Government is never going to understand the concept of transparency. Every time the government has an opportunity to do something that actually translates into a meaningful activity, they merely go through the process of attempting to do something on behalf of a particular group, apparently assuming that the rest of us are too stunned to figure out that in the end, nothing meaningful is likely to occur.
Earlier this year, the Minister of Service NL appointed a committee representing key stakeholders to oversee the statutory review process of the Workers Compensation system. This is a committee that, by legislation, is struck every five years in order to address potential ways to improve the delivery of services by the Commission. The chair of that Statutory Review Committee is the WHSCC board representative. A retired human resources practitioner was appointed employer representative, and a fire captain was appointed employee representative. These three people are charged with the responsibility of meeting with stakeholders in order to collect information that might be used to make recommendations to government regarding potential improvements in the system.
It would stand to reason that employers, workers and the Commission would want the best representation possible for the particular group they represent. It would be entirely appropriate for the Commission representative to also be the Chairman of the Board of the Workers Compensation Commission. While I cannot speak with any knowledge about the capacity or experience of the other two individuals and their respective experiences with the group that they represent, I can’t help but believing that injured workers and the concerns they hold most dear might better be served if they had a representative who is at least as equally knowledgeable about the applicable legislation and legalities as the Chairman of the Board would be, who is, after all, serving as the chairperson of the committee charged with identifying the delivery of services.
That committee has also determined what questions they wish to address when meeting with stakeholders, a process that is ongoing at this time. Based on the areas that they have identified for discussion, it is my most humble opinion that the injured workers of this province will gain very little if anything from this exercise. The committee will once again engage in an exercise that for all intents and purposes is something the government undertakes for appearance sake only.
After having served seven years as a Review Commissioner, I can say with some authority that the bane of existence for injured workers is a reconsideration process that any party part of a review decision can request when they are dissatisfied with the decision by the Review Division. Normally, a challenged decision would proceed to the courts. To my understanding, there is no other jurisdiction in Canada that has placed this extra layer in the administrative law process that has routinely been used, mostly by the Commission and usually at the expense of the worker, in delaying judgement on their case. The reconsideration process is one that workers have consistently argued is a bar to a speedy resolution to their case. Though likely not intended, it often results in the Commission using the legislation as a sword against workers, as opposed to a shield designed to protect injured workers.
There may be nothing wrong with the Chairman of the Board of the Workers Compensation system also being the Chair of the Statutory Review committee charged with the responsibility of examining the delivery of services. On the other hand, governments would be more credible if those individuals appointed to such committees were as independent as they are knowledgeable about how the compensation system works. Because governments are unimaginative in the area of committee membership selection, you probably shouldn’t expect too much to change from their information gathering process. I know I don’t.