The House resumed at 8 p.m.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT (CONTINUED)
Resuming the debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 66, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, before we recessed at six o'clock, I was trying to express my feelings towards this bill and the sense of frustration and anger I share with the injured workers who should supposedly benefit as a result of the legislation.
I am one of the members of this Legislature who is dealing on a daily basis with injured workers. Every Wednesday night when I go to my constituency office, 90 per cent of the cases I deal with are related to the Workers' Compensation Board. They are cases other members who do not represent working-class constituencies perhaps do not have.
They are cases that are really frustrating. There are cases of people who have been working very hard for many years in industry and who all of a sudden are in an industrial accident. From that moment on, their lives are completely destroyed.
I was visited last week by John Biasut. He authorized me to mention his name to the standing committee on resources development when Professor Weiler was appearing. I use his name here.
He lives in the great riding of Brampton. He is 56 years old. He moved to Brampton just two years ago. He was healthy. He was working at a good job with a good salary. He was a bricklayer. He was making good money. He had the respect of his family. He could support his family.
All at once, he had an accident to this back. That is so common among so many workers; it is an accident which happens often. After two and one half years, he has been granted a partial permanent pension of $244 a month.
He went through the routine of rehabilitation; that mockery which is the present system of rehabilitation. He was sent to a place called COSTI-IIAS Immigrant Services where he had an assessment. Supposedly, he was to become a carpenter after being a bricklayer. Of course, he could not transform himself into a carpenter on the spot. At the end of the 13-week assessment, he was declared unfit to return to the labour market. His supplement was cut and he is now receiving only the $244.
He came to my office. He was in tears. It took quite a while for me to try to understand his problem. For Mr. Biasut, Bill 66, the present bill we are discussing tonight, means an increase of $12.20 a month and that is it.
He told me he could not work any longer because that was what he was told. He could not do his job as a bricklayer because he had his back broken. He could not be retrained because he has language problems. He is 56 and, at the age of 56, it is very difficult to be retrained because it is difficult to learn a new language properly.
Mr. Wildman: The board will not do it anyway.
Mr. Di Santo: My friend the member for Algoma says that the board will not do that anyway. I can bring dozens of examples of people who tried that route and, at some point, the rehabilitation counsellor came down saying:
"We have paid too much. We cannot do anything for you any longer. It is your business."
For Mr. Biasut, this bill means exactly that he will live in poverty all his life. I felt totally powerless and frustrated because I would not help him at all. The reason he was crying was, as he told me: "I have lost the respect of my family. My wife and my children do not respect me any longer because I was the bread-winner of the family and now they think that for some crazy reason ... "
Among other things in the decision of the board it was written in words he did not understand that he had an emotional overlay. He did not know what an overlay was. But his children, who had attended Canadian schools, understood that he was a little crazy. He said, "They think I am crazy and they think I do not want to work any longer." His life is totally destroyed because of the system.
The minister knows very well that by introducing this bill he will do irreparable damage to that poor guy. When the resources development committee is through with its work and makes its recommendations -- assuming the committee accepts en bloc all the recommendations -- then this guy has two options.
If he goes with the new system, he will lose everything. He will not be able to return to a job for which the board thinks he is fit because, according to the board, he is disabled for reasons that are not compensable.
If he stays with the old system, this injured worker will receive the $244 he is receiving now plus the increase contemplated in Bill 66, which will bring him to a pension of $256.20, for the rest of his life. If he stays with the old system, there will be no increase in his pension for the rest of his life.
Mr. Di Santo: The minister can scream as much as he wants, but we are angry because of this bill. He has no right to come before this House and insult the injured workers, who are suffering and who will suffer all their lives because of the philosophy behind this bill.
Mr. Wildman: Did the minister just stomp out?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Well he should, with the ridiculous claptrap that is coming from the member. He does not even know what economic feasibility and fiscal responsibility are all about and he stands up and yaps and yaps.
Mr. Mackenzie: Why do you not find a harp?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Why do you not crawl back under a rock where you came from?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Cousens): Order.
Mr. McClellan: Why do you not shut your colleague up?
Mr. Wildman: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Downsview had the floor. The member for Algoma on a point of order.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, I would hope you would direct the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) to retract that comment he made about my colleague the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie). It was hardly parliamentary.
The Acting Speaker: I did not hear the comment, so it goes unnoticed.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, perhaps you would suggest to the member opposite that this is a parliament that requires members to speak on behalf of their constituents and it is not considered a lot of yapping, as he tries to claim my colleague the member for Downsview is engaged in.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member and would ask -- the Minister of Revenue.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, it also requires members to speak in a reasonable and responsible method on behalf of the constituents they supposedly represent.
Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I think the Minister of Revenue should refrain from making his remarks, because when this bill was introduced he compared injured workers with the public sector and the restraint program of five and six of Bill 179, which is totally ridiculous.
The Acting Speaker: I am not calling anyone to order. I see another honourable member. The member for Hamilton East on a point of order.
Mr. Mackenzie: I would like to know on what basis somebody else, or some minister, decides whether a member is representing his constituents or not. It shows the arrogance of the man.
The Acting Speaker: The points of order are all finished. The honourable member for Downsview has the floor. Please continue speaking to the bill. We are talking on Bill 66.
Mr. Di Santo: I have no regrets at all about speaking for the constituents I represent.
The Acting Speaker: Speak to the bill. This is a diversion.
Mr. Di Santo: The Minister of Revenue said we do not know anything about economic feasibility.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Fiscal responsibility.
Mr. Di Santo: Fiscal responsibility. I want to tell the Minister of Revenue that is the utmost stupidity. We are talking about people who have lost their ability to work because of an industrial accident and who are penalized because of so-called fiscal responsibility.
Mr. Philip: Remember Minaki Lodge.
Mr. Di Santo: That is the next point I was going to make.
Bill 66 is the result of the reactionary mentality the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) and the minister who is talking to him espouse every day; that the Workers' Compensation Board is a system that should supposedly be fiscally responsible to the employers of this province because they are the ones who pay the shot.
I think that is what is basically wrong with this system. Until we change the system and, instead of having cheap insurance for the employer, have insurance for the people who get hurt on the job, this system will be a mockery of social justice, a mockery of assistance to the injured workers. That is why we are having so many problems; that is why the government has the courage to come to us and propose a five per cent increase in benefits for workers who are receiving $244 a month and why the Minister of Revenue tells me this is fiscally responsible.
Of course, I can somehow justify the Minister of Revenue, not because he has a great intellectual ability to grasp the problems but because he has not been at the hearings of the resources development committee. If he had been there, he would have understood that everybody who appeared before the committee, except a few groups -- the Financial Executives Institute Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and that great progressive organization called the Canadian Federation of Independent Business -- understood that if we have a system where the injured workers give up their right to sue the companies or the employers, they should be compensated.
That was a tradeoff, a tradeoff that unfortunately has until now been used against the best interests of the workers. Why? Because the injured workers are a defenceless group in our society. They come before the Legislature; they demonstrate day after day patiently, decently; and the government does not care. Why does it not care? Because they are a relatively small group.
If one compares the number of injured workers who are on partial permanent disability, which is in the range of 70,000 to 75,000, with the number of employers who contribute to the campaign of the Conservative Party of Canada, we can immediately understand why the Minister of Labour (Mr. Ramsay) comes here with this bill with a five per cent increase: It means that at the next election they will get much more than a five per cent increase from their corporate friends, and that is absolutely unacceptable.
As I said before, the minister espouses completely the ideology, which is totally reactionary, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Whether we talk about the ceiling in Bill 66, those of us who have been sitting on that committee and listening patiently to all the stupidities of the friends of the Minister of Revenue realize exactly why this government wants to make the employers happy, why it wants to make its friends happy.
Why the minister increases the ceiling in this bill from $24,000 to $25,000 a year is easy to understand if we read that in 1978, the Weiler report had been commissioned by the previous Minister of Labour, that great progressive member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), in order to stall the increases of benefits we were requesting in this party, the injured workers were requesting, even independent people like the Toronto Star were requesting. I should mention an editorial the Toronto Star wrote at that time saying injured workers deserve more.
The Weiler report said the ceiling should not be too high because, otherwise, injured workers would not have any incentive to return to work. That is the same proposal the Canadian Federation of Independent Business presented to Weiler. They said on page 23 of their brief:
"CFIB members were surveyed on the issue of eliminating ceilings on Workers' Compensation Board settlements. Responding early in 1981, 69 per cent of members voted against eliminating ceilings." That is wisdom because 69 per cent is a high percentage of the members of this federation. "Members believe that society should be responsible for ensuring an adequate but modest standard of income replacement."
Every person with common sense -- and the Minister of Labour has common sense, even though once in a while he overreacts when he hears things he does not like to hear but which are true -- would ask why should society be responsible for ensuring an adequate but modest standard of income replacement? Who says a worker in his life should have only modest aspiration to have his income replaced modestly when he was in an accident that was not caused by himself, and that was the result of something outside his control and that destroys his chances in life for advancement, for making a career, for enjoying life? This great organization of neo-Fascists thinks he should only have a right to a modest standard of income replacement.
Then the federation goes on by saying, "While the members support retaining a ceiling on covered earnings, 250 per cent of the average industrial wage is an unrealistically high level." The federation notes: "The average industrial wage reflects a well-established relationship including provisions for inflation and productivity. As productivity increases so have wage levels for employees. The federation therefore recommends that the ceiling on covered earnings be retained and established at 100 per cent of the average industrial wage -- $24,200 as of December 21, 1982."
I would like to ask the minister why he espouses a point of view which is not only reactionary but unjustifiable. The minister should have had the courage and the moral fortitude to stand in his place and explain why he thinks the benefits to injured workers should be limited to an amount of money set by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
If he had given us any justification, we could have contemplated what he said. But he came to us tonight and said, "Five per cent more or less reflects the rate of inflation, so that is what we are going to give the injured workers."
If the minister thinks we will treat this as a routine bill and just stand up and express our displeasure with what the government is proposing, then pack up because we want to go home and tomorrow is another day, he is totally wrong. We are going to fight it.
As I have said before, despite the comments of the Minister of Revenue, this is a bill that not only will affect the injured workers today, it will affect them tomorrow. We are guided by previous experience.
Only 10 days ago -- the day after the injured workers appeared outside the Legislature in that wonderful example of participatory democracy, giving the committee presentation after presentation in such a dignified way that the press and other media amply reported it throughout Ontario -- when we asked the minister if he was going to introduce the amendment, he said no.
That is indicative to me. I remember very well what has happened ever since I was elected to this Legislature. We came in 1975 -- after what we thought had been a reshaping of the board as a result of what Michael Starr had produced in 1973 -- and had to fight year after year to get increments in the benefits that, unfortunately, did not reflect the increase in the cost of living and much less the increase in the average industrial wage.
Minister after minister used every possible excuse to stall increases in the benefits, supposedly because of fiscal responsibility, a subject of paramount importance to the Minister of Revenue. That means, "We do not care about the injured workers as long as we have the balance sheet in order."
When we were asking the previous Minister of Labour why it was that the cost of living was going up, inflation was increasing and the injured workers were the only group in our society not receiving increases, the unspeakable minister of that time said, "It is because we need an actuarial study."
The government called the Wyatt Co. to make an actuarial study. That study lasted years and years. Every time we stood up here and asked the minister, "When will you introduce the amendments to the Workmen's Compensation Board Act?" we received the routine answer, "When the study is completed, you will see; we will give you the increases."
Mr. J. M. Johnson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I think the member for Downsview is not setting a good example for the textile trade in this province. I think he should be wearing a coat and tie to symbolize the concern in the textile trade today.
The Acting Speaker: I thank the honourable member for his comment but his point of order is out of order. We do not have such guidelines written down.
Mr. Di Santo: I appreciate the comment of the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel about the way I dress. I would appreciate it very much if he tried very hard, and I am not convinced he will succeed, to understand what we are discussing.
I was saying that in June 1978 we finally had the Wyatt Co. report. Because of the time that had passed since the report had been ordered, we did not have an annual review of the increases. Then when the minister was appointed to his present responsibility, Hansard records that we started asking him why he did not introduce amendments. The minister said, "In the past, it has not been traditional to introduce amendments every year."
They used the excuse against the injured workers before 1978, when they did not introduce amendments, that they did not have an actuarial study of the situation. After 1978, when this minister was appointed, it was because it had not been the tradition to introduce amendments every year. Who suffers in this situation? It is always the injured workers because they do not have a voice.
Professor Weiler was asked to study the situation. There is always a study of the Workers' Compensation Board. Before, it was Michael Starr and then the Wyatt Co. report because of the actuarial situation.
Incidentally, I want to respond directly to the Minister of Revenue, hoping he will listen, because when he talks of fiscal responsibility he does not know what he is talking about. Immediately after the Wyatt Co. report in 1978, the assessments for the companies for the years 1979, 1980 and 1981 were not changed at all. It was only last year that they went up moderately. The philosophy of the Workers' Compensation Board, which is reactionary and based on the protection of the employers rather than the employees, is reflected in the operations of the board, which will also be operating as a result of Bill 66 if it is passed. I hope it is not passed in its present form.
We know it is so difficult for injured workers to get through the system. They have to appeal, counter-appeal, go to doctors and specialists, and eventually, after a long process, they get shafted regularly by the board. Life is much easier for the employers. If we look at the number of appeals that will result from Bill 66, we will see that while the injured workers will keep appealing and appealing, the system is much easier for the employers. If one looks at the decisions made by the board, only a very small number of complaints go to appeal.
I would like to move now to another issue. I do not know if I should call this ironic, farcical or tragic, but if one looks at one key section of the act, section 42, it says in reference to further adjustment:
"Notwithstanding subsections (1), (3) and (5), where the worker is not working and is in receipt of temporary disability benefits and has continuously received temporary disability benefits for the immediate preceding 48 months, the board shall adjust the rate of compensation being paid by adding thereto an additional five per cent of the compensation rate being paid, but the compensation rate so adjusted shall not exceed the maximum established by sections 39 and 45."
After 48 months, how many people would still be on temporary disability? I would like to illustrate for the benefit of members what usually happens under the present system. When a worker gets into an accident, he is put on what the board calls total temporary disability, which means he gets 75 per cent of the wage he was receiving in the preceding four weeks. Even the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) agrees with me and I am glad of it.
That is the first distortion. Let us assume that a worker was unable to work for the four weeks before the accident, as in the present situation, and we have many examples of the United Auto Workers in St. Thomas. The board is unable to resolve the problem of workers who have been laid off and for special circumstances are unable to work four weeks before the accident. Those workers receive 75 per cent of the average wage they earned for four weeks before the accident. We think that is not fair.
There has been great discussion and debate before the resources development committee because Professor Weiler proposes 90 per cent net of wages as the basis for compensation. Many representatives of injured workers presented a proposal that it should be 100 per cent. The representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Financial Executives Institute Canada are proposing that is too much, because if the workers are compensated 100 per cent they do not have any incentive to go back to work.
We do not know what the committee will decide, but natural justice would say that we should not have a situation where a person was earning his or her living performing a job and all at once he or she was in an accident and because of the accident -- for reasons that are beyond me -- he or she should be penalized and get 75 per cent of gross income or 90 per cent of net income. I cannot understand why, and many people who have appeared before us could not understand why; but that is the system. So I assume that the committee will use common sense -- nothing else but common sense -- and give the injured workers what they deserve in total temporary benefits.
Right now we are going by the present act, the Workers' Compensation Act, and this minister is proposing that only those workers who have been receiving total disability benefits for the preceding 48 months, which is four years, would be entitled to an increase of five per cent in benefits.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if you have any knowledge at all of how the board operates you will realize that it is very unlikely, if not impossible, for a worker to be on total temporary benefits after four years. In fact, last -- there is too much conversation going on, Mr. Speaker, and in all modesty, my contribution to the debate is quite important.
Mr. Speaker: There was never any question about that.
Mr. Di Santo: In all modesty, I have done quite a thorough perusal of the bill and I have worked very hard trying to explain the reasons to the minister --
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interruptions, please.
Mr. Di Santo: Yes, it was quite inappropriate. He was telling me about the $40 million spent by the government for advertising, which is a shame but has nothing to do with this bill.
Let me go back to the point, because I feel very strongly about this bill. If the minister had read a memo dated June 10, 1983, from the policy planning secretariat of the Workers' Compensation Board, he would understand that the section of the bill that limits increases of five per cent to those injured workers who have been receiving total disability benefits for 48 months does not apply to anyone at all in Ontario.
That is shameful, because the memo we received at the hearings of the resources development committee says, "Distribution of duration of settled compensation claims" over "Duration, calendar days," and it starts from "zero to one day" and then goes on up to "400 days and over." For 400 days and over the percentage is 1.5 per cent.
I would like to ask the minister, if for 400 days and over the percentage of the injured workers receiving total temporary benefits is 1.5 per cent, can he tell this House the percentage of workers who have been receiving benefits for 48 months four years; which is how many days?
Mr. Martel: About 1,400.
Mr. Di Santo: Fifteen hundred days.
I think the minister is unable to respond because he knows very well there are very few people, if any, who are receiving total temporary benefits after 48 months. It is not an accident, as you or I may think, Mr. Speaker, because last year the injured workers who received increases, which at that time were nine per cent, had been receiving benefits for 36 months.
The year before, the injured workers who were on total temporary benefits were those who had been receiving benefits for the previous 24 months. This means this section of the bill is deliberately excluding from receiving benefits all those injured workers who had been on total permanent benefits in the last period of time, which means the majority.
Mr. Haggerty: Fifteen or 20 years.
Mr. Di Santo: Exactly; the majority of injured workers who were on total temporary benefits. I want to thank the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) for once. He is right. Like me, he deals every day with injured workers.
I know when this bill is passed, an injured worker will come to me and ask, "Why is it that the minister said I was going to receive a five per cent increase on my temporary benefits and I am not receiving it?" I will have to tell him it is because he has not been on temporary total benefits for the last four years. The poor guy will say, "Unfortunately, I had the accident only last year."
Is that not a mockery of justice? That is why we are so upset. We cannot treat this bill as an ordinary bill, as a routine bill we will pass so all the members will go home happy and say to the injured workers, "Tough luck; next year we will see." There will not be a next year because if we discuss the Weiler report, all the workers who are receiving partial benefits now, or partial pensions, will be stuck with this percentage all their lives if they opt for the present system. If they opt for the new system, those who are lucky will get wage loss. But that is in the future. It is hypothetical. What our experience tells us now is that the majority of the people will be stuck with this bill.
We should also consider another factor that we on this side of the House have raised time and time again. When the minister, in Bill 66, says the benefits are being increased under section 36, he tells us a widow or widower receiving the present $537 per month will get only a $27 a month increase, receiving $564, effective July 1,1983.
When the minister introduced this bill, he knew very well the discussion that had been going on in the standing committee on resources development. Even though he could not participate every day in the work of the committee, his parliamentary assistant has been there quite often. Of course, the officials of the Workers' Compensation Board have been there. I am sure they have been reporting to him on a daily basis. The minister knows very well what the discussion was.
Professor Weiler proposes a different approach to the survivors' benefits. It is an approach that, in all honesty, we do not accept. It has been criticized by the representatives of the injured workers. It has been criticized by the owners and it has been criticized also by organizations that are not strictly connected or related to injured workers -- by a lawyers' association, just to give members one example -- because it discriminates between the survivors who are over the age of 40 and those who are under the age of 40.
But one element is indisputable and that is, even in this case Professor Weiler said the way the survivors are receiving benefits right now is totally inadequate. He proposes a lump sum, which may or may not he acceptable, for the widows or survivors under the age of 40, and a lump sum of 250 per cent of the average industrial wage for those who are over 40.
If the minister had any common sense at all he would have accepted the thrust of that recommendation and would have come to one conclusion, that is, there is no doubt whatsoever that the present system of compensating survivors is totally inadequate. Actually, it is offensive. Therefore, let us try to find a system to give compensation which is decent and which is honest. If the minister had done that, he would not have introduced into this Legislature a bill that grants an increase of a grand total of $27 a month to widows and widowers of workers who died on the job.
Again, we know that the definition of survivors, according to the Workers' Compensation Board guidelines, is not that clear-cut. In fact, I had an appeal -- that I lost unfortunately, which we are re-appealing -- of a young boy who was 17 years old. He had just quit school and went to work for the summer. He had decided not to return to school because his father was disabled. Unfortunately, later on even his mother became disabled. He told his friends, who testified under oath, that he had decided not to return to school because his family was in need and he wanted to help his family.
After a while, he was killed in an accident on the job. Of course, the Workers' Compensation Board immediately denied the claim because they said that he was a student and not supporting his family; therefore his parents are not survivors.
It is extremely difficult in cases like that to go to appeal when we have guidelines which are extremely restrictive. If one had an opportunity to read the guidelines prepared by the claims services division on January 17, 1983, on entitlement for dependants, one would see that these guidelines are extremely restrictive.
The guideline says: "Claims for pecuniary loss are favourably considered when there is no spouse, children or foster parents entitled to benefits. Proof of dependency and the amount of the loss are confirmed." With this bill we are discussing tonight, there will he no remedy for all those cases where there is a relationship of dependency which is factual but cannot be proved within the framework of the guidelines of the Workers' Compensation Board.
I represented a constituent in a case before the board in an attempt to get the board to recognize that the young boy had gone to work in a factory, had left school and was actually supporting his parents because they were in financial difficulty and he had decided that from then on he would be a worker and supporter of his family. Under this bill, the survivors of that young boy would not have any benefits at all.
It is not only the amount of money; it is the conceptual basis of the bill that is wrong. It would he extremely difficult for the minister or for the government of this province, even though the Minister of Revenue talks about fiscal responsibility, to justify how a widow can survive on a pension of $564 a month.
Apart from fiscal responsibility, there is another human dimension that is important, and that is the moral responsibility of our society towards people who, through no fault of their own, have been put in that unbearable situation. There is no one who can deny that the widow of a worker who died on the job must be decently compensated.
If the minister has the moral fortitude to stand there and justify before this House that $564 is by any stretch of the imagination an income that can repay that, I would like to invite the minister to tell us what the parameters are. Is it loss of income? If it were loss of income, I want to ask the minister to justify to us how he can say $564 is compensation for the loss of income of the husband. If it is loss based on affection, on enjoyment of life, on a relationship that has been destroyed, how can the minister justify that $564 is an amount of money that can compensate for that incredible and irreparable loss?
The minister gets upset because we react angrily. It would be much more useful if he tried to understand the reasons for our anger, because it is easy to sit here in the Legislature and discuss in abstract a five per cent increase in inflation. What does that mean? If we talk about the president of Canadian Pacific Enterprises, a five per cent increase in his salary of $500,000 is $25,000; but if we talk about the poor widow of a worker who died on the job, her pension is $564 a month, and with five per cent the minister is giving her only $27 a month.
That is absolutely shameful and absolutely unjustifiable. I hope the minister at some point, instead of standing up and running out of this chamber enraged, will stand up and coolly and reasonably try to explain to us why the government is doing this to the injured workers of Ontario.
This is his responsibility. He cannot get away with this bill without giving any justification. If he came to us and told us. "Well, on the basis of the actuarial situation of the board we cannot give more than five per cent," then we would sit here and say: You are wrong; we do not agree with you. It should not be based on the actuarial situation of the board. There are other factors on which compensation should he based." We could have a civilized debate and disagree. But if the minister comes to us and gives us this phoney reason, the five per cent rate of inflation, it is absolutely unbelievable and I am sure he cannot justify it.
As I said before, and I want to repeat it, last year we opposed Bill 179 because that bill, as you will remember, Mr. Speaker, was unjust for a different reason. It was intended to select one group in our society, the public workers, and impose on them a burden of inflation, as the government defined it, for which they were not responsible. We opposed it because we thought it was unjustifiable that the government would choose only one sector in our society and would have them pay for what is considered a collective sin, inflation. We were fortunate because we had the support of other groups in our society that usually do not associate with political parties or with our party; and in January we had the letter by the bishops, an exemplary letter that supported our point of view.
In this particular bill, to make a link with Bill 179 even though it is not expressed, they imply: "Since last year we gave the civil servants a five per cent increase for the year 1983, we will give the same increase to the injured workers because we are fair, just people. We cannot give one group one increase and another group another increase, so we will give everybody the same increase." I think that is called sophism.
Mr. Wildman: Sophistry.
Mr. D Santo: Sophistry?
I do not know if the minister has ever studied philosophy, but sophistry is a false way of reasoning. You start from the same premises and you draw the wrong conclusions. That is what the minister is doing with Bill 66. He is comparing injured workers with another group, which was, per se, unjustifiably hit by a wrong decision of the government.
In this case, as I said before, the government is choosing a group which has been penalized for a long time, ever since I have been in this Legislature. because it is a group that cannot defend itself. The injured workers come, they protest, they go and then the government makes the decisions because the government has the numbers. There are 70 people sitting there. They do not even try to understand what we are discussing, but they vote against it anyway.
As I said before, this is very serious. I would have preferred tonight to do other things and I would have preferred not to have prolonged this discussion, but I think it is morally important and absolutely fundamental that we tell the government we will not accept this approach. They come with a bill that is unfair. They come in the dying days of the Legislature and expect us to pass the bill and pack and go home. That will not happen. It will not happen because the bill is fundamentally wrong. because the bill espouses a philosophy we do not accept and because the bill will result in a substantial hardship for the people who are living with the direct consequences of the present system.
I would like to illustrate briefly why a five per cent increase in pensions will be extremely damaging for those people who are right now at an age above 60, between 60 and 65, and who, with the new system, will suffer immensely. Right now, if we look at the bill we are discussing, there are very few injured workers, if any, on total disability. I do not think there will be any worker on total disability for 48 months who will receive a five per cent increase.
For those who come under section 43 of the bill and who are receiving a pension and a supplement and, as a result of this bill, will receive a five per cent increase in their pension and supposedly a five per cent increase in their supplement, what this means is that when we come back in October, the government will introduce the new legislation after the resources development committee has presented its report. No matter what happens, if those workers who are now between the age of 60 and 65 opt for the new system, then they will receive the pension we are setting now in Bill 66.
Since there will no longer be a supplement, what now in jargon is called the old age supplement, then they will have a remarkable reduction in their income without any possibility of recourse, because the other option they are going to have is to go with the new system. Yesterday, Professor Weiler and the representative of the Workers' Compensation Board said that those people who are now in that age bracket and who are receiving the old age supplement, are considered not fit for a modified or a different or a light job for reasons that sometimes are not compensable.
If you look at section 44 in the bill, Mr. Speaker, you will realize when it talks of impairment of earning capacity, today impairment of earning capacity is based strictly on clinical or medical reasons. Any reason that is not medical is not considered to be an impairment of a person's earning capacity. So for people who are now receiving an old age supplement, with the new system, if they opt for the present system, there will no longer be a supplement. They will be stuck with the pension the Minister of Labour is setting now in Bill 66 without indexing. That is the recommendation Professor Weiler made about which he feels very strongly.
If they adopt the new system, they will not qualify because the new system provides that an injured worker will receive a wage loss, but if a person has an impairment of earning capacity for reasons other than those related to an accident, that person will not have any wage loss and therefore will be totally cut off. That is another reason we oppose this bill.
I would be very glad if the minister would rise at some time and prove I am wrong, but I would have thought that since this amending bill is being presented to us immediately before the minister and the government introduce new legislation and I am sure they will bring in new legislation, otherwise how could they justify four years and two Weiler reports, the sittings of the resources development committee, the white paper and draft legislation and the sizeable amount of money spent in all these years. The government is now in a situation where it is almost forced to introduce some reform of the Workers' Compensation Board.
I would have thought the government and the minister would have come to this House and said, "Okay, this is the last bill before reform. Since this bill will set the floor for whatever the benefits will be for those workers who will opt for the present system, we want to make a gesture of human justice. We want to put them in the situation that when reform comes, their lives will not be totally devastated, and therefore we have introduced a bill that will take into consideration all the elements that are now not taken into consideration by the present act."
It is fundamental to understand that when we are talking of increases of five per cent of the benefits of partial permanent pension, we are talking exactly -- I want to make myself understood -- of pensions that are rated on the basis of this schedule which is dated to be effective February 15, 1972. It is called a permanent disability rating schedule. Injured workers call it, not inappropriately, the meat chart.
Mr. Haggerty: Mr. Speaker, is there a quorum in the House?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. It has been brought to my attention that there is not a quorum in the House.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells to be rung.
The Deputy Speaker: A quorum is present. I will again recognize the member for Downsview.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, in a way I am glad the honourable member called for a quorum. As I said at the outset, this is an important bill for the New Democratic Party. It is a bill we will not let pass in silence. I can put up with the conversations going on on the benches of the Conservative caucus. They will not deter me from speaking.
Mr. Havrot: Nobody is stopping you from speaking. Nobody is listening. Go ahead and talk.
Mr. Di Santo: I know the member for Timiskaming finds it hard to listen, but I will speak anyway.
Mr. Havrot: I beg your pardon.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I --
The Deputy Speaker: Continuing on, could I ask the members to be a little quieter. please?
Hon. Mr. Drea: For what?
The Deputy Speaker: All right; let's go.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, there is one point I want to make. If the members opposite think they can deter me because they outnumber us, and can talk and have conversations while I speak, I do not care. I am speaking on behalf of injured workers and I will keep speaking because I think we are talking about a bill that will be extremely damaging to injured workers.
I think it would he extremely useful for the members opposite if they listened carefully, because then probably they would be able to understand a reality they ignore. I have many examples. I could mention names and claims numbers of injured workers who come to my office from ridings represented by members of the Conservative Party who send them to the workers' adviser. Of course, one can understand how frustrated those workers are. They are suffering because of the insensitivity of the system, and the members opposite send them to the butcher.
I can understand they are not very interested in the problems of the injured workers. They would rather entertain their friends at La Scala or the Albany Club. They usually do not associate with injured workers because injured workers have problems. We deal with them. We want to talk about their problems, and I think we have a right to talk.
It is difficult for me to proceed in a rational and organized way because of the conversations going on on the opposite side. It requires more of an effort, but I will make that effort because I am very convinced that, if we pass this bill, the injured workers of this province will be worse off.
I was trying before to prove to the minister that five per cent --
The Deputy Speaker: I do not know what is going on. Everyone seems to be so happy and talkative.
The Deputy Speaker: A few are. I am just asking for a little quiet. It is not too bad now.
Mr. Di Santo: I think the injured workers of this province will not find it very amusing that, while we are discussing a bill that makes a direct negative impact on them, the members opposite are chatting pleasantly without paying any attention to the discussion.
I will carry on, as I am determined to make the points I want to make. I am convinced this bill should he completely changed to have any benefit at all for the injured workers. Members will forgive me if I am not very well co-ordinated because, not only do I have to follow my way of thinking, but I also have to put up with the disruption caused by the conversation going on.
I was trying to make a point, which is very simple but fundamental, that Bill 66 increases every benefit by five per cent. Now, if the benefits we are talking about are total temporary benefits, I proved, and I think there is no doubt, that not one single injured worker will benefit. I am not saying not one single worker in absolute terms, but based on the figures released by the Workers' Compensation Board, I think few, if any, will benefit among the five per cent of the workers who are receiving total temporary disability.
Let us see what will happen to those who are receiving partial temporary disability. If we understand which benefits and which injured workers we are talking about, then we will understand how serious this bill is and why those workers who supposedly are the recipients of the increase are so enraged and upset. The benefits we are talking about are based on this publication, which was effective from February 15, 1972. It is called the permanent disability rating schedule. The injured workers more properly call it the meat chart.
Why do they call it the meat chart? They call it the meat chart because the rating of the disability is based exclusively on a clinical assessment of the disability. If members look at the chart, they will see that for the amputation of a little finger one has a two per cent disability, for a ring finger it is three per cent, for a thumb, both joints, seven per cent, and so on.
In other words, it is only the medical evaluation that is the base for the pension rating. This has been one of the reasons why we have so many problems and that is why I am so upset. I thought the minister, in introducing this bill just before the reform of the Workers' Compensation Board as a result of the Weiler report, would try to remedy the situation affecting a number of injured workers, which is sizeable.
My colleague the member for Dovercourt (Mr. Lupusella) mentioned a figure given to him by the board's officials, that 50,000 injured workers who are currently receiving partial disability pensions will not be able to enter the new system. This means that they will be frozen at the level established by this bill.
One of the reasons we have so many problems is that those workers who are in an accident and who become permanently disabled receive a pension which is related only to their clinical disability. This means that, in the majority of cases, other disabilities that are collateral, or that are not strictly related to the accident but which are the result of the cultural situation in which that injured worker has been raised and lives; that are the results of a specific skill that worker had; that are the results of limitations in the fact that the worker had or had not the knowledge of a certain language, or had or had not a certain degree of education; that are related to his age; that are related to his ability to be retrained or to be rehabilitated vocationally, all of those elements are not taken into consideration.
For that reason I can say, without the possibility that anyone can say that I am not telling the truth, that the majority of the injured workers in the ridings of Downsview, Dovercourt, Beaches-Woodbine, Hamilton Mountain and Bellwoods are people who clinically are disabled to a small percentage. They would range between 15 per cent or 20 per cent, but, for all intents and purposes, they are totally disabled.
I want to bring to the members' attention that, according to the meat chart -- or what the board elegantly calls "the permanent disability rating schedule" -- a person who has a back disability and total immobility of the back has a maximum of, I think, a 35 per cent pension.
This means we have a great number of people who were in every kind of trade. In most cases they were doing heavy jobs in the mines, construction industry and steel industry. But, all at once, because of an accident, they are recognized as being 25 per cent or 30 per cent disabled. Because of that situation they are unable to work since they cannot do another job.
We are politicians. If we had a minor accident that would he rated as 15 or 20 per cent on a clinical basis; we could still perform our job. But a bricklayer, a carpenter or a miner who has had his back broken, even if he is rated as 15 or 20 per cent by the Workers' Compensation Board, cannot perform his job any longer.
In view of the fact that those workers receive only 15 per cent or 20 per cent compensation, and with this bill they will receive only a five per cent increase, when this bill comes into effect then those workers -- since they cannot work any longer -- cannot opt for the new system. They will not have a wage loss because they cannot work; and if one does not work, one does not get a wage loss. So they will be stuck with the present system; but if they are stuck with the present system, then they will receive no increases in their benefits. There will be no indexing.
Professor Weiler repeated time and again that in that case there will be no indexing and therefore they will be stuck at the level that is set by Bill 66. This is why we are so upset and why the injured workers are so upset.
I think this is very important, because if we do not understand how the system works, then of course some members may say in good faith, if they are not knowledgeable about the mechanism of the Workers' Compensation Board: "Well, inflation is five per cent; the government is giving them five per cent. After all it is fair. What more do you expect?"
I have said before that the starting point was already against the injured workers right from 1975. I am saying 1975 not because tonight I said, "Let me choose just one year in the last decade and then base my argument on that year"; I am choosing 1975 because that was the year, ironically, when the Worker's Compensation Board was reshaped.
You were not a member at that time, Mr. Speaker, but I know you were following with great interest the developments in the political world of Ontario and you remember them very well, coming from the same area as Michael Starr, the then chairman of the board. He made a very long study, which took quite a while and also cost the taxpayers of Ontario a lot. He came in with conclusions that we thought were courageous, because he said the board was a faceless monster and we should give it a human face.
I remember when the Premier (Mr. Davis) called Mr. Legge, who was then chairman of the board, at the Royal York Hotel and intimidated him into resigning. He did not want to resign, because he was a military man. He said: "I will not resign. I would rather die in battle." But he was convinced, I do not know by what means. Then the new chairman came, and he said, "Now we will reshape the WCB and we will give the board a human face." So 1975 was the year of the new era that never was.
Mr. Speaker, you must understand that it is extremely difficult to fight against the Workers' Compensation Board, because an army of people is working there and is producing incredible amounts of paper. We have limited resources and we have to take a calculator and determine the percentages and the numbers and add and subtract; so we cannot be up to date, and you will forgive me for that.
I am giving the figures we were able to extract last year. In 1982, we made a calculation that between 1975 and 1982 the consumer price index had increased by 78.3 per cent, the average industrial wage had increased by 75.4 per cent and the workers' compensation rates had increased by only 55 per cent. One would realize that, using any parameter, the injured workers had lost substantially according to either the consumer price index or the average industrial wage.
There is also a difference if one takes the consumer price index or the average industrial wage because we have been discussing at length the type of parameter the government should use in the annual review of the injured workers' benefits that Professor Weiler suggests.
There are several systems, one of which is to base the increases on the increase in the consumer price index. Another bases the increases on the average industrial wage. From my point of view, the difference is that a worker who is injured and loses not only his ability to work but to develop his career should be compensated on the basis of the wage he would have earned, not on the basis of prices, because prices may not be related to his ability to develop his career. Therefore, depending upon which element is used -- the average industrial wage or the consumer price index -- the injured worker is compensated more properly or less properly.
There is also another element that has to he taken into account: the period of time. Should the increases be on an annual or a quarterly basis? If the increases are on a quarterly basis, then the increases will be more substantial, while if they are on an annual basis, the increases will be diluted. Therefore, the workers end up losing; the board ends up gaining.
I hope I am making myself clearly understood. With the present system, the pensions are not just based on the permanent disability rating schedule which is, per se, unfair because it does not take into consideration all those other elements that are essential in defining the disability but are considered by the board to be not strictly related to the accident.
I have tried many times. I have put questions on the order paper trying to get information as to how many workers had been referred to psychiatrists. The members may not know it but the majority of the cases I am dealing with are injured workers who all at once, for reasons I have never understood, are referred to psychiatrists. Once they are referred to psychiatrists, the next decision is that they have a functional overlay, and their physical disability is X per cent. "Unfortunately, you are more disabled than X per cent but your overlay is not compensable." So the poor guy cannot work, he gets 10 per cent and he will get a five per cent increase on the basis of this bill.
The other elements that constitute the overlay that I have to try very hard to understand, because of my shortcoming, is they are not compensated. So the majority of the workers who do not return to work because of those other factors are going to receive a pension based strictly on the permanent disability rating schedule and will receive five per cent of that disability.
All those workers, if this bill is passed as it is now -- and I hope that it is not -- will receive that settlement of a five per cent increase and that will be it, especially if they cannot opt for the new system. I think that is basically unfair.
I want to read a letter I have received from an injured worker just so the minister can understand their feelings. This letter was addressed to the chairman and the members of the standing committee on resources development. I will read the letter as it is and will not make any editorial comments so members will know this reflects the feelings of a worker who is expecting something from us:
"Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:
"I am an injured worker. At the first meeting held September 22, 1982, I wanted to say something but there was not enough time. Today I took the liberty of handing to all and each one of you this letter. Concede to it, please, five minutes of your precious time.
"Much has already been said on both sides of the fence and certainly I do not want to make a compendium of it but what I want to add is one more emotional plea that is coming from the recondite bottom of my heart, which profusely is bleeding from the many wounds inflicted upon me and to many thousands like me by the flagellators encountered along the road of my life.
"I came to this country when I was very young indeed, full of dreams and ambitions, as a pure, beautiful young man can have, but along my pathway I found out what it meant to taste other people's bread. It was extremely salty and sour. Now, as you yourself can see, I lost my vitality through no fault of mine.
"Alea iacta est. The die is cast, but I still keep asking myself over and over again for what purpose and, most of all, for whom, perhaps for the wind which has gone by, or for a few unscrupulous people who, full of richness and with aloofness walked over my dead body. It has been said that if you run, I will shoot you and if you stop, I will stab you.
"Either way, ladies and gentlemen, I am a dead man. That is where I do stand today and I believe this is not a very comfortable position to be in. I am sure that among you there are many persons who are compassionate and brave enough to vote against some rules which are a disgrace to this beautiful and civilized country. Those rules or laws can be abrogated instead new and better, more humane ones can he inscribed on to the sacred book of the Workers' Compensation Board.
"To you, ladies and gentlemen, has been given the hazardous task of changing this pandemonium of discrepancies. Upon you have been cast the eyes of countless thousands of people. You can make history, a benevolent kind of history I hope, but either way, your names are there for posterity to ponder and at the same time to judge your deliberations."
I must say this letter comes from 552 Dundas Street, which I suppose is in the riding represented by the member for High Park-Swansea (Mr. Shymko) and I hope he listens to his constituent's plea for compassion. That is what we are talking about. This is a letter that is not political. It has no hostility in it, no hate in it. It is the letter of an injured worker who because of an accident --
Mr. Di Santo: He lives in High Park-Swansea. He is suffering because of what he calls "this pandemonium of discrepancies." It is an appeal to all of us, the chairman, the government, all the members of the Legislature to try to sort out this mess, because he says: "When I was young I worked, I did whatever I was asked to do. Now I am in this situation. How can I defend myself"?
If we pass Bill 66 we will perpetuate this situation. That is what I am trying to have the minister understand. If we perpetuate this situation, we will do a disservice to the injured workers. Perhaps they are easy to forget because they are suffering in silence in their homes. They are unable to organize. They are not a powerful, pressure group in our society. When they demonstrate, one can see them with their canes and crutches, they are harmless, but they are human beings who are suffering because of this system which is unfair to them.
What they are asking and what we are asking is that the government modifies this bill and gives them some justice. We are not naive; we understand that this government is operating within a philosophical framework that is intended to protect the interests of the employers rather than the interests of the employees. We understand that.
It is interesting to note that all of the organizations that appeared before the social development committee commenting on what I think is a major point of this hill -- the average earnings, how the average earnings are to be compounded, the ceiling -- all said we cannot remove the ceiling, as many people have suggested. Why? We should have the compensation at the lower level.
I want to read this. This is from the Financial Executives Institute Canada. "We believe that an immediate move to 250 per cent of the average industrial wage would be disruptive." It does not say disruptive for whom. Certainly not for the injured workers. Accordingly, they recommended that a ceiling of 175 per cent of the average industrial wages be considered at this time. And 175 per cent is very generous if compared with the ceiling of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that recommended 100 per cent, in other words, the ceiling the minister is accepting in Bill 66. It is virtually the same; I do not want to mislead anyone.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business suggests a ceiling of $24,200 as of December 21, 1982, and now we are at the end of June 1983. Therefore, $25,000 reflects exactly the dictum of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Why did the Financial Executives Institute Canada suggest injured workers should not receive high benefits? They are quite frank and say:
"The concept of replacement of disposable income rather than a fixed percentage of gross income achieves the objective of maintaining the injured worker in much the same financial position during the recovery period. The allowance of 10 per cent for saving of employment costs and some incentive to return to work seems reasonable. We strongly support the recommendation."
This is the philosophy embraced by this government. We do not dispute that; we know exactly where they are philosophically. This is the philosophy reflected in this bill; it is that the injured workers are those who -- according to the Canadian businessmen's associations or to an infamous lawyer who said that the majority of the claims are fraudulent -- are most likely taking advantage of the system.
As the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) suggested before, there should be fiscal responsibility. Therefore, if we penalize the injured workers a little or substantially it depends on how reactionary the proponents are -- we may give them an incentive to return to work. Therefore, they will not take advantage of the system. That is why in Bill 66 the minister proposes there should be a ceiling of $25,000.
Mr. Speaker, you are not a member of the standing committee on resources development, but certainly I saw you during the last elections taking part in public meetings with the construction workers at the Darlington nuclear station. Certainly, by direct experience, you will know those workers in your riding at those jobs make much more than $25,000, not because they steal the money but because they are in trades that require a specific expertise. They perform jobs that are very difficult to perform. and they work very long hours. Most of them make much more than $25,000.
Under this bill, if, God forbid, any of them had an accident, they would receive a substantial cut in income, a reduction in income through no fault of their own, because on June 9 the Minister of Labour introduced a bill that said, "You will be compensated up to a maximum of $25,000." I want somebody to explain to me if that is not a totally arbitrary decision of the government; and if it is not arbitrary, the government must justify the rationale on which it based its resolution.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: If you can't say something in half an hour --
The Deputy Speaker: The honourable member has the floor.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I thank the members opposite for contributing to this debate. The Minister of Revenue is right: You can say in half an hour what you can say in an hour. But what the minister forgot to say is that it depends on the audience, because some people can understand in five minutes what others cannot understand in hours. Unfortunately, I am confronted with the latter kind of audience, and I have tried time and again to make them understand.
The Minister of Revenue was with you during the last election, Mr. Speaker, with the construction workers. If he had taken the time and asked them what their annual salary was he would have realized that they made more than 525,000 because of their hard work, because of the long hours and because of their skills. With this bill, the Minister of Labour says that the ceiling on their compensation should be $25,000. If the Minister of Revenue is able to explain the rationale for this, I will sit down immediately. I want to defer to him if he can explain it to us.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: The rationale is kind of tied in to what was known as Bill 179 and the ramifications of a realistic economic policy for this province.
Mr. Martel: What is he on about?
The Deputy Speaker: I do not know. This is not a debate. The member for Downsview has the floor.
Mr. Wildman: Since when are compensation recipients public employees?
The Deputy Speaker: We all know that interjections are allowed, and the member for Downsview is being very provocative.
Mr. Di Santo: That is the irony of this discussion. The Minister of Revenue suggested just a few minutes ago that you can say in five minutes or in half an hour what you can say in three hours, but he fails to understand after three hours that it is for exactly what he said now that we are opposed to this type of hill, because you cannot compare injured workers to civil servants. He cannot compare Mr. Biasut, whom I mentioned before, or the majority of the injured workers who are on partial permanent disability with his deputy minister, because if his deputy minister makes $50,000 a year --
Mr. Martel: Fifty thousand dollars? Seventy thousand dollars.
Mr. Di Santo: Seventy thousand dollars a year? That's even better. He is not even listening, because he does not care; I know that. I wonder what the constituents in the riding of Durham West think of their representative.
Does the minister understand that if his deputy minister, who makes $70,000 a year, gets a five per cent increase he gets an increase of $3,500 a year, but if an injured worker makes $100 a month from his pension he gets an increase of $5 a month, or $60 a year? Does he understand that or not?
I know what is behind the posture of the government. I know what they think. They are saying, "Okay, let them talk, because when we come to the crunch, there are 70 of us and we can pass any legislation we want." That is exactly the wrong approach they took before 1975 and that will be their downfall.
I know what the government thinks. They have discounted the injured workers. As I said before, there are 50,000 people who will not be able to enter the new system when the reform takes place. We were told that by Workers' Compensation Board officials and those 50,000 people will be frozen.
The government says, "We do not care about them. They are not our voters. Our voters are the owners of the companies. The executive council of Canada are those who contribute to our coffers." They contributed to the election of many of those members. "The injured workers are not our constituency so we will freeze them."
That is wrong, it is unfair, unjustifiable and inhuman. Even if the Minister of Labour were to stand in this Legislature and give us a rational explanation of what is behind this bill and tell us why he thinks that five per cent is adequate for injured workers, we would be fighting like hell until he changed his mind.
Even if he does not listen, we would keep talking forever because this is too important for us and for the people we represent. We cannot allow this government to pass this legislation just because they have a majority.
I want to repeat what I said before. A time will come when the numbers will be changed perhaps or when the majority of the people of Ontario will understand this is the wrong way of dealing with a group in our society that is not asking for social assistance.
That is what one reads in the presentation of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business: "Let us give the injured workers some benefits and then it is the role of society to keep them." Which means, in effect, we give them a five per cent increase. If they cannot survive, if they are below the poverty line, tough luck, they can go on welfare.
We have hundreds of cases of injured workers who will be affected by this bill and are receiving pensions that are totally inadequate. They are people with personal dignity and integrity who refuse to go on welfare because they think it is humiliating. It disrupts their life and destroys the type of family structure in which they have been raised and of which they are proud. The government does not seem to understand that, or perhaps I am naive.
Perhaps the government understands it very well, and does what the government does in every other area of public policy. We know what happened with the financing of education. From 1975 on, the government has been reducing grants to the school boards and the school boards are forced to increase property taxes. The government has been reducing grants to municipalities and the municipalities are increasing property taxes in order to supply services to the citizens.
Exactly the same thing is happening with this bill. The government is reducing the compensation to the injured workers and is, in fact, telling them they should go on welfare; which means it is putting the burden on the general treasury.
With this bill, the government is saving money for its friends, the employers, and is passing the buck to the general treasury and to the municipalities. In effect, it is asking the taxpayers of Ontario to pay injured workers who instead should be compensated by the Workers' Compensation Board, because that was the reason the system was set up originally and was the reason that in 1914 there was a tradeoff between the workers and the employers.
Mr. Speaker, you will remember very well that when the first act was introduced the tradeoff was that the injured workers would give up their right to sue the employers and the employers would --
Mr. J. M. Johnson: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: We have been criticized that we have not been able to obtain a quorum in this House on occasion because of various reasons, but when a speaker goes on for two and one half or three hours and cannot express a point within that time frame, it becomes extremely discouraging. This member has been on for well over two hours and has not been able to say that much.
An hon. member: He has not said anything.
Mr. Speaker: I would point out to the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel that nothing is out of order inasmuch as we do not have any time limit on debate. Honourable members are free to take as much or as little time as they may wish.
Mr. Lupusella: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I think the honourable member should have the decency to call the member for Downsview "an honourable member" instead of making a derogatory remark about "this member," which does not mean anything.
Mr. Speaker: I must point out that is not a point of order either. Now we will listen to the member for Downsview.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: He doesn't care about time. It is nothing but a waste.
Mr. Foulds: Why didn't you bring in this bill in April?
Mr. Rotenberg: You don't want an increase for the workers.
Mr. Foulds: We certainly do. Blackmail at the end of every session; you guys always do it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I have recognized the member for Downsview.
Mr. Conway: What will the school children think? Much less our distinguished visitors?
Mr. Speaker: The member for Downsview.
Mr. Di Santo: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Wellington-Dufferin-Peel for his comments. He is leaving now because I think that he thinks he is inadequate to understand what we are discussing. I would have suggested that he go and talk to the former Minister of Labour, the Minister of Education (Miss Stephenson), who understands the system very well. In fact, she was very much a part of the process of stalling the increases of the benefits in the years from 1975 to 1978, when she also spent an inordinate amount of money in producing the Wyatt report, which only had the effect of stalling the benefits of the injured workers.
Of course, the former Minister of Labour understands very well why this government is now proposing this bill to the House. If this bill is passed in the form that is before us it will be a net saving for the companies, for the employers, and the injured workers --
Mr. O'Neil: Be careful, they are going to pull the bill and then you will be blamed.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed, please.
Mr. Di Santo: I want to say again, I am determined to have the government understand this is the wrong bill. The injured workers understand very well that, if this bill is passed, then whatever reform takes place, for most of them this will be the basis of their compensation in the future. They refuse it because it is unfair and unjust.
I do not make any apology for this. Most of us have been dealing with the results of the Workers' Compensation Act every day. We are spending a great deal of time trying to deal with this bill and with the incredible problems caused by the current legislation.
If the minister thinks he can come and tell us the basis for this bill is the rate of inflation, we do not accept it. If the minister pulls the bill, that is his responsibility. I do not apologize. The injured workers will understand exactly what we are fighting for. They have said that openly since the beginning.
All the members who have any knowledge at all of the struggle of the injured workers will remember they have made some demands since the beginning. One of the demands was dignified pensions. I explained at length that the pensions they are receiving now are not only not dignified, but are offensive. If we pass Bill 66, the system will be perpetuated because this will be the basis for the future compensation of all those injured workers. They will be forced to opt for the present system with a more damaging feature, which is the lack of any indexing in the future.
Another demand the injured workers have been making is job security. This bill does not provide for any type of job security. It talks only of "the impairment of earning capacity." As I explained at length before, impairment of earning capacity is based solely on the clinical, medical reasons on which the disability is decided. We think that excludes immediately the majority of the injured workers I represent, and for which I am working every day of the week.
Unless the minister accepts that the concept of an impairment of earning capacity should include other elements such as social and economic elements, age, language, culture and skill, then this bill will be extremely damaging for those injured workers who will not he able to opt for the new system because they are not working now and will not be able to work. Therefore, they will be stuck with the present system and their pensions will not be indexed. Professor Weiler said time and again that the pensions of those who are receiving benefits now will not be indexed.
I think that our position is not unreasonable because, when the minister made his introductory remarks, he did not justify this bill. He said the only reason this bill was introduced and based on five per cent was the inflation rate.
My colleague the member for Dovercourt (Mr, Lupusella) reminded the minister in December, when he introduced the previous bill which gave an increase of nine per cent, that we were faced with exactly the same situation. We were in the dying days of the session, just before Christmas, and we were faced with a bill that actually said either we accept this bill or get nothing. Of course, that is a type of blackmail I do not accept. I speak for myself, but if the government thinks it can bring in a bill every time the Legislature is on the point of adjourning and tell us, "It is either this bill or nothing," and that we will accept that bill, the government is wrong. As I said, I do not like the method in general terms.
But even if I dislike the method, I dislike this bill even more because of its implications. I am trying to get the minister to understand the reasons we are fighting it. It is not because we do not like him personally; I do not have anything personal against the minister. But with Bill 66, the minister's philosophy is reactionary, it is against the interests of the injured workers.
This is reflected very well in the Wyatt report, in the brief presented by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and in the brief of the Financial Executives Institute Canada, It is a philosophy that says, in effect, "We will compensate the injured workers by the least possible amount. If they cannot survive, tough luck, It means they can go on welfare. Society will take care of them."
It is time we reversed this way of thinking. We are in 1983 and we cannot keep thinking in a way which was probably adequate in 1914. We must come to the point where the government becomes convinced that the Workers' Compensation Board must be an insurance for the workers who become injured.
If the government becomes convinced of this simple idea, then it will realize that when a worker gets injured, it is the responsibility of the government, through the Workers' Compensation Board, first, to compensate him adequately, and then to put him in a position that once he is clinically stabilized, he must be vocationally rehabilitated. Third, it must provide him with a job, because we all understand that when a worker becomes disabled, if he is left to the law of the marketplace, as he is now, he will never find a job.
Especially with the situation we have today of very high unemployment, we cannot leave it to the good heart of the employers to hire injured workers, because the supply is immensely superior to the demand and employers can choose all the employees they want. Of course, they will choose those persons in good health, they will choose the young people and they will not choose the disabled workers because they are potentially people who may create problems in the minds of the employers.
I think this is not a revolutionary approach. It is not socialistic. It is an approach that has been taken by many countries in the world, many industrialized nations, where the pluralistic components of society have a reflection in their economic makeup and therefore workers are not always sacrificed to the interests of the ruling class.
We have to come to the same point here in Canada. We have to realize that workers are not a commodity that can be disposed of at the whim of an employer or with the complicity of the government. We have to realize that workers are an essential component of our society and they must have their opportunity to participate in the process of decision-making, exactly in the way that the Catholic bishops expressed in their pastoral letter of last January.
If we do not understand that workers are a fundamental part of our society and their role is not secondary to any other component, then we will go ahead with bills like Bill 66. But if we understand that simple concept, then perhaps we can arrive at a situation where employers will realize compensation is a cost they must assume, just the same as any other cost. It is not a nuisance they would rather do without, but a cost in the production of goods, just the same as raw materials or machinery. If they do that, then they will enter the world of the modern industrialized countries where this concept has been accepted for a long time.
Mr. Di Santo: I am glad the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) agrees with me, because he has been in this House a long time and he has been present at many debates similar to the one we are having tonight.
I want to make a last plea to the minister. I hope that he does not undervalue the human expectations of thousands of injured workers who feel offended by Bill 66. I hope he understands that the injured workers consider this bill as a slap in their faces. I hope that the next time we sit he will make a statement giving us a commitment to amend the bill according to the indications given by my colleague the member for Dovercourt. The minister knows very well those indications are not unreasonable and are within the reach of the present budget of the Workers' Compensation Board. He knows very well it will not cost that much to increase by five per cent, 10 per cent or 15 per cent, because the assessment has not gone up substantially for many years.
Mr. Speaker: I direct the honourable member's attention to the clock.
On motion by Mr. Di Santo, the debate was adjourned.
CROWN EMPLOYEE AT CONSERVATIVE CONVENTION
Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 28, the member for Ottawa East has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Premier (Mr. Davis) concerning the political activities of Mr. Roger Régimbal.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, I --
Mr. Foulds: Notice the Premier is back here to respond.
Mr. Roy: Yes. I notice that the clock is running and, of course, I know of the time limitation. I am sorry to see the Premier is not here this evening. I can understand that this issue can be embarrassing. One of the senior people in the civil service has been actively involved in partisan politics, and I would think that is embarrassing to the government. The answers given by the Premier this afternoon were not such as to endear and protect the integrity and independence of the civil service.
I am sorry to see the Premier is not here this evening, so I will do with second best, I suppose. I have here the Premier's favourite photograph -- the pipe, the cap and all -- and I will speak to the photograph. If I could reach the Hansard people, in fact, I would direct them to put it on the Premier's chair and --
Mr. Boudria: Do you want us to do it for you?
Mr. Roy: Yes, I would appreciate it if some of my colleagues would take the picture over, and I could direct my attention to the chair.
Mr. Shymko: At least the Premier is here on Mondays and Fridays.
Mr. Roy: Well, it is okay if you practise partisan politics -- unless, obviously, you are backing the wrong man.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I remind the member for Ottawa East that he is to direct his remarks to the Speaker.
Mr. Roy: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I accept your admonition. You will understand that I was provoked by that member.
I want to say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier's picture, that I am here this evening to defend the independence and integrity of the civil service. I will not be provoking the Premier this evening, Mr. Speaker; I will just bespeaking through you to the Premier.
What I want to say -- and I said it this afternoon; I do not intend to repeat it -- is that this individual is a senior public servant. When I look in the latest volume of the public accounts, I find that Mr. Régimbal earns $53,115 per year. This is no part-time job; this is no per diem. This is full-time, responsible employment to represent the Franco-Ontarian community to the government. That is the first point to be made.
Second, there was some discussion this afternoon by the Premier that somehow this individual was not bound by the provisions of the Public Service Act. Let us look at the Public Service Act. The definition of "crown employee" reads: "'Crown employee' means a person employed in the service of the crown or any agency of the crown, but does not include an employee of Ontario Hydro or the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission."
So I would submit that this individual is subject to the rules and regulations in the Public Service Act and that participating actively as he was in the Conservative convention on the weekend is contrary to the principle of section 12 of that particular statute, which states:
"(1) Except during a leave of absence granted under subsection (2), a crown employee shall not...
"(c) associate his position in the service of the crown with any political activity."
So my point, Mr. Speaker, through you to the picture of the Premier on the Premier's desk, is simply that the Franco-Ontarian Advisory Council, through its president, has a very important mandate not only to represent the Franco-Ontarian community but also to be a critic on behalf of the community if the government does not do its job.
Let me read from the latest report, and I do so quickly, because I know of the time limitation: "To act on its own initiative and advise the government of its observations, analysis and criticism" -- "criticism" it says here -- "relating to all matters under the jurisdiction of the ministry or government agency of possible interest to the Franco-Ontarians."
My plea this evening is not only for the civil service --
Mr. Shymko: He will be at the Liberal convention.
Mr. Roy: Listen to that.
Mr. Speaker: Never mind the interjections.
Mr. Roy: That man is frustrated because his candidate lost over the weekend. I understand that.
My plea this evening is not only for Roger Régimbal and the Franco-Ontarian community, but is on behalf of the members of the whole public service, who, by and large, are independent and are objective. I say if the Premier tolerates what happened, he is undermining the whole civil service community.
The House adjourned at 10:36 p.m.