Lorraine Michael Question Period (12.04.2013)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL:Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Last month, the Baie Verte Miners’ Registry team of miners, experts, and community representatives wrote to the Minister of Service Newfoundland and Labrador asking that miners’ claims for all asbestos-related diseases be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Today, the minister announced publicly that he will not make a decision about legislative changes. He will just let the process unfold.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Why did he choose to go out in public to make his announcement rather than give the team the courtesy of a reply to their letter?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, our government strongly advocates for fair treatment and compensation for injured workers in this Province and workers who are facing occupational diseases. We have worked very closely with the community of Baie Verte, we have worked very closely with the United Steelworkers, and we have worked very closely with the commission to go through a process. That is the process I am referring to.

We established a registry a former miners that captures their health and their work history, Mr. Speaker. It is going to help in the adjudication of their claims. We have over 1,000 former miners registered to date. We have adjudicated 177 claims. We have seventy-four claims we have ruled in favour of –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL:Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Most Baie Verte miners receive more exposure to asbestos in months than the law permits for a lifetime, but only 36 per cent of miners who register with medically verified asbestos-related diseases have been compensated. They have been waiting for many years.

Why does the minister continue to deny former miners the right to compensation for diseases recognized as caused by working in the Baie Verte mine?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, we will continue to adjudicate claims on a case-by-case basis based on the merit of individual claims. We will base it on the best scientific and medical evidence available, that is out there in the purview in this area. All jurisdictions in Canada and around the world follow these protocols.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL:Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Government does not need to make any changes to legislation to ask WHSCC to reconsider the rejected claims of sick miners.

I ask the minister: When will he instruct the compensation board to change its policies concerning asbestos claims?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, we rely on professionals to make these decisions. We rely on professionals to adjudicate these cases. Once again, Mr. Speaker, we do it on the best evidence available, medical and scientific. We will continue to do so on a case-by-case basis.

Some claims are not adjudicated in favour of the workers, for various reasons. Various reasons, including some where there was a lack of medical evidence, is one of the areas that you would go down.

Mr. Speaker, we are doing some good work around this. We work very closely with all of the parties involved and we are moving forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The team that wrote the minister had very specific requests, and he has not bothered to respond to them.

I want to know: What does the minister intend to do about all of the rejected claims, and the sick miners, if government will not introduce legislation? He has a responsibility to these people.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Service NL.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CRUMMELL: Mr. Speaker, we take these claims very seriously. We want to do what is right for the workers of Baie Verte. We will continue to do good work around this.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we will adjudicate these claims; the commission will adjudicate these claims based on the best scientific and medical evidence in front of them.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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