It is my understanding that the Fair Practices Office will assist workers every step of the way which would include expert representation throughout the appeals process and as well as legal representation in the event of Judicial Appeals and if not, there is little point of having a Fair Practices Office. Question is, what then will happen to the Office of the Appeals Advisor which has never represented workers as an independent body because in reality, they were a part of WCB under WCB Legal Services. In my opinion, the Office of the Appeals Advisor would have to be abolished which is a good thing and would be cost effective, thereby saving employers a significant amount of money.
There is little point in proceeding with any changes until the Government can determine as to who has the burden of proof. Based on the historic agreement, workers and employers have no burden of proof at all in an Inquiry based system but it is evident that some how in the past, the burden of proof was illegally shifted from the “Board” to the worker. Some one in Government has to ensure that the historic agreement is complied with as at this time the system is at present based on civil law (Adversarial system) rather than administrative law that is specific to workers compensation systems.
Rather than claims resulting in an adversarial system which exists now, predictably if the burden of proof both for and against is not dealt with, the courts will be used as a battle ground for WCB/Appeals Commission legal counsel who have customarily represented employers and the Fair Practices legal counsel as it winds it’s way from the Court of Queens Bench, Alberta Appeals Court and the Supreme Court of Canada at no cost to a worker which is a good thing for workers who in the past had to pay lawyers to represent them. Claims could drag on for years although if workers are provided interim relief as proposed, no one really cares how long it takes to reach a conclusion.
In conclusion, anything worth doing has to be done right rather than to make changes without any thought as to how the changes will work out to benefit both workers and employers.