Roles

Elsewhere

Last in the Legislative Assembly December 1999, as MLA for Yellowknife North

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 21% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters September 8th, 1999

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 September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Standing Committee on Government Operations reviewed Bill 1, An Act to Amend the Public Colleges Act, at its meeting on September 8, 1999. The committee would like to thank the Minister of Education Culture and Employment and the staff for presenting the bill. Bill 1 will allow Aurora College to issue university degrees when it has developed the capability to do so. The college will continue working with our southern educational partners to develop degree programs that can be delivered entirely in the North. Mr. Chairman, the standing committee had no difficulty with Bill 1. It is a logical step in the development of quality educational programs for Northerners. Committee members may have additional comments or questions as we proceed. This concludes the standing committee's comments on Bill 1, An Act to Amend the Public Colleges Act. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Item 12: Reports Of Committees On The Review Of Bills September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to report to the Legislative Assembly that the Standing Committee on Government Operations has reviewed Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Workers' Compensation Act, and we wish to report that Bill 5 is ready for consideration in committee of the whole.

And Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to waive Rule 70(5) and have Bill 5 moved into committee of the whole today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 11-13(8): Pay And Benefits To Medical Professionals September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad to hear that we are doing something to recruit and retain nurses, but equally as valuable, or maybe even more, are the doctors. I know that we are having a problem recruiting doctors here in Yellowknife, so I would like to know if the Minister, if this plan includes anything for recruiting and retaining doctors, as well?

Question 11-13(8): Pay And Benefits To Medical Professionals September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Minister had also indicated in his statement that in May, we were experiencing a vacancy rate among all nurses of 20 percent but that now the rate is down to 10 percent. I was wondering if the Minister could indicate what level of experience do those new nurses have because I understand that, in the past, we have had inexperienced nurses going into communities and they have been medevacing a lot of people that perhaps should not have been medevaced and this was driving up our costs in this area. Could the Minister indicate what level of experience these 10 percent of nurses have that we have hired? Thank you.

Question 11-13(8): Pay And Benefits To Medical Professionals September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I could rephrase my question. When you factor in the cost of living in the Northwest Territories, do we still have the highest rates of compensation of the nurses in Canada? Thank you.

Question 11-13(8): Pay And Benefits To Medical Professionals September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Health and Social Services. My questions are in relation to the Minister's statement on paying benefits to medical professionals in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, in the Minister's statement he had indicated that they had put together a group of stakeholders to decide what to do with the $3 million for the Recruitment and Retention Program. He also indicated that the government, or somebody had done a study which showed that NWT nursing salaries were the highest based salaries of nurses in Canada. Once they looked at the benefits they found that our compensation levels were still very competitive. Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that given the fact that we have the highest cost of living in Canada, it is natural that we should have the highest based salary. Not only the highest based salary, it should be substantially higher than anybody else. Mr. Speaker, I would like the Minister to indicate now, when he says we found our compensation levels were still competitive, could he describe that a little bit more fully so we get a better picture? Thank you.

Member's Statement 13-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, I believe that it is incumbent on this government to try to assist the workers in getting an extension on the 15 days that they have been given to put together some type of a deal.

The other thing that was clearly, clearly evident, is that the general public is not really aware of how powerless we are in this situation and in most instances when it comes to the federal government. The federal government, as we know, holds the power in most areas and we most often have to ask them for information to do certain things and if they feel like doing it they do, if they do not, they do not. But the general public does not seem to be aware of this. This is one of the main reasons, as Mr. Henry has indicated, why we have to work on getting our natural resources and the power to control them, transferred to the North. With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence and I thank our Members for allowing me to conclude my statement.

--Applause

Member's Statement 13-13(8): Concerns Of Giant Mine Employees September 8th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Like my fellow colleagues from Yellowknife I wish to comment on our constituency meeting yesterday. As has been indicated, the primary topic was the imminent sale of Giant Mine to Miramar and what the consequences of that sale could be. The employees have been given a reprieve of 15 days to put together some type of a deal whereby there could be an alternative to Miramar buying that mine. The thing that people are primarily concerned about is that if Miramar is successful in their bid, the vast majority of the workers would be laid off since a lot of the work would be consolidated and only some of the workers would be kept on, perhaps as few as fifty. Apparently this is a condition of the sale to the mine, that the employees do not come with the sale. The problem is how do you ensure that employees still get their pensions that they have worked so hard for and how do they get the severance pay that they are entitled to in their contracts?

The other thing that was brought up is the Emergency Gold Mining Assistance Act under which the federal government can implement a minimum rate for gold. This apparently has been used in other instances, I believe at the mine in Timmins, and we should probably be looking at the federal government to utilize this act.

The other thing we need to do is try to ensure that there is enough time for the union to put together some type of a deal to purchase this mine other than Miramar's purchase. Otherwise we will be looking at a lot of layoffs. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Question 6-13(8): Natural Gas Availability To Northerners September 7th, 1999

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank the Minister for his responses. My final question is, could the Minister get his staff to do an estimate of what it would cost to build a small pipeline, maybe five inches, or whatever, just a teeny one to bring gas over here and share that information with us, please? Thank you.