While there may be some disgruntled people with the findings and recommendations of the Review Panel, it is a step in the right direction. The credit for all of this goes to the NDP Government who rather than follow the Conservative Government’s inaction by not fixing the system even though the last review by Justice Friedman and Victor Doerkson determined that workers were getting the short end of the stick.
It must be realized that workers have very little or no power to lobby Government for change as opposed to employers whose lobbying will entice Governments to enact legislation as a means to change the economics of a province by reducing benefits for workers and maintaining or reducing premiums for employers. Employers can reduce their premiums by ensuring that accidents don’t happen rather than to cut corners when it comes to safety. There are very few accidents that are not preventable but prevention costs money which affects an employers bottom line.
I have some concerns with the WCA that still have not been addressed which is specific to the use of the word “may” in many sections of the WCA when the word may should be replaced by the word “shall”. I take exception to the fact that workers who have long standing claims are not having their claims re-adjudicated by an independent panel. I also take exception to the use of deeming which would not happen if workers were provided with suitable vocational assistance when it is obvious that they no longer able to be employed in the work they had made their living in prior to their injury. The WCA is at odds with deeming as the “Act is quite clear that any worker who is incapable of becoming gainfully employed is totally disabled. Gainful work is not imaginary work and paid by imaginary earnings. There are far too many disabled workers in Alberta being supported by Social Assistance Programs and as well as having their medical costs paid for also out of the public purse. This should be the next step that the NDP Government should do and that is to find out how many disabled workers are on Social Assistance and they number in the hundreds or thousands. Any surplus funds in the accident fund should go to the Provincial Government.
All in all, the Panel did a good job and it must be realized that it took decades for the self destruction of the system aided and abetted by the Conservative Government and if meaningful reviews were held on a regular basis of every three years, perhaps the system most likely function for the benefits of workers and not be used as an economic incentive by Provincial Governments to entice business to stay in Alberta or to entice businesses from other provinces to relocate to Alberta.