WCB rates increase in 2007

Yukon employers are about to be hit with higher workers compensation rates. Most industries and businesses are looking at 15- to 20-per-cent rate…

Yukon employers are about to be hit with higher workers compensation rates.

Most industries and businesses are looking at 15- to 20-per-cent rate hikes, according to an order in council signed off on Tuesday.

The Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board approved the hikes on October 17 — 10 days after the territorial election.

During the election, there was to be a meeting about the rates. But board chair Craig Tuton, who is also the Yukon Party’s campaign manager, cancelled it, saying the numbers were not ready to be released.

Workers compensation spokesperson Mark Hill confirmed the increase, but said the order was so new the office did not have a copy as of Friday morning.

Workers comp. is planning an official release of the rates in late November.

“We’re really leery of the rates being released out of context,” said Hill.

“It’s very important that people understand what’s triggering this and that the real cost is a human cost instead of just seeing numbers.

“Ten per cent of our workforce has been injured and three have been killed,” said Hill.

“That is what’s driving the cost.”

There have been 1,581 reported injuries so far this year.

For all of last year there were 1,823.

“We know we’re ahead of where we were last year,” said Hill.

WCB is also eliminating the subsidies that have kept employer rates down for the past 25 years.

Although the 2007 rates are fixed for the year, the increase in claims is poised to drive the rates up further in future years, he added.

In 2007, the building construction employers will see an 86-per-cent rate hike. It will rise to 8.89 per $100 of payroll from 4.79.

The Yukon government and First Nations rates will hold steady at 2.02.

Resource employers like placer mining, mapping and gravel crushing will see a 19-per-cent hike — to 4.18 per $100 of payroll from 3.51.

Diamond drilling and outfitting will see a 17-per-cent hike.

Professional offices will see a 26 per cent increase with rates rising to 1.09 from 0.86. Hotels, motels and lodges will pay nearly 19 per cent more.

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Rick Karp did not know the order existed.

He has refused to comment until studying the increases.

Contact Leighann Chalykoff at leighannc@yukon-news.com

BUDGET

Stats Can report shows Yukon financial roses

The Yukon is one of only three Canadian jurisdictions that is not carrying any net financial debt, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.

“The financial assets of Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon continued to exceed their liabilities in 2005,” according to Tuesday’s edition of The Daily.

The report pegged the Yukon’s surplus at $280 million as of March 31, 2005, ahead of the NWT’s $49 million but well behind Alberta’s $19 billion.

The report translates Yukon’s surplus to about $9,000 per Yukoner.

“Per capita net financial debt was highest in Newfoundland and Labrador at $19,439, Quebec at $13,173 and Nova Scotia at $12,290,” it says.

The Daily statistics do not correlate with the Yukon government’s own picture of its finances, said deputy Finance Minister Bruce McLennan.

“They have a different methodology in terms of how they report their numbers,” said McLennan.

“They’re talking about different years, so you’re really talking apples and oranges here.”

However, both portraits show the Yukon in a healthy financial position.

The Yukon government released its 2005-2006 public accounts on Tuesday as well.

They indicate net financial resources of more than $99 million, up from $48 million the previous year.

The surplus for the 2005-06 year is more than $74 million, up from $5 million the previous year.

Sheila Fraser, Canada’s Auditor General, signed off on the public accounts without qualification.

“Our financial statements are current; they’re audited and they were given no qualification,” said McLennan.

“From an accounting perspective, those are the most reliable pieces of information.” (GM)