Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, several years ago, the Legislative Assembly wanted to provide some form of special insurance coverage under the Workers' Compensation Board for those people who were full-time hunters and trappers. It was never intended to provide coverage for those people who only occasionally hunted, but the program would be designed for those who spent most of their working time hunting and trapping "professionally."
Mr. Speaker, copies of various original Hansard debates are now being distributed to all Members. These will show the discussions that took place at that time and the reasons for the coverage.
As a result of those debates, a program was developed in late 1987. The total cost of providing this insurance coverage was paid for by the government through the Department of Renewable Resources.
There were some problems in determining who would be eligible for the program. Normally, the salary of the worker is used to determine the level of coverage that the worker could receive. There is always a maximum level of benefits that can be received, and this is based on the YMIR, yearly maximum insurable remuneration. In 1988 the YMIR level was set at $40,000 and remains the same today.
Early in 1990 the WCB reviewed the program, and many meetings were held on all aspects of the program. The Department of Renewable Resources, among others, was involved in these discussions.
Since there was no such thing as a "salary level" for hunters and trappers, it was necessary to develop some criteria to determine who would be eligible for the program and to determine the level of benefits that a hunter would receive. It was obvious that new guidelines were needed that would be clear and fair to all. The WCB recognized that the guidelines would have to include not only the value of the furs taken but also the value of the country foods that were used to feed the hunter and his or her family members.
Following direction from cabinet, the WCB established policy guidelines in August of 1990 which took these values into account, and it was determined that in order to determine eligibility, the value of the furs harvested would be added to the value of the food used. The minimum level to be eligible for the program was set at $10,000 for a full-time harvester.
When a claim is received, the WCB will seek proof from the hunter or trapper that they meet or exceed the $10,000 level to be eligible for benefits. The benefits will not be based on the $10,000 but at 90 per cent of the YMIR in place at that time, less some reductions, such as income tax and Canada Pension Plan. Today a hunter would receive compensation or pension benefits based on the present YMIR of $40,000.
Information on the new guidelines was distributed across the Territories for the information of all full-time hunters and trappers. The WCB can also provide coverage for those persons who are not eligible for this coverage. Persons who have other sources of employment and pursue hunting and trapping only occasionally can purchase "personal optional protection coverage." At present this coverage costs four dollars per $100 of coverage. To purchase the full coverage of $40,000 would therefore cost $1600 per year.
Mr. Speaker, since we do not have staff in every region, it is difficult for the WCB alone to administer this type of coverage across the Territories. This is why it has been very helpful to have the active involvement of the Department of Renewable Resources in programs such as this.
We are also trying our best to develop policies and procedures that are fair to all, and thus the board continually reviews all of these policies and procedures with affected groups. At present, the WCB is continuing their reviews of the hunters' and trappers' program with the Department of Renewable Resources and other interested parties. Any suggestions from Members of this Assembly will be welcomed.
I do hope that the information session held today has assisted Members to better understand the operation of the Workers' Compensation Board. I would also point out that Members who are approached by constituents for information or assistance are welcome to raise their concerns with myself, my staff, or staff of the WCB itself. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.