WORKERS' COMPENSATION REFORM ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 PORTANT RÉFORME DE LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
Wednesday 10 September 1997
Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1996, Bill 99, Mrs Witmer /
Loi de 1996 portant réforme de la Loi sur les accidents du travail,
projet de loi 99, Mme Witmer
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
CHAIR / PRÉSIDENTE
MRS BRENDA ELLIOTT (GUELPH PC)
VICE-CHAIR / VICE-PRÉSIDENT
MR JERRY J. OUELLETTE (OSHAWA PC)
MR DOMINIC AGOSTINO (HAMILTON EAST / -EST L)
MR DAVID CHRISTOPHERSON (HAMILTON CENTRE / -CENTRE ND)
MR TED CHUDLEIGH (HALTON NORTH / -NORD PC)
MS MARILYN CHURLEY (RIVERDALE ND)
MR SEAN G. CONWAY (RENFREW NORTH / -NORD L)
MRS BRENDA ELLIOTT (GUELPH PC)
MR DOUG GALT (NORTHUMBERLAND PC)
MR JOHN HASTINGS (ETOBICOKE-REXDALE PC)
MR PAT HOY (ESSEX-KENT L)
MR W. LEO JORDAN (LANARK-RENFREW PC)
MR BART MAVES (NIAGARA FALLS PC)
MR JOHN R. O'TOOLE (DURHAM EAST / -EST PC)
MR JERRY J. OUELLETTE (OSHAWA PC)
MR JOSEPH SPINA (BRAMPTON NORTH / -NORD PC)
SUBSTITUTIONS / MEMBRES REMPLAÇANTS
MR JOHN R. BAIRD (NEPEAN PC)
MR STEVE GILCHRIST (SCARBOROUGH EAST / -EST PC)
MR RICHARD PATTEN (OTTAWA CENTRE / -CENTRE L)
MR. R. GARY STEWART (PETERBOROUGH PC)
ALSO TAKING PART /AUTRES PARTICIPANTS ET PARTICIPANTES
MR GILLES BISSON (COCHRANE SOUTH / -SUD ND)
MR BART MAVES, PARLIAMENTARY ASSISTANT TO MINISTER OF LABOUR
MS MARGUERITE RAPPOLT, DIRECTOR, PREVENTION AND COMPENSATION POLICY BRANCH, LAB
MS SHERRY COHEN, SOLICITOR, LEGAL SERVICES BRANCH, LAB
CLERK / GREFFIÈRE
MS DONNA BRYCE
STAFF / PERSONNEL
MR RUSSELL YURKOW, LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL
The committee met at 1532 in committee room 1.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION REFORM ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 PORTANT RÉFORME DE LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
Consideration of Bill 99, An Act to secure the financial stability of the compensation system for injured workers, to promote the prevention of injury and disease in Ontario workplaces and to revise the Workers' Compensation Act and make related amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 99, Loi assurant la stabilité financière du régime d'indemnisation des travailleurs blessés, favorisant la prévention des lésions et des maladies dans les lieux de travail en Ontario et révisant la Loi sur les accidents du travail et apportant des modifications connexes à d'autres lois.
The Chair (Mrs Brenda Elliott): Colleagues, good afternoon. The standing committee on resources development is called to order to continue clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 99. The debate is continuing on the NDP motion found on page 10, and in line for further debate is Mr Christopherson.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I believe, if memory serves me right, that the parliamentary assistant as well as other government backbenchers had made some comments that I was up next to respond to. If indeed that's where we are, I would like to point out that for all the bragging this government is doing about what they're doing for the widows of pensioners, the courts had already ruled, I believe in BC, that it was discriminatory not to provide exactly the legislative support this government is now so proudly crowing about. The fact is that you're not doing anything that wasn't going to happen otherwise, and were there not that court case, I doubt you'd have made the moves you are making.
There was also talk about Jackson's report and about all the public meetings he had. Let's just set the record straight. Minister Jackson refused repeatedly to attend public meetings that people were prepared to sponsor and host all across this province, and one of the few exceptions was when he was embarrassed into attending a meeting in his own riding in Burlington, I believe sponsored by the injured workers group.
I was at that meeting, and I have heard him reference that meeting, talking about input and how the concerns of workers were heard and he knows what they care about. The fact is that for two hours they ripped him apart, because everything he had in his report was taking away from injured workers. Further to that, he was pressured into committing that there would be province-wide public hearings and he used that response, "Yes, there will be," to get off the hook. Little did we know then that that meant six measly days across the province, and crunched so tightly that in the southern part of the province the only way we could get into both Windsor and London was to do half a day each, a disgraceful display of undemocratic response and a desire not to listen.
Mr Jackson met with people in private. We don't know whom he met with. We don't know what was said to him. We don't know what he said to them. To suggest that somehow that is a democratic replacement for the royal commission we had put in place, which was a wide-open process, is just about as misleading as you can possibly be.
We had a royal commission looking into the things that were not resolved in our Bill 165. I would be the first one to say that 165 was not perfect, but I'll say this about it: There were about 40,000 injured workers who got an increase of up to $200 a month for life under our legislation. You're taking money away from injured workers. Yes, the OFL was not happy with some of the changes in the Friedman formula, but the reality is that they said they could support the legislation on balance, and said so, and are on the record as saying so. The labour movement is diametrically opposed to everything you've got in Bill 99, everything, so you have no credibility on that front.
Last but most important, we sure as hell didn't give $6 billion back to employers, which is what you're doing at the same time that you're taking away 5% of the income from injured workers. Get off your high horse about caring about democracy, because you sure as hell don't care about that or about injured workers.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's quite interesting that we have had the start of the meeting and I'm not quite sure if Mr Christopherson focused at all on the actual wording in this particular amendment. It was a marvellous rant, what we've become so used to from him. The reality is that he can talk all he wants till the cows come home about giving additional moneys to injured workers. That's part of the whole problem, the whole financial bind. Across the way they seldom recognize that there is a problem, and even when they do recognize it, they do a little creative accounting, as we had from Mr Dee, from the Northumberland legal aid committee, trying to adjust the net worth of the assets of the WCB.
The reality is that with respect to this amendment, if you carried out what was in it, you'd have perpetual consultation, because there was no time line, there was no sunset that I can recall in the terms of reference of the royal commission that they're so proud of, that spent $3 million gallivanting around. We didn't hear anything in the interim reports about the financial problems of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, and I have to go back to that particular agency.
There were so many unbelievable expenditures within that agency -- even if you stretched your thinking as much as possible, how did the financial performance of that agency link up and improve workers' health and safety? The one I focused on the other day, the $76,000 in leased vehicles, was incredible as a minor expenditure. There were other expenditures I recall in there, well over hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants for whom they never even tendered. They're criticizing us for the tendering process, yet these very folks ignored a tender and most of the appointees on there came from the labour movement. How any of those ill-advised, underfinanced or overfinanced situations of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency that certainly made life very comfortable for the senior management there had anything to do with improving workers' health and safety I find incredible.
Even some of the certification programs they were getting to, and clerks working in groceterias is the one I'm most mindful of -- they were going to have folks there for at least four weeks for safety and health training. It didn't really matter whether that disrupted a business -- "No, no, you just be there," as the WCB has so often said in its arbitrary manner in dealing with injured workers -- "That's it." For an agency that is supposedly so well organized even today -- I have a specific example of an individual who walked into one of my employers recently and demanded certain material related to workplace health and safety. They argued that there wasn't a committee in place, then sent the individual a letter that said, "If you do not undertake these measures that I have advised you of at a meeting and a date at which I can get the material," where the employer wasn't even present at a meeting. That illustrates to me that we have a hell of a long way to go in dealing with employers and workers on an equitable basis. Whether you defend the old regime or the one we're in, we have a long way to go.
What I find most astounding is that they have the gall to stand here and say, "It wasn't near perfection." We're not asking for perfection. You won't get anything near perfection with respect to this particular agency even with the improvements we're trying to make.
There is one item which I think needs to be put on the record. The members of the third party argue that there are no benefits whatsoever in Bill 99, yet the fundamental, number one benefit -- if they would look at the financials, even when you incorporate Mr Dee's new stretching of the financial assets to take into account today's market value of whatever they have in their equities and their mortgages and their bond instruments -- is the point that this particular agency is in financial trouble. It doesn't matter how you shape it up or shape it down --
The Chair: Sir, come to order, please.
Mr Hastings: Even when you acknowledge $8 billion or $10 billion -- that's stretching it at the $10-billion, upper level -- it still doesn't take into account future financial obligations.
If you use the so-called premiums they like to talk about, when they're really just rates for doing business in this province, by any good financial standards this agency would be declared bankrupt. The one side only wants to argue about the assets that are there. Whatever the number, whatever you agree on as the common measuring value of the number, they do not want to accept what is owed today or in the future.
When you make legislation, you don't accept the financial obligations or costs that legislation mandates. That's part of the problem of all three governments over the last 20 years. They made these amendments, they had these royal commissions, like this one, and they would recommend financial tinkering, but they would never get down to the root, fundamental causes of the lack of financial accountability and sustainability. Sustainability, I would argue, is the key rationale for getting this organization back on the tracks, when you would honestly say, "Yes, there are assets there, but do they meet today's financial obligations and future financial obligations?"
If you accept the whole argument, both assets and liabilities, then this organization needs a lot of work to get it into a financial area where you can say, "Yes, there's enough money there not only for today's obligations but for the ones into the future." Whether it's this government or any other government, they can't continue to make adjustments and amendments to legislation and say: "Yes, there's enough money there, but no, I don't want to ever hear about what we owe as a result of these benefits. No, we wouldn't want to do that."
I would argue that this particular amendment of the royal commission doesn't really get on with dealing with the job of the key fundamental of this organization: long-term financial sustainability. You can't continue to consult and say, "There are assets there, however you evaluate or value them." I would argue that this particular amendment is simply a classic stall: Consult, consult, consult, but never, ever, ever come to a decision.
The Chair: Order, please.
Mr Hastings: I would request that if there are members of the audience who do not like this viewpoint, that's fine, but we try to be respectful of their viewpoint and try to take it into account.
The Chair: Order, please, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr Hastings: See what I mean? Her definition of "democracy" is what I find so reprehensible: mob democracy. If you agree with us completely, you're fine, but if you turn around and have a slight disagreement or interpretation on whatever the issue is at stake with the future of this organization, they don't want to hear it.
Mr Hastings: Those are the real issues, and I would submit that these folks are out of order in the continuing, persistent interference of the remarks.
The Chair: Moving now to --
The Chair: Order, sir.
The Chair: Ladies and gentlemen, I've made it very clear from time to time --
The Chair: This committee stands recessed for 10 minutes.
The committee recessed from 1546 to 1557.
The Chair: I hope everyone has used the recess time as an opportunity to settle down and acknowledge that we need everyone's attention in order to continue on with the clause-by-clause debate.
The next person up to speak and to further the debate on the NDP amendment motion on page 10 is Mr Patten.
Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): What I want to say is, we've got maybe two hours today and two and a half hours on Monday, and then that's it. We have these many amendments. I know we've got 45 or so and I think the NDP has 25 or 30 amendments as well. That's about 65 or whatever it is amendments that I think could do the job if people will listen to them and consider them. We think they're fair. I want to make my last comment on this, because I think people should know this. As of the end of Monday night, whatever is not covered, all of the opposition-recommended amendments are lost and all the government amendments are deemed to be passed and they will all go through. So I would like to see us deal with more than just what we dealt with to date.
My comment on 19 is, as I said before, I appreciate the spirit of this; I agree. I would like to see more hearings, I'd like to see a full consultation, but I don't believe at this particular time, given what we've gone through, that a royal commission would be in order.
The Chair: Just a slight correction for the record: They're deemed to be moved, but they all have to be --
Mr Patten: They're deemed to be moved, and then they will be passed.
The Chair: Yes, they all have to be voted on.
Mr Patten: But they will be automatically passed.
The Chair: Further debate?
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): That's an interesting comment from the Liberal Party, because I know that their position, while in opposition to our government, was to oppose this particular royal commission. But I thought I heard yesterday that the Liberals were going to support our amendment to have the royal commission, and now I take it you're saying no.
Mr Patten: No, I said on the spirit of the motion.
Mr Bisson: On the spirit of it? Okay. Anyway, I'm not going to get into a fight over that. Listen, I don't want to belabour this any more. I think we've made the arguments that have to be made in regard to why we think the royal commission needed to be given its time to do its job. The government doesn't agree that this is a complicated issue. They think that they can solve this in one fell swoop through this legislation.
I just want to put on the record that we will be back at this yet again the next time there is an election. When these guys are kicked out in the next election, we're going to be back at this all over again, because this particular legislation does absolutely nothing, first of all, to put fairness into the system for injured workers. It doesn't do anything to address a lot of the long-standing problems of the board about how it adjudicates claims and how the claims go through the process. All this is, quite frankly, is a payoff to the corporate friends of the Mike Harris government by giving them a cut in premiums and trying to deal with that as a smokescreen to dealing with the unfunded liability.
Just to clarify the record, the member from Etobicoke-Bedrock or whatever his riding is made the comment that nobody has ever tried to deal with the question of the unfunded liability. That's factually untrue. Our government had made some initial changes to the WCB through our own bill. We then put the royal commission in place to make the long-standing changes around the structural changes at the board that needed to happen in regard to programming as well, and we had dealt with the question of the unfunded liability. The government is again trying to create a phoney crisis as a smokescreen to do what they are doing when it comes to implementing what is an ideological agenda that says workers are bad, employers are good, injured workers are trying to get something for free, so we're going to penalize them. That's all this is about.
The only other thing that I want to put on the record, the member from Etobicoke-Rexdale, Mr Hastings, talked about Garth Dee as having stretched the financial reporting in regard to how the assets are of the Workers' Compensation Board. In other words, the member said a member of the public lied. That's what he basically said. I find it somewhat interesting that a member of the assembly would take that position, especially when Garth Dee is recognized as one of the foremost authorities when it comes to the issues of the Workers' Compensation Board.
The only other point I make is, I wish Mr Hastings spoke more often, because I think it demonstrates to injured workers exactly where this government is coming from and just how anti-worker this government is.
The Chair: Order, please. Further debate?
Mr Christopherson: I agree we want to try to get on with as many amendments as we can, but the reality is, and we all know it, that this government is not interested in any of our opposition amendments. They intend to ram through their amendments. Regardless of what anyone says and whether it's done by the time limit expiring or going through the sham of one at a time, the outcome is exactly the same. We can all write it on a slip of paper and put it in a sealed envelope and we know what it's going to be, no matter what. We need to keep that in mind as we go through this process.
But in talking about the royal commission and the fact that it's open, and talking about what the real causes of the problem are, I want to take exception to Mr Hastings, who suggests that the cause of the problem is the finances of the board. The cause of the problem is there are too many injuries and deaths in the workplaces in Ontario. That's the cause.
If for one minute anybody actually believed that the unfunded liability was in such a crisis that it warranted this unmitigated attack on injured workers; if one believed, if you suspend reality for a moment and accept that that is the reason, there is no way to defend the fact that you're giving back $6 billion of the revenue you're currently receiving. It puts the lie to that argument totally and completely, particularly when the 5% reduction in premiums that you have given as a gift to your corporate friends is coming directly out of the pockets of the injured workers whose net income you're now reducing by 5%.
While we're talking about the unfunded liability, let's keep on the record and not forget that the unfunded liability has dropped since the implementation of Bill 165 in the last three years by over a half a billion dollars each year, to the tune of over $1.1 billion over the total period of time. They've got $8 billion and growing in assets. The whole argument that if you can't pay all the unfunded liability right now it means you're bankrupt would put every major corporation on this entire continent in bankruptcy in terms of the unfunded liabilities they have around pensions. It's a crock and you know it.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): No, that's a ridiculous statement.
The Chair: Mr Christopherson has the floor.
Mr Christopherson: It's a crock and, by the way, the people that owe that money are the employers of this province, not the injured workers. Your friends owe that money, not these people here.
I want to speak to the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. The member from Etobicoke-Rexdale really took on in a vicious way the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. Let's set the record straight with reality. First of all, during the time the agency was in existence, when that responsibility for workplace illness and injury prevention was taken out of the WCB and put into the independent agency, administrative costs were lower than they had been while it was with the WCB. Serious injury and deaths were down. More workers and management were trained while the agency was in operation than in any other time under the responsibility of the WCB. That's the reality.
The reason you killed it is not financial and not because they didn't deliver. It's because injured workers and their representatives had half the seats on the board. You can't live with the fact that workers would get so uppity as to think they have half a say in how that agency's run. That's why you killed it. It didn't fit your ideological agenda, and that's why you're continuing to attack workers under Bill 99.
The Chair: Further debate? Mr O'Toole.
The Chair: Order, please. Sir, please come to order.
Mr John R. O'Toole (Durham East): I will attempt just a couple of points for the record. With respect to the validity of the establishment of the royal commission, I think it's important to recognize that as far back as the very beginning of that commission, there was a recognition that the process was designed to fail. In whose opinion was the process designed to fail? I might point for the record at a very important, informed person. "It's clearly another attempt by this government" -- this is in November 1994, the then NDP government -- "to tilt things in the favour of labour." Now I think "tilt" is probably the word. What we are looking for is balance. That was said by the Liberal labour critic, Steve Mahoney. We recognize Mr Mahoney did a lot of work in that area, did have hearings --
Mr Christopherson: Yeah, another big friend of labour.
Mr O'Toole: -- wasn't particularly a friend of anyone. I think he was in favour of good legislation perhaps. I'm not qualified to say.
But I want to read, this is the opinion of the day, a column from October 31, 1994, from the Toronto Star. This is just an editorial which attempts to explain the dilemma. By the way the chair of the commission was the ex-president of the federation of labour. I think he has a vested interest. It could be argued that he might have a conflict of outcomes. Who do you think he should be siding with? Those that pay the dues get the say, and he was elected to the position. I'd say the point could be made that he may have a determination of the outcomes. That was argued by others, not just me.
I'll read the editorial from the Star by someone perhaps more qualified than anyone here. It says, "Six months after Premier Bob Rae tried to step aside from the chaos at the board" -- he at least recognized it, and I commend him for that recognition of chaos -- "the royal commission still is stuck on hold and fighting over its own who should lead the pro-parade." That's true. Think of it. Think of the politics of it. All of our money raised was raised by you. Okay. It was raised by you, from your dues. Okay. So get the ball game here. The answer is a given. The answer they were looking for is a given. The answer is, Mr Christopherson told you, $200 more a month. That's the answer. Well, the system isn't --
Mr O'Toole: Well, a case deserved should be responded to and respected according to the job and the conditions of the place of work.
Mr Christopherson: You're cutting their income. What are you babbling about?
Mr O'Toole: From its perspective, of the three members two were pro-labour and one wasn't and the whole system was doomed to fail. The Liberals were going to cancel it. Clearly in the election that was their issue, and anything stated otherwise by Mr Hoy or Mr Patten is blatantly misleading.
All our governments also said very clearly the royal commission would be scrapped. In fact Ms Witmer, who was the critic at the time, said the findings of the commission would be considered.
Mr Patten: Could we get some Prozac?
Mr O'Toole: I'd be very pleased, Mr Patten, to move along to very specific amendment proposals and the debate to go along with them, but let's get off the rhetoric. Actually I could make the point that Mr Christopherson will probably be running against Mr Gord Wilson. Guess who he's going to be in favour of? So don't mislead anyone. I'm as much for the employee as you are. Don't think that you have the corner on anything. In fact --
Mr Christopherson: You don't know what you're talking about.
Mr O'Toole: What's your answer? More money?
The Chair: Order, please. Mr O'Toole. Colleagues.
Mr Christopherson: Get your facts right.
The Chair: I would remind all colleagues to address remarks through the Chair, please. Further debate?
Mr Bisson: Madam Chair, we were going to move on to the next amendment, but Mr O'Toole's comments are more than interesting. I just say this, first of all, every time a government member speaks I think more and more injured workers in this province see exactly where the government is at, that is, squarely not on your side.
He says that because the chair of the royal commission was Gerard Docquier, not from the Ontario Federation of Labour but past president of the Canadian section of the United Steelworkers of America, a union of which I am a member, somehow or other that would tip it in the favour of labour, and because of that he had somehow a conflict of interest. My God, everybody you appoint to every commission is tied with business. Do they have a conflict of interest when it comes to the outcomes of the findings on their commissions? I don't hear the government arguing that.
I think, quite frankly, you're demonstrating that this government is anti-worker, has a bias against workers, is pro-business and is going to do everything it can to kick workers in the teeth and help their employer friends. That's strictly what this is all about.
The Chair: Further debate on the motion? Are we ready for the question then? This would be the NDP amendment on page 10. Recorded vote.
Galt, Hoy, Maves, O'Toole, Ouellette, Patten, Spina, Stewart.
The Chair: Motion is lost. Yes, Mr Bisson?
Mr Bisson: I heard the naming of Mr Christopherson in the vote in favour. I did not hear my name.
The Chair: One moment. Is Mr Bisson able to vote today? Sorry.
Mr Bisson: Yes, I forgot.
The Chair: Shall section 19, as amended, carry? Recorded vote also.
Galt, Maves, O'Toole, Spina, Stewart.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
The Chair: Carried.
Moving now to section 20. Any debate on section 20? I'll put the question. Recorded vote. Shall section 20 carry?
Galt, Maves, O'Toole, Ouellette, Spina, Stewart.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
The Chair: Section carries.
Moving now to the amendment on page 11, this is a Liberal motion. Mr Patten, do you wish to present it?
Mr Patten: Yes. I have a motion to change paragraph 3, section 1, of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
I move that paragraph 3 of section 1 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as set out in schedule A of the Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1997, be amended by inserting the word "fair" after "provide" in the first line.
The word "fair" has been dropped from the original bill. The whole history of the workers' compensation program is based on a statement that was really the WCB's motto, which says, "Justice speedily and humanely rendered." By taking this out, I think it sends a strong signal. I know the government's going to say, "Well, it's redundant because programs are structured in such a way and statutorily fixed," but I would say that there will be all kinds of human decisions that will be based on the judgement of the board in one form or another, or anybody who's part of that particular system that calls for a sense of fairness. I believe it would be important to keep that word "fair" in the amendment and, in this particular bill, to add it, to provide fair compensation and other benefits to those workers and to the spouses and dependants of deceased workers.
Mr Christopherson: As the Chair, you will know that this amendment is identical to our amendment that follows this one. Obviously both opposition parties are very, very concerned about the dropping of the word "fair" from the legislation.
I would like to ask the parliamentary assistant, for the record, why this government which speaks constantly of wanting to be fair and balanced -- all the time we hear "fair" and "balanced," but every time you run into a piece of legislation where the word "fair" appears, you eliminate it. You did it with the Ontario Labour Relations Act; you took out the word "fair." Now with Bill 99, the new WCB legislation, you're removing the word "fair" again.
Parliamentary Assistant, would you please respond why you're taking the word "fair" out when you and your minister take such great delight in constantly saying you want to be fair?
Mr Bisson: What part of "fair" don't you like?
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): The reason Bill 99 removes the word "fair" from the purpose clause is that it's not necessary and is in fact redundant. The amount of compensation to which a worker is entitled is fixed by statute, both in the current act and the proposed act. By placing the word "fair" back in the act, it would suggest that there's some discretion in this area when in fact there is none. That's the explanation.
Mr Bisson: A little bit louder.
The Chair: Okay?
Mr Christopherson: I'm not finished.
The Chair: Okay. Sorry.
Mr Christopherson: I want to suggest to the parliamentary assistant that if that were the case and if the word "fair" made absolutely no difference in terms of whether it's in or out, then I think it's reasonable for the people of the province to look at the politics of this, because they understand politics too, and ask themselves: If it's a redundant word, when the government is already under attack from workers and injured workers and their representatives for being anti-worker, if it made no difference, wouldn't commonsense politics dictate that you'd leave it in there?
Mr Maves: As I said, in our view, if you place the word "fair" back in the act, it suggests that there is some discretion in this area when in fact there isn't any because it's statutorily set. I think when you're putting forward a piece of legislation, you have to take that into consideration and the legislation should be clear.
Mr Christopherson: That doesn't wash, because you said it's redundant. The word "redundant" means that it has no effect, none whatsoever. Therefore I would argue that you could have left it in there and, based on your description of it being redundant, it would have made no difference at all. And if it made no difference at all, why on earth would you leave yourself so exposed to this kind of attack on a word that has such an inflammatory effect on those of us who watch you abuse the word "fair"?
I want to suggest to you the reason you're taking it out of here is that while there may not be any discretion around the actual dollar amounts, there are constantly interpretations and jurisprudence being put on to the WCB in terms of all decisions contained in there. I suggest to you that by having the word "fair" in the preamble, there are times when one could argue that fairness would dictate a certain outcome of a difference in interpretation around the bill, and you're taking it out because you want to make sure that as much as possible it's not a fair outcome that is derived from interpretations, but rather that the employers win, the WCB finances win, and the injured worker loses.
Therefore, I think you're taking it out because you want to tip the balance in those situations where "fair" may have an effect on the outcome of an interpretation. That's why you're taking it out of here. That's why you took it out of the OLRB. Quite frankly, where you and your government get off in doing that and continuing to say you want to be fair and balanced and looking people in the eye is beyond me. I don't know where you get the gall and the audacity to say you care about fairness, and then you take the very word "fair" out of this legislation, the same as you took the word "workers" out and you took the word "compensation" out.
The Chair: Moving to Mr Stewart -- sorry. Excuse me, Mr Stewart. Mr Maves has a response, and then we'll go to you.
Mr Maves: I would only point out that in the amendment, the word "fair" would pertain to fair compensation. In fact, as I said before, the amount of compensation to which a worker is entitled is fixed by the statute, as it is now and as it would be later.
We weren't the only ones who thought that "fair" was redundant. In fact, the submission to Bill 165 by the Union of Injured Workers and Toronto Injured Workers' Advocacy Group, September 1994, said at that point in time, when Bill 165 brought in the word "fair":
"The introduction of the adjective 'fair' is subjective and not consistent with the statutory scheme of rights and obligations. WCB adjudicators have no authority to pay more or less than the law provides, whether they think it's fair under the circumstances or not."
We weren't the only ones to feel that way, and I thought that should be read in.
Mr Christopherson: Can I respond?
The Chair: There is a long waiting list of speakers. If you could do it very briefly.
Mr Christopherson: Just one comment, and that is that if the parliamentary assistant, in his previous comments, suggested that there was some discretion and that "fair" might apply, is he suggesting that the obligation to provide a healthy and safe workplace, the return-to-work provisions and the labour market re-entry are all open to discretion? Because if they are -- and I think you'd have to agree they are; those are very subjective matters -- then by taking out the word "fair," you're denying workers an opportunity to make a case that there's something about one of those three areas I've just mentioned where the outcome is not fair to them. You've eliminated their ability to make that case.
Mr Maves: The "fair" in this amendment speaks to compensation; it doesn't speak to those other things.
Mr Christopherson: Compensation is also being rehabilitated. Compensation is also being returned to work as much as you can. Compensation is also making sure the workplace is safe after there has been an injury. We know damn well you're taking the word "compensation" out because you want to turn this into a private insurance plan. You're not interested in compensating; you just want to get rid of.
The Chair: To Mr Stewart. My apologies.
Mr Stewart: I would like to direct a question, if I may. I believe that the word "fair" is probably one of the most overworked words in the English language.
Mr Christopherson: By your government.
Mr Stewart: What may be fair to me may not be fair to somebody else, and vice versa. To me, the word "fair" is extremely open-ended and it can do an injustice just as easily as it can do justice. It's much like the word "may." "May" can cost you many, many things. I believe that if we're going to have good legislation, we should have the words in there that will protect all people involved with it. The Liberal Party is the group that has suggested this word. I'd like Mr Patten's definition of the word "fair."
The Chair: Do you wish to respond, Mr Patten?
Mr Patten: I think I was next anyway.
The Chair: Actually, no, Mr Bisson, but perhaps it would be appropriate.
Mr Patten: My submission is that being fair -- if someone is injured in the workplace and in truth they can no longer work, but for some reason they don't fit a category or they are not eligible and they have to live in poverty for the rest of their lives and their families have to suffer, I don't think that's fair.
Mr Stewart: I didn't ask you the circumstances. I asked you what your definition of the word "fair" is, not whether it's -- we've heard the word "justice"; we've heard many different words. You're asking us to agree to a word and put it in this legislation. I want to know what your definition of the word "fair" is.
Interjection: He told you.
Mr Stewart: No, he didn't at all. He said maybe it's fair to give you more money, maybe it's fair to take money away. I don't know. You tell me the word "fair," because it is very open-ended.
The Chair: Order, please. Do you wish to respond, Mr Patten?
Mr Patten: To me, being fair is being just. You have to use other words to describe a word. If you're going to define it, you have to use other words. It's being just; it's being compassionate. In the context of this particular bill, you are compensating someone who has, let's say, through no fault of their own been injured and is now not able to work in part, or perhaps not at all. In that case, the bill did provide for a fair review of situations where people would be compensated, and they would be compensated so that they could live with a degree of dignity in their lives. In the context of this bill, that's the way I would describe it.
Mr Stewart: I could ask somebody outside this room or out on that street what their interpretation of the word "fair" is, and I would suggest that they may use those words you used or may not use those words that you used. That's the difficulty with this particular situation. It's very open-ended. It's a word that I believe down the road could create problems for the people.
The Chair: Sir, when a question is being directed clause by clause, because we're in the midst of debate, if you or anyone else interrupt, it breaks the train of thought not only of the questioner but of the person who's required to respond. I would ask you please to respect that there is a movement of thought back and forth here.
I don't know if you were able to hear the end of that question or if you wanted to respond.
Mr Stewart: In my case, I think it's been proven to me that the word "fair" is extremely open-ended. Nobody really has a true meaning for what the word means, because the interpretation is so different from one person to the other. That's why I have difficulty with this type of word, because I believe it could create as many problems for the folks as it could help the folks.
The Chair: Further debate?
Mr Bisson: A couple of things. First of all, it's the first time I've heard an argument trying to be made that utilizing the word "fair" in a piece of legislation could lead to an injustice. It really is mind-boggling. I say again, every time the government members pontificate on the position of their government on this legislation, if it doesn't demonstrate to injured workers that this government is anti-worker, anti anything to do with the working people of this province, I'll tell you, nothing will. I think I'm going to take all this, put it in Hansard and travel it around the province just to show them how anti-worker you are.
I want to go to the parliamentary assistant. I want to try to follow what your logic is here, because I really don't think it's very solid. You said "fair" is unnecessary when it comes to being entered into this clause because it makes no difference, it makes no impact, on how this act is applied. That's your first comment.
Mr Maves: I didn't say that.
Mr Bisson: You'll have a chance to clarify, because I wrote almost verbatim what you said, and if you're wrong, I want you to correct it. You said "fair" is unnecessary because it makes no difference how the act is applied. Then you went on to say that to put it in would suggest that there is some discretion on the part of the board about how it applies policy. How do you balance those two things off? Those two comments are contradictory.
Mr Maves: I didn't make those comments.
Mr Bisson: My specific question then is, would putting "fair" in the act make a difference, in your view?
Mr Maves: No. If you make this amendment, as I said before, the word goes before "compensation"; they're talking about "fair compensation." As I said before, the amount of compensation to which a worker is entitled is fixed by statute. It's fixed by statute now and it's fixed by statute once Bill 99 comes in. Therefore, if you add the word "fair," a subjective word, it suggests there is some discretion, but as I said, those amounts are statutorily fixed, so there's no discretion.
Mr Bisson: I think I'll come back to the point, because again that's a contradiction. You're saying that the board, when making a decision either at the adjudication level or at the hearing or WCAT level, has to make their decision solely based on policy and they don't have to take into context -- I shouldn't say that, but the word "fair" in the existing legislation has no bearing on how much an injured worker is going to be paid. That's basically what you're saying. On the other hand, you're saying that if you put it in, it'll give them some flexibility.
What I'm saying is that there's a contradiction in what you're saying. Either you think that "fair" doesn't mean anything, or you do. Which one is it? Do you think putting "fair" will give the board some flexibility, or do you think taking it out will take out whatever flexibility we now have?
Mr Maves: There isn't flexibility.
Mr Bisson: There isn't?
Mr Maves: The rate is statutorily fixed.
Mr Bisson: So you're saying there is not?
Mr Maves: That's correct.
Mr Bisson: Are you saying, then, that if you kept the word "fair" in the legislation, it would somehow give some kind of discretion to the adjudicators and people at the hearings at WCAT level?
Mr Maves: Perhaps it might suggest that to somebody, but it wouldn't in fact, because the rates are statutorily set.
Mr Bisson: So you're saying if you put the word "fair" in, it would have no bearing on the outcomes of decisions of adjudicators, hearing levels and WCAT level, when it comes to dealing with benefits, whatever those benefits might be? In other words, leave it in and it won't make any difference.
Ms Marguerite Rappolt: I could just suggest that I think it is the placement of the word "fair" in front of the word "compensation," and "compensation" refers to the benefit level defined by statute in the act now and the new one.
Mr Bisson: Yes, it refers to the policy manual.
Ms Rappolt: The level which --
Mr Bisson: That was set out in the policy manual. I understand that. The question I have is, and I've got to come back to it, if right now the act reads "fair compensation," and we take out the word "fair," will it in the end have a bearing, in your view, on the flexibility of adjudicators to make decisions on setting levels of compensation? Will it, yes or no?
Ms Rappolt: From a policy interpretation, the answer would be no, because the term is "fair compensation."
Mr Bisson: If it's no, then, to the parliamentary assistant, I come back to the point that Mr Christopherson makes. If your policy people and your leg counsel people are telling you, Mr Maves, that taking the word "fair" out is not going to make any difference, why take it out? Why inflame the issue even further? Why not at the very least show these injured workers that you're trying to seem as if you're fair? Why not leave it in if it makes no difference?
Mr Maves: Counsel for the ministry will respond on the legal implications.
Ms Sherry Cohen: In my view, "fair," when it modifies "compensation," refers to the quantum. It refers to the level of the benefit which was statutorily fixed. However, in the act there are still the existing principles of real merits and justice of the case and the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that's what you're referring to.
Mr Bisson: I'm driving at that, because I'm somewhat familiar with the existing act.
Ms Cohen: And those provisions are in the bill.
Mr Bisson: But the point I'm getting at is, if you left the word "fair" in, would it make any difference, in your view, to the level of compensation issued by an adjudicator?
Ms Cohen: It's internally inconsistent, because it implies a discretion which the adjudicators don't have when it comes to determining the amount of the benefit. That's why it was removed, because one of the objectives in this bill is to make clear, plain-language, modern workers' compensation legislation.
Mr Bisson: Let me suggest the following: I don't pretend to be the expert on compensation, but I've been dealing with workers' compensation claims for the better part of 15 years. I've been before the board at all levels, and I can tell you that in a number of cases, especially at the hearings level or the WCAT level, you argue when you go before them, when it comes to the implementation of those policies, that the board did not take into consideration what is fair. We've utilized that at the adjudication level.
I'll give you an example: chronic pain. I think chronic pain will describe it better than any other one. For the members of the government side or others who may not understand what that policy is all about, we give chronic pain on the basis that there is no organic finding of an injury. In other words, a person fell, a person lifted, hurt their back, their arm, whatever it might be, and the person has symptoms that are inconsistent with the organic finding. In other words, you cannot give compensation under the regular part of the act because you can't find an organic finding.
So at one point WCAT decided to implement a policy of putting in place what's called chronic pain. That deals with giving the board the flexibility to be able to assess compensation in the case that the injury is incompatible with the organic finding. In those cases, when you go before the hearings officer or you go before WCAT, they've got all kinds of flexibility, because more times than not what they're awarding is a partial pension. They have a certain level of benefit that they can assess to the injured worker that is, I would argue, at best not very scientific when it comes to really pegging: Is this worth 20%, 5%, 25%? It's really not as objective as we think it is. So what happens is that when we from the injured workers' community side go before the hearings officer, we say, "It is incumbent upon the board and it's incumbent upon you as a hearings officer," or WCAT, "to make sure that whatever you do, it deals fairly with the merits of this case." I argue that if you take "fair" out, it really weakens my argument when I go before the hearings officer.
Ms Cohen: You may be expressing the argument in terms of "fair" as it exists in the purpose clause, but really what the adjudicators or the tribunal members are applying is the substantive provision of the act that gives them the authority to do just what you have described, and that's found in the principles of benefit of the doubt and real merits and justice of the case. The purpose clause is used as a guide of interpretation.
Mr Bisson: That's right.
Ms Cohen: As a legal matter, in and of itself it can't create any legal rights or obligations.
Mr Bisson: I understand that.
Ms Cohen: So I think you're using the word "fair," but it's really benefit of the doubt and real merits and justice of the case. That's where they derive their authority to make those decisions.
Mr Bisson: But the purpose clause in any act is to set out, as in the title, the purpose of the act. If you take "fair" out of that section of the act, it has some bearing, I believe, in the end on how hearings officers and WCAT people will be able to deal with particular claims.
Ms Cohen: But as a legal matter, it doesn't confer any authority on the adjudicators. That's derived from the other provisions.
Mr Bisson: It certainly has influence, is my argument. I go back to the parliamentary assistant. If the parliamentary assistant is saying that his government's position is that removing the word "fair" will not make any changes when it comes to how the act is interpreted and how it's applied in a case of assessing benefits, why not leave it in? At least you're going to be telling these people that you listened somewhat and you're prepared to leave at least one part of the act in place that gives them some comfort. Why not do it?
Mr Maves: I've answered that already by saying that in our view, if you place the word "fair" back in the act, it suggests there is some discretion in this area, when in fact there isn't.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's interesting to hear the debate over the word "fair." Mr Stewart expressed a lot of what I was wanting to put on the record. He questioned and got a rather loose definition of "fair." I think this brings up the point that what I'm hearing the opposition and the third party argue for is for the legal profession, because what a heyday they'll have with the word "fair."
Mr Christopherson: It's already there.
Mr Galt: Yes, and look at what's been going on: all kinds of opportunity to play games, go through appeals, while the injured worker has to wait it out. Who's getting hurt? The injured worker gets hurt while the lawyers play the game. I think you're encouraging very loose kind of legislation and we're trying to tidy it up and make for better legislation that certainly wasn't there by having that kind of word in, when in fact you have excellent criteria for when injured workers should be compensated for those injuries.
The Chair: Mr Bisson, kindly do not interrupt.
Mr Bisson: It's just hard to take, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Further debate?
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'm completely comfortable with the use of the word "fair" as it pertains to this bill. It was in the prior act. The government, we learned on the first day of clause-by-clause, was going to spend a million dollars on a name change. Here we're asking them only to maintain a word that was in the existing act. As I said, I'm completely comfortable with leaving the word "fair." It makes eminently more sense than if one were to take the reverse view and say "unfair" compensation. Perhaps the government would prefer that word.
I would suggest that if the government has such problems with the word "fair," it should probably not appear in any of their campaign literature in any subsequent elections, because it would be viewed by those people with some difficulty, that they did not understand the word "fair." But it was in the prior act. I think it's quite symbolic, first of all, to injured workers, and I think it also enhances this piece of legislation by leaving the word "fair" in.
Mr O'Toole: This is indeed a very profitable discussion. My sentiment, obviously, is to support the word "fair." That's my sentiment.
Mr Christopherson: What's your vote going to be?
Mr O'Toole: After listening to the wise legal counsel, if I may be so generous --
Mr Bisson: I may have to withdraw my applause.
Mr O'Toole: No, no. Look through the interpretation, the purpose clause itself, both in the old act -- in fact, I did that early on. The purpose and definition clauses give you much more a flavour of clarity of the intent, the return to work, the languaging.
Mr O'Toole: You're right. Its placement is rather peculiar, because if I look in the purpose clauses, it says, "to promote health and safety in workplaces and to prevent and reduce the occurrence of workplace injury and occupational diseases." That's very clear. The intention is there to "reduce" injuries, to "prevent." Those are very operative words.
Then "to facilitate the return to work and recovery of workers" -- "facilitate" is a pretty encompassing word -- "who sustain personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment or who suffer from an occupational disease." Very clearly, occupational diseases are going to be covered and all that.
Then it goes on to say, "to provide fair compensation."
After listening to the legal counsel, I'm going to ask a question, perhaps of my own parliamentary assistant. I'm not sure. Could I propose an amendment to Mr Patten or to the Liberal Party?
The Chair: Unfortunately, those amendments are out of order.
Mr O'Toole: Here's what I'm trying to imply in my argument, for the record: If I were to understand that this would not embellish the legal position for a case of argument, by putting it specifically in the definition section, I'd be happy to support it. But if it opens up another legal entitlement or entanglement, that's exactly what has happened in the past.
I had case workers tell me personally that the lawyers were making all the money. I'm not a lawyer, and I'm upset to see that there were case workers -- the system was so convoluted that it took people like Rick Williams and others to solve these problems. Clarity in the act and reducing ambiguity is what I would like to support.
I return to my original premise. I indeed support the fair treatment of any injured worker. Our legal counsel told me, told each one of us, that does not diminish the case merit, in or out. I would like to perhaps call a couple of minutes' scrum or recess to be more than satisfied that the inclusion -- I'm going to ask one final clarification of the lawyer. Would the inclusion enhance the entitlements, diminish the entitlements or leave the entitlements precisely the same? If they're precisely the same, I want to be harmonious. I would like to move forward in a progressive, positive way, even if only in sign language.
I've given you three choices.
Mr Christopherson: We'll give you sign language.
Mr O'Toole: The applause will do.
Ms Cohen: The word "compensation" as used in this bill refers to the monetary benefit an injured worker receives as a result of a workplace injury. There is a difference in the wording, if you go through the bill, between the word "benefit," which has a broader meaning, and the word "compensation." This clearly refers to the amount or the quantum, the level of the benefit, not eligibility, not duration, not anything else: the amount of the benefit, which is fixed in statute. To put "fair" in there is inconsistent with the word "compensation" as used in the bill because it implies it can change, and it can't change. The amount of compensation cannot change under any circumstances.
But in terms of eligibility or duration, that is what I was referring to before, where board adjudicators or tribunal members can decide, "It's not 100% clear, but we think it's fair in this context and the circumstances of this case that this injured worker be granted entitlement." That is when they use the substantive provisions of the act, whether it's the benefit-of-the-doubt provision or whether it's the real merits and justice of the case.
That's how they're adjudicated. You can call it fair or you can call it real merits and justice of the case, but in the end it's the same legal result, and that's not in the purpose clause, that's in the act itself.
Mr O'Toole: And you're well schooled, perhaps Osgoode or whatever. What I need to know is this. You have just told me that adding the word "fair," because it's followed by the word "compensation" -- I'm a layperson -- and that the compensation is fixed in statute, then by nature it's redundant. It implies some ambiguousness. It's the hole in the wall, the hole in the dike, that you guys will spend the next $5 million on wasting injured workers' time through an appeal and interpretive process.
The Chair: Mr O'Toole, address your comments to the Chair, please.
Mr O'Toole: If we want an act that's fair and clarified, I'm for removing any sensitivity to ambiguousness.
Mr O'Toole: Mr Patten, with all respect, I go back to saying, I would ask if we could have a couple of minutes recess just to scrum among ourselves.
The Chair: There is an opportunity when we get a little closer to the vote perhaps for that. Right now, we'll continue with further debate. Mr Christopherson, please.
Mr Christopherson: What an interesting submission. I'd like to ask Mr O'Toole, based on his comments, since he is clearly stating that he has some sentimentality around the word "fair" -- which is nice, but we'll be looking more at your vote than your sentimentality. In terms of that great sensitivity you have over the word "fair," can I ask you whether you think it's fair that employers who have a legal obligation to pay for WCB compensation receive a 5% gift but that the injured workers who receive compensation when they're hurt on the job are going to get 5% less? Do you think that's fair?
Mr O'Toole: I think that's an extremely focused question, and I would ask in return --
The Chair: Order.
Mr O'Toole: With our changes in Bill 99, the level of benefit for our injured workers' entitlements is higher than any other province. I believe that is fair.
Mr Christopherson: My question was, do you think it fair that employers are getting a rate reduction, are getting $6 billion back, and injured workers are going to get 5% less? Do you think that's fair?
Mr O'Toole: Madam Speaker, this is a fair debate.
The Chair: Colleagues, I remind you both or any other colleague to address your comments through the Chair, please.
Mr O'Toole: Honestly and sincerely, I believe that fairness is a broad term in this particular question. By that I mean, rhetorically, is it fair that Ontario employers pay the highest rates or premiums on average? The only one that's higher is Newfoundland. Is that fair? We're trying to be fair. Fair is some balancing point. Don't you see the balance in fairness? Fairness is not as clear as yes or no; it's an interpretive clause in respect of saying, we should operate in a climate which -- okay, if I reduced the cost of doing business in Ontario, I would increase the revenue for workers' compensation. Why? Because the larger the payroll at General Motors or Chrysler or Stelco, the more they're going to pay to WCB. So if we reduce the premiums, we could actually increase the revenue for the WCB funds, the investment funds, by being competitive. By raising them, we chase employers to New Brunswick, reducing the overall payroll in Ontario, reducing the amount of the WCB investment fund.
In all honesty, Mr Christopherson, I can't answer your question as simply as you've asked it. I want there to be a climate for investment and opportunity, and in that respect, yes, I guess we should give back. An employer in Ontario should not pay any more and certainly no less than a similar employer in any other province. That's fair.
Mr Christopherson: I've got to be getting older. As you were going through your explanation, what came to mind was the old comic who was on TV -- I think it was Professor Irwin Corey; remember him? -- with the hair all over the place and he had the sheets and he was describing how the world operates, and at the end of it he was confused, the whole world was confused. That's exactly the way I felt at the end of your answering my question.
I think you'd be better off, Mr O'Toole, just to say that, yes, you think it's fair that your employer buddies are getting a gift and injured workers are getting it in the teeth. At least you'd be being honest about it rather than offering up all this nonsense about sentimentality and the world global economy, for God's sake. None of that matters a hoot to an injured worker who's laying flat on his back because his back is broken, and he's getting 5% less than he did when you brought in Bill 99 and his employer is getting $6 billion.
I also want to pick up on a point to give credit to Mr Hoy. I think he made a fascinating, interesting point to both Mr Stewart and Mr Galt, who went on at great length about -- Mr Stewart's was quite interesting, that somehow by applying the word "fair" you might end up with an injustice at the end of all that. It's all because the word is so ambiguous, to use Mr O'Toole's word. Yet your government, and I bet in your speeches, constantly talks about "fair" and "balanced." If it's a word that has such a lack of clarity, why do you throw it around? Why?
You do it because it means to most people that there will be an element of fairness. You can play all the little games and split hairs around the meaning of the word "fair", but your government loves to use the word "fair" because you know what that implies to people. But boy, when the rubber hits the road and you've got a piece of legislation where we're not suggesting you put it in where it didn't used to be but that you leave the word "fair" in, you're supporting taking it out because somehow it might do some damage at the end of the day, and you expect people to believe that nonsense.
Mr Christopherson: I'll listen to your turn when it comes.
The Chair: Order. Mr Christopherson has the floor. Comments are to be directed through the Chair, please.
Mr Christopherson: I just want to ask legal counsel a question. You made a statement that sounded rather definitive, that the quantum compensation cannot be changed in any way. But it is being changed in this bill -- it's being reduced -- and it could be changed further by any government action in the Legislature. Is that not correct?
Ms Cohen: It can be changed by the Legislature, but the board and the tribunal or a court could not amend the legislation.
Mr Christopherson: I didn't want to leave the impression that somehow there was an 11th commandment that Moses brought down that said, "Thou shalt pay compensation rates" and states the amount. The fact is that it's up to the government of the day.
Ms Cohen: It's the sovereignty of Parliament.
Mr Christopherson: Right, and it's the sovereignty of Parliament this government has chosen to use to reduce the benefits. I might suggest that another reason you want to take the word "fair" out is because, as time goes on, if we're unfortunate enough to stay governed by you people, God knows what the rate will be.
We had submissions from some employer groups that 85% wasn't enough, that it ought to go down to 80%. We even had one submission in London, from the local chamber of commerce, that it ought to go to 70%. I think there are members of this government who would think that is fair. They don't want to be subjected to the test of fair compensation, and that's another reason they're taking it out of here.
I want to ask the parliamentary assistant, if he believes and supports his minister in saying that you want fair and balanced legislation and fair and balanced compensation -- the specific of whether the compensation can be mitigated in any way is correct; I am not questioning the legal advice that has been given. But in the preamble, where you're stating the purpose in the purpose clauses, why would you be opposed, since you're prepared to say it anywhere, to leaving in the term "fair compensation"? That may not necessarily be able to affect the rate without a change in the law, but it does state that one could stand up and say, "The law says it's supposed to be fair, and if you're only giving me 70%, that's not fair." Do you not think it's appropriate, if you care so much about "fair," to leave it in there with regard to that reference? Never mind the legal interpretation.
Mr Maves: As I said, "fair compensation" would suggest there's discretion, and there isn't in a statutorily fixed item. If in the future a government of any stripe wanted to bring in legislation changing the rates further, it would have to have full movement of a bill and the full breadth of the debate that would go with it.
Mr Christopherson: With respect, Parliamentary Assistant, I am suggesting to you that you want to take the word "fair" out in the hope that it will reduce your embarrassment when you decide to reduce these rates even further in the future, which I have no doubt you're going to do. If you're saying you're not afraid of the word "fair" in terms of describing compensation, where else, I ask you, would you be prepared to put the word "fair" to at least show that when you say something you are prepared to put it in law? Where will you add the word "fair" in here to show you are at least respecting and recognizing the rights of injured workers to have fair compensation? Where would you put the word "fair" to show that?
Mr Maves: "Fair" can't be in the purpose clause for compensation because it's statutorily set. I don't think you would want it in an act. The lawyer can assist on this. If you put it somewhere in an act and all of a sudden started giving discretion to adjudicators on how much they give each different person, I don't think it would be possible to have an act like that because it would be terribly inconsistent.
Ms Cohen: When a benefit is granted by legislation, the benefit is set by the legislation. I'm not aware of any federal or provincial legislation that creates a scheme granting benefits which says, "as determined by the entity that gets to adjudicate who's entitled." That would be quite --
Mr Christopherson: What about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board?
Ms Cohen: But that's a discretionary benefit. That's not the same type of thing as a right once you've determined eligibility. I think the criminal injuries compensation scheme is somewhat different from an insurance scheme.
Mr Christopherson: Well, it still provides for benefits in certain circumstances and leaves the discretion up to the board.
Ms Cohen: But it's compensating for pain and suffering rather than --
Mr Christopherson: But it's compensation. My only point is, and I'm certainly not going to be stupid enough to get into a legal debate with a lawyer --
Ms Cohen: It's not the Canada pension plan, employment insurance, social --
Mr Christopherson: I think it's fair to say that the concept that levels of compensation are set by judicial and quasi-judicial boards and entities is not that unusual. That in and of itself is not an unusual concept.
Ms Cohen: For this type of scheme, it would be unusual.
Mr Christopherson: But overall the idea is not. Anyway, I don't want to get lost into that.
I want to come back to this: If the parliamentary assistant continues to use the word "fair," I want to know where he's prepared to put it in here, or is he prepared to recommend to the Minister of Labour that she stop using the word "fair" since you're not prepared to back up your words with legal action?
Mr Maves: One place has been suggested for "fair," and it's in this section. I've given my answer several times on why the government is opposed to it being there. It's the same one that the injured workers gave in 1994.
Mr Patten: I guess the WCB motto will change, because it says "Justice speedily and humanely rendered." What does that mean? Should that be out of there? The compensation is already set. I guess they shouldn't have a motto, or that motto doesn't mean anything.
Once somebody is eligible, you're right: Given that there is a correct assessment, that's it, that's your compensation. But what happens in cases where people feel it isn't fair? They go to the WCB or wherever they go and they challenge that. They say the doctor didn't really do a good analysis or his diagnosis was poor and, "We have a second opinion" or a third opinion or whatever the hell it is, and they challenge the decision, which I believe is still there; there's still an appeals mechanism. Then that appeals mechanism takes a look at it, and it seems to me that what they're looking at is, was that a fair decision? If they change the compensation level, they'll say: "We believe this is fair compensation now. It wasn't before, because what wasn't taken into consideration was what these other doctors were able to propose." In that particular sense, I say it's still fits.
Wouldn't you say it would fit under those circumstances, that that's a relative thing? It's also the eligibility. You qualified compensation with the eligibility -- I agree with you -- and that is often what is challenged. If the adjudicator or the appeals board looks at it in terms of fairness, they have to have some value to say, is this fair?
Ms Cohen: They may say, "We don't accept this doctor's report; we accept this doctor's report," and they may use the word "fair." But really, as I say, what they're using is: "We're going to give you the benefit of the doubt. We think, in the circumstances of all the evidence, we're going to select the doctor who's in favour of the diagnosis that will give you the compensation." Once they make that decision, they send it back to the board, and the board implements it by applying the amount of compensation set in the act. That's the distinction.
Mr Patten: Anyway, I still feel the same way.
My other point, related to Mr Christopherson's point, is that it seems to me that what you probably would agree with -- Mr Maves, I have a suggestion. It won't go anywhere, because we can't make amendments to amendments. You would probably say you would agree with "to fairly provide compensation." Would you agree with that statement, "to fairly provide compensation"?
Mr Maves: I don't know at this point in time. What would be the impact of "to fairly provide"? That's in the manner in which they're provided. I don't know. I'm not a lawyer. I can't interpret how that would be interpreted.
Again, one of the goals of the act is to clean up the legislation to make it understandable and clear. When you're putting in subjective terms, no matter where you put them in, it takes away that clarity.
How the act is administered, with the exception of levels of compensation, is covered in section 113, where it's by the principles of merit and justice.
Mr Patten: That's your interpretation. You've restated it a number of times. All I'm saying is that if you put it in, according to the legal arguments, what "fair" does acknowledge, as I think this through even further, is that it ain't necessarily a perfect system. My staff just gave me something:
"The legislation that we're putting forward before the House today will create a viable workplace, safety and insurance organization that will be legislation that is able to deliver fair and generous benefits." That was the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer.
Mr Hastings said earlier that there is no perfect system. I agree. There is no perfect system. As I look at it now, I'm even more convinced that the word "fair" does provide for an imperfect world; otherwise, why would you have appeal mechanisms and why would you have the opportunity for people to challenge a decision? We have those things. Therefore, "fair compensation" means -- or you could use the term "right compensation." All putting a qualifier in means is that it has to be justified, it has to be presented and it has to be supportable in order to change what was perhaps awarded. All I'm saying is that "fair" historically has been there. It acknowledges an appeal mechanism and it doesn't change the justice, which is part of the motto of the WCB, that should take place if it hasn't taken place and it is found out to be justifiable to make changes to the original award.
Mr Maves: The question of principles of justice and everything else in the act except levels of compensation is taken care of in section 113 of the bill.
Mr Bisson: I listened intently to what I thought was a warming of the position of the government by the suggestions Mr O'Toole brought forward for a while there. It almost sounded as if we were starting to convert the unconverted when it came to the issue of fairness. But the argument he made was most bizarre. He argued that if putting the word "fair" in the purpose clause made no difference, he would support it. If it gave workers or anybody else an unfair advantage, as he put it -- for the government, that means giving workers better benefits -- he wouldn't be in favour of it. By the member's own admission, you're saying that if the word "fair" means workers are going to get a fair shake, you're opposed, and if makes no difference in the status quo you're creating in this bill, which will be that workers get it in the ear and employers get in the pocketbook, you're in favour of it. That's basically what the government member is arguing.
I'm going to go through the Hansard of today and Monday and pull all these Hansard quotes and make sure that as many injured workers and workers in this province as possible get to see what the government has to say, because it's truly unbelievable. We heard the government say earlier that using the word "fair" could lead to an injustice. Wow. I can't get over it. It really comes down to the fact that this government has made an ideological decision, and the ideological decision is that you're standing with employers and you're turning your back on workers. It's as simple as that.
Why don't you guys just come clean and tell us that's what you're doing, and we'll move on. If you really believe in fairness, how can you be opposed to putting the word "fair" in the purpose clause about how we deal with this act? You can't have it both ways. You're the Conservative Party, not the Liberals.
I have a question to the parliamentary assistant.
Mr Christopherson: On a point of privilege, Madam Chair: I note that the former parliamentary assistant, Mr Baird, has returned. I wonder whether that was because Mr Maves needs some help and he's the cavalry, or has he been a bad boy again and sent back to labour?
The Chair: Come on. That's out of order, Mr Christopherson, as you well know.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I heard you were going to be making some remarks, so I wanted to benefit from your wisdom.
Mr Christopherson: I hope you won't run out then.
Mr O'Toole: I would like to conclude my remarks by responding very similarly, but also reflecting on what has been said in the debate and Mr Bisson's point that he has some sort of ability to transcend anything I'm saying or thinking. If he thinks he knows what I'm thinking, then I'm not sure he's able to think.
Mr Bisson: There are places in your mind that I would be afraid to dwell on.
Mr O'Toole: I'd ask Mr Bisson the question -- I'm going to ask a series of three questions, and at the end of that period, I'm going to ask who said them.
Is it fair to take $1.65 billion out of the investment fund and put it into operational funds in the WCB? Is it fair to take the investment for the future liability and risk and move it into operational? That's not just hypothetical. It's an actual --
Mr Bisson: Is it fair that Conrad Black took the pension dollars of workers to invest in his business?
The Chair: Order, Mr Bisson. Mr O'Toole has the floor.
Mr O'Toole: Chair, could you take care of the noise from this trivial little butterfly over here?
Mr Bisson: I've been called a trivial little butterfly.
The Chair: Your manners, please. Mr O'Toole has the floor.
Mr Bisson: I don't fit the description of a butterfly.
Mr O'Toole: Is it fair to remove 7% from the compensation formula for injured workers? Is it fair to remove $18 billion through the Friedland formula adjustment? All three of those removals, reductions and changes were made by the previous government, the NDP.
Interjection: Two wrongs don't make a right.
Mr O'Toole: No, they were three wrongs.
In my concluding remarks, I still say that fairness is making sure that injured workers are receiving what they're entitled to receive according to the legislation, and to remove as much confusion and ambiguity from the legal or due process as possible.
Mr Christopherson: Why don't you take a 5% cut for your family?
Mr O'Toole: Maybe you don't recall the legislation; I wouldn't be surprised. We did take a 5% pay cut.
I would ask the Chair to grant us a five-minute recess just to convene. I'd like to speak to my peers.
The Chair: Probably the best point to do that is when we come to the vote. Further debate?
Mr Hoy: I know Mr O'Toole wants to ponder the word "fair." I hope he comes to the same conclusion we do. I'm looking at the minister's statement. As Mr Patten pointed out, she used the word "fair." I haven't read it, but I've scanned it very quickly, trying to find the word "fair" in other parts of her address to the House. She did use it at least one more time, but not only did she say "fair," she said "more fair." We are not suggesting in our amendment that it be "less fair" or "more fair," which I think is quite something. It is simply the word "fair." Certainly on this side our arguments far outweigh those of the government.
Mr Bisson: As a final comment, I guess the vote will demonstrate where the government is for the record. If they believe in the principle of fairness, they will vote in favour of this amendment or our NDP amendment. If they don't believe in the principle of fairness, they will vote against it.
The Chair: Further debate? Seeing none, are we ready for the question?
Mr O'Toole: I call for a recess, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Sir, would you please allow us to conduct our business. It's difficult to hear.
Mr O'Toole, did you want to call for a recess at this point?
Mr O'Toole: Yes.
The Chair: Five minutes?
Mr O'Toole: Fifteen minutes.
The Chair: This committee stands recessed and will reconvene at 5:25.
Mr Christopherson: On a point of order, Madam Chair: When all of a sudden do members get to start auctioning off how long recesses or breaks are going to be?
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): The standing orders say up to 20 minutes.
Mr Christopherson: On the vote. We're not at that point.
The Chair: Yes, we are at the vote.
Mr Christopherson: Mr O'Toole was speaking.
The Chair: My understanding is there is a 20-minute recess allowed in preparation for a vote.
Mr Bisson: Hang on, he was speaking. Are we on a vote now?
Mr Christopherson: Did she call the vote?
The Chair: I'm sorry. I did bring us to the vote.
Mr Christopherson: I want a recorded vote too. Have you got that?
The Chair: Yes. All right, we stand recessed.
The committee recessed from 1715 to 1728.
The Chair: All right, colleagues, the time for debate is finished and we're about to vote on paragraph 3 of section 1, the Liberal motion on page 11.
Mr Hastings: Point of order.
The Chair: We have to finish the vote before we go to the point of order.
Mr Hastings: Then after the vote.
The Chair: Yes, certainly.
It's a recorded vote.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
Baird, Galt, Gilchrist, Hastings, Maves, Spina.
The Chair: The motion is lost.
Point of order, Mr Hastings.
Mr Hastings: The point of order I wanted to raise is that M. Bisson raised the question of how fair is fair, how much rain is there outside, so I would like to ask M. Bisson, or certainly make it clear, in terms of fairness, how it is fair that the NDP in 1992-93 managed to reduce the premiums to employers by nearly 7% when in fact we've reduced them by 5%? To me that would be a sheer gift to their corporate buddies.
The Chair: Mr Hastings, our time for debate on that motion has ended. I'm sorry, it's not a point of order. We must move on to the next amendment. We're moving now to the amendment on page 12. This an NDP motion. Mr Christopherson, did you want to withdraw this motion? It is identical to the motion before.
Mr Christopherson: Only if you're going to rule it out of order. Otherwise, I'll place it.
The Chair: You know that I do have to do that. Thank you. It's withdrawn.
Mr Christopherson: No, not voluntarily. You've ruled it out of order. There's a difference.
The Chair: Okay. Moving then to the next amendment, on the top of page 13, this is a government motion.
Mr Maves: I move that paragraphs 3 and 4 of section 1 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as set out in schedule A of the Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1997, be struck out and the following substituted:
"3. To facilitate the re-entry into the labour market of workers and spouses of deceased workers.
"4. To provide compensation and other benefits to workers and to the survivors of deceased workers."
The amendment corrects a drafting error which omitted the children of a deceased worker from paragraph 3, now captured by the use of the term "survivors," and corrects the inadvertent omission of the word "workers" from paragraph 4. The reordering of paragraphs 3 and 4 appropriately reflects the new priorities in the legislation. Prevention first, return to work where possible, labour market re-entry where necessary and compensation as required.
Mr Christopherson: Could you just state again please what the rationale is in paragraph 4?
Mr Maves: It was previously limited to a spouse. We inadvertently left out children. By using "survivor" it includes children.
Mr Christopherson: You're replacing the existing 3, "To provide compensation and other benefits to those workers and to the spouses and dependants of deceased workers"? Why would you change the language at all?
Mr Maves: We inadvertently left out children and it's supposed to include both.
Mr Christopherson: I'm sorry, I just want to be clear. I don't have a point of argument yet. I am not clear on what's happening. Under Bill 99 as you presented it, it does state "spouses and dependants of deceased workers." I would think that means children, and yet you're arguing you need to amend your proposed Bill 99 to provide for children. I am a little unclear.
Ms Rappolt: Perhaps I could help Mr Christopherson in the definitions. The definition of the word "dependants" does not include children. It has another meaning than children. It is "survivor" that includes the spouse, the dependant and the child. That's why we substituted "survivors," in order to have the full meaning.
Mr Christopherson: So it's under the definition of "dependants." Give me just one second then. All right.
Mr Patten: I had a similar question. I gather that this is to enhance, not to restrict.
Mr Christopherson: Let's be clear: This is not a new enhancement; it's to clarify the original intent in the existing law.
Mr Maves: That's correct. It originally had children and we wanted to make sure it had children.
Mr Christopherson: God forbid there should be an enhancement anywhere for people.
Mr Bisson: I just need some clarification here because as it reads now that particular section says it will "provide compensation and other benefits to those workers and to the spouses and dependants..." That tells me that, especially in the case of death, there would be survivors' benefits paid to the wife, being the spouse, and in some cases we pay the children if they were dependants of the deceased worker. As I read what you're saying here, you're saying, "To provide compensation and other benefits to workers and to the survivors of the deceased workers." Why take "dependants" out?
Mr Maves: It includes all three: spouse, child or dependant. "Survivor" in the definition includes all three.
Mr Bisson: Maybe I'm misunderstanding here. It now says in the act, as you propose it, "spouses and dependants of deceased workers."
Mr Maves: Not child. By putting in "survivor," that's child.
Mr Bisson: What you're saying in the new 4 is "provide compensation and other benefits to workers and to the survivors...."
Mr Maves: Right.
Mr Bisson: It's probably not a problem, but I just want to understand.
Ms Rappolt: Right now, paragraph 3 in Bill 99 reads, "To provide compensation and other benefits to those workers and to their spouses and dependants of deceased workers." What we're substituting is, "To provide compensation and other benefits to workers and to the survivors of deceased workers." "Survivor" means in our definitions "a spouse, child or dependant." We're trying to be fully inclusive.
Mr Bisson: Gotcha.
The Chair: Further debate? Seeing none, then I put the question. Recorded vote.
Gilchrist, Hastings, Hoy, Maves, O'Toole, Ouellette, Patten, Spina.
The Chair: The motion carries.
Shall section 1 of schedule A carry as amended? Recorded vote.
Gilchrist, Hastings, Maves, O'Toole, Ouellette, Spina.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
The Chair: Section 1, as amended, carries.
Moving now to the next amendment, top of page 14, it's a Liberal motion.
Mr Patten: I wish to withdraw this motion number 14 and number 15 as well.
The Chair: Motions 14 and 15 withdrawn.
Mr Christopherson: Could I ask, just for my own edification, why it's being withdrawn? What's the problem?
Mr Patten: Because in going through these things so quickly, as you well know, and putting them together, in looking at this more closely it's more restrictive in terms of the eligibility of compensation and we felt that wasn't fair.
Mr Christopherson: I will just say I'm pleased that you're doing that because certainly there were no injured workers who wanted this. This was being put forward by employers and on page 15 your motion was even rejected by the likes of Cam Jackson because it wouldn't do any good and would increase litigation. So I'm very pleased to see that you've seen the light and withdrawn this.
The Chair: Moving now then to the amendment on page 16, this is a government motion.
Mr Maves: I move that subsection 2(1) of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as set out in schedule A of the Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1997, be amended by adding the following definitions:
">attorney= means a person authorized under a power of attorney for property given under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992;
">earnings= or >wages= include any remuneration capable of being estimated in terms of money but does not include contributions made under section 24 for employment benefits;
">guardian,= except in subsections 29(3) and 60(4), means a guardian of property appointed under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 or a statutory guardian of property designated by or appointed under that act;
"'silicosis' means a fibrotic condition of the lungs caused by the inhalation of silica dust that is sufficient to produce a lessened capacity for work."
The amendment corrects drafting oversight be reinserting into the act the definitions of "earnings" and "wages" and "silicosis" from the WCA. In addition, the definitions of "attorney" and "guardian" are added to the act.
Mr Christopherson: I just need your guidance, Chair. I'm looking at the compendium that we're provided with and I'm not coming out with the same. Which section does this apply to?
The Chair: Subsection 2(1).
Mr Christopherson: Where I'm confused is, the notes are referring to changes that affect the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, so I must be on the wrong page.
The Chair: Are you on page 12 of the bill?
Mr Christopherson: Hang on.
The Chair: Halfway down.
Mr Christopherson: What page in the compendium, maybe from the legal people?
Ms Rappolt: We're reading from page 40A.
Mr Christopherson: Right, that's what I wanted. That's fine, thank you. I just wanted to make sure we're singing from the same hymn book here.
Mr Bisson: Can I ask why it is that in the amendment under the definitions you're giving a definition around silicosis. Isn't that already defined? I need to understand why.
Mr Maves: Along with earnings and wages it was a definition that was inadvertently left out of the act when they rewrote it.
Mr Bisson: It was in the original act, wasn't it?
Mr Maves: Yes, it's in there.
Mr Bisson: That's what I thought. So this is the same definition of silicosis as in the existing act, am I to believe?
Mr Maves: Yes.
Mr Bisson: When it comes to guardian, is that the same argument -- guardian, earnings and attorney?
Mr Maves: "Guardian" and "attorney" I believe are there because of the Substitute Decisions Act. Maybe counsel can verify that.
Ms Cohen: Those are new definitions. Those don't exist in the current act and the reason that we are putting them in is due to the redraft of the current act. We have clarified section 29 and section 60 in schedule A that refer to, in the case of section 29, rights of actions that an incapable person or a child may have, and, in section 60, payments made by the board to persons who are incapable or to children. What we've had to do is interrelate it to the Substitute Decisions Act, and those are the same definitions that exist in that act.
Mr Bisson: On the question of earnings, is that the same definition?
Ms Cohen: Earnings or wages, yes, that was left out. That's in the current act.
Mr Bisson: But that's the same language? That's what I'm getting at.
Ms Cohen: Yes.
Mr Bisson: That's all I needed to know.
The Chair: Further debate? Seeing none, I'll put the question with a recorded vote, please.
Galt, Gilchrist, Hastings, Maves, O'Toole, Ouellette, Spina.
Christopherson, Hoy, Patten.
The Chair: The motion carries.
Moving to the next amendment, page 17, this is an NDP motion.
Mr Christopherson: I move that the definition of "board" in subsection 2(1) of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, as set out in schedule A of the Workers' Compensation Reform Act, 1997, be struck out and the following substituted:
">board= means the Workers= Compensation Board."
What we are seeking to do is keep the name we currently have. There's a million dollars there that we think can be saved and put to injured workers. We don't need to be changing this name.
Mr Bisson: I'm not going to get into it at any length on this, but if the government is serious about trying to save money, here's one place we can save a million bucks. It's not a big deal. It means to say that all of the literature that the board now has, all the letterhead that they have, all of the signage that they have etc is going to have to be changed in order to take away the word "board" and replace it by "insurance scheme."
If the government is looking at a way to save a million bucks in order to deal with either the unfunded liability or maybe they want to give a bigger break to their employer friends or, even better, give it to injured workers, here's a way you can do it. I'll be interested to see what the parliamentary assistant has to say.
Mr Maves: I think we had this debate about the name of the board on the first day, and my comments from that day would still stand.
Mr Patten: I support the amendment for the same reasons that have already been expressed. But just to elaborate one other point, surely the government knows there is tremendous insecurity by injured workers or workers in the workplace who are not injured at the moment, but worry about their future. If it were up to me, I'd say why change it when you're going to add insecurity to a definition when a lot of people believe this is one step away from privatization and they feel more comfortable with the term "workers' compensation" because the original intent was to compensate injured workers.
Mr Hastings: It's quite evident, if you look at the purpose clause of the act, if you look at the general configuration of the legislation, that the whole intent still is to ensure adequate and fair compensation for injured employees and rehabilitating workers.
In terms of the million dollars that the NDP -- this is really quite preposterous. It's a first that the third party's interested in saving money. In point of fact, when you make changes to organizations, whatever their name is, to whatever they're going to -- it's quite obvious that the original name "Workers' Compensation," all its letterhead, all its vehicles, any of the public relations or communications pamphlets will still be used until they've been exhausted, at least the correspondence. I don't think you're going to see boxes of letterhead thrown out simply because there's a change in name. As for the amount of money, a million, if you divided that by the number of injured workers, I'm sure it would come down to probably a penny, if that. For a party that was so concerned about saving a million, just think of the hundreds of millions they wasted on a new office building, which was completely needless, that we inherited. That one really helped the injured workers.
Mr Christopherson: I find the hypocrisy in your comments just overwhelming. For you to be one of the ones attacking the inclusion --
Mr Hastings: Make the hypocrisy yours in these hearings.
Mr Christopherson: You were one of the ones who argued that "fair" ought not be in there, but the first opportunity you had, you want to use how fair you're being because you want fair compensation. Don't you see the hypocrisy? You say the word but you won't put it in the law. You won't back it up.
The Chair: Order, please. Please take your seat, sir.
We'll recess for five minutes, please.
The committee recessed from 1748 to 1751.
The Chair: All right, our next speaker in our continuing debate is Mr Bisson.
Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Madam Chair: I heard the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale suggest that the workers here were trained seals. I think that is highly inflammatory.
The Chair: That is not a point of order, Mr Bisson.
Mr Gilchrist: It is not. Cite the standing orders. What standing orders are you referring to. It's a speech.
Mr Bisson: So is it proper for members of the audience --
The Chair: It's nothing to do with procedure, as you well know.
Mr Bisson: So they can insult the public any time they want?
The Chair: That's not the issue. Do you wish to speak to the motion that's on the floor? No? Mr Christopherson.
Mr Christopherson: I was continuing my response on our motion to leave the name the way it was.
The only other things I wanted to add for the record -- and Mr Maves is right, we did have this discussion on the opening day. Quite frankly, Parliamentary Assistant, I'm still waiting for a satisfactory answer to the questions I put to you. You have not answered them and I will place them to you again.
If you're so concerned about fairness and if you're so concerned about balance and if you're so concerned about prevention of illness and disease and accidents in the workplace, why have you taken away the words "Workers' Compensation" from the title of the bill? Why have you done that?
Mr Maves: As I said last week, there's a renewed emphasis on workplace safety and that's recognized by the name change in the bill. Of course, in the purpose clause we talk about the purposes of the board: "to promote health and safety in workplaces and to prevent and reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and occupational diseases; to facilitate the return to work and recovery of workers who sustain personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment or who suffer from an occupational disease; to provide compensation...." -- it's still a purpose in the bill -- "to facilitate the re-entry into the labour market of survivors of deceased workers where appropriate."
We also have incorporated in the function portion of the bill many new responsibilities for the board which speak to its need to turn its attention and become the focal point in Ontario of the promotion of health and safety in workplaces and to prevent and reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.
We think the reorientation of the board, their new role as coordinator of health and safety, prevention of injuries is very relevant and we wanted the name of the board to reflect that: hence, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Some of the functions we've given to the board that speak to this are the board's functions: "to promote public awareness of occupational health and safety; to educate employers, workers and other persons about occupational health and safety; to foster a commitment to occupational health and safety among employers, workers and others; to develop standards for the certification of persons who are required to be certified for the purposes of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and to improve training programs for certification; to certify persons who meet the standards; to develop standards for the accreditation of employers who adopt health and safety policies and operate successful health and safety programs; to accredit employers who meet the standards."
There are other functions too of the new board. I think these ones are essential. The overall direction of the bill is to have the board take over, as I said, for the province the guidance of health and safety systems in Ontario. I believe it was Mr Smith's tax force which thought that there should be some reorientation, that the board indeed needed to become the focal point for workplace safety, that there were some problems with the safe workplace associations and the worker training centres and the health clinic, the medical clinics, that they were all going off in different directions and that there wasn't accountability, there was no coordination. The recommendation came forward that those come under the aegis of the new board and that workplace health and safety be coordinated by the board through these workplace parties.
Workers' compensation and health and safety mandates are integrated in many other provinces: British Columbia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, PEI, Quebec and the Yukon. We thought, when we were redoing the workers' compensation system in Ontario, it would be important for us to act on some of those recommendations we had. I think Mr Jackson felt the same when he did his study. We felt it was vitally important that we have this reorientation for the board. Since it was such a change, really, in the health and safety system in Ontario, we thought the board's name should reflect that, and that's why we called it the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Those are many of the reasons, the principles behind why we changed the name. It's the principles that are reflected from other bodies that reported back to us. As I said, I believe not only was it Brock Smith's report, but I think it was Mr Gladstone's report that also talked about changing the board's responsibilities in this direction. For all those reasons, reasons that I talked about last week, we changed the name to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
The Chair: Order, please. Mr Patten, further debate?
Mr Christopherson: I still have the floor.
The Chair: All right, we'll allow him to complete his question. My apologies.
Mr Christopherson: I had the floor and he started running the clock. I just want to respond that that's a load of crap, and the parliamentary assistant knows it. Everything that you've read out that's supposed to be renewed, new emphasis was already there in the Workplace Health and Safety Agency or it was already there in the Occupational Disease Panel. Those responsibilities were taken out of WCB because they weren't being done properly inside WCB. You're taking us back to those dark days because you have no intent to make the workplace any safer. That's why you killed the agency and that's why you're killing the ODP, and the $1 million is just a waste.
Mr Patten: Before we vote on this, I wonder if the parliamentary assistant can confirm, because I thought the suggestion from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale was a good one, that if indeed this is passed and there is a name change, all the paper, all the envelopes, all the letterhead, all the brochures, all the vehicles will be used until they're completed before the new logo or the new name is utilized. Could you confirm that to this committee at some point?
Mr Maves: Actually, I can't confirm that one way or the other. That would be an operational policy of the board. I think Mr Hastings was expressing his desire to see the efficient use of funds. Whether the board actually is planning on doing that I can't really comment on.
Mr Bisson: I want to know that there is some assurance if the government is truly serious about trying to save money to pay down the unfunded liability and to make sure there are -- we can't say "fairer workers' compensation" any more -- benefits towards injured workers. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale said that he was going to guarantee us that none of the stationery would be thrown out, everything would be used, the supplies would be allowed to run down before they went out and bought others. To the parliamentary assistant, is it the intention of the government to give that direction to the board? To the parliamentary assistant.
Mr Hastings: Point of clarification on that.
Mr Bisson: He wants to clarify.
The Chair: Mr Hastings, point of clarification, and then to Mr Gilchrist.
Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Madam Chair: Since the member, M. Bisson, is such a careful listener, really a careful listener, I did not use the words, I'll repeat again, I did not use the words that we would guarantee. I said that there could be a normal expectation that in the changeover --
The Chair: Order, please. Take your seats. Mr Gilchrist, further debate?
Mr Gilchrist: I think Mr Bisson's request should be accompanied by a request to the NDP that if it wasn't just a specious and rhetorical rant they were on and they have any evidence of the cost of a million dollars, they will table that with the parliamentary assistant to enable him to do his research thoroughly, so that they're not enflaming people with absolutely drawn-out-of-the-air numbers, as they usually do. After the way they mismanaged this province, I wouldn't trust them to do the accounting of the cost of a meal at McDonald's.
With that, Madam Chair, I ask that you put the question.
Mr Christopherson: The million dollars is in the Jackson report, Gilchrist, and your own staff confirmed it the first day.
The Chair: Order, please. Mr Bisson still has the floor. I am not going to put the question. I am going to adjourn and we'll reconvene on our next appointed day, which will be Monday at 3:30.
Mr Bisson: Madam Chair, I have --
The Chair: We're out of time; we'll adjourn and reconvene.
The committee adjourned at 1803.