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Workers' act review given final deadline

Three years past its original delivery date, a review of the Yukon Workers' Health and Compensation Safety Act has been given a final extension.

Three years past its original delivery date, a review of the Yukon Workers’ Health and Compensation Safety Act has been given a final extension.

The act review panel has until April 30 to submit its recommendations on improving the legislation.

The panel requested an extension; they informed me that they would not be able to meet the deadline, said Brad Cathers, minister responsible for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

To comfort stakeholders and give them some assurance this will be completed and moved to legislation, I’m also making a commitment that the deadline will not be extended past April 30, said Cathers on Tuesday.

The review panel, consisting of worker advocate Mike Travill, employer consultant Ivan Dechkoff and MLA Patrick Rouble, was struck in 2002.

Its mandate was to consult with stakeholders and make recommendations for legislative change.

The panel’s final report was originally scheduled to go to the minister in 2004.

Since then, it’s been given several deadline extensions.

Travill could not say what caused the three-year holdup.

A series of events caused the delay, said Travill on Tuesday.

However the 2006 election and subsequent cabinet shuffle, in which Rouble was named Education minister, may have been factors.

It is disconcerting that we lost Mr. Rouble because he brought a lot to the table, said Travill. He was a good balance and could spearhead the administrative part of developing the act.

Travill confirmed the panel will have its final report to Cathers on or before April 30.

Government officials will review the report and other stakeholder submissions before drafting changes to the legislation.

After that, the revamped law will be introduced in the legislature.

The April deadline means the amended act will not be debated in the legislature’s spring sitting.

Cathers could not commit to tabling the new legislation in the fall sitting either.

I’m not going to make any solid commitments until we’ve done the work on that, but it would be our hope that it would be ready for that point.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are criticizing the review that’s fallen three years behind schedule.

The workers’ compensation act has not been a priority for this government, said New Democrat John Edzerza on Tuesday.

It’s unfortunate that they’ve been dragging the puck for so long on this issue.

We get repeated calls from injured workers with concerns about the compensation act.

They want to know when this thing will be rewritten and all we can tell them is that it’s in the hands of the government.

The act should be given a lot more serious consideration.

Yukon Liberal critic Don Inverarity had a mixed response to the delay.

On one hand it’s nice to see a deadline that’s drawn in the sand, he said of the deadline.

But, because this act is very important, we also have to ask the question: are we going to get something that’s going to be good?

We have to have a WCB act that’s going to meet the needs of both the employees and the employers that are going to fund it.

Yukon’s worker’s compensation act has been around since 1993. It was last reviewed in 1999, and was amended in 2000. The current review is required by the law.