This is page numbers 19 - 39 of the Hansard for the 13th Assembly, 8th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was nurses.

Topics

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Bill 1 is now ready for third reading. I would like to thank the Minister and his witnesses. Thank you. We will now deal with Bill 5. The Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Miltenberger.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today we are considering an amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act. This amendment is to address a problem identified with the section dealing with third party actions in transportation accidents.

The difficulty with the section as currently written is that it allows injured workers to sue their own employers and co-workers in transportation related accidents. This goes against the first principle of workers' compensation legislation - that an injured worker cannot sue his own employer.

The proposed amendment does not affect the ability of northern workers to be treated fairly when they are injured. Workers will continue to be covered by workers' compensation and have access to a series of reviews and appeals if they are not satisfied with the compensation they receive.

Mr. Chairman, Bill 5 is intended to address an unforeseen issue arising from Section 12 of the Workers' Compensation Act. This amendment will ensure that our act is consistent with the principles of workers' compensation across Canada. I am prepared to answer any questions Members may have about the proposed amendment.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Chairman of the Standing Committee on Government Operations. Mr. Erasmus.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

September 8th, 1999

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Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Standing Committee on Government Operations reviewed Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act, at its meetings on September 7 and 8, 1999.

The committee would like to thank the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board for presenting the bill and responding to the committee's questions.

Bill 5 would amend the Workers' Compensation Act to prohibit lawsuits relating to transportation accidents against the worker's employer or co-worker. Lawsuits for transportation accidents would still be allowed against other employers and workers within the workers' compensation system.

Members will remember that the Workers' Compensation Act was amended in November, 1998, by a private Member's bill. Prior to the amendment, the Northwest Territories was unique in Canada because not all employers and workers had a general protection from lawsuits for work-related injuries. Under workers' compensation principles, injured workers give up their right to sue employers and other workers covered by the system in exchange for the right to receive benefits under a no-fault compensation system funded by employers. This is known as the "historic trade-off".

However, in the Northwest Territories, an injured worker could sue workers and employers covered by the act so long as the person was not the injured worker's own employer or co-worker.

The original private Member's bill introduced last fall would have amended the act to prohibit lawsuits against any other worker or employer covered by the act. This is consistent with the fundamental principles of workers' compensation.

However, during the public hearings, the then Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board made a submission to the Standing Committee on Government Operations recommending that a number of exceptions be made to the private Member's bill, so that more lawsuits would be allowed.

One of the Workers' Compensation Board recommendations was that lawsuits for work-related injuries should be allowed where the injury was caused by a vehicle accident. The rationale for this was that the liability would be covered by insurance, since insurance is required by law. Six other jurisdictions have some type of exemption allowing lawsuits for vehicle accidents.

However, there are different approaches to these exceptions.

Some jurisdictions allow injured workers to sue anyone, where the injury arose out of the use of a vehicle. It does not matter if the person being sued is the employer or co-worker of the injured person.

Others allow lawsuits where the injury arose from the use of a vehicle, but not if the operator of the vehicle was the employer or co-worker of the injured worker.

The WCB submission did not specifically discuss whether lawsuits should be allowed against all employers and workers, or only those other than the employer or co-worker of the injured worker.

Several amendments were made in standing committee to the private Member's bill to implement the Minister's suggestions. The amendments as passed allow lawsuits where the accident is caused in the use of a motor vehicle or other mode of transportation. It does not matter whether the accident involved the injured person's co-worker or employer. This is the same approach used in some other jurisdictions.

This bill will amend the Workers' Compensation Act so that transportation lawsuits will be allowed only if the operator of the vehicle is not the employer or co-worker of the injured worker.

Mr. Chairman, the majority of the members of the standing committee have no difficulty with this amendment. However, we would prefer that it go farther. Most members of the committee would prefer that the entire exception allowing lawsuits for transportation accidents be repealed. In members' view, there is little distinction in principle between lawsuits brought by one's own employees or co-workers and lawsuits brought by other workers. Allowing any lawsuits is inconsistent with the general principle of workers' compensation.

This concludes the standing committee's comments on Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Erasmus. At this time I would like to ask the Minister if he would be bringing in witnesses.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you. Yes, Mr. Chairman.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Does the committee agree?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Can the Sergeant-at-Arms escort the witnesses in? At this time I would like to ask the Minister to introduce his witnesses.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To my immediate left is Mr. Mike Triggs from the WCB legal counsel, and to my right is Mr. Mark Aitkens from Justice.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Thank you, Mr. Minister. Are there any general comments in regards to the bill? Detail. Clause by clause. Clause 1. Agreed?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Krutko

Clause 2. Agreed?

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.