Today in the legislature I took the opportunity during Question Period to ask the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology about what his Ministry is doing to encourage integration between BC’s tech and mining sectors.
British Columbia is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, and many communities rely on these resources for their livelihoods. But British Columbia will never compete head to head in digging dirt out of the ground with other jurisdictions that don’t internalize the social and environmental externalities that are so important us to. We have to be smarter, more efficient and innovative. In doing so, we’re not only able to sell our resources, but we’re also able to sell the knowledge and value-added products that arise from them.
Rather than adopting a race-for-the-bottom approach to deregulation, we have an incredible opportunity here in British Columbia to integrate our tech sector and our extractive resource industries.
Below I reproduce the video and text of our exchange.
A. Weaver: British Columbia is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, and many communities rely on these resources for their livelihoods. But British Columbia will never compete head to head in digging dirt out of the ground with other jurisdictions that don’t internalize the social and environmental externalities that are so important us to. We have to be smarter, more efficient and innovative. In doing so, we’re not only able to sell our resources, but we’re also able to sell the knowledge and value-added products that arise from them.
Rather than adopting a race-for-the-bottom approach to deregulation, we have an incredible opportunity here in British Columbia to integrate our tech sector and our extractive resource industries. B.C.-based companies like MineSense, a company that creates digital mining technology, exemplifies such innovation.
To the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. Partnering our resource industries with B.C. innovation is an easy choice with obvious returns. What is this minister doing to encourage these partnerships?
Hon. B. Ralston: I share the member’s optimism about the power of technological discovery and innovation to transform very traditional resource industries. And in fact, that’s what we’re doing by appointing the innovation commissioner and expanding the mandate of Innovate B.C. to support emerging technologies that will assist in transforming our resource industries.
MineSense is a very good example that illustrates the point, I think, extremely effectively. MineSense is a company which won an award as one of the world’s top-100 new clean-tech companies. What is does is it’s a technology which assists in sorting mining ore through a sensor system, which makes the process more efficient and therefore more profitable, but it also reduces the use of water, reagents and other aspects of the mining process, and it reduces CO2 emissions, therefore making the entire process more energy-efficient and, in effect, greener.
That’s the kind of transformation that’s coming about in the sector, and that’s what the innovation commissioner and the innovation commission are setting out to continue and to enhance, building future prosperity here in British Columbia.
A. Weaver: For far too long, government has ignored the potential for innovation within the resource sector. A race-for-the-bottom approach to resource extraction may benefit a few corporate elite, but it’s not in the best interest of communities across our province struggling to attract and retain well-paying, long-term jobs.
It’s not our raw resources that can be profitable in the global markets; it’s our innovation too. Rimex, for example, is a B.C-based company that designs and manufactures innovative, cutting-edge industrial tires. Their products are efficient and reduce risk, and they’re also a prime example of B.C. innovation that’s gone global. The manufacturing base and corporate headquarters for Rimex are both located in the Lower Mainland, and there are over 200 Rimex employees in British Columbia.
My question to the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology is this: what is the minister doing to foster the growth of B.C. mining sector innovation in this global marketplace?
Hon. B. Ralston: Again, I thank the member for the question. The government, the Minister of Energy and Mines, has appointed a mining task force, and those issues that the member raises are precisely some of the issues that that task force will raise — how to integrate British Columbia’s leading innovation and technology sector with the traditional resource industries in order to make sure that they can compete globally.
Another example of a B.C. company that is transforming the mining sector is LlamaZOO, which by using data analytics and visualization technology, enables those proposing a mine to create a digital double of the mine and to plan the extraction of the ore in a more efficient way. That technology has attracted wide interest in the mining sector, and that company is, understandably, doing very well.
That’s just one example of what innovation and the support that’s given to it by the government of British Columbia will do to transform the mining sector and enable it to continue to be a world-leading sector here in British Columbia.
Today in the legislature I had the opportunity to rise once more in Question Period to question government further about the dubious economic justifications underpinning Alberta and Federal rhetoric supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Below I reproduce the video and text of my exchange with the Minister of the Environment.
A. Weaver: Yesterday, I asked the government whether they share the concerns being raised by many experts about the economics of the Trans Mountain pipeline. I’d like to pick up on that here.
Earlier this year and for the very first time, a new class of tanker — a very large crude carrier, or VLCC — left the newly refurbished Louisiana Offshore Oil Port destined for Asia. These tankers can load over two million barrels of oil, and the LOOP facility can fill them at a whopping rate of 100,000 barrels an hour.
The Aframax-class tankers that would leave the terminus at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline can only take 555,000 barrels of diluted bitumen out of Burrard Inlet. That means that any Asian buyer would need to contract four Aframax tankers from the Trans Mountain terminus versus only one VLCC from the LOOP facility.
Based on this obvious economic reality that any Asian buyers would be serviced by the VLCCs out of the U.S. and not out of the terminus of Trans Mountain, my question is this, to the either the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance or the Premier, if he’s here: is her government or his government and her ministry or the Premier’s office taking a hard look at the financial case for the Kinder Morgan pipeline?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the Leader of the Third Party for the question. I and other members of the government are certainly aware of the controversy around the economics, the different studies, the changes in conditions and different alternatives. I thank the Leader of the Third Party for reading these into the record.
But with respect to the Leader of the Third Party, it is the job of proponents to determine the economics. It is the job of other governments backing the project to determine the merits of the economics. I think all Canadian taxpayers would want other governments to take a long, hard look at the economics of a project in which they’re considering investing billions of dollars.
But our job, as the government of British Columbia, is to look at the interests of our environment and our economy, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we are considering every measure, every inch of our constitutional jurisdiction — to protect against a catastrophe that’s possible, that could have significant and awful economic interests on British Columbia. Tourism alone — 19,000 tourism businesses in British Columbia, employing 133,000 people in every corner of this province, in every constituency represented by members in this chamber.
It’s our duty, it’s our responsibility, to look out for those people. It’s not our responsibility to ignore them because a large project comes along. Our job is to ensure that if there are large projects, they don’t impact and take away the livelihood of those people or the $17 billion in revenue that the tourism industry generates every year in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
A. Weaver: I do thank the minister for his answer and his commitment to protecting British Columbia. But I respectfully disagree, because I believe it is the government’s responsibility to inform British Columbians about the economics of this proposal.
Why? Because the previous government claimed that the economic benefits for British Columbia were very large and, in fact, claimed that the government’s fifth condition was apparently met. Now unfortunately, the fifth condition was based on assertions that were put towards the 2012 National Energy Board in the submission. It’s now six years old, and many of the fundamental assumptions of that submission, of that economic case, on which the government claimed its fifth condition was met, are no longer valid.
Keystone XL and line 3 have been approved. That means that we have more than a million barrels a day of export capacity, which was unaccounted for. We’ve got North America now having the ability to ship through VCCs — that was never able. And we know that you can’t get bigger ships in Burrard Inlet. This government, I would argue, has a responsibility to review those numbers, so that British Columbians are given correct, accurate and up-to-date information about the economics of this project.
My question, Hon. Speaker, is to the Minister of Environment — through you and then through the Minister of Finance, who still has laryngitis. The previous provincial government made claims about the economic benefits to B.C. from this pipeline, that have been cast into serious doubt. Why isn’t this government examining the economic case more closely?
Hon. G. Heyman: Again, I thank the Leader of The Third Party. As he respectfully disagrees with me about the role of our government in this regard, I respectfully assert again to him that this is not a project that this government thinks is good for British Columbia. We’ve made that clear. We think the risk is so great, and far outweighs the reward.
What we are doing is ensuring that within our jurisdiction, within our ability to regulate and place conditions on a project that is federally decided upon — subject to an appeal to the federal court — we ensure that conditions and regulations are in place to protect our economy.
It’s important up and down our coast. We have a fisheries and seafood industry that contributes more than $660 million every year to our gross domestic product, and it employs 14,000 people, paying almost $400 million in wages.
Just yesterday, 450 businesses understood why we were taking this position; 450 B.C. businesses signed a joint letter calling on the government to continue to stand up for our coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on protecting our coastline and our environment from a spill.
Yesterday in the legislature I had the opportunity to rise in Question Period to question government about the dubious economic justifications underpinning Alberta and Federal rhetoric supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange with the Minister of the Environment.
A. Weaver: The federal and Alberta governments, not to mention the B.C. Liberals, with their alternate facts, hysterical rhetoric and revisionist history, have been fearmongering about the risks to our economy if the Trans Mountain expansion doesn’t go ahead.
Mr. Speaker: Member, if I may stop you for a moment. If you could ensure that your question does not refer to the opposition, since it’s supposed to be directed to the government member.
A. Weaver: That’s fair enough, hon. Speaker. I’ll make sure it doesn’t refer to the members opposite. I assume, hon. Speaker, that this will also be applied to when we’re referred to in their questions, because it’s been multiple times over the time that we’ve had here that they’ve referred to us. I look forward to that. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
A. Weaver: But it’s been reported that governments are actually basing economic claims on an analysis commissioned by Kinder Morgan itself. Experts are raising significant questions about this analysis, whether it’s because of changes in market conditions, flawed methodology or erroneous assumptions about how the oil markets function. Some raise serious doubts about the argument that we could fetch a higher price for our oil in Asia than in the U.S. One expert called this argument “kind of bogus.”
Add to this the fact that the price of oil has collapsed. In making its business case, Kinder Morgan assumed a price of $100 to $150 per barrel, and prices are now $60 per barrel.
My question is to the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, who I understand has laryngitis, so I will pose this question to the Minister of Environment. We’ve heard this government talk about the risk of a spill to our environment. But what is their position on the questionable claims made about the economic benefits of this pipeline?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the Leader of the Third Party for the question and raising these issues in the Legislature. Certainly, I’m aware of the difference in the market price of oil. I’m aware of questions that have been raised about the economics of the project as, I suspect, are most members of the House. However, with respect to those questions, that is not the primary concern of our government, nor is it the responsibility of our government to determine the economics of a project which we have neither initiated nor sought.
What is our job, however, is to ensure that we do everything we can to protect British Columbia’s economy, the tens of thousands of jobs in tourism, in film and television, in the seafood sector, and the billions in economic development that stand with it, all of which could be at risk from a single spill of diluted bitumen. We believe that we must defend B.C.’s economy. We must defend our interest. We must defend our environment.
We understand it’s a federal project — federally regulated — a project in terms of allowing it. We understand also that the constitution has a clear role for provinces in permitting, in conditions and in regulating against negative impacts that are a concern and a detriment to our province.
A. Weaver: The economic conditions have indeed changed significantly since Kinder Morgan was approved. We’ve seen oil prices crater due to world market changes. We face huge uncertainty about future prices due to new supply and to massive technological shifts, as markets around the world embrace renewable technology. Energy experts say it’s basically now impossible to predict future prices.
The analysis that Kinder Morgan relied upon in its application to the NEB and its claims of the economic benefits to Canada from this pipeline fundamentally assumed that there was no other export capacity that would be built.
Since then, Keystone XL and line 3 have now been approved, which add over one million barrels a day of export capacity. We now have more capacity than we need. In light of the trends, it’s absolutely shocking that our federal government is willing to put taxpayer money behind this pipeline.
My question, again — through you, through the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, who has laryngitis, to the Minister of Environment — is this: will this government demand that the federal government and the government of Alberta publicly release their economic case justifying their rhetorical assertions as to the economics of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and its fundamental business case for national security and national importance?
Hon. G. Heyman: While it isn’t the job of the province of British Columbia, specifically, to make demands of the federal government with respect to business cases, when the federal government or the government of Alberta proposes putting public money into a project, I think they’d be well advised to listen to the advice of the Premier of British Columbia, who said: “Our focus, and we think every province and every government in Canada’s focus, should be on adding value to our resources and creating the most jobs possible for resources.”
That’s what we’re trying to do here in British Columbia. We’re trying to get the most value from our resources to give the most value to British Columbians, who want jobs, rather than profits to corporations headquartered outside of this province.
We will continue to take every step that we’re allowed under the constitution to protect tens of thousands of jobs and to protect our tourism industry, our seafood industry, our film industry — the billions of dollars in GDP — from the tremendous threat of a catastrophic oil spill that could be caused by a pipeline rupture. It could be caused by a train derailment. And it could be caused by a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic off our shores.
Yesterday in the Legislature we debated Bill 9: The Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 at Committee Stage and at third reading.
It was a sad day in the BC Legislature as the BC Liberals played yet more petty games. Committee stage of the Bill began in the morning shortly before lunch. The member from Chilliwack was the critic for the bill and I was the BC Green critic for the bill.
Committee stage is when members get the opportunity to rise and ask questions of the minister pertaining to specific sections of the bill. The bill is debated and approved section by section.
To avoid confusion for the speaker with multiple MLAs standing all at once and he or she having to pick and choose who is to speak next, the tradition and longstanding practice is that the MLAs arrange to slot in when they will speak with the official opposition critic.
The BC Green Caucus respect this tradition and have worked to ensure we respect the process in the legislature. As such, the critic and I chatted before lunch and he was to let me know when he was finished with his questions on Section 1 (he told me that his questions were all on section 1). In addition, shortly before lunch, I had a conversation with the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont about the amendments that I had prepared and I outlined to her the sequence of these amendments. I let her know that it was possible that Amendments 1 and 2 would be ruled out of order as they might be perceived to have additional cost implications for the province that were not included in the provincial budget. I was unsure about amendment 3. All three amendments had been given to the BC Liberal critic last week and the first one was published on the order papers for all to see.
My first Amendment would have granted the presumptive clause for work related mental health disorders to all workers covered under Workers Compensation. This would bring us up to the standards already in place in Alberta and in Saskatchewan. Given that all provincial employees would have been covered, it is likely that this would have been ruled out of order. But in speaking to it, government could have signaled on the record a direction it was going and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support this direction.
If this Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a second amendment that I would have put forward. This Amendment would have only extended the presumptive clause to Nurses, Social Workers and 911 call receivers and dispatchers. Again, this would likely have been ruled out of order as there may be a perceived cost to the province which funds social workers and nurses. Once more, in speaking to the amendment, the minister would have signaled on the record any intention he had with these professions and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support his approach.
If this second Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a third amendment ready to go. That amendment would only have applied to 911 call receivers and dispatchers. I am unsure whether or not this would have been ruled out of order. Some of these workers would already be covered (as they are already police officers or paramedics), many others would not (as they are paid by local governments). I am unsure whether or not a very small potential cost to local governments would have been ruled out of order.
Both the BC Liberal critic and the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont never got back to me about whether or not they supported the amendment or wanted changes. What’s worse, the BC Liberal critic was to inform me when he had concluded his questions on section 1 so that I could proceed. He didn’t. As such, it was clear that he had at least one more question to go.
Over lunch, I had arranged several meetings including one with a number of very experienced developers who are profoundly troubled about the uncertainty created by the speculation tax. I arrived in the house 23 seconds after the Committee had been called to order (in the text and video below I say 3 minutes, but from closer inspection of the Hansard video I know it was 23 seconds as I came in just as the Title was approved). It was impossible for the BC Liberal critic (the MLA from Chilliwack) to stand and ask a single question that had to be answered by the minister in 23 seconds. Instead, he sat in place and let it pass.
A number of the BC Liberal MLAs thought this was hilarious. I understand that for many of them, this is all a big game. But the reality is that what happened was sad since once more, rather than having a substantive debate about the issues, the BC Liberals opted for cynical political games over trying to advance good public policy.
Most of the BC Liberal MLAs clearly don’t know the rules of the legislature and they were surprised when immediately thereafter I rose to speak at third reading (I have never heard a BC Liberal MLA rise at third reading before). I hadn’t intended to but in the end, I spent over an hour outlining why I felt the bill didn’t go far enough and why British Columbians should view the behaviour of the the BC Liberals as objectionable.
Politics and BC Liberal games aside, I also had extensive conversations with the Minister of Labour about the amendments. I feel very confident that 911 call dispatchers and receivers, as well as a couple of other professions, will be added imminently through regulation (Order in Council) as we work to protect all workers in British Columbia.Yesterday, the BC Liberals made it clear that they will be irrelevant in this further debate.
Going forward, this incident has indicated to the BC Green Caucus that the BC Liberals have no interest in cooperation with anyone. As such, we will no longer coordinate our intent to stand and be recognized with them in estimates or in committee stage debates. We’ll let the speaker decide.
In advance, I apologize to the speaker’s office for any uncertainty that this creates but unfortunately, we cannot trust the BC Liberals to follow through with their commitments.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my third reading speech.
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 9; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 1:35 p.m.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
Hon. H. Bains: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 1:36 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Report and Third Reading of Bills
A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in third reading to address the bill before the House at this particular juncture. I do rise with a great deal of dismay, knowing that this bill went through committee stage in but five minutes at a time….
A. Weaver: I’ll wait for the Clerk to pass the message on.
As it’s known, I had motions on the order paper. I had given notice to the minister. I gave notice to opposition. The opposition informed me that they had numerous questions to raise on this bill. I was in a meeting downstairs. I’m three minutes late for the start. Now, I understand parliamentary rules. I understand parliamentary rules are such that I missed approval of the title. But at third reading, I’d like to provide more reasons why I have profound troubles with this bill as put forward to us now.
Those troubles are the fact that this bill does not include 911 dispatchers. Hon. Speaker, I tell you, after the member from Vancouver, the minister now from Vancouver-Hastings, rose and spoke yesterday, I received an email from one of the people he mentioned, who he had consulted in developing his private member’s bill. That person had a panic attack when he thanked her for input. The government ignored, in this legislation, 911 dispatchers, despite the fact that they’ve actually included the 911 dispatchers in the private member’s bill that the member for Vancouver-Hastings, now minister, brought to this in 2016 and in 2017 as well.
Now, I get the B.C. Liberals are playing games. I get the fact that they don’t actually want to have this debated. I get the fact that they say one thing and do an absolute other. I get the fact that the member from Chilliwack, the critic for this file, who had told me that he had a number of questions to ask, would but ask five minutes of questions while I’m meeting with developers — who are profoundly troubled about the direction this government is taking on the speculation tax.
If opposition opposite did their job, we’d still be debating this bill, and the B.C. Greens who have spent many, many hours consulting with stakeholders from north to south and east to west of this province about what’s not in this bill, we would actually have a debate of substance on this bill on the issues contained. But members opposite abdicated their responsibility as elected members to the B.C. Legislature to raise issues and bring these issues forward for debate. That is unacceptable.
It is unacceptable for members of that party opposite to not stand in this House and take to task the minister for a bill that he has introduced, which they had had time to explore when it was a private member’s bill introduced earlier — and after being told that they were going to do this. That’s shameful.
I get that they can play games. But the message I want people to take home here today is that in this place, it’s not about doing what’s right for the people of British Columbia; it’s about doing what’s right for petty, political game, for the B.C. Liberals, and frankly, I think the B.C. NDP owes some responsibility here, too, because they knew I had these amendments on the order paper.
I struggle right now with whether or not I’m going to support this bill, whether or not I’m going to support this bill and call division to have a standing vote on this bill because of the fact of what’s not included, because what just transpired in this House is reprehensible — reprehensible to nurses in the province of British Columbia, nurses struggling with PTSD, nurses struggling with systemic mental health issues from their job.
What’s wrong with this legislation is we’re not talking about teachers in this province of British Columbia — teachers who work in environments of bullying and harassment with unsupportive administrators, who struggle and take leave but are not covered by WCB, because they have to prove that their mental illness or disorder directly came from their workplace. They have to go to the WCB and actually argue their case. What can be more profoundly troubling to an individual than to have to stand and recant the stories and relive their experiences because the presumptive clause doesn’t apply to them?
Shame on the members of the B.C. Liberal Party. How you can go back to your constituents — 911 responders, nurses, teachers, factory workers, construction workers — and say that you played political games in this House today so that we’re not debating amendments to actually put their interests first…. Hon. Speaker, this is a very sad day in politics in British Columbia, when once again the B.C. Liberals put their political interests, their desire not to have debate because of their quest for power, ahead of the interests and their responsibility to the rights of British Columbians.
There were a number of things that I had put on the order paper. I put two orders. One is to have a presumptive clause for all workers. Now, I fortunately am here to say to those listening that I’ve had very, very good conversations and follow-up with the minister about the importance of this issue, and I truly believe that the minister understands this issue. I truly believe that we will see action in a timely fashion, particularly with the 911 responders. That, to me, is critical.
Again, what we need to recognize is what’s happening in other jurisdictions. Let’s look at the case of Florida, for example. There is not a person in this place who does not recall what happened tragically in the Parkland high school in Florida — not a member in this place. What do they have in Florida? They’ve introduced presumptive clauses for PTSD for 911 responders, because they are the front-line responders. They are the first people to take the call. They’re the person talking to a child huddled under a desk while someone is going by and shooting their friends to death in the hallway.
These are the people that have to deal with PTSD, and this government — and opposition through their silly, petty games — have actually put them, thrown them under the bus.
You can tell I’m passionate about this, Hon. Speaker, because this is wrong. This is not right. This is not how this place should function. Frankly, I think the member from Chilliwack should resign as the critic, resign his chair, as he did not put the people of British Columbia front and centre here.
A. Weaver: They think that this is funny, Hon. Speaker, and that’s what’s wrong with that party. This isn’t a game. This is about good policy for people. This is about when you say something to someone…. This place only functions if you can trust your colleagues, that when they say they’re going to do something, they will actually do something. But no, no. That’s not the case for the B.C. Liberals.
Let’s go to the province of Nova Scotia, which, on September 27 of this last year, passed a bill to expand presumptive PTSD to 911 operators and continuing-care workers — two different groups. Why? I come back to the story, the compelling story that I read yesterday about a first responder.
I get that some first responders, the 911 dispatchers, are already paramedics or already police officers and so will be covered under the presumptive clauses. So not only have we got a problem here; we have an equity problem. If you happen to be an RCMP dispatcher, you’re likely covered. But if you’re in a local government, you’re not.
If you’re the dispatcher who actually is dealing with the Parkland shooter, in Florida you’d be covered but not in the province of British Columbia, for two reasons. This government forgot, frankly, in my view, to put it in the legislation, but more importantly, is the fact that the members opposite, the B.C. Liberals, who should be hanging their heads in shame today, saw fit to end debate on this because of the fact that I’m about three minutes late, despite the fact I’m told that there were many questions to come.
That’s clever. That’s clever politics. Got to give it to the B.C. Liberals. That’s what they’re good at. It’s all about politics for them. It was all about politics in the election, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the five conditions — all about politics. They have no credibility.
And hon. Speaker, I must say, I used the word “honourable,” and I mean that dearly and sincerely when I say hon. Speaker here, because I see a man of honour in the Speaker’s chair, and I don’t know how he ever could have sat on that side of the House with those members opposite.
Coming back to the bill, we have a problem. We have a problem with the fact that right now this bill is oiling the squeaky wheel. It’s oiling the squeaky wheel of those who lobby the best. There’s no question we need to have presumptive clauses for police, firefighters, corrections officers, sheriffs. But there’s also no question in my mind that we need to include emergency dispatchers. We need to include teachers, include nurses and include workers on the construction sites.
You know what? If a worker on a construction site falls and breaks his or her arm, they’re covered under WCB. They don’t have to go through the presumptive clause when they show up in a cast and say: “This happened at work.” But let’s suppose somebody falls from a high crane and lands, sadly, and gets splattered across the ground directly in front of a worker on a construction site, and that worker struggles with some mental disorder after that. Right now, there’s no presumption clause. That worker has to prove that the PTSD that they saw was a direct consequence of that incident. That’s wrong.
Saskatchewan understands that that’s wrong. Alberta understands that that’s wrong. In both of those provinces, as defined under the acts, their respective workers compensation acts, all workers are covered under the presumptive clause.
I understand that there was a possibility that one or two of my amendments would have been ruled out of order, because there might have been fiscal consequences associated with it. I understand that. The minister has missed an opportunity, though, to be able to put onto the record what his views are on this issue. It’s a very good opportunity that he’s missed.
The members opposite have missed an opportunity to actually let British Columbians know what they think. Their actions have told British Columbians what they think about this bill. Their actions have said they’re not willing to do their job as opposition.
For heaven’s sake. Why don’t half of you guys quit? Let’s have an election. Let’s get some more B.C. Greens down here, and we’ll do their job for them if they’re not willing to do it themselves — to actually hold government to account, not to ask stupid questions about stuff to try to score political gain but actually hold government to account for their actions as seen in the bill, not act as apologists but actually hold government to account.
It’s shameful — what we just witnessed there, from the B.C. Liberals today.
I come back to the teachers in British Columbia, none of whom now are either afforded the opportunity, who haven’t been able to hear the minister’s response, the debate, members opposite discuss what they thought about their views.
Given that you’ve missed the opportunity to hear what the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP believe to be their views, I’ll tell you what the B.C. Green views are. The B.C. Green views are this. No teacher should have to stand in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board and argue that the fact that they have depression and anxiety issues from working in an intolerant workplace, where their school administrator doesn’t support them, and their school board, school administration and district administration doesn’t support them.
No person should have to relive that experience in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Instead, just like in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the presumptive clause should be applied to them.
I don’t know how many teachers I know who have had to deal with this. In fact, if you look at statistics in British Columbia, something is pushing…. Almost 50 percent of new teachers actually quit the teaching profession in the first five years. Why do they do that? Because of the situation they’ve been put in. In many cases, it’s overwhelming, but they have no place to go now.
They can go on LTD and get a fraction of their wage, but if they actually had a presumptive clause within their contracts, it would force school districts’ administration to actually ensure that the working environment that these teachers participate in is one that’s conducive, friendly, safe, free of bullying, free of harassment. But that’s not going to happen here in the province of British Columbia, because members opposite saw so fit as to play silly political games to try to avoid discussion on the amendments before us.
Again, let’s move beyond the teachers. Let’s talk about nurses. I’m sure many of the members here…. I can’t be the only member…. Well, I’m probably the only member in opposition who actually reads their emails. I’m pretty sure none of them do. They probably have their staff read them, and they don’t respond themselves. Frankly, I know that to be the case, because I get so many people from their ridings email our office pointing out that they get no response from the B.C. Liberals, and will we please help them out. I will put the member for Prince George–Valemount…. I’ll say that that is not the case with her, but I’ve got it from so many others sitting there right now.
Let’s go to nurses. I can take a particular…. I don’t know how half the nurses do their job, but let me tell you a story about my daughter. Let me tell you a story that, to me, tells me the type of environment nurses have to work in.
My daughter had a very, very serious heart issue, and she was misdiagnosed by the pediatrician — a young pediatrician, straight out of med school, who had diagnosed it as something different. The nurse was there. The nurse says: “I know what this is. I’ve worked here for 30 years. This doctor is not listening to me. He won’t do anything, but this is what it is.”
Fortunately, I have some experience in research. So I went down to the medical library, and I started researching this disease. I went down, and I phoned one of my colleagues who happened to be in Scripps Institute in California. They are one of the leading research areas on this disease. I was able to find out about this disease. I was able to find out about the cure for this disease.
With the help of that nurse, I was able to follow as I was told — to advocate on behalf of my child and demand a second opinion in the hospital. Because the treatment that was being offered was not going to help her and, actually, was going to make her worse.
That ended up in a happy place. My daughter got better. But I can imagine that nurse having to go through that day in, day out with other patients — watching children suffer because a doctor, who happens to think that they know everything and the nurse knows nothing, won’t listen to them.
This isn’t dissing doctors in general, but it’s symptomatic of human behaviour. In all our society, there are people who are not willing to listen. There are people who know better than everyone. There are people who do not respect their staff’s opinions, and people sometimes have to work in that.
The whole purpose of having these nurses included was to ensure that when systemic issues like that are in play, which can lead clearly to long-term mental disorders, clearly they should not have to relive these experiences before the WCB to prove that this is a direct consequence of this.
Now, I suspect that the member opposite….
Are you hoping to introduce? I don’t believe that that is allowed under rules, because one side….
A. Weaver: Well, what I can ask, hon. Speaker, is to seek leave to pause briefly to allow the member to introduce the guests, and then let’s continue.
Mr. Speaker: Yes, if we may. Thank you.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s just an opportunity to give the hon. member a moment to catch his breath as I introduce one of three classes that are coming today from a school in my district. They are from Surrey Christian School, grade 5 students with their parents and teacher. I ask that the House would please make them feel welcome here as they enjoy the debate.
A. Weaver: We’ve got a full two hours to work with on this bill. I’m looking forward to using as much of that as possible as I try to…. Yes, at third reading, I believe I get, as the designated speaker, a full two hours to address this. I would seek clarification from the Clerk, with reference to standing orders please, to actually ensure and let me know how much time I actually have.
We talked about nurses. Let me talk about some others. Can you imagine the tragedy that happened at Burns Lake — the explosion of a mill. I’m pretty sure that there are a number of workers at this mill who, after the mill exploded and living in the community, actually are suffering from issues, with respect to PTSD, mental health issues, depression and anxiety, as a direct consequence of that mill explosion. But what they have to do….
Two? What does the two mean? Exactly. I have two hours. Take your seat, Liberals opposite. You had the opportunity to have a short debate. I’d love to inform you of this issue in much more detail, seeing as you’re willing to abdicate your responsibility to serve as opposition and quiz government on a critical bill that’s before us here in the House today, one that adds a presumptive clause for mental health issues to all workers in the province. Sorry, to firefighters, paramedics, police officers, correction officers and sheriffs but not all workers in the province. I’m laying the case as to why that has to happen.
I will tell people listening on TV now or checking the Hansard later that, again, I come back to this, and I’ll come back to this periodically over the next two hours as we enjoy this debate — that I have had good discussions with the minister, good discussions with the minister about the fact that this is only a beginning. I wish he’d had the opportunity to say that to himself. This is only the beginning of moving this bill forward.
Rest assured, people reading this, I’m not going to give this one up. I’m going to be like a dog with a bone, more like a pit bull with a bone, on this issue, because it is wrong. It is wrong not to have emergency dispatchers included. It is wrong not to have other workers included. It is wrong not to follow the leadership of Alberta and Saskatchewan and actually have a presumptive clause for all workers.
Let’s go back to the issue in Nova Scotia, or Florida. Again, these issues are front and centre in their legislation, recent legislation. Most provinces in the country have the same thing for 911 dispatchers. It makes no sense to me, when you talk about emergency responders…. This is what I find remarkable. I’m going to focus on the 911 dispatchers exclusively right now.
What I find remarkable about their omission is that when you say first responder, government and opposition, for years, have included 911 dispatchers in their understanding of what first responders are, so much so that the member for Vancouver-Hastings had them included in his private member’s bill, brought in in 2016 as well as in February of 2017. Two times. But they’re missing. There’s no reason for it.
Can you imagine, now, if you’re a local government first responder and you’re sitting next to somebody from the RCMP who’s a dispatcher, who happens to be covered because they’re a police officer, or an ambulance dispatcher who happens to be a paramedic? They’re covered under this. But that community, local person sitting right beside them, in the same room, the call-receiver, for heaven’s sake, getting that distress call….
Remember the story. I do apologize to the children in the crowd here about the story that I’m about to tell, the story I told yesterday about a man who phoned in a 911 as he had tried to commit suicide, as his entrails were hanging out. And this woman had to keep him alive, yet she wasn’t covered. But her colleague, sitting next to her, in the RCMP would be covered. It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong at a very fundamental level.
We talked about office workers. What about office workers? The whole purpose of including office workers, bank tellers, employees in universities, in colleges, in schools, custodians, whatever…. The whole point of including them is there are many, many environments in the province of British Columbia that are not safe places to work, not safe places because of systemic workplace bullying, workplace harassment. It’s systemic issues with dysfunctional governance, dysfunctional administration, power over, conflicts….
I could go on and on, and the litany of examples would make most people’s faces drop over here. Unfortunately, half of the members opposite spent their entire time in politics, and they probably don’t actually have any experience other than politics.
I could actually provide members, from their own staff who came to me because they’ve experienced this in their MLA offices…. This is a problem. But those staff, if they were covered under workmen’s compensation, would actually be able to go and make a claim without having to prove it. They’d still have to go to a psychiatrist or a qualified psychologist. They still have to get the medical evidence, but they’d have benefits right on the get-go.
Now let’s suppose you’re working…. I come back to an example that I alluded to at second reading. You’re a single mother. You could be a single father, but let’s just suppose, for clarity, you’re a single mother.
You’re a single mother living in, say, Kamloops–South Thompson riding. You’re a single mother living there, and you’re working in an office. You’re a receptionist in an office. You’ve got two kids at home. You had a deadbeat dad involved. Deadbeat dad got in a car and took off, ran away somewhere. You’re stuck paying the bills. You’ve got two children. You don’t want to go on welfare, because you’re a worker. You’re somebody who actually believes in the importance of actually working hard, earning a living.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Then you go and you realize that your skills are limited. You’ve got a job that gives you the right number of hours with the appropriate wage. There are very few of these jobs. You might be working and have developed expertise, in terms of as a receptionist, in, let’s say, an auto mechanic shop, for lack of a better example. There are probably a lot of those in Kamloops. Let’s think of something that’s not…. Maybe a college department where you need specific skills. Thompson Rivers University — I love the university. Let’s just find a department there where they need your skills.
Now you get into an environment where you need this job, you’ve got kids at home, and the environment is abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s demeaning. You’ve got a boss with unrealistic expectations. You’ve got a boss who basically has an insecurity complex because they know they shouldn’t actually be in their position of authority, but they’re your boss. And they try to exert their power, because bad bosses lack self-confidence and feel the appropriate way to overcome that is to belittle their employees or harass their employees or put unnecessary expectations or demands on their employees.
But you need this job, hon. Speaker. You need this job because there is no other job that you can have. You are a single mom. You’ve got two children at home. You’re working that job to provide food for your children, and you don’t want to go on welfare and the stigma of that. If we had basic income, it would be different, but you don’t want to go on welfare.
What do you do? Well, right now, what you do is you can go on disability leave if you happen to be a unionized employee that has a long-term disability plan negotiated with your employer. That’s fine. You’ll get some reduced salary. Typically, there’s a short period of time. Typically there’s an approach to getting you back to work.
But if you wanted to go to workmen’s compensation — as you’re not even a union employee, and you don’t have LTD — you have to take the risk, when you expose yourself to make a claim, that they will agree, even if you have professionals. You have to prove that that is happening in the workforce. You have to relive everything, with all the risk of you recounting that story as to whether or not your boss will actually be worse than he or she was before. You take on that risk with no certainty as to what the outcome will be.
We had an opportunity here to actually have a presumptive clause which would give certainty to allow that person to have coverage while they went to make a claim. If WCB…. No one has taken away their rights to challenge a claim. That’s what the amendment, which I didn’t get a chance to put…. We’ve all had a chance to read it on the order papers, because it’s been there two days. Members opposite knew full well that I was going to raise it.
Members opposite actually told me — the member from Chilliwack — that he had a couple more questions to go and he’ll be going for a while. That’s good leadership from the B.C. Liberals.
We had an opportunity to help that person. I don’t know how many examples I’ve heard from professions across British Columbia, not only firefighters and police officers. There’s no question about them requiring presumptive clauses. There’s just no question.
What about tow truck drivers? You know, prior to getting elected, I had a couple hangover — last term…. I’m done now. But I’ve done a lot of expert witnessing in forensic meteorology, which is an area where we use meteorological conditions to reconstruct weather conditions, road conditions, at the time of the accident.
Now, in that time — some of these go to court; some don’t — I get to see a lot of pictures. Let me tell you, most people in this room would not want to see those pictures. What you see in these pictures are bits of people splayed across the street, entrails hanging here, decapitation hanging there, missing limb over there. These are not pleasant pictures to see, but I just see pictures. They’re not real to me.
Now, imagine you’re a tow truck driver, and you’ve been called because they’ve blocked the main highway on the Coquihalla. You’ve been called to move some cars, but because they’re doing an investigation, you’ve still got some body parts on the scene and you show up there. What is the difference between that tow truck driver going there and a first responder who goes there? They see the same thing.
In the one case, we’re going to give presumptive clause. In the other, we say: “No. No, we’re not consider you,” because you didn’t have a lobby group come to the Legislature and actually push this forward. You didn’t have a lobby group to do that.
This is a lack of courage in leadership, where we could have followed the lead of both Saskatchewan and Alberta and done what they have done and introduced presumptive clauses for all workers covered under the workmen compensation act.
But, no, we didn’t do that. Games were played in the Legislature here today. Games were played in a desperate attempt…. Even after I was asked by one member opposite — a member opposite who I actually have a lot of respect for…. That member was going to contemplate the merits of one of the amendments and get back to me, but never got back to me because the member from Chilliwack — their critic — decided to shut down debate, despite the fact of saying he had a number of questions.
I was five minutes late — not even five minutes. I was three minutes late, because I had developers in my office who are at wit’s end because the B.C. Liberals, for years, ignored the crisis in affordability and the B.C. NDP have brought in issues with respect to taxation that have led to a crisis that they have to deal with. They see us as the only opportunity.
Let’s get back to this bill, which we should have canvassed much more extensively at committee stage, but the member from Chilliwack abdicated his responsibility to do his due diligence. Frankly, British Columbians should be quite upset about that.
Coming back to the bill, I’ve talked about Florida — PTSD responders there. I’ve talked about Nova Scotia. I’ve talked about other provinces — like Ontario, like Manitoba, like the maritime provinces — that all have presumptive clauses. But we somehow think that in B.C., we’re not going to actually consider 911 responders as emergency responders, as first responders, as those that this legislation should be brought to.
I’ve given examples of nurses. I’ve given examples of teachers. I’ve given examples of office workers. I’ve given examples of construction workers. Let’s find other examples. What about a manufacturer?
I used to work — one of my first jobs that I had as a youngster — in Edinburgh, on the Leith docks. Now, any of you who know Edinburgh and the Leith docks there will know that that is the roughest part of Edinburgh. My first day to work, I showed up and a guy had his arm covered in stitches because his wife had stabbed him with an umbrella. The other guy I had to work with had scars around his face, because he recently had a beer glass put in his face.
I know that there was a student in that environment that was working there. I was a big guy. I played rugby. I got on with these guys. But there was a student there who they didn’t like. They didn’t like this guy because he was nippy. Then two things could have happened. I’ll tell you what did happen, and I’ll tell you what could have happened.
What did happen for this guy is that he had his door slammed…. I worked this ice factory. We ground ice and put it on fishing boat trawlers and trucks that came to get it. It was minimum wage, etc. So what happened here is they slammed his arm in a door, and they broke it. They broke his arm. That young man lived in terror when he came to work, but he needed the money. He wasn’t from an uppity side of Edinburgh. He was from the north side of Edinburgh. He needed that money, so he came to work every day and lived in terror as he tried to make a small living.
In B.C., we had the opportunity to protect someone like that, a factory worker like that. Heaven forbid someone in that ice factory — we had ice grinders there — slipped into an ice grinder. Can you imagine if you’d seen someone fall in that ice grinder and come out into the ice bags that we were holding — in bits and pieces, blocks of cubed ice? Can you imagine the PTSD that would have arisen from that?
In B.C., now we had an opportunity — as Alberta and Saskatchewan have done — to include a presumptive clause that would have said that rather than you having to relive this and go and argue before the WCB that your PTSD or your systemic issues of anxiety and depression have arisen from that incident…. Despite the fact you have psychiatric and psychological assessments saying it did, you have to argue your case to the WCB, and you get no benefits until that case is approved.
We had an opportunity to do something different here, to recognize that it’s pretty clear that that kid, who’s living in an abusive environment…. There’s no way that guy would want to risk his life and go and challenge a ruling about where he is. It literally would have been risking his life. Or in the other case, to have to relive going through that ice shredder — I can’t imagine it.
There’s another example from another one of my jobs in Edinburgh. I worked flipping burgers, again on the north side of Edinburgh. That’s a tough side of Edinburgh. There was a young guy there who was a cook. Management didn’t like the cook, so they were a very abusive to the cook. The cook took a lot of grief there.
He was a short-order cook trying to make ends meet. If that short-order cook leaned on the stove and burnt his hand, we don’t need to worry about presumption there. He burnt his hand in work. But there’s a stigma in our society that this government promised that they would take steps to mitigate. It’s a stigma about mental disorders, anxiety, depression.
For the first time in history we have a ministry here dedicated to this — dedicated to mental health and addictions. Yet why we are not actually standing up and standing for what we believe in when we’ve put in place the mechanisms, the support, and campaigned in elections on destigmatizing mental health illness and treating it as a disease like any physical disease….
We come back to that cook who would get presumption for a burn, but presumption for an abusive, bullying workplace? No way. He’d have to prove it. Good luck trying to prove it in the north side of Edinburgh. If the word gets out that you’re trying to prove it, publicly, that’s not going to be a good situation. I could go on with other examples, but I did want to come back to the reason why this is critical to have it to all clauses.
I come back to the last government and the Premier, at the time, who actually saw an opportunity to do something different here. That was with respect to sexualized violence in post-secondary institutions. What she recognized was that the right thing to do was to force public institutions to develop policies to actually ensure that they had sexualized violence policies to deal with it. The reason why — as I introduced the bill when the last government was in, and what passed eventually in a slightly different form — of course, is that public institutions have a vested interest in trying to ensure that actually they are deemed to be safe places for students to come.
What was happening, as I was getting told story after story from institution after institution…. There was no one that was particularly bad over another. They all had the problems, and it was systemic. The issues were kept below the surface, and nothing was done. But by forcing policy measures and a process to be in place, these issues now must be dealt with.
That comes to the issue of WCB and the presumptive clause for mental illness. If you are in an abusive work environment and you actually now report it and go on LTD, nothing gets done because there’s no incentive for the institution to do anything. There’s a fear that there might be: “Oh, if we react here, they might get mad at us” or “Oh, we might do this.” But if we had a presumptive clause for mental health disorders, their WCB rates would start to go up for that institution if they started to see an awful lot of claims emerging from it.
I would have thought these supposed free marketers on the other side would have liked to see this financial measure to ensure that you are creating a process that actually incentivizes safe workplaces. I would have thought that members here, the so-called labour party, would have seen the importance of doing this — the importance of creating a stick and a carrot, the stick being in the workmen’s compensation board premiums that every employer has to pay for covered workers.
Those go up in an unhealthy work environment. If you start to have a lot of accidents, a lot of people tripping and falling, breaking legs, on a lumber mill site, you know your premiums are going to go up. So there’s an incentive to make that workplace safe.
Again, there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding in government — I don’t even have to talk about opposition, who’s abdicated their responsibility on this bill — to recognize that mental disorders are no different from physical disorders. You can say what you like in an election campaign. “We’re going to create a ministry of mental health and addictions.” That’s just lip service. It’s kind of like saying to my friend from Saanich North and the Islands beside me: “We’re going to do truth and reconciliation with Indigenous people.”
Indigenous communities are sick and tired…. Hon. Speaker, there’s a direct parallel between this analogy….
Deputy Speaker: Relevance to the bill, Member?
A. Weaver: There is. There’s a direct parallel between politicians saying they want to do truth and reconciliation and their actions, or not thereof. In fact, Indigenous people are sick and tired of words. They want to see action. And it’s exactly the same — and therein lies the analogy — with mental health and addiction.
It’s really easy to say we’re destigmatizing mental health and addictions. So where’s the beef? Where’s the Alberta beef? Why aren’t you actually doing it? You have a ministry to do this. You have an opportunity to do it. You issued a private member’s bill, for heaven’s sake, in 2016 and 2017 that included 911 dispatchers. But we didn’t do it. We didn’t do this opportunity because of petty games by the B.C. Liberals, which actually didn’t follow through with what they said.
You know, this place doesn’t work. This place doesn’t work if we can’t trust that when we say we’re going to be up on something, that we will be up on something.
I took the opportunity immediately before lunch to show the member for Chilliwack, who actually had the amendments. He knew exactly what I was going to do. I told him the three amendments, the three phases. I was going to start with the “include all workers.” The second phase…. I mean I could read it in, because this is what I had planned to do, and this is relevant to the bill.
The second thing I was going to do, assuming that there was some objection for including all workers…. I would have given the opportunity for the minister to actually outline the direction he was going to take this legislation in the months ahead. I would have then talked about: “Okay, we’ll understand that. Let’s include nurses, social workers and 911 dispatchers right off the bat.” We know we’ve got so many examples. You’ve all received emails. Let’s put them in with the other first responders.
Then I would have seen how that debate goes. If that didn’t work, I would have come back with the 911 dispatchers, because there is no reason why this bill does not include 911 dispatchers — or, more formally, 911 emergency communications operators and dispatchers — today. There’s no reason why it’s not there today. But they didn’t want to have a vote, because they are just playing politics.
Unfortunately, they don’t realize — again, with greatest respect — that I get two hours to outline my case at third reading. And I’m taking every minute of the two hours to outline why we should have done this, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have had members’ opposite support. They’ve had my amendments for three days, and the member from Chilliwack never got back to me about any views on anything about this. So, clearly, it was a game — B.C. Liberals once more playing games at the expense of British Columbians.
I do see another school group here. I’d like to look to the member, my friend, here. I will understand that…. I’ll just pause briefly, with leave, to allow him to introduce them.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s my pleasure to give the member a break in the midst of his two-hour speech that he is giving. Again, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you the second of three classes that are here today from Surrey Christian School. They’re here with their teachers, their parents, who are chaperones, and others. I would ask the House to please make these wonderful students from Surrey Christian School very welcome to the House.
A. Weaver: I will proceed. I believe there’s a third class coming. I look forward to the value provided to the introduction, at the start of the introduction, as well. Perhaps the member might want to tone that down; otherwise, leave may not be granted him a third time.
I do continue. I was talking about the importance of having a carrot and a stick, knowing full well that there are organizations where nothing is done. Nothing is done because there’s no incentive to do anything about abusive work environments with systemic harassment, system bullying.
I see another few teachers in the audience. Let me talk to them who are here and talk to the relevance of this case, so the children in the audience and their parents know what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here — to the gallery — is the bill that’s called Bill 9, Workers Compensation Amendment Act . We’re now at third reading of that bill. We went from first reading, where it’s introduced, to second reading, where we made our points known.
Then the controversy which has led me to try to explains what’s been going on here was that at committee stage, where we go line by line, we had had an agreement that there would be a number of questions coming from the Liberals opposite. Then the member from Chilliwack, who knew all the amendments I was going to bring forward, decided to play some political games and stand down when I was three minutes late into the chamber so I couldn’t bring forward the amendments to the bill and have the discussion there.
The thing is, obviously, the member didn’t realize that at third reading, I get a full two hours to explain these amendments and what I was hoping to do and why this bill is on dodgy grounds for approval without these other bills.
One of the things I’ve been putting forward here is that in this bill is a presumptive clause. Right now if you suffer mental illness as a direct consequence of your workplace and you are covered under workers compensation, you must go to Workers Compensation and prove that your mental disorder is a direct consequence of your work.
You can imagine a firefighter has to see some horrific things or a police officer has to see some horrific things. This bill is actually giving firefighters and police officers the right to not have to prove to Workers Compensation that their mental disorder is a direct consequence of their workplace. Rather, if they have the psychiatric or psychological assessments, the medical assessments, that suggest it to be so, they will start getting benefits immediately that are better than long-term disability benefits. But Workers Compensation still has the ability to challenge it. It’s called a presumptive clause. It’s really important.
What is done in Alberta and Saskatchewan — to the gallery there — is that they have presumptive clauses for all workers. The examples I’ve been giving here…. I’ll give one that’s relevant to teachers. Teachers, for example…. The Speaker….
I don’t think you heard my example. You weren’t in the chair at the time.
My wife’s a teacher. Most of my family are teachers. Teachers have an amazing job. They get to instil knowledge in youth, particularly at that age when you guys are sponges for knowledge and it’s so exciting to actually try to get you to talk about what inspires you and to ask questions. You’re all scientists. Kids are born scientists. They always ask why, why, why? They’re always asking questions.
Not all teachers have the best working environment. I know some who work in environments that one might argue are actually abusive. I know some who feel that they don’t get the support they need. In fact, I know some very specifically where duties to report under the act are such that when they report inappropriate issues that they must report, it falls upon the deaf ears of the administrators, the senior administration and the school boards. In one particular case, they start to get attacked for having the gall to raise this issue.
Can you imagine being a teacher when you know something wrong is happening to a child, or you know that a child is in a abusive family, and you’ve reported it, and nobody’s listening. You have to go into that classroom every day, every day, every day. You know as a teacher that you’re the first responder, because you’re the only voice that that child has — the only safe voice that that child has. But you feel powerless as a teacher to do anything because nobody’s listening to you. These are true stories, true stories I know about.
I’m sure other teachers know teachers like that, too. What happens? Systemic — time after time after time…. You develop anxiety and depression issues. There’s no doubt. If you had broken your hand in the workplace because there was something inappropriate or there was some slippery soap on the floor, and you broke it on the job, you’d be covered by workers compensation. But if you happen to suffer depression and anxiety as a direct consequence of your workforce, you would have to stand before the workers compensation and prove it. You would have to prove it, even if you had psychological assessments and doctors notes saying it was. You’d have to relive these stories. You’d have to argue. You’d have to argue against the tribunal.
As the minister knows, that’s not the easiest thing to do, even with a broken arm, if there’s a challenge, because there’s no presumptive clause. Were there a presumptive clause, you’d be covered. You’d be covered and presumed that your illness was from your work, assuming you had the appropriate medical backup. But WCB could still challenge it down the road.
We had the opportunity in this bill to have a debate at committee stage about the amendments that these members opposite knew I was going to bring forward because I gave it to them. I was told: “We’re going to actually get back to you about them.” They never got back.
I was told that the member opposite had quite a number of questions on section 1 and that he knew I was going to come up. I was three minutes late. What an opportunity for him to play games, to shut down debate. That’s shameful. That’s shameful because it’s not doing what this place is supposed to do.
We here in British Columbia are supposed to debate the issues brought to us. We’re supposed to put our constituents front and centre. We’re supposed to challenge government when we see a bill, such an important bill, like this. When you’ve sat for three days with amendments before you, and you know what they’re going to be, we have a duty and responsibility to debate these, not to play games.
It’s a sad day. I don’t know what professions the parents are up there, but I suspect…. Maybe there’s an office worker up there. Maybe they know somebody in another job that works in an abusive environment, where the boss has no accountability to upper management and creates an environment purely out of insecurity that is abusive or harassing to an employee. But that employee can’t leave because they need the job. Here we had an opportunity in this bill to not only include police and fire and correction officers and sheriffs, but also to include, as did the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, all workers covered under the act.
Again, if the government truly believed in its commitment to dealing with the issues of mental health and addiction through the creation of a separate ministry, it would stop stigmatizing the difference between physical illness and mental illness, which is exactly what’s done here. It is only the physical response that we think is creating the mental illness. It is only the case of first responders who might have to respond to a car accident or police officers who might have to go into a home and see some horrific scene. Those senses are your eyes. This is only responding to those people who are actually experiencing things through their eyes — not through their ears, but only their eyes. Only horrific sights. But we know that mental health disorders in the workplace come far beyond just the traumatic events.
In fact, our own workers compensation legislation recognizes that there are two types of mental health disorders that can occur in the workplace. Some are traumatic, leading often to PTSD, and others are systemic, like harassment and bullying. It has recognized it right there. We’re saying that, okay, we recognize that there are two types. We recognize that. We recognize also that police officers and firefighters and paramedics — I can’t imagine what they have to go through — see a lot of the first type, the traumatic event. I’ll say it again. They see a lot of the first type, but there are others who experience the other first type daily.
The only reason I can think of why 911 dispatchers are not included is because a 911 dispatcher can’t see what is there; they only hear it. I would argue that if members in the government had recognized or read the literature — the master’s thesis that I brought forward yesterday, as an example — the statistics, they would see that in fact it’s very clear that sometimes the most profound mental health disorders and consequences come not so much from seeing something happen but by your inability to actually prevent something from happening, even though you wish you could.
I read the compassionate and compelling story by one emergency call receiver who had on the phone a young man — I don’t know if he was young — a man who had committed hara-kiri and whose entrails were hanging out. He phoned her, and she developed a rapport with that individual. Because he had a knife, she had to call in the emergency response team — or the dispatcher did. They wouldn’t go in until a spud gun was produced. The man was all distraught, and she was reprimanded initially for actually not getting off the phone.
Her PTSD was so profound that when the minister, the member for Vancouver-Hastings, in his speech yesterday thanked her…. He thanked her for informing him over the years about this issue of presumptive clause, that she wasn’t covered by a 911 dispatcher. She had a panic attack last night, watching this, because she was pleased to hear that the government was potentially going forward.
You know, it’s good to see that we’re going to get some more debate from other members here. We can get a rip-roaring third reading debate here. I see some other members will be joining me, coming up in the debate. I look forward to my friend from Peace River South. He might be able to do the job that the member from Chilliwack never did, which is to actually raise issues and challenge government on this particular…. The member for Peace River South, a member who….
The Chair: Relevance to the bill, Member.
A. Weaver: Right. The member for Peace River South, as you know, hon. Speaker, is from the city of Dawson Creek, a wonderful part of town right in the centre of gas country. The question I hope he will address, in raising this, is those gas field workers. You can get physical accidents in the gas field. It happens all the time. You can get physical…. We have, you know, accidents on the construction site. If you break an arm, you’re covered. There are no presumptive issues, because it’s a physical injury.
What about if you’re the person who’s standing by as your co-worker gets run over by a truck? Your best friend’s daughter gets run over by a truck on the field. Or your best friend or your partner falls down and has a horrible accident on the other site. There’s no presumptive clause.
You have to prove…. Even though this could have happened…. This physically debilitating, if not fatal, injury that happened on the workplace would be covered if that person survived. You would be covered if you broke your arm trying to help them, but you wouldn’t be covered unless you could prove that your subsequent PTSD or mental disorder was a direct consequence of your workplace.
That’s wrong, hon. Speaker. That’s completely wrong. The province of Alberta recognized it was wrong. The province of Saskatchewan recognized it was wrong. In the case of 911 dispatchers, other provinces, including very recently the province of Nova Scotia, recognized it was wrong.
It was wrong to actually only have a presumptive clause for professions that are first responders that see, as opposed to also hear or witness as bystanders or second responders.
I hope…. Again, I do have some confidence, with that said — and I come back to it again. The Minister of Labour — it is Labour, I believe. I’ve had many discussions with him about this issue. I do understand, particularly from his union background, that he recognizes the issue is far broader than just police, fire, paramedics, first responders. I recognize that he realizes that emergency dispatchers are critical, and I’m hoping he will rise at third reading and afford me the opportunity of the words I was hoping to extract from him during committee stage to outline a pathway that he sees forward in terms of this bill.
I would like to give him that opportunity, and I’d like to give him that opportunity while I sit here and listen. With that, I hope that the minister is able to stand next, and I will sit and take my place at third reading and listen to the other debates.
Protection for workers suffering mental disorders should be extended: Weaver
For immediate release
April 17, 2018
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, says the government’s proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act should be extended to all workers. The government’s amendment, which was introduced last week, further extends workers compensation benefits to first responders, sheriffs and correctional officers who suffer from job-related mental disorders by presuming the mental trauma was caused by the nature of an individual’s work, rather than having to prove it was work related.
“While I’m glad that B.C. is extending these protections to some workers, I am concerned that other British Columbians who suffer mental disorders on the job are being left out,” said Weaver.
Weaver has been contacted by representatives from other professions, such as nurses and 911 emergency communications officers and dispatchers, who experience high rates of job-related trauma. Furthermore, he noted that any worker is at risk from suffering psychological trauma at work due to issues like workplace bullying and harassment.
Weaver rose at Third Reading of the bill to highlight the gaps in the government’s legislation, noting that extending the changes to all workers would bring British Columbia in line with standards already in place in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Mental disorders incurred from job-related trauma are serious injuries that can be incredibly debilitating. I am glad that the government has recognized this and taken this important step towards supporting British Columbians who suffer from such incidents. I hope they will be willing to engage in a debate in the legislature so that we can determine the best way forward to ensure all British Columbians are receiving adequate protection and support.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | email@example.com
Today in the legislature we debated Bill 9: The Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 at second reading. This bill updates the Workers Compensation Act for eligible occupations (correction officer, an emergency medical assistant, a firefighter, a police officer, a sheriff or other as prescribed by regulation) who are exposed to one or more traumatic events over the course of their employment and are subsequently diagnosed with a mental disorder. The disorder will be presumed to have been caused by the nature of their work rather than having to prove that it was work-related. British Columbia is one of the last such jurisdictions in Canada to have such legislation.
In speaking to this bill, I articulate why I’m convinced that it doesn’t go far enough. I provide examples as to why I believe teachers, social workers, nurses, office workers, construction workers and others need to be included in the presumptive language. I will be introducing an amendment at committee stage tomorrow to extend this presumptive clause to all workers. Doing so would bring us up to the standards already in place in Alberta and in Saskatchewan.
I conclude by reading into the record (with permission) a tragic, yet illustrative, story sent to me by a 911 call receiver. I cannot understand, nor accept, the fact that when NDP MLA Shane Simpson (Vancouver Hastings) was in opposition he included 9-1-1 communications officers in his Private Members Bill (both in 2016 and on February 16, 2017, just prior to last year’s election) yet now, when the BC NDP have the chance to update the legislation, they have not included them. I can only assume it was an inadvertent oversight and I will be asking the Minister about this tomorrow.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.
A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for bringing this bill forward, Bill 9, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 — a bill which I clearly strong in strong support of, with my colleagues in this House.
As was mentioned by my colleague from Chilliwack, this bill updates the Workers Compensation Act so that those working in eligible occupations — we’ll come to that in a minute — who are exposed to one or more traumatic events over the course of their employment and are subsequently diagnosed with a mental disorder…. We’ll come to that as well in a second. They will be presumed to have been caused by the nature of their work rather than having to prove that it was work-related.
Now, this particular bill is targeting the eligible occupations — namely a correction officer, an emergency medical assistant, a firefighter, a police officer, a sheriff or other as prescribed by regulation. Now, that’s important, that other as “prescribed by regulation,” and we’ll come to that as well.
The term, as I also mentioned in that introduction, “mental disorder” is actually a term that is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Right now that’s in its 5th edition. It’s termed DSM-V. That fifth edition was published in 2013 and is presently in the process of being updated.
I’ll start here, because it’s a very important interjection that I’d like to do right off the bat to highlight one particular difference between the present legislation and that legislation which was brought in by the member for Vancouver-Hastings, the now the minister…. I’m having slight trouble with the title of the ministry. I do apologize. He brought in, in 2016, Bill M203, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2016. It was a private member’s bill.
I sat in the legislature as the member then read it in. We passed first reading, of course. It wasn’t brought for discussion. Why that’s important is…. I’ve mentioned the eligible occupations already. If we refer to this previous bill and we look at the eligible occupations in that case, we see a number of differences. We see here, when we look at first responder it means the following: an individual who is a emergency medical assistant, licensed by the emergency medical assistants licensing board, a full-time firefighter or part-time volunteer firefighter, an individual appointed as a peace officer, police officer, sheriff or corrections officer. All of those are covered.
But most importantly, section 5.2(e) of the private member’s bill brought in by member for Vancouver-Hastings says this: “(e) a 9-1-1 communications officer employed by any of the above organizations or by Emergency Communications for British Columbia Inc.” That’s important, because that one distinction is a difference between the private member’s bill that clearly his party was supporting back in 2016. It does not appear here in Bill 9. It’s specifically excluded.
I suspect that the minister, through the Lieutenant-Governor, orders-in-council, will prescribe this profession, coming into the future. But I will be, as we move forward, proposing a number of amendments to this bill, and one of those will be specifically to deal with 911 dispatchers for reasons and rationale that I’ll describe shortly.
Only Quebec, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and the federal government, Canada, do not already have some form of presumptive language or legislation for mental health concerns.
In particular, at the federal level, recognizing some of the concern with respect to our military coming home — the preponderance of PTSD and the unacceptable and sad rise in suicide amongst our military personnel, people who put their lives on the line for all of us — the federal government last year — done, actually, by a British Columbian…. The MP for Cariboo–Prince George, Todd Doherty, introduced a private member’s bill called Bill C-211, an act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder. He was looking to create this federal framework to address PTSD in general.
Right now — it’s actually good news; I’m hoping it follows through — it’s passed through the House of Commons. It was passed through third reading on June 16, 2017. It’s presently sitting before the Senate at second reading and is being debated this year, in fact. If we come to some of the language from the government’s backgrounder in the press release….
I think it’s important to read this into the record, because it highlights some of the background for why I will be bringing forth some amendments for discussion at committee stage. The backgrounder for the Workers Compensation Amendment Act states as following. It states: “Currently the Workers Compensation Act provides any worker with workers’ compensation” — the term “worker” is actually defined under the act, and I encourage people to see how it’s defined — “for a mental disorder” — again, that’s described in terms of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistics Manual — “caused by their work, including PTSD.”
There are two recognized situation for work-related mental disorders. This is critical. “There are two recognized situations of work-related mental disorders: (1) a reaction to one or more traumatic events at work, or (2) one primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying and harassment.” In both of these situations, I’ll cite some examples of why I think that we need to be a little more inclusive in this legislation.
It’s quite clear to me that this legislation is targeting professions that you might get a lot of 1 — that is, a reaction to one or more singular or multiple traumatic events — but less so to No. 2, even though it still would apply to No. 2, which is primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying and harassment. It would apply to those same professions.
It continues in the backgrounder and says: “In order for the claim to be accepted, medical and/or scientific evidence must be provided to establish that the condition arose out of their employment, in addition to a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or psychologist.”
That’s in the current one. That puts the onus of proof on the sufferer of the mental disorder. That, in and of itself, can be profoundly troubling and creates great mental anguish for the person who’s actually been exposed to the issue causing them a mental disorder.
In some cases, they might choose not to pursue it, because of having to relive the experience. In other cases, they might try to pursue it, to their frustration, and adding to the compounding of their mental disorder because of the fact they feel the system is not listening to them. Indeed, I have examples of that too.
A presumptive clause…. “A presumption under the act,” as here, “provides that, if a worker has been employed in certain occupations” — again, coming back, those are a correction officer, emergency medical assistant, firefighter, police officer, sheriff or others as prescribed by regulation — “and develops a disease or disorder that is recognized as being associated with that occupation, then the condition is presumed to have been due to the nature of their work unless the contrary is proved.”
So it switches the onus of burden. You still have to go through the process of meeting with doctors, qualified psychologists and psychiatrists, and having this condition professionally assessed and determined to be a result of a certain cause or causes or systemic problems in the work environment. Now, though ,with a presumptive condition, there is no longer a need to prove that a claimant’s disease or disorder is work-related.
“The proposed legislative amendments,” it further says, “will establish a new mental disorder presumption when the condition is a reaction to traumatic events at work.”
A secondary thing. I’ll very briefly touch upon another…. It’s a very welcome addition, and frankly, I think it’s an oversight to previous additions to this act. It’s not going to be the dominant discussion within this House, but it’s profoundly important, particularly for some of my friends who actually work on the Esquimalt DND firefighters. The amendments in this act will expand existing cancer presumptions to federal firefighters.
In our area, it’s very specific to DND. The DND firefighter comes in to help out, in Esquimalt, Victoria and elsewhere, when there are large calls, They are very active and, in fact, exposed to the same chemicals, particularly if they’re working side by side with Victoria or Esquimalt or View Royal or Colwood firefighters.
This new legislation is going to bring existing cancer presumptions to these federal firefighters employed on military. Federal firefighters currently who qualify for the heart disease and injury presumptions…. While they do already qualify for that that, they’re not qualified for the cancer presumption. So this is a good addition, because at present, it’s limited to local government firefighters under the provision.
This act, again, is a direct response, in my view, as was the previous private member’s bill, to a Union of B.C. Municipalities call for an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act to include a presumptive clause for first responders.
In 2015, the UBCM, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which represents the local governments across British Columbia, specifically passed a resolution. I thank the good municipality of Central Saanich, embedded within the provincial riding of Saanich North and the Islands, where my friend who’s not here right now is from — my friend to my right here.
This is the motion that they put that was passed at UBCM. It says this. “Whereas first responders will include 911 operators….” Again, the motion specifically refers to 911 operators. They’re talking there about call receivers as well as call dispatchers. It says here, “Paramedics, firefighters, peace officers, police officers, sheriffs, correction officers and many first responders have been affected by mental health injury/disorder” — thus replacing “PTSD” with “mental health injury.” It says: “Whereas there is a need to change the Workers Compensation Act, under section 5.1, to add a presumptive clause as it is possible that within first responders’ duties, they will encounter horrific acts and develop a mental health injury.
“Therefore, be it resolved that a two-month maximum deadline be implemented when making a decision, at any decision point of the claim regarding a mental health injury claim, based on one psychologist’s and/or one psychiatrist’s report, and be it further resolved that upon receipt of a mental health injury claim, the worker should receive immediate financial benefits and treatment, with the understanding and agreement of the worker, their specialist and WorkSafe B.C., that if it is proven that the injury was not as a result of their duties of employment, there will be a repayment plan for the costs.
“Be it further resolved that when the worker is fit to return to work or retraining,” there will be a follow-up plan, to be agreed upon by WorkSafe B.C., the specialist and the worker.
“And be it resolved that under policy 97.34…” — Those of you who’ve been to UBCMs will realize that there are many, many policies. I challenge people to find this. They will, but there are a lot of them to go through. — “…a conflict of medical opinion, the probable difference of opinion shall be discussed with the physicians or referred to the treating physicians or specialists involved. If it is concluded that there is doubt on any issue, the board must follow the mandate of section 99 of the Workers Compensation Act and resolve that issue in a manner that favours the worker.
“And be it resolved that the province of British Columbia adds new legislative action to section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act, adding a presumptive clause for mental health injuries as set forth in the resolution to ensure the well-being of all first responders who have sustained a mental health injury.” Coming back again to that specific motion passed at UBCM in 2015, the first one that was included, for 911 operators.
Continuing back to the motion, it says: “A motion duly moved and seconded to amend the resolution by replacing the five enactment clauses with one enactment clause, reading: ‘Therefore, be it resolved that the provincial government work with WorkSafe B.C., first responders and other stakeholders to review and amend the Workers Compensation Act with the goal of supporting the well-being of first responders who have sustained a mental health injury….'”
That’s just getting complicated. It says it was not endorsed there. But that was a bunch of sub-motions within it. Nevertheless, we have that coming out of UBCM. It’s good to see that the government has responded to that.
But what’s more important as well here, of course, is that we have to ask the question: why is it that B.C. took so long to actually deal with this issue? We are really, other than Quebec, one of the large, major provinces to move forward with it.
We have two shining examples in Canada, those being the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan — we’ll come back to that in a second — who actually recognized, coming earlier to the government’s backgrounder, that there are two situations of work-related mental disorders: a reaction to one or more traumatic events at work and one primarily caused by significant work-related stressors such as bullying and harassment.
Recognizing that, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan now cover all psychological injuries defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and they do so for all professions. Why is that important? Most other provinces — Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, for example — largely cover PTSD, although in Ontario, there’s some new legislation coming forward adding nurses as well. But why is it that we have more progressive provinces actually going further?
Let’s go directly to the Workers Compensation Board fact sheets from both Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta has two such fact sheets that are relevant here — the traumatic psychological injury fact sheet and the post-traumatic stress disorder fact sheet. That’s the PTSD fact sheet. Let’s focus on what it says is the difference.
Effective December 2012, Alberta actually covered firefighters with PTSD presumptive clauses as well as emergency medical technicians and police officers appointed under provincial regulation. Also, effective April 1, they’ve added correctional officers and emergency dispatchers too.
If we look at the traumatic, psychological injury within Alberta, we see that that extends…. Effective 2018, it says “All workers covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act who have been: a) exposed to a traumatic event during the course of employment that could lead to PTSD, and b) diagnosed with a psychological injury by a physician or psychologist are eligible for presumptive coverage through WCB-Alberta, unless the contrary is proven.”
This in Alberta applies to every worker in Alberta — whether you be a teacher, a nurse, an emergency dispatcher, or whether you happen to be a social worker. Let’s imagine some cases. We see this legislation here as a direct response to very effective lobbying by police, by firefighters, and we thank them for their lobbying. But as legislators, we must not stop there and say that those who have lobbied are the only ones who have the issue.
I would argue that they are very efficient and effective lobbyers, and they are lobbying not only on behalf of their profession but for the broader society as a whole. I have a cousin who is a firefighter. I understand what it’s like to…. I don’t understand to be there, but I want to understand what it’s like to witness someone come home after they’ve scraped someone off the road following a significant car injury.
Over the years I have done some expert witnessing myself in forensic meteorology, and I’ve seen horrific pictures. But I’ve only seen them as pictures. I cannot imagine what people — firefighters, paramedics or first responders — would actually see when they go there, and having to scrape this off. Or in Oak Bay, those police who had to show up at the home of the two young children who were murdered by their father — can you imagine what they went through? I understand this.
But let’s also think about that social worker, that social worker who has to go into a home, and goes into a home and sees systemic child abuse happening in a home. Suppose that social worker who’s seeing systemic child abuse tries to get their superior to take steps to deal with it, and they’re not. That can be a problem. That can lead to profound problems down the road.
What about teachers? What about a teacher who is standing up and teaching the class for years, and then all of a sudden, they have a child in the class that’s clearly coming from a troubled home. The teacher has a duty to report a corresponding report, and teachers are professionals. They will and do all the time. But there are times, and I’m dealing with some in my own constituency, when nobody listens. The administration is not supportive. The system starts to protect itself. Yet the teacher is the one who has to deal with this on the front line. This can lead to down-the-road and ongoing systemic issues with respect to depression and anxiety.
Again, I come to a case that’s going on in my constituency right now, a very serious case that falls right in that definition. Where is WCB for them? Where is WCB for the person who now has to prove that their illness comes from the work environment?
When the system is trying to protect itself, that can be very hard, because your superiors are not going to be writers of letters saying “yes, we understand this person.” This is why it’s critical to include the….
What about nurses, who are front-line responders in many cases? Why are they not included in this? They would be in Alberta — I’ll come to Saskatchewan in a second. They would be in Alberta.
What about heavy truck drivers working on-site, where a major accident, a construction accident, occurs? It can have devastating effects on the workers on that construction site. It could have devastating psychological effects, which can be, through proper medical intervention, assessed and attributed to that accident. But they’re not covered under workmen’s compensation. Yet in Alberta, they would be.
What about somebody working in an office in downtown Kelowna, in an abusive work environment? But that person happens to be a single mother or a single father, and they’re earning just enough to make ends meet, because at home, they have an autistic child, and they have no family in town. They’ve got this one job, and they can’t quit this job, because if they quit this job, they’ll be on welfare.
Yet they’re in a systemically abusive environment that leads to depression and anxiety disorders or other such mental illness. They go to their psychiatrist, they go to their psychologist, and it’s very clear that it comes from the recommendations there. But again, they have to prove this. And as somebody going forward to workmen’s compensation has to prove it, they have to relive everything. They have to relive all of those experiences as they try to prove that their illness is a direct consequence of their work.
Progressive jurisdictions like Alberta — and let’s go to Saskatchewan — recognize this. They recognize that it doesn’t stop the due medical process from still occurring. It doesn’t stop workmen’s compensation from challenging an assessment, but it does provide a presumptive clause that would ensure that workers actually don’t have to relive every incident in order to prove it before workmen’s compensation.
Let’s go to Saskatchewan, another progressive jurisdiction. Now, Saskatchewan has a two-page fact sheet. If you go to page 2 on this fact sheet entitled Psychological Injuries, it says this: “Does the psychological injury presumptive clause guarantee that my WCB claim will be accepted?” It says this: “The WCB” — that’s Workmen’s Compensation Board — “will gather information to determine if you’ve been exposed to a traumatic event or series of traumatic events that occurred during work and if it is acceptable under the presumption.”
So they’re still able to gather evidence. They’re still able to make an assessment and a potential challenge if they don’t believe this was a result, but the presumptive language is there. The presumptive language is in the legislation that would protect the worker from actually having to relive that experience.
This doesn’t cost a lot at all. I suspect that government will step forward and suggest that in the case of some of them…. WorkSafe B.C. undertook these projections, and they suggested that the total cost for the presumption of the group of workers considered here would be $6.3 million a year across all of B.C.
It’s not clear if that’s going to have any effect on actual premiums, because WorkSafe B.C. doesn’t actually spend all the money they’re bringing in at this stage. So that could just be zero cost. And of course, any increases in WCB would actually go down to the local government and the municipal level, and the impacts depend on the size or the payroll.
For example, Terrace. Terrace is a small municipality, and it’s estimated that the presumptive clause, for all included classes, would have cost about $4,000 a year. That’s $4,000 for the entire city of Terrace. I think it’s worth it. Kelowna is a medium-sized city. In Kelowna, it’s $32,000 a year to cover all of these in presumptive clauses — $32,000 a year alone. It’s not a lot. In Surrey, it would be $86,000 a year — a large metropolis city there. So we’re not talking about a lot of money in these.
However, it’s critical to also think about not only the upfront costs but also the costs avoided — again, not only with the specific case of the people who are eligible workers but also with broader society. If you can avoid long-term costs of health care, long-term costs associated with frustration compounding mental disorders because of a lack of ability, feeling out of control from an inability to actually advocate for yourself when no one’s listening to the job environment, you could save money in the long term.
Not only that, but with a presumptive clause it gives WCB a little bit of power — a little bit of power that’s absolutely critical, particularly in larger institutions. Why that is critical is that if we come back earlier, to the two classes that are covered now in the present Workers Compensation Act, the two classes of coverage…. The two classes — I want to get them exactly right for Hansard so that I’m not misquoting. Here we go. The two classes — two, three…. I seem to be filibustering my own time here. I don’t mean to do that. Here it is.
The first one is, of course, a reaction to one or more traumatic events at work. That’s the first class. The second is one primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying or harassment.
I’m the designated speaker, Hon. Speaker.
Coming back to No. 2, No. 2 is critical — one primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying or harassment. Now, why is that important? We all know about people who work in larger institutions. Whether they be government, hospitals or hospital boards, universities, school districts or colleges, or whether they be large places of work — we all know, and have many a story to tell, about workplace bullying and harassment that goes on. In these institutions, very often, people feel that nobody is listening. The reason why they feel that nobody is listening is because you have to prove that a mental health issue would be a direct consequence of your work.
With the presumptive clause, the onus then comes on the employer: rather than to cover something up, to actually deal with the systemic problem. Otherwise, their Workers Compensation Board fees are going to go up. There’s an incentive to actually deal with workplace bullying, if you actually include a presumptive clause for all types of workers covered under the act.
I find it odd that I am the leader of the B.C. Green Party and that I’m arguing better labour policy to the NDP. This is a very odd situation. I can only hope that they see the light and recognize what Alberta and Saskatchewan did — that this is about incentivizing safe work environments. Two years ago now I stood in this House and introduced a bill that would require university campuses to add sexualized violence policies, to insist that they have them. The culture on campuses, from small to big, was one of: “It’s not our problem.” It’s one of not dealing with the problem.
These universities and colleges and smaller institutions want to be perceived as safe places for students. So if there’s an issue of sexualized violence, it’s kept under the table. It’s quiet, and policies aren’t really implemented. The Premier at the time stood up and agreed that this was an important issue, and we saw that legislation pass. It’s led to good policy being put in at many, but not all, institutions. All institutions have it, but not all have that as good policy, as we’ll hear about in the weeks and months coming, ahead.
Nevertheless, it required institutions to recognize that a problem exists. The ultimate penalty that they would have would be the stick of advanced education funding, which could ensure that they actually dealt with it.
In the case of workmen’s compensation, they too have a stick. If you are in an unhealthy work environment, one that’s conducive to bullying and harassment…. We all know examples of this going on. If your management does not step in to deal with it and workers start to go on leave and, following the presumptive clause, that reason for leave is actually pinned on the work environment — without having to relive it and prove it — then there’s an incentive to actually stop, to intervene, because your premiums will go up. You can bet that when it starts to affect your bottom line, it will make a difference.
I will not accept arguments from government that somehow this is going to cost, oh, so much to everyone. In fact, it should not cost anything. If institutions step up to deal with the problem, they should actually not cause it to rise. It’s there to protect workers. It’s there to save the health care system. And it’s there to ensure that institutions step in to deal with systemic bullying and harassment that too often is ignored in larger institutions across our province.
In Alberta and Saskatchewan…. Again, one government, an NDP government, and another government — well, Saskatchewan Party — is, let’s call it, the Conservative government. Across the spectrum. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a recognition of good public policy that employers need to be responsible and not everybody has the ability to quit a job and go somewhere else.
I want to come back…. I’ve talked about nurses. I’ve talked about teachers. I’ve talked about construction workers. I’ve talked about 911 dispatchers. And I’ve talked about office workers, but there are many other professions. I want to focus right now, a little bit, on 911 operators. I’m going to focus that on a story, because I think a story says it all.
I cannot accept that government has any rationale not to have 911 operators named in this act. I cannot accept that. We know, according to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, that public-safety personnel — including paramedics, police, firefighters, dispatchers and correction officers — are four times more likely than the general population to screen positive for clinically significant symptoms consistent with one or more of the mental disorders that we’ve been talking about.
If we need the research on that for 911 dispatchers, I have some right here. It’s not a prop. It’s just white paper. I have in my hands a document that I won’t read in its entirety into the record, but it’s a thesis that was from the University of the Fraser Valley. A fine institution from down in the valley.
A. Weaver: Thank you to the member for Chilliwack-Kent. He recognizes it is a very fine institution.
It’s a master of arts in criminal justice. Actually, hon. Speaker, I suspect our Speaker might be aware of this particular article, because it was from his former department, there, at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Its title is “Prevalence of PTSD Symptoms in Canadian 911 Operators.” We have an entire study here — and it’s B.C. focused — that points out the obvious issues with respect to mental illness, particularly PTSD and others, that are associated with emergency dispatchers and call receivers.
Let me finish with a story that I’d like to read into the record. This is a story that I’ll read, and I’ve been given permission by the person who got it to read it. She or he has given me that permission. What I’ve done here is — I don’t want to give out any names — I’ve removed identifying markers in this. It’s a story that I can vouch to be true, from a very real person in a very real part of British Columbia that had very profound consequences. This person, now, has told me about how she or he has consulted at least six dispatchers from not committing suicide.
The stories I heard — not only from nurses, not only from teachers, but from emergency dispatchers. One of these stories was a caller, a caller who received a 911 call from a passenger who was in a car in motor vehicle accident, reporting that. That passenger sees a head rolling by, a dismembered head. Can you imagine that? The caller is on the phone, dealing with this passenger, as this passenger is in hysterics. That had a profound effect, because that person is the first responder.
I hope government listens to this story and reflects upon it, prior to us debating this in committee stage. The story goes like this:
“Mr. X was his name. He lived on the second floor of a four-storey apartment building, about a block or so away from ‘YYY.’ I don’t remember the street name anymore, although I do remember that it has exterior stairs that go up to each floor, because ERT used them” — that’s emergency response team — “and I remember hearing them stomp up them, clanging on the metal stairs outside his open window.
“I received a 911 call, where all I heard was a muffled sound of pain and then a hangup. When I called back, a male with a thick accent answered, and he didn’t want to talk to me, but clearly he was crying and/or in pain. I worked hard to establish a conversation with him to find out what was going on.
“Eventually, he trusted me and told me that he had already committed hara-kiri by stabbing himself in the stomach with a large knife and was currently sitting on his bed, with his entrails hanging out. He tried to kill himself and now was really scared and didn’t want to die alone — not that he didn’t want to die. He just didn’t want to die alone.”
“I created the priority-one call and advised the chief dispatcher, who then continued to listen, for a bit, off and on through the call.
“His apartment door was locked, and so this became a barricaded man with a weapon call, and ERT was called out. He refused to talk to the officer at the window, but when talking to me, he would go back and forth between wanting to live and wanting to die. I convinced him that I cared and that if he wanted to live, then he needed to come outside so the officers and the waiting ambulance could get him to hospital for help.
“He believed me and was going to come out. Then he heard the ERT officer ask for a member at the parking lot to bring him the spud gun. This set Mr. X off on a tangent of terror. He didn’t want to be shot. He wanted to live, but he refused to talk to the ERT member at the window.
“At this time, he was still bleeding, and the knife was still in his stomach. He kept telling me he was going to just pull out the knife and let himself bleed to death if the cop at the window wouldn’t leave.
“On my end, I had my team manager telling me to hang up — the chief dispatcher telling me to hang up. Common sense told me to hang up, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t be the person who caused this man’s death.
“I told Mr. X that he needed to talk to the cop at the window, that they were there to help him. He went really quiet and then wouldn’t answer me when I asked him if he was still there. So I clicked on my mute button so he would believe that I had hung up — and then just listened.
“All this time, I was typing as well, letting the officers know what was happening and the dispatcher was doing the same with their stuff. I saw, in the call, the request for the spud gun and that there wasn’t one on scene, but it was on the way. They were waiting and still trying to establish contact with Mr. X, trying to strike up a rapport with him. He kept crying and denying them, accusing them of trying to kill him and asking them to let him talk to me.”
Remember, at this juncture, she’s on the phone with the mute button, unable to speak.
“He blamed them for making me hang up and told them that he was going to die because of it. Car number, number” — I won’t say what number it was — “was there as well, and he asked the chief dispatcher where the call-taker was. He was advised that I was still on the line but was being silent on mute. They were also still waiting for a negotiator to arrive. He was at least another 30 minutes away at this point.”
Hon. Speaker, you’ve got the picture now. A man — knife in his stomach, entrails hanging out. Because he has a knife, we have an ERT team. We now have to wait 30 minutes for the ERT team to come because he’s an armed person in there.
And who’s on the phone? This one emergency dispatcher.
I continue with the story:
“I knew that Mr. X wasn’t going to live that long. If he was bleeding badly from his belly, then we didn’t have much time. I don’t know who it was, but I heard through my headset an officer yell at the dispatcher to tell me to hang the f… up.”
I’ll let Hansard fill that in if they choose to. I don’t think it’s parliamentary to do so, but I’m reading directly here from this thing:
“I do know, though, that it wasn’t car X because it wasn’t his voice. I know his voice. I felt the horror, the terror of impending death, the helplessness of having my hands tied, incapable of doing anything for this man, and I could not hang up. I was frozen. I was convinced that if I hung up, he was going to die. I also believed at that point that if I said anything more, I would be in big trouble. So I sat there for about ten minutes, listening, vibrating physically, and tears running down my face. I saw in the call that the spud gun had arrived, and I could hear the dispatcher’s comments that an ERT member was trying to get a clear shot from the window. They were going to shoot him.
“Now, common sense tells me that this won’t kill the average man” — it’s a spud gun, hon. Speaker — “but this man already had his guts hanging out of his belly, had already lost a lot of blood and was already traumatized by all this.” I’m quoting again: “F…!”
No need to fill it in. It’s in the text here. This is a direct quote that was given to a psychiatrist in terms of what happened.
“I looked over at the dispatcher, who was looking at me. She very slowly nodded her head at me in my tears. She knew that I could change this around if I was allowed to try. I think she was telling me to go ahead and do it anyways. At this point, I had created the call almost 40 minutes ago.”
That’s 40 minutes this woman, this call receiver, sat through this traumatic event. And there wasn’t much time left to get any help at all.
“I made the decision and typed into the call that I had established a trust with the man and that I was going to re-establish contact with him now. At this point, Mr. X was yelling at the cops to all go away and leave him alone to die, that he was going to die and it was their fault. I started saying his name over and over until he stopped yelling and he heard me. I started talking with him again, got him to listen to what I was saying and trust me again. I talked him into coming outside with his hands up and letting the officers get him the help he needed, and he did. I typed this into the call, and the chief dispatcher came back on the line. She coordinated it with the ERT while I talked to Mr. X. He was scared, but he did it. He unlocked the door. Then we counted to three, and he opened it and stepped outside.
“I heard the officers take him down and him screaming all the way through it. They got him into the ambulance and off to hospital. I then hung up and just about collapsed. I had to leave the room. But on my way out, I heard the chief dispatcher talking on the phone with someone that I could assume was car X. She was defending me, telling that person, ‘Well, she did, so it doesn’t matter…. Well, she did….’ as I walked past her out of the room.
“When I came back into the room about 20 minutes later, car X was there talking to my team manager. He was visibly angry and told me in a very stern voice: ‘I don’t ever want to hear of you doing that again. ‘ But then he stuck his hand out to shake mine and said: ‘Good job. You should take negotiator training.’ What? I was left with the feeling of not knowing whether I was in trouble or being congratulated, whether I was coming or going.
“I never found out whether or not Mr. X lived. I tried to find out a few months later. The officers didn’t know, and victim services was unable to confirm he survived — equals, he did not.
“I feel the guilt and responsibility for this young man’s death. It is a moral injury that I will likely never recover from. The kicker here: my employer and X inspectors wrote me an ‘attaboy’ for a job well done. They congratulated me for successfully causing a human being’s death. I didn’t sign up for that. I’m not a police officer. I was never prepared for this possibility.”
Now, that is just one of many, many such stories that I have received over the last few weeks. I’ve got stories like this from nurses, and I’ve got stories like this from teachers, and I’ve got stories like this from a diverse array of professions.
But one thing I cannot accept is that when in opposition, this government delivered a private member’s bill that included specifically 911 dispatchers and callers and now, when in government, they leave out 911 dispatchers and call receivers.
They are first responders. In many cases, they are the first responder and the last person to hear someone alive, the last person to be the first responder while someone’s alive. They listen to cases like this. There are many, many other examples.
I understand that some emergency dispatchers are paramedics and so would be covered and that some are police officers and so would be covered, but not all. Many are just civilians and need to be covered under this legislation.
So over the course of the estimates, I have a series of amendments to bring forward — one of which I hope is passed, which I’m putting in; it’s on the order paper — to extend this legislation across other jurisdictions, all other workers, as defined in the act, just like they’ve done in Alberta, just like they’ve done in Saskatchewan, to actually protect workers from abusive work environments as well as to provide presumptive clauses not only for systemic harassment and bullying but also for traumatic events.
That’s the first, and I hope government sees the wisdom in that. As people look at the order paper amendment that I’ll bring in at committee stage, you’ll note that I recognize that government may have done some back work. So royal assent with the amendment would remain the same now, as proposed here, but would be extended a year so that we would give government a time to have royal assent for all other workers not already defined in the amendment here.
That’s the first one. I have some subsequent ones, hoping it will not be necessary to raise, under the assumption that government recognizes that we can do better. We can do better, and at least, we’ve got to do as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan. We’re a western province.
We value our workplace. For the first time in a very long time, we have a progressive, democratic government here, a government that actually brought in private members’ bills to do this and, in my view, are timidly responding in a populist fashion only to those who have directly lobbied without thinking about the broader consequences and the broader opportunity that is sitting before us now.
I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to debating it further at committee stage.