problems, along with the economic unfunded liability. These three problems were facing injured workers, were facing employers and government. It had to be fixed and we had no time to fix it. Therefore, this minister opened the door, and I must say that over the last 18 months to two years, this minister has had his door open.

I must tell you, Mr. Speaker, that members from my constituency who wanted to have access to the minister got access to the minister; every union group got access to the minister; employers got access to the minister. The minister heard them all. (Applause) It is a juggling act, it is very difficult, you have movements.

I want to mention something about that. I saw in a letter to the editor in one of the papers not too long ago, why is it that we say the labour, the union versus the employers? Why do we have them opposed to each other? This adversarial system is great in a court but that is not how it works out in the real world. Why is it that we make this distinction?

I think there are a lot of common bonds between those who receive the cheque and those who develop the cheque. There are certain common interests to both and it is up to this government to bring these parties together and show the common interests and how, by proper legislation, they can work. I think we have done that here.

Why is it the employer community and the labour movement? Why isn't it the labour community and the employer movement? As far as I can see, they are both communities. These are the problems that this government faced. Look what we have done; we have a fairness in the method of calculation of losses as the result of an injury. We have a fairness in that the employers have to contribute to this system, based on a more logical and reasonable calculation of how much and in what cases employers must contribute. What we have not done is asked the employee to contribute, that is not part of this bill in terms of direct payments. You heard those things thrown around in the community, you have heard that as one answer. That was not done by this government.

Mr. Speaker, we have made amendments at various stages and the first instance, in the committee stage, the Law Amendments Committee, this minister and this government listened to suggestions and this minister made amendments. They weren't always popular amendments, to various groups, he did it because he thought it was right; he listened. We did that, we did it at the committee stage, we did it at the Committee of the Whole House stage and I must compliment both Opposition Parties, they came forth with innovative suggestions, they came forth with suggestions that were in the best interest of the community, but I have to say it was this minister and this government that put those into place and I think that the minister should be complimented on that. All the way through, amendments were made. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, traditionally if one looks at the history of, not Nova Scotia, but all governments, you come forward with a bill and you say this is my story and I am sticking to it. That is normally the way things happen. Look at what has happened here in this session, a very long session; a session that may be unique in history.

AN HON. MEMBER: Enjoyable.

MR. CARRUTHERS: And an enjoyable session, as the House Leader says, because I did enjoy it, I must tell you. I will tell you I am thinking about coming back next week a couple extra days. I think it is a great privilege to be in this House and I enjoy being in this House, I must tell you, it is a fun time to come to it. (Applause)

When a government and a minister listens, makes changes all the way through, it can always be said the change was made because of x and the change was made because of y. But, the change was made and it is for the better and that is all that matters. I think that this minister, this government will go down in history, and I am not exaggerating. Remember, I make a little claim like this last year, about 18 months, about history, about a red tide sweeping this country and everybody laughed at me. I wasn't that wrong. Did not a red tide sweep this country from one end? Thought I was a little strange then, well, I am a little strange today; I am telling you, this government and this minister is going to go down in history. This Act, this archaic Act that has been around for three-quarters of a century, that needed to be changed, that other governments attempted to change but ran into the wall of diverse opinions and diverse positions that made it very difficult. It was attempted and attempted. It is this government that did it; it is this minister that did it. Mr. Speaker, have no doubts in your mind, I will be voting in support of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I kind of thought for a moment that we might be here until Tuesday or Wednesday if the honourable member had gotten himself in full flight, as he is so able to do. But, then again the House Leader reminds me, no, they changed the rules; I guess that wouldn't be possible.

I want to, in concluding remarks on third reading on this bill, make but a few comments, some more positive than negative, but a couple of comments that will express concerns which I still have about what we have managed all together, here, to accomplish.

I am still not satisfied that despite some change and despite some participation by the Minister of Labour in that change to redesign some of the elements, particularly process elements leading into the appeal provisions of this legislation that we have, I am still not satisfied that we have an independent appeal process which is in the long-term, best interest of the injured worker. It is always, as I participated in the debate about the appeal process and listened to so many comments pro and con. I got the sense that there was a hesitancy on the part perhaps of the minister certainly on the part of some that there is almost something inherently wrong or unreliable in us establishing an independent appeal process which would result in the men and women who would be on the appeal process to have the capacity to establish a body of precedent at the appeal level, to write decisions over the course of time and you don't get precedent in a couple of hearings, you get precedent over an extended period of time as has grown up in our court system and that is, in my opinion, still possible.

The tight linkage of the appeal process and those who will hear the appeals now to the board and to the processes and policies of the board, I still, frankly, with the greatest respect notwithstanding some modest change, I really honestly still believe to be a deficiency and one which with respect I think we are going to have to revisit. I just simply don't believe that that process is as independent as it should be.

We will pass this bill with language in it which enables the board to make policies. Obviously, a board of this kind, a Workers' Compensation Board has to have the capacity to make policies about a whole range of things. I don't know whether it is my training and background as a lawyer that causes me concern but whatever it is I express the concern. I am very uncertain and unsettled and frankly unhappy about having a board that has a capacity to make policy and have those policies, to use the language of the legislation, have those policies prospective, retrospective or retroactive to an earlier time.

I really don 't believe that clothing any board with that kind of an authority is in the long run a safe public policy posture at all because it could happen, I am not saying it will happen or it is going to happen but it could happen, so many things can happen, it could happen that as a result of certain occurrences and circumstances in the general work place of the Province of Nova Scotia as but one example, a certain kind of injury begins to become more prevalent and more frequent claims for compensation relative to that kind of an injury become far more frequent than perhaps is the case now or at any given day.

Is it possible that a Workers' Compensation Board, keeping a little bit of a statistical analysis and watching that happen and seeing it grow and seeing the frequency of claims grow perhaps even dramatically on the basis of a particular kind of injury, have the capacity, that board, to sit around the boardroom one day and say, this may get to be a little bit of a problem for us here at the board. We might perhaps want to change some policies. We might perhaps want to change the rules as to what kind of injuries are compensable. My concern is that the language in the legislation which we will pass now allows that board to make those policies, as I have said, prospective, retrospective or retroactive to a previous time.

I have a concern that even the ablest, most competent, best spirited men and women who will be the members of this board at the present time, a year from now and 5 and 10 years from now there may well be circumstances where pressures are brought to bear to invite or encourage or indeed, in the opinion of those board members to perhaps even, in their opinion, compel them to tie their hands to force them to make policy changes which are retrospective or retroactive. I don't think that that is good public policy at all. It doesn't enable the injured worker to know, necessarily from one point to the next, where he or she fits, and may I say it doesn't afford the business community any confidence at all that they know the ground rules which pertain today are going to be the ground rules which will pertain tomorrow, unless and until they receive notification of policy changes in advance and are advised that those policy changes have an effect at some date in the future.

[2:45 p.m.]

So one of my major disappointments, as we wind down debate on this bill, is that we have, unfortunately, not been able to convince the minister and the government to alter that particular board power and I think it is too great a board power and one which, as I have said, is not good public policy.

It is particularly, if I can just stay with that one element for the moment, this whole concept of the board making policies, again I repeat, obviously the board has to make policies but the way the bill is now drafted, it means that the policies made by the board are those policies which are going to impact upon the fate of those injured workers who will appeal their claims. That, as I said a moment ago, flies in the face of my own sense of the right way to go about things, namely establish an independent Appeal Board which has the capacity, over time, to develop its own body of jurisprudence, its own way of doing business, compel it to provide written decisions so that even distinguished members, like the member for Hants East who, in his other life, as he refers to it, can (Interruption) Yes, he does have two, I didn't know that he had much of a life in this place but he seems to . . .


MR. DONAHOE: . . . think he does, but an independent appeal process, an independent Appeal Board which has the capacity, as the member for Hants East, as a barrister would know and does the minister know and all members would know, would have, over time, the capacity to develop some jurisprudence. They would be obligated to write decisions and describe, in written form, why it is they made the decisions they made. Then that body of jurisprudence, independent from the board itself and from the policies of the board, could function.

It would take some time and, as I said a moment ago, the development of a body of jurisprudence doesn't happen overnight but it does happen and, in my opinion, should happen. Therefore, the problem I have, the double-barrelled whammy, as I see it, with the provisions which we leave in this bill, unfortunately, whereby the board has the power to make these policies prospectively, retrospectively and retroactively to an earlier time, those policy changes apply to the appeal process as well.

It is very possible. Again, I can't guarantee that it will happen but, by the same token, with respect, the minister can't guarantee that it won't happen. It is conceivable that it could happen, that there is, by virtue of circumstances in the work place, a rash of a certain kind of injury which is less well-known to the workers' compensation system than it is now, and suddenly the board sits around and says boy, there are a lot of appeals on the basis of this new kind of work place injury, maybe we should change the policies a bit. Those kinds of injuries are, therefore, not compensable and we might have hundreds of people who are in the throes of an appeal process that could get cut off at the pass, with that kind of a change in mid-stream. I think that is, again, bad public policy and an element of the legislation which, frankly, does disappoint me and I am disappointed we were not able to persuade the minister of change in that regard.

We had the opportunity here too, as I know you know and you heard the debate, to move to a universal coverage system. The universal coverage system would have had the benefit of covering a great many more workers in the province than are now covered, and it would have had the impact additionally of adding to the resources of the Workers' Compensation Board, along with extending the coverage for compensation to a wide range of workers. I am disappointed that the minister, again, was not able to find it possible to move in the direction of universal coverage.

To flip gears for just a moment, I want to say that I think it is a positive change, a very positive change, frankly, and one for which the minister and others deserve credit, that we have moved, will move upon passage of this legislation, to an experience rating process whereby those businesses and industries which demonstrate over time, safety in the work place, will, by comparison to those work places where the conditions are not at all as safe and which work places are producing a far greater number of claims for compensation, that the board will have a capacity to establish a rate structure which is rather more favourable to the work place where conditions are safer than in the work place which is producing a great many more claims for compensation.

I think that is an important advance and it is, if properly done, properly used, properly supported on the occupational health and safety side, it has potential, I think, to develop in the minds of more and more enlightened employers in this province, the idea and the understanding that, in their day to day conduct of their business, safety of their workers simply has to be issue number one and I think there will be great improvements of safety in the work place as a consequence.

I believe, too, that the freezing of the rates, while objected to by some, is a positive because it will, for a short time at least, and by that I mean at least until the audit which, I think I used the right term, to suggest or refer to audit, in three years time, will have the effect of imparting some degree of consistency and assurance to the work place, to the employer and I think that is, in these difficult recessionary times, very important.

It is a positive, as well, I think, Mr. Speaker, that there is, for the first time in a very long time, albeit, I think, too long a long range plan, I really believe that the timeframe in place here is rather too long, but I do believe it a positive that there is a long-range plan to address the unfunded liability and I wish we had, together, been able to devise a process and a system and a timeframe which would have been far shorter than that with which we are coming out the other end here as we pass this legislation, but at least, in fairness to all concerned and in fairness to the minister, there is such a plan and there is, as I mentioned a moment ago, the audit process which I understand is to take place in 36 months and I expect that that will be very enlightening as to how well or how poorly the benchmarks are being met and how well or poorly the system is, in fact, functioning.

There is, however, to go back for just a moment to an area which I truly believe is a problem area. I really think it is a problem that the board can by regulation exclude certain injuries; can make regulations, I almost said at whim, I don't want to leave the impression that there would not be careful thought offered and expended by the members of the board before making changes in injury criteria and the determination of those injuries which are or are not compensable. I am really disappointed that the minister was not able or prepared to agree with the representations made by this caucus and others that such things as environmental illness and stress would be incorporated into the legislation and not left to the determination of the board for inclusion or exclusion from the list of compensable injuries.

There has been in my experience, whether it is unconscious or not I don't know, what I have detected as frankly rather a bias at the Workers' Compensation Board against environmental illness, against such difficult, and I acknowledge they are difficult, questions as chronic back pain matters, against stress and I have got to say and I believe it to be true on the basis of everything that I have been able to read about the reality of the work place in the last number of years in what we can expect with an unsettled economic circumstance here in this province and across this country for unfortunately some time to come, I believe that most work places in this province and across this country are going to be, through no fault of the workers, are going to be more and more stressful places for them to be. I believe that many of them are going to suffer what in my opinion is or would be a legitimate, compensable injury and I refer, of course, to that of stress.

This bill sure isn't perfect to say the least but and as I said before in this House, I guess that is a given, this legislation and all legislation we pass in here is the product of the best efforts of the human creature and nothing that we produce is perfect. It is a new start, it is a rewrite of one of the most significant pieces of legislation in this province which quite honestly in fairness to the minister moves it well along toward the 21st Century. While I think we have an awful lot of problems still remaining as a result of the legislation, we have made considerable advance.

It is much improved and it is a much fairer bill as a result. It isn't perfect and it isn't as fair as it should be in my opinion, but it is a heck of a lot better as a result of the tremendous effort of a great many people but I am going to pat the back of those members of the Opposition who were vigorous in this debate because the bill that we passed here now is a far cry from that which was introduced by the minister in the first instance. A great deal of that is a direct result of the effort and energy of Opposition members and without that effort and energy even with certain guns being put to our head, we would not have a bill that is anywhere close to being as fair as it is, even though I say and I repeat it is far from being as fair as I believe that it should be.

Perhaps my last couple of comments are simply these. Not the most important, most dramatic of all of the elements of the legislation by any means but in the area of survivor benefits, I think it is absolutely clear that in that area alone it shows the value of an informed and an aggressive Opposition and may I say on the flip side it shows the importance of a minister who is prepared to engage in a dialogue that is predicated on the basis that we are all in this together for one purpose, to produce a piece of legislation which is the best (Interruption) Maybe there is some of that too.

[3:00 p.m.]

In the area of the changes made in regard to survivor benefits, I say it is the result of the work of the Opposition that those provisions have been improved. That couldn't have happened without the minister being prepared to respond positively to that but at least they were improved. The frustration is that in that area of the legislation when I say they were improved, all that really happened is that as a result of the efforts of many of us here they were restored to where they were before this legislation was ever introduced because the bill introduced by this minister proposed to take them away and to reduce them dramatically. So, all our efforts have been able to do, and I don't diminish them on that account, but what our efforts have been able to do has been in that regard at least to restore those benefits to the levels that has been previously set out in the legislation earlier.

I have very mixed emotions about what we have managed to do with this legislation. I really think we could have and should have gone much further with many, many elements of the bill. I really believe that we are going to find in a very short time and by that I mean one, two or three years, I think we are going to find that we are simply going to have to go rather further than we have and we are going to have to make changes which, unfortunately were not able to be made at this session.

Having said that, I think we have made some significant advance which is to the credit of many and I certainly include the minister and the members of the Opposition caucuses that we have the result we have. So, I trust that this minister will be and I expect that he will be, attentive and vigilant to the way in which the reality in the real world unfolds once this bill leaves this place and becomes law and that he will be attuned and sensitive to those elements which I say will probably need fine tuning and refinement and we will have to come back here before too much more time passes.

I hope that this minister will be of a mind that he will not, better said, not take the attitude that well gee, I don't really want to go back to the House with workers' compensation legislation because I was only there last session or I was only there a couple of sessions ago and that if I go back again that might be an admission that I or the government didn't do the job that it should have. I don't really think the people in Nova Scotia, particularly the injured workers and all taxpayers, I don't think they are particularly interested frankly, in the partisan who scores a point and who doesn't score a point, whose ox is being gored and who is getting patted on the back. The name of the game is we have got to have the most effective and the most positive workers' compensation legislation that we possibly can have to ensure that the injured worker is treated as fairly as the resources of that board will allow and as the resources of the employers of the province will allow.

So, it is with mixed emotions that I close these remarks relative to this legislation. I applaud the improvements made. I deplore the fact that we have not gone very much further in a whole range of areas and, while I believe we have made some progress, because we should have gone further, when it comes time for me to vote on third reading, I will vote against the bill. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't say that this is a happy time to be standing on the floor of the House. I tend to take a little stronger view in many more regards than the previous speaker in the previous speaker making the comments, amongst others, that we do, indeed, need some more fine-tuning and refinements to the legislation and regretted that we didn't go further and that there will be a need to have this legislation revisited to do that fine-tuning and to make some refinements. What I think has to be done is that we have to revisit this Act in a very serious way, with the view in mind to restore a sense of justice and fairness to the injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We have before us for third reading a bill entitled, An Act to Reform the Law Respecting Compensation for Workers. Reform, Mr. Speaker. Reform has an implication with it, and that is that reform is implying that the piece of legislation we are dealing with is intended to improve the situation, to improve the lot of injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

While I acknowledge that the piece of legislation - and I would certainly like to pay tribute to the minister for his willingness to accept some amendments, some of them are very modest, some others, indeed, being more substantive in nature, Mr. Speaker, and certainly I want to acknowledge that - even though the legislation that is going forward, that will be leaving this House as a result of the efforts and the lobbying and the pressures being brought to bear not only by the Opposition caucuses but, more importantly, by representatives from organized labour, from injured and workers' groups, and Nova Scotians generally, who understand the importance of what this legislation is all about and what it is doing, I think they all deserve to have a vote of gratitude, those individuals who have helped make the legislation better than it was when it came in.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, the legislation we have before us is still mainly an attack against injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. I am sorry I have to say that. I am sorry I have to say as strongly as I do that this legislation is not supportable. What this legislation is doing, in effect - and we all acknowledge that we have to begin to find ways to address the very serious underfunded liability that exists within the Workers' Compensation Fund - what we have before us is, in effect, an attack against that underfunded liability to be paid for by injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This is not an even-handed approach; this is not an attempt in this legislation to make sure that the pain and the costs of addressing the problem are shared equally by those who will receive the benefits and also those employers who receive the benefits of having their employees under the workers' compensation system. There is no attempt to do that at all.

I must admit, Mr. Speaker, initially I was apoplectic. I was enraged when I heard some of the comments being made, being reported in the media yesterday, how these modest amendments that the minister has made are going to cost employers many millions of dollars. The reality is, what this legislation is going to do is take the bread and butter out of the pockets of many injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is, in fact, those employers who are the ones who will be taking their change purses to the banks, not the injured workers.

The underfunded liability did not occur and develop overnight. That has occurred because, in part, quite honestly, of political interference that the fund was not run properly -no question about that. In this province, starting in the mid-1970's, but certainly through the 1980's, Mr. Speaker, under the former government, the rates were kept artificially low as a political decision to try to use that lower rate as a subsidy to attract businesses and industries to the province of Nova Scotia. The rates that were collected were not adequate, not sufficient to cover the costs of the claims being made against that fund.

So, Mr. Speaker, a good part of the problem is not only mismanagement, but it was also political interference. Now, the government is expecting that those underfunding problems that had been going on and developing for lo these many years, are now to be addressed mainly by attacking the benefits and reducing the levels of benefits for those whose only fault is that they have gone to work and, as a result of being at a work site, became injured or diseased.

This legislation has a mean-spirited thrust throughout it. It is going under the assumption that men and women in the Province of Nova Scotia are lazy, are unreliable and don't want to work and that they will abuse the system, Mr. Speaker, and that the only way to force them to work is to put penalties in against them. They have done that in several spots in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, if, in fact, there has been some abuse and in any system, even in this Legislature, we have had examples where there has been abuse. It is then the responsibility of that body to make sure where there is abuse taking place, you have the proper and remedial steps to root out that abuse and to bring it to an end. But you don't turn around and penalize and punish everybody if there is a 1 per cent or 2 per cent abuse. You address the problem, you don't simply go out and assault all.

I believe and I believe very strongly that the men and women in the Province of Nova Scotia want to work, Mr. Speaker, they want to have meaningful employment. They want to contribute. They want to stay healthy and they want the assurances that if, because of their work place injury or illness, that they, for a short period of time and, hopefully, it will not be long, are unable to continue to work, that they will still be able to meet their obligations to their family and to others to whom they have obligations and they want the assurances that the workers' compensation system will have to involve or become involved in a rehabilitation program that will assist them to return to their place of work.

But what do we have here, Mr. Speaker? We have here now a system that the government has set up and remember, of course, that workers' compensation is supposed to be a no-fault insurance program. This is an insurance program. It does not only protect workers, the men and women in the Province of Nova Scotia who are out trying to make a living, it does not only protect those individuals, it also protects employers. Of course, workers' compensation was brought in, in the very first place, as a result of a compromise to end the kind of confusion that had existed over 80 years ago. It has ended the situation where the employees would have to sue the employer if they become injured and sick in their place of work. So, we had a system, workers' compensation, that was to provide the protection for the employers, that they do not need to worry that employees who become ill or injured would be suing them for compensation because of the illness and injury that resulted in the work place. This legislation is a protection for employers, it is a protection. When you have protection, when you hire, in other words an insurance program, if it is workers' compensation or if it is a private insurance program, it costs money.

[3:15 p.m.]

I would suggest that the cost to the employers of workers' compensation is less in most regards if not all regards, than it would for those employers to go out into the private market and get comparable insurance through that field, so they benefit. But, yet we hear this government coming forward and we have this legislation coming forward which actually is going to be reducing the benefits that workers can receive at the same time not placing any increased obligations on the employer.

We now have set up according to this legislation an adversarial system, something we did not have before, under the workers' compensation system as it currently exists until the bill passes which it will because government has the majority. It was the responsibility to show that, in fact, the injury or the illness was work related. Once that had been shown then the only things that were to be determined was is it a compensable illness or injury, what is the duration, how long will the benefits be paid and of course, the amounts.

Now, of course, we have a system where you are going to have fighting, possibly with lawyers involved, at all the different stages of the appeals and the application for workers' compensation so now we have an adversarial system which will become more time consuming and more expensive for all involved. Surely, that should not be necessary because in order, in the very first place, for a worker to have received the benefits under workers' compensation they had to have medical information that showed that they were injured and there had to be the reports that showed those occurred at the job site. With respect I would suggest that doctors not lawyers are better able to determine when a person is well and when a person is able to return to their full duties that they had in their employment.

Now, we have an adversarial system where the lawyers are going to become involved in the battles that will be occurring. We have a government that not too many months ago when they were seeking office promised that they were going to be bringing in a system of fairness. They were going to have a dual system, one that would recognize both physical disabilities as a result of the clinical analysis or what is often called the meat chart in the past but that would take into consideration the loss of physical function, whether that is a loss of an arm, a leg, part of their lung function as a result of their illness or injury at the work site, that was going to recognize that as well as a second portion that was going to be taking a look at the whole wage loss system. What has their earning capacity been changed by? How much will they lose in the way of their income?

What we got instead was a system that the government is pretending is really that blended or dual system but is really a blended system that, yes, indeed, does have some of both elements involved, but they have tied it to a much reduced level of allowable income. Because, under the old system, if a worker became injured or ill as a result of the work place, as the system that currently exists as we speak in this House today, they were entitled to receive 75 per cent of their gross wages in the way of compensation, if they are unable because of their injury or illness to return to work.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Would you like the old system to stay in? Is that what you are saying?

MR. HOLM: Obviously, if I am going to vote against this bill, I would like to have, obviously then, the old system remain in place, yes, indeed, and then we can make some amendments that are going to be proper reforms and amendments aimed at making something better, rather than, as this system is, ripping the dollars out of the victims' pockets, victimizing the victims once more, which is what is happening here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. HOLM: I don't really object to the interjection and even though I disagree with what the member had said, I am at least pleased that that member did get up and speak and put his comments on the record in the debate, Mr. Speaker. So, I honestly, and I don't say this as a slight, I mean it sincerely, congratulations to him for having had the courage to do that, even if we disagree where we are at.

Mr. Speaker, we have a system here in place that now a worker will be losing, in effect, 25 per cent. Their entitlements for benefits will be reduced by 25 per cent for the first six months of their injury and really by 15 per cent after that period of time, if it is a longer injury. Now, we do have a blended system, yes, indeed, where a worker can receive both a wage loss and a permanent disability portion, there are to be those two sections.

Mr. Speaker, the top income level that they are allowed to receive through this blended system has not changed. So that if a worker is on a permanent disability and is receiving that and, also, has a wage loss capacity as a result of their inability to work or their inability to return to the kind of employment that they had before, their wage loss cannot exceed 75 per cent of net, which is a 25 per cent reduction in income.

I would like to know how members of this House would react if their wages, if their income, was to be arbitrarily reduced by 25 per cent through actions that had absolutely nothing to do with their own dealings, Mr. Speaker. If a member of this House were to become injured and ill and have to take a 25 per cent wage loss, ask them how hard that would impact upon their household situation and their ability to pay mortgages.

Mr. Speaker, the government was not content just to go that far. There has been improvement, yes, indeed. The three day wage loss as a result of an injury has been reduced to two days. So you might say, that it is a one-third improvement over what it was. Now, if a worker becomes injured, becomes sick, they will go home and they will only lose up to two days pay. Here is where it really sticks to my craw when I hear certain employer groups going out and crying about how much these modest changes, like changing from three days to two days, is going to cost. Right now those workers lose nothing because the first day is paid by the employer and then the other days after that are picked up by the Workers' Compensation Board.

So, here, those employers who are crying are actually taking those dollars to the bank because they will no longer have to pay that first day of wages for a worker whose only fault, whose only problem was that they went to work that day and became injured. As a reward for that they are now told to lose two days wages.

I would suggest what may well happen now and which will actually cost a lot of employers more money is that many of those workers who also have sick plans as part of their agreement with their employer, instead of being home for two days or a week on workers' compensation, they will now because they can't afford to lose this kind of income, they will take their days off as part of their sick time allocation. That will mean that the cost to the employers for maintaining those kinds of insurance programs will actually go up. That is where the employers will probably end up paying and that is higher premiums on any personal or private programs that they do have.

For the life of me, from a government as right-wing as this one and you know right-wing governments are always saying that there is too much government, that they should keep their nose out of business. If that is the case, one has to ask the question, even philosophically of this bunch, where are you coming from, what right do you have sticking your noses into what is properly the business between and employer and an employee? In other words, what right does this government have sticking its nose into the collective bargaining process?

We have in many areas and I think I have a reason why they are doing it, many (Interruptions) I will ignore him, Mr. Speaker, he is not being good.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please, the honourable member has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, they are very intent on trying to get me to follow rabbit tracks. Employers and employees in the Province of Nova Scotia have a right to be involved in the collective bargaining process. I think you are wanting to interrupt for an introduction, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would yield the floor for an introduction?

MR. HOLM: Yes, I saw our guests coming in and I would be only too happy to yield the floor so that they may be introduced.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the opportunity to introduce to you and to the members of the House some 30 members of the 41st Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps from the Town of Pictou. With them is Lieutenant Naval Ferguson, Sub-Lieutenant Hattie and Acting Sub-Lieutenant Welbourn. As well, they are accompanied by their driver, Mr. Ray Bezanson. Please welcome them to the House. (Applause)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, certainly we all in our caucus as well, want to extend a very warm welcome to our guests this afternoon.

I have got a few more points that I want to touch on and I will try to touch on them briefly, not because they don't deserve each and every one of them a lot of time because they do but because of the shortage of time.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say - and I can't put it any simpler than this - I find it offensive in the extreme that this government is now telling both employers and employee groups that they have lost the right to collectively bargain over top-up benefits. That should be absolutely no business of this government. The only reason I can think of them doing that, and I will be perfectly frank - actually two reasons, the second one just popped into my mind - maybe some employers who already have that in a collective agreement and who want to get rid of it have come and beaten on the back-door of this government and persuaded them to do their bidding for them.

[3:30 p.m.]

The second reason, Mr. Speaker, which is probably also at least as accurate and if not more reliable in terms of the validity of the argument, is that many public sector workers themselves have this benefit. This government wants to get out of continuing to pay that. That is going to save this government more in terms of the top-up benefit that they provide to their employees than they are going to put in, in the way of so-called new dollars to attack the unfunded liability. So it is another way of this government trying to get injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia to fund this government's assistance to the unfunded liability in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The permanent disability benefits - and my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic, summed this up, and I won't go through it all, in terms of the depth, Mr. Speaker -again, another clear example, up to a 70 per cent reduction in terms of the benefits that those who are suffering permanent disability will receive. I don't know if somebody loses a leg, if somebody loses 20 per cent of their lung capacity, if somebody loses their eyesight, is that going to be worth 70 per cent less tomorrow than it was yesterday? Are they going to be affected 70 per cent less in a week's time than they were a week ago, Mr. Speaker? I suggest they are not. This is a very repugnant measure that is contained in this bill; another example of how the government is victimizing the victims.

Under this legislation - and I always thought that the rating and premiums paid by employers were based upon the earnings and the wages they are paying as an employer - now, Mr. Speaker, unemployment insurance is to be used in calculating the income of those who are to receive compensation. Since unemployment insurance is only 57 per cent and may, as a result of the budget from the Honourable Paul Martin, federally, next month, actually to be reduced again below that level, and it is being predicted that it will, what the government is doing is saying that if a worker, like a construction worker in the Province of Nova Scotia becomes injured on their job, that the amount of compensation they will be paid will be reduced yet again because they are going to include unemployment insurance, which has absolutely nothing to do with the premiums paid, absolutely zero, to be included in that calculation. So yet another major reduction.

We talk about family violence and we have to attack family violence and poverty in the Province of Nova Scotia, and this is an act of violence against injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, which this government is trying to do. Those are strong words, Mr. Speaker, but I feel very strongly about this, and I make no apologies for that.

I certainly am pleased that the death benefits that exist in the current Act have been restored. I am delighted that that has come about but, Mr. Speaker, just by the fact that they were in the old Act or the bill that we are debating, the fact they were not included, that they were to be excluded, shows how deep this government was prepared to go by attacking the most vulnerable in our society, in their time of greatest need, at the almighty altar of the dollar.

The appeal process, Mr. Speaker, and we certainly do have, and the government talks about how we have, to have these changes so that the backlog of appeals can be heard. Well, this legislation was not needed in order to address that problem. But one of the major concerns that I have now is that those hundreds, in fact, close to 2,000 people, individuals, men, women, who live from one end of this province to the other, who are waiting to have their appeals heard and the board has not been hearing them lately, that they, too, are going to have the appeals that they launched - some of them maybe up to two years ago - for compensation, that they are going to have their entitlements reduced, as well, their benefits and their entitlements reduced as a result of this legislation and the fact that the government did not address their appeals before this legislation was passed. So, people who have been injured and diseased as a result of the work place in the past are now, also, I fear, going to pay a very heavy price as a result of this legislation.

The appeal process, certainly, is not independent as it is set up now. It currently is, but not according to this legislation anymore. It will be tied to the board, Mr. Speaker. It will be tied to the policies of that board and to the staff of the board. The only avenue, if that board is even violating the law, this bill or its own policies, the only recourse they have is a very expensive process to the Supreme Court, which this government knows is virtually impossible for almost all injured and diseased workers in the province. They even know that the unions cannot launch many of those very expensive court cases before their funds would be exhausted and that is wrong.

Yes, indeed, I guess my final comment on the bill is that the bill that we now have before us this Friday afternoon is improved substantially over what it was just a couple of days ago and, certainly, over what it was when it was introduced. But, Mr. Speaker, even though there have been modest improvements, the overall impact and effect of the bill are such that it is still a major assault against past and future injured and diseased workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are the ones who are being told to bear the full costs for the unfunded liability that developed over many years because of mismanagement and political interference and that is wrong. It is not even-handed, it is not just, rather it is mean-spirited. The bill, in no way, lives up to its name, which includes the word reform and, therefore, it is not just minor refinement or fine-tuning that is needed, this bill desperately needs to be voted down, sent back to the drawing board and a sense of fairness for the injured and diseased workers of the past and future in the Province of Nova Scotia inserted and, therefore, I will be voting against this bill on third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I was just yielding to the member who had indicated from the Opposition caucus that he was going to be speaking. Well, I, too, will say right off the top that I will be voting against the bill that purports to reform workers' compensation in Nova Scotia and that we are now examining at the third reading stage. I do so for all of the reasons previously outlined by my two caucus colleagues and because, in the final analysis, I don't think there is any basis for the claim made by the minister who sponsored this bill, the Minister of Labour, that this is a bill that is equally, uniformly, fair to workers and to employers, nor does it meet the description which the Minister of Labour has given it, that it is a balanced solution in terms of who pays and who gains from the measures that are contained within this bill.

Throughout the debate on this bill, Mr. Speaker, we have made the point that it really is falsely labelled to call this a reform of the workers' compensation system in the province. It is just simply not accurate if one subscribes at all to the meaning of reform being an attempt to improve, an attempt to ameliorate, an attempt to remove faults and flaws, an attempt to eliminate imperfections. All of those being definitions of the term reform in standard conventional dictionaries.

The fact of the matter is that this is a bill that does virtually nothing to improve the existing workers' compensation system for the benefit of workers. It is true that it is a desperate attempt and, in our view, a flawed attempt by this government to deal with the horrendous unfunded liability that has been built up through a matter of deliberate policies and calculated measures by previous governments. If one were prepared to only look at the very narrow issue of how to deal with the unfunded liability and not pretend that this is anything more or any less than that, then I suppose one would have a whole different outlook on what we have here and what would represent a measure of success.

This isn't a bill that is entitled an attack on the unfunded liability, this is not a bill that was introduced with the view that all it is is a salvage operation to dig us out of the hole left by a previous Conservative Administration that was really very short-sighted and irresponsible in regard to its policies with respect to workers' compensation. I say that not just in terms of the premiums that were maintained at an artificially low level and at a level not capable of sustaining the fund over a long period of time but, also, in terms of the complete failure to put into place a truly effective preventive strategy, a really effective health and safety system in this province that would prevent work place diseases and injuries, for fatalities and, certainly, not in terms of having in place a really aggressive proactive, effective program of rehabilitation for injured and diseased workers. Those are all things attributed to the unfunded liability, but that doesn't explain the shortcomings of the bill, Mr. Speaker, if the purpose of the bill was to reform, i.e., improve workers' compensation for the injured and diseased workers of this province and to improve benefits for the survivors of injured and diseased workers who die prematurely as a result of the work place conditions that caused them injury or illness or that actually resulted in work place fatalities literally robbing them of their lives, this bill does not measure up to the claims that the government has made about it, nor even to the objectives that the minister stated when he introduced the bill.

It struck me as significant that when the minister introduced his so-called proposals for reform of the workers' compensation system in Nova Scotia on October 6, 1994, his message to the people of Nova Scotia started with the assertion that this government had inherited a workers' compensation system on the brink of collapse and then went on to say that is why we needed to have reforms and also talked about how a 79 year old Act, after all, had to be updated to reflect the modern realities of today's work places.

[3:45 p.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, it is interesting when one reviews the documentation that this government brought forward in building a case for this so-called reform Act, that nowhere among the studies or analyses or background papers that were prepared, as far as we know, or presented to the public of Nova Scotia, was there anything that you could remotely describe as an assessment of the needs of current Nova Scotia workers injured or diseased on the job, or the needs of survivors of deceased workers. Nowhere was there any kind of analysis of what this government calls the modern realities that need to be taken into account when you are overhauling a 79 year old Act. Had there been such an analysis, Mr. Speaker, there surely would be no excuse why the measures brought forward in this bill represented an out and out attack on practically every single benefit that existed in the previous Act for injured and diseased workers and survivors and their dependents.

Literally, practically every benefit existing in this Act was attacked, was eroded, was reduced. It cannot be accidental that if you look at the mission statement of the Workers' Compensation Board, that statement makes it very clear that the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia is involved in administering workers' compensation, providing benefits, vocational rehabilitation services and medical aids - and this is the key part, Mr. Speaker - on behalf of employers. That is what they are involved in doing, on behalf of employers they are administering this program. I think that has been very much the flaw in how this government has approached reform of the workers' compensation system.

It is true that the board administers those benefits and those programs and services on behalf of employers, but it is not supposed to be true that the government of the day, the government in a democratic society, governs, drafts it legislation and puts forward its proposals for reform on behalf of the employers. It is surely a fair test to apply to workers' compensation reform legislation of whether or not this is supportable and fair and reasonable, whether it introduces changes for the benefit of the workers of the province, as well as for the benefit of the employers, at least in some manner of recognizing that there is a tension between those interests and that the government has to, in the final analysis, recognize it is the workers of the province who are either going to benefit from the reforms or be penalized by the reforms.

Well, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that in facing up to the unfunded liability problem, this government has chosen to make the workers of this province, the injured and diseased workers and those who lose a loved one in the course of a work place fatality, this government has chosen to make those workers pay for the unfunded liability. Frankly, they have done so through a variety of measures, through reducing benefits, through the inclusion of, for example, unemployment insurance and calculating the benefits for which people will be eligible, which was designed to reduce the benefits that workers would be receiving.

So we have unemployed workers in this province who become injured who become doubly penalized, I suppose you would have to say triply penalized; first, they are paying the penalty of unemployment, then they are paying the penalty of the pain associated with an injury or a disease, and now they pay the penalty of having the only government in this country that chooses to calculate unemployment insurance benefits as part of the basis for determining the reduced level of benefit for which they will be eligible. It is obvious that there are a great many Nova Scotia workers who will be penalized by that measure.

One has to ask the question, how is this for the benefit of the workers of this province? It is clear how it benefits employers because it cuts down on the costs that will have to be covered.

There are a lot of other questions and they have been asked over the last many months as we have been waging a major battle against this bill. Let me say that had one taken the time to really think about it, it would have been clear from a very early stage in this so-called reform process, as to whose interests this government would be interested in protecting and addressing. If one looked at the fact that although there was no needs assessment of the workers, no evaluation of how the work place had changed in such a way that workers needed particular kinds of protection which would have resulted in the government understanding that instead of excluding stress-related conditions for compensation it should have found ways to include them. It would have recognized that the modern work place reality regrettably means that there are environmental illnesses that people are suffering and from which they are becoming debilitated that should have been included, not deliberately excluded from the legislation. We had no such evaluation of the needs of workers. The background documentation spoke volumes about whose interests this government would be focusing on.

The project report carried out in October 1993, shortly after this government took office, was one that focused not on the needs of workers but on understanding the costs of workers' compensation in Nova Scotia and a detailed analysis of that. The CanMac Economics study prepared in May 1994, an economic impact assessment of workers' compensation proposed rate increases. And, of course, all of those considerations needed to be brought to bear but they had nothing to do with improving the benefits and the programs and services for injured and diseased workers in this province, they had to do exclusively with the financial considerations as they pertained to the employers of this province and the premiums that they would be paying and what the implications would be.

I am not suggesting for a minute that those considerations were extraneous or illegitimate or irrelevant. What I am saying is that when you recognize that all of the attention and the study and the consultant's reports and the analysis was on the side of how it would impact on employers, then it is no surprise that the bill that was brought forward, supposedly on behalf of injured and diseased workers, supposedly to protect and improve the benefits for injured workers in fact has done the opposite.

My colleagues have outlined many of the shortcomings of the bill and those who have followed this debate closely will fully understand that there have been some improvements, there is no question about that and they will also understand how they came about. Let me say clearly from my perspective how they came about. They didn't come about and in this I guess I want to take issue and disagree with the Leader of the Official Opposition, they didn't just come about because there was some hardworking Opposition sitting over here on this side of the House because the reality is that with 41 members in government and 11 members in Opposition that there is no basis for thinking that we could out-number or out-last or out-manoeuvre or outwit the government, not with 41 members. They could send a baker's dozen on vacation every week on rotation throughout the whole session of the Legislature, they wouldn't even be missed and they still could maintain the majority they needed to get their legislation through, so there is no mystery about it.

The reason that we were able to get amendments is because we were able to delay this process long enough to allow those people who will be adversely affected by this legislation, sufficient time to fully study and analyze and understand the legislation and discuss it among themselves as groups of injured workers or groups of workers that have been struggling for improvements or representatives of various labour organizations and they were able to do the job in a democracy that they, thank goodness, still have the opportunity to do which is to try to hold the government of the day accountable for what they are doing and try to hold the individual elected members that were sent here to represent their interests accountable for what they were doing on their behalf.

That is why we were able to get amendments because those injured and diseased workers and those representatives of working people both organized workers and unorganized workers did their job and were unable to do their job because frankly we bought time and we did it through legislative manoeuvring and we did it through legislative tactics and we make no apologies for having done it because those are the few tools that are available at our disposal to try to serve the interests of those working people as best we can.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would, because of the lateness of the hour and some additional government business, adjourn the debate at this point.

MS. MCDONOUGH: I am happy to adjourn the debate. I have no additional comments to make that are so important to the members of this House that I want to prolong it. I am happy at this point to adjourn the debate if you wish or take my seat and if the wish of the House is to deal with this third reading vote this afternoon, then I leave it to the members of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, It gives me great pleasure now to move third reading and final reading of Bill No. 122, the Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 122, the Workers' Compensation Act.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[4:00 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[4:01 p.m.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Moody

Mrs. Norrie Mr. Donahoe

Dr. Smith Mr. Russell

Dr. Savage Mr. Holm

Mr. Mann Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Casey Ms. McDonough

Mr. Harrison Mr. Archibald

Mr. Abbass Mr. Taylor

Mr. Adams Dr. Hamm

Mr. Brown

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O' Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Carruthers

THE CLERK: For, 21. Against 9.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion has been carried. (Applause)

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask permission from the House to revert to the order of business, Government Notices of Motion.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.


HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Be it resolved that this House requests that the caucus of each political Party represented in this House submit, in writing, to Mr. Speaker, as Chair of the Committee on Assembly Matters, any changes to the Rules and Forms of Procedure of this House that that caucus considers desirable for the better conduct of the proceedings of this House and that, upon receipt of those proposed changes, Mr. Speaker convene a meeting of the committee to consider the proposed changes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will be sitting on Monday from the hours of 1:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and the order of business, following the daily routine, will be Third Reading of Public Bills and Private and Local Bills.

I move that we adjourn until Monday at 1:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 1:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 4:06 p.m.]


Given on February 2, 1995

(Pursuant to Rule 30)


By: Dr. John Hamm (Pictou Centre)

To: Hon. Sandra Jolly (Minister of Municipal Affairs)

I want to know, as does J. Chappell and E. Perry of Amherst, why residents of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are working for the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs (former Maritime Resources Management Services) in Amherst? Why, when the Nova Scotia Government took over the company, were laid off workers not given an offer of retraining for positions in the new organization?


By: Dr. John Hamm (Pictou Centre)

To: Hon. Sandra Jolly (Minister of Municipal Affairs)

I want to know, as does P. McMahon of Aylesford, under municipal reform, what will be the future status of village commissions and what will happen to existing fire commissions?


By: Dr. John Hamm (Pictou Centre)

To: Hon. Sandra Jolly (Minister of Municipal Affairs)

I want to know, as does J. Evass of Bridgewater, why your government is proceeding with the amalgamation of the municipal units in metropolitan Halifax without knowing at the present time what the process and the end result will be? J. Evass also asks how did your government arrive at the costs associated with metro amalgamation and what will be the true benefits and cost-savings of the amalgamation? The Bridgewater resident also asks, is this another case of change for the sake of change only?