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The Labour Party of BC

Suzanne Anton
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Suzanne Anton: the NDP’s appointee has apparently decided her own 10-year-old report should be the basis of her review of workers’ compensation.

Some governments are pro-business, others try to tread carefully down a middle way, and others are unabashedly Labour Governments.

The current BC NDP, the governing party, has become the Labour Party of BC.

Following the egregious so-called “community benefits agreements,” by which taxpayer dollars are funneled directly to a certain group of favoured building unions, helping them support their party of choice, the BC NDP, we now have the Workers’ Compensation Review.

Workers’ Compensation is foundational to the safety and protection of workers. Job site accident? WorkSafeBC personnel will be there immediately to determine the causes and require solutions. Compensation will be established. Every worker must go home safely to their families. Workers should be compensated for injuries stemming from their employment.

“BC’s employers were willing to go along in the process.”

Should the system be reviewed? No issue. Every government system should be regularly reviewed. In fact, one of the frequent causes of waste and futility in governments is a lack of continuous program assessment and review.

So when the NDP government recently announced a review of BC’s worker compensation system to “increase the confidence of workers and employers,” BC’s employers were willing to go along with the process.

The review was the third in fairly short order. The first two reviews, in 2018, looked at claim adjudication policies and how to manage the unappropriated balance in the accident fund, respectively. Employers had limited involvement in those reviews.

By March 2019, it was time for yet another, this time a “focused review” of the workers’ compensation system. The NDP appointed retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson to conduct the review. The government news release set out a list of matters for review: return to work policies; gender and diversity analysis; modernization of culture; injured workers’ case management; and potential related amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Employers met with Patterson early on, and by July had provided a comprehensive 38-page submission. As the funders of the entire system, one can imagine they have a keen interest.

Yet in short order, employers have gone from being interested and engaged stakeholders to a group which has now pulled out entirely. By letter and statement on the 14 August, they announced that they have no confidence in the process and are no longer participating.

The reason? Once again the Labour Party, the BC NDP, has overplayed its hand. In seeking a more worker-centred system, they appointed a reviewer who had already authored a report on the workers’ compensation system for the BC Federation of Labour in 2009.

That report, “Adding Insult to Injury,” made 24 recommendations based on its conclusions at the time. Employers had no role in that process.

Now in 2019, instead of a “focused review,” the review is in fact focused on the recommendations made in 2009 – by the very same reviewer. It’s very difficult to have confidence in a process when the conclusions appear to have been arrived at before the process even begins.

“The employers’ opinion…does not appear to be relevant.”

In a rather remarkable show of common purpose, 46 employer associations wrote to Patterson to announce their withdrawal from the process. The associations represent businesses of all sizes in all parts of the province and in virtually all aspects of BC’s economy.

They are done with a process where their participation appears to be window dressing, not true participants in a genuine inquiry as to improvements to BC’s workers’ compensation system.

It is their employees who are impacted, it is their resources which support the system – and yet it is their opinion which does not appear to be relevant.

Suzanne Anton QC is a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of British Columbia and a former Vancouver City Councillor

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