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  • BC Hansard for 3rd reading of Bill 11
    Updated On: Nov 17, 2005

    Committee of the Whole House

    WORKERS COMPENSATION
    AMENDMENT ACT, 2005

               The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 11; S. Hawkins in the chair.

               The committee met at 2:57 p.m.

               On section 1.

               C. Puchmayr: We would like to introduce an amendment in section 1. The amendment is on your table.

    [SECTION 1, by adding the text shown as underlined:

    "occupational disease" means

    (a) a disease mentioned in Schedule B and primary site lung cancer,(b) a disease the Board may designate or recognize by regulation of general application,(c) a disease the Board may designate or recognize by order dealing with a specific case, and(d) a disease prescribed for the purpose of section 6.1 (2) but only in respect of a worker to whom the presumption in that section applies, unless the disease is otherwise described by this definition, and "disease" includes disablement resulting from exposure to contamination;, and(b) in the definition of "regulation" by striking out "when used in Part 1," and substituting "when used in Part 1 in relation to regulations of the Board,".]

               On the amendment.

               C. Puchmayr: It is to alter the schedule to include lung cancer. We've looked at this quite closely, and we are certainly pleased at the direction that this list of amendments is going. We feel very strongly that lung cancer should become part of the schedule. We would like to see that the legislation includes that and directs that to become part of the schedule so that it would then list primary site brain cancer, primary site bladder cancer, primary site kidney cancer, primary non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, primary leukemia, primary site colon cancer, primary site uterine cancer and primary site lung cancer.

               Hon. M. de Jong: I wonder if I might, in advance of the discussion we're now having about section 1 and the amendment that the member correctly identified stands in his name on the order paper, just make these observations about what has transpired since October 31 when this bill was originally introduced and subsequently debated at second reading.

               I might add, Madam Chair, that in the over 12 years I have been here now, it's one of those debates that come along periodically — lamentably, not as periodically as we would like — where members truly do get an opportunity to offer up ideas. The debate was one that highlighted the degree of support that exists for what is taking place in Bill 11. As a number of members on both sides of the House said, it spoke to the issues about how a good bill can perhaps be made even better. We're going to talk about some of the ways today in which that might occur.

    [1500]Jump to this time in the webcast

               There has been good discourse and debate in this chamber. There has been, behind the scenes, a great deal of work taking place. The member and his colleagues have contributed to that, as have members of the government benches. I would be remiss if I didn't mention, as well, people like Chief Richard Lawrie and the Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia and representatives from just a whole host of fire brigades and fire forces, some of them entirely comprised of volunteers, some of them comprised of professional crews and volunteers and drawing on paid part-time firefighters. All of them have brought their ideas to bear.

               In his remarks in second reading the hon. member from the opposition highlighted three areas that he wished…. A number of his colleagues — and, in fact, some of my colleagues on this side of the House — said they wanted to explore possible changes. We're dealing

    [ Page 1855 ]

    now with the first of those. It relates to an expansion of the numbers of diseases — in this case, cancers — that would be covered by the presumption that this creates in favour of firefighters.

               My first response — not that I would be accused of being cute in any way…. The government is not accepting this amendment. My comments now hopefully will offer some information about why that is so. I suppose I could preface those submissions by saying that I wish we were in a position to accept the amendment, but I don't think we are just yet.

               The other aspect of this, if I can for a moment digress and talk about the mechanics…. The bill is designed in a very purposeful way to have the listed cancers appear in what is technically not — and I'm sure….

               Oh, by the way, I do want to do this, and I apologize. To my left, for members of the House, are Michael Tanner from the Ministry of Labour and Annette Wall, to my right. I apologize to both of them. I'm sure the thousands of viewers watching are now much more content knowing who everyone is on the screen.

               The bill is designed so that it can actually evolve as the science evolves and the data and the supporting material. The document that I tabled at the time that the bill was tabled on October 31 lists an initial seven cancers that are covered. It's not technically a schedule to the bill but actually becomes a regulation by an order-in-council. That is done purposefully so that as the evidence does accumulate and evolve, we can do the very thing that the member is suggesting, which is to add the lung cancer in a way that doesn't require coming back before the House. But it can be done much more expeditiously via regulation. That is the first and technical reason why I am reluctant to accede to the suggestion that we amend the bill to include a particular disease. In fact, what we want to do is ensure that that can be done and added to the regulation via a different process.

               That is only a procedural response to what the member is suggesting. The more substantive response is that I'm not able to come to the House and, in a convincing and satisfactory way, say at this point that I am in possession of the necessary data and science that would allow me to group the cancer that he has listed in his amendment — the lung cancer — with the other cancers that are listed. I hope that if that link exists, that we are in possession of that data and that evidence as quickly as possible. But I'm not now.

    [1505]Jump to this time in the webcast

               While I very much appreciate the spirit with which the amendment is proposed and recognize that in Manitoba, I believe, that cancer has been listed, in a number of other provinces to this point, it has not. That work continues to be done. There is urgency associated with that work. I am hopeful that if the causal link exists, I am put in possession of material that will allow me to conclusively reflect that in a subsequent order-in-council, which would list it along with the other cancers.

               C. Puchmayr: Thank you for that brief introduction on this first amendment. Could the minister tell this House if there is any ongoing process at this time with respect to research or the science that is looking at the issue of primary site lung cancer?

               Hon. M. de Jong: The short answer is yes. I was reminded by the senior staff here that even in the case of Manitoba, of course, the presumption accrues to those who are non-smokers. So there is that caveat that attaches, not surprisingly, even where it has been listed there. The positive thing about the process that we have undergone to get to this stage, of course, is the focus that it has brought within agencies like WorkSafe B.C., where there very much is now a concerted effort to accumulate the necessary data, assess it, examine on what basis the other jurisdiction…. I think there are two jurisdictions where the expansion or the extension to lung cancer has taken place.

               Everything that has happened about this bill — and the process that the member and all members of this House have been part of — has contributed, I believe, to sending a signal that legislators in this province, whether they are government or opposition, believe that this is a priority and needs to be dealt with as such.

               C. Puchmayr: Could the minister please explain to us what stakeholders may be involved in such an analysis of the primary site lung cancer?

               Hon. M. de Jong: Well, I'm reminded that the main repository for the kind of information that would be the focus of the analysis taking place is not just WorkSafe B.C., but, of course, the other WCB organizations across the country. Logically, that would be a place where there is involvement. Of course, just as we have worked with the employer, the fire services, I can assure the member — and I know he knows this on his own — that the Professional Fire Fighters Association has taken a central and acute interest in this. I have no reason to believe that their interest will diminish.

               Those would represent the largest contingent of people that would be involved in this. There are, I suspect, other occupational health specialists that might be brought in from time to time. I don't profess to be an expert in how these experts draw the causal links and analyze the data to establish a comfort level that the causal link exists, but at the end of the day that is the task they are charged with — and then coming forth with their recommendation.

    [1510]Jump to this time in the webcast

               C. Puchmayr: I know there are some sciences out there. As opposed to just having those documents there for the different stakeholders to look at and to address, are there actually some mechanics in place that are currently looking at and doing an analysis of those sciences, and if so, when can we anticipate some response to that?

               Hon. M. de Jong: I won't endeavour to provide the bibliography here, mostly because I can't off the top of

    [ Page 1856 ]

    my head. But there are a series of studies, some of them dated and some of them, I might add, of increasingly limited value, because it was some of those studies that led to conclusions that would not have allowed this bill to go forward. But those studies are being updated, some of them, and I'm happy to provide the member with a reference guide for what they are, and in some cases, the actual studies.

               In the case, for example, of the main provisions within Bill 11, it was a particular study initiated in large measure by the Professional Fire Fighters Association in a response to some other work that had been done that ultimately established the comfort level that government needed to move forward. That's a good starting point, but there are some other studies that I'm happy to share, with the caveat that some of them either need to be updated or are in the process of being updated.

               Amendment negatived.

               Section 1 approved.

               On section 2.

               R. Cantelon: I would like to move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper on section 2.

               Hon. M. de Jong: I wonder if my colleague would be prepared to momentarily withdraw the moving of his amendment so that we might hear from our friend opposite with respect to some suggestions he has around the bill.

               R. Cantelon: I'm happy to accept the advice of the minister.

               C. Puchmayr: On section (b) there are two motions. There is the motion that we put forward to include volunteer firefighters in this legislation. We've had some very good debate in this House, in this chamber. We had some very good debate with respect to the impacts that this type of legislation would have on excluding a segment of firefighters from the legislation. I believe that the members on this side put forward some very cogent arguments as to why volunteer firefighters should be included. I should also note that I heard some very positive overtures from the other side, as well, from the backbenches, with respect to some of the rural communities and some of the impacts that this legislation would have in creating an unfairness between full-time firefighters and volunteer firefighters. I was very pleased with the tone of that debate.

    [1515]Jump to this time in the webcast

               As we know, many communities do not have the resources to have full-time firefighters, and yet some of the smaller communities with entirely volunteer firefighters have significant exposure because of travel time getting to the fires and getting to the events. So a lot of times when they get to fires, they're fully engulfed, and so the exposures are significant as well.

               We also have career and volunteer firefighters in some of the growing communities. We have career and volunteers side by side attending every fire, pretty well, together and being exposed to the same toxins as a volunteer versus a full-time firefighter. As we saw, an excellent analysis of that was the Kelowna fire. I know the member for Kelowna-Mission, in the chair, was certainly aware of the impact that that had. We had first nations firefighters, we had volunteer firefighters, and we had forest fire fighters. We had firefighters from communities all over British Columbia who were dispatched to go up there and try to save some of the houses that were engulfed in the flames.

               I think there was a very clear understanding in this chamber that it is an issue of fairness and it is an issue of balance. I know there may have been some discomfort with some of the rural areas and not having the equal legislation to respect those firefighters who are putting life and limb on the line in those remote communities.

               Yesterday when I opened Orders of the Day I saw the resolution from the member for Nanaimo-Parksville, which is quite similar to the legislation put forward in my name. I read it, and I did have some discussion, and I thank the member for having some discussion with me on that matter. I also thank the Labour Minister for having some discussion with me on that matter. I would now like to yield my motion to the motion made by the member from Parksville. I'm fairly new at this game, but I do know how to count, and so I think the numbers game would play into it.

               I think we're trying to achieve something here that's positive for British Columbians. It's positive, and it creates an equal balance. To me, the bottom line is: how do we do it? So I will yield my motion, and I'd like to go into committee stage on the resolution by the member for Nanaimo-Parksville.

               R. Cantelon: I, too, am quite new at this. If it's now appropriate, I would like to move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper on section 2.

    [SECTION 2, by deleting the text shown as struck out and substituting the text shown as underlined:

    2 The following section is added:

    Firefighters' occupational disease presumption6.1 (1) In this section, "firefighter" means a member of a fire brigade who is(a) described by paragraph (c) of the definition of "worker",(b) working, on a full-time basis for remuneration, as a member of the fire brigade, and

    (cb) assigned primarily to fire suppression duties, whether or not those duties include the performance of ambulance or rescue services.(2) If a worker who is or has been a firefighter contracts a prescribed disease, the disease must be presumed to be due to the nature of the worker's employment as a firefighter, unless the contrary is proved.(3) The presumption in subsection (2) applies only to a worker who(a) has worked as a firefighter for the minimum cumulative period prescribed for the disease,

    [ Page 1857 ]

    which minimum cumulative period may be defined differently, and be different, for different categories of firefighters,

    (b) throughout that period, has been regularly exposed to the hazards of a fire scene, other than a forest fire scene, and(c) is first disabled from the disease on or after April 11, 2005 or a later date prescribed for the disease.(4) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations for the purposes of subsections (2) and (3) (a) and (c).(5) If made on or before January 1, 2006, a regulation under subsection (4) may be made retroactive to a date on or after April 11, 2005 and a regulation made retroactive under this section is deemed to have come into force on the date specified in the regulation and has the retroactive effect necessary to give it force and effect on and after that date.]

               On the amendment.

               R. Cantelon: If I may just acknowledge the member opposite. He did call me, and I think we're all of a unity of mind on this. Not only is it the intention of this amendment to make this available to volunteer firefighters throughout the province, but there are many on-call firefighters as well, who are paid and who do good work. In fact, in my hometown of Nanaimo almost half of the roster are on-call firefighters. I think when firefighters attend a fire, they take the same risks. They inhale the same toxins, and therefore, they're entitled to the same benefits that are provided under this act.

               I also acknowledge the minister. I think in his generosity he responded to the concerns on both sides of the House. I think in spirit both of these motions accomplish what we jointly wish to press on the minister.

               J. Horgan: I, too, want to echo some of the comments from my colleagues here today. It's this sort of interaction and sense of cooperation in the Legislature that all British Columbians want to see.

               The Minister of Labour said at the beginning of this committee discussion that a good law could be made better, and we're doing that today by cooperating on this amendment. I think it's a great step forward for politics in British Columbia, it's a great step forward for this Legislature, and more importantly, it's a great step forward for firefighters, whether they be volunteers or full-time.

    [1520]Jump to this time in the webcast

               In my comments at second reading of this bill, I made it clear that I have many family connections in the professional side. It was brought home to me in my community of Langford, where we have a mix of professionals and volunteers. We can't have these people going into a fire with different rights and different obligations. So I applaud the member for Nanaimo-Parksville and the member for New Westminster and, most importantly, the Minister of Labour for listening to both sides and coming up with a dynamic compromise that will serve us all very well.

               K. Krueger: I wish to briefly add my voice to those of the members who have just spoken. At the time that we were debating second reading, I had spoken with the minister about the possibility that we could include volunteer firefighters. He made it clear he wanted to but wasn't sure there was sufficient evidence to proceed at the time.

               Things have happened very quickly — a lot more quickly than I think they generally happen when legislation is enacted. When I spoke with him about it, I had in mind a young man, a firefighter named Schapansky who died in a tragic fire in Clearwater not long ago. All of my fire departments outside Kamloops are volunteer — 100 percent. These people take tremendous risks, and I know they'll feel really good that they're included. I wish to join my colleagues across the way and on this side of the House in thanking the minister for being so willing to accommodate and doing so, so quickly. Congratulations.

               N. Macdonald: I just want to join with everyone else in commenting on two things. First, I very much appreciate what has gone on here. I realize that for the minister to make the change…. It was something that I know you'd wanted to do. You said that in your initial statement.

               I very much appreciate the fact that it's taken place. I commend compatriots mainly from rural areas, but for anyone who has a volunteer force, the opportunity to make the change within the Legislature is appreciated. It's what people like to see — that there is debate that leads to a better conclusion. I've had a chance to talk to all of the fire chiefs. They feel very strongly that this is the way to go in my area, and they're all professionals with mainly a volunteer force or with a few professionals and the rest volunteer. I commend the members across the floor and on this side and the minister. I think you deserve all the credit that you're going to get here for making this adjustment, and I thank you.

               R. Hawes: I, too, would like to thank the minister. I would like to thank the firemen who were very persistent in coming to us year after year to make sure that we understood this issue and that we acted on this issue. On behalf of the volunteer firemen and paid-call firemen in both Maple Ridge–Mission and the electoral areas of the Fraser Valley regional district, I'd like to say thank you to the minister. I know that every one of those firefighters who we rely on for safety and for the protection of our lives and our children and our assets…. Every one of those guys risks their lives every time they go to a fire. They do breathe the same toxins as the professional firefighters, and they do deserve the same coverage. I'm extremely pleased that they are going to receive that coverage.

               To the minister and to all members of the House that worked so hard to get this to happen: thank you on behalf of the firefighters that I represent in my constituency.

    [ Page 1858 ]

               C. Puchmayr: Actually, New Westminster has firefighters that are women as well, and maybe Maple Ridge doesn't.

               On section 6.1 there is an added sentence, which is subsection (3), and there's an added (a). I'd like to explore some of that with the minister, please: "…has worked as a firefighter for…." This is the volunteer firefighter who has worked for a period prescribed for the disease, which is straightforward — "which minimum cumulative period may be defined differently, and be different, for different categories of firefighters." I would like some explanation as to that language, please.

    [1525]Jump to this time in the webcast

               Hon. M. de Jong: Thanks to all members whose generous contribution and passion for this subject have allowed it to become a reality, and to Chief Lawrie. I hope you will convey to your colleagues and members the extraordinary contribution they have brought to effect this amount of love in this chamber in the course of this afternoon. For those of us who have been here for many years, it is gratifying to see the degree to which positive things can emerge out of debate in this chamber. I am happy to have been in a position to be the conduit for the will of the chamber in this instance.

               To the specific point, and we should not lose sight of what's taking place here, because we are first and foremost by virtue of the amendment that is now on the floor, which I obviously commend to all members…. Passage of the amendment will ensure that the benefit of the presumption extends to all firefighters — part-time, full-time, paid, unpaid volunteers — effective April 1 of this year. It does so upon passage and proclamation immediately.

               What I discovered, and what the senior staff and advisers were able to bring to me as we were exploring this over the last week and a half, is that in a couple of the jurisdictions where this coverage does extend to volunteers — and I'll pick Nova Scotia because it's the one that comes most readily to mind — the legislation, either in the legislation or at a regulatory level, creates some expectation. So for the coverage to apply as per the regulation around the presumption to a volunteer firefighter in Nova Scotia, that firefighter has to at least establish that they have been involved in 20 percent of the callouts.

               At a certain level, one can understand the wisdom in that, because the principle that I heard in this chamber, that stuck with me and that ultimately led me to want to pursue the matter more fully is when members on both sides of the House pointed out anecdotally — reminded me, actually, because I'm from a community that has both volunteer and full-time — that there are particular areas where those people are fighting fires side by side on a regular basis, where the risk they are exposed to is essentially the same.

               The proposition I ultimately did not want to argue against was that people who are experiencing similar levels of risk should enjoy the benefit of similar coverage and similar evidentiary burdens — or in this case, reverse evidentiary burdens, as it were. That struck me as being a very compelling argument that was made in eloquent fashion in this chamber and by firefighters and their representatives.

               It is possible, I suppose, that as we go forward, we will decide, or a future government will decide, to adopt something akin to the Nova Scotia model, and that is a regulation that says: "Well, if you're going to enjoy the benefit of this as a volunteer over the course of your tenure, we want to establish minimum levels of participation." I will say to hon. members today that I'm not sure how workable that is from a practical point of view, and I'm not even sure today whether the evidence would support that approach. So we're not going to do it.

               What we are doing, however, by passage of the amendment that is before the House now is saying that a future government may want to have that option and that if it is going to exercise that option, there needs to be a power within the act that allows it to do so. That, in a nutshell, is what the added phraseology that the member has referred to that exists in the member for Nanaimo's amendment we are now debating….

    [1530]Jump to this time in the webcast

               But the two points that I want to make are that, unlike a scenario in which we were putting volunteers on hold until some regulation was developed — and that was one of the options — that is not taking place here. The benefit of the presumption accrues immediately for volunteers and part-time firefighters upon proclamation of the bill, and it will be for other governments, perhaps other — well, most certainly other — ministers, based on additional information, to decide whether or not to make use of that additional regulatory authority to do something like they did in Nova Scotia.

               C. Puchmayr: Well, I'm pleased to hear that this could only be a threat from future governments, and so we'll do our best to ensure that that doesn't happen.

               The other issue that I have some concern with is the identification of the firefighter, and it talks about someone being primarily in fire suppression. I do have some concern with respect to the inspectors. Aside from what my community does, where they have a progression through suppression into inspection, I've been instructed that many communities don't have that protocol, or they don't have that formality for inspecting fires. Therefore, the fact that there have been some very serious incidents of primary-site cancers in all the categories that we have identified in schedule B from off-gassing after the fires have been extinguished…. I think there's an example of a test burn in Richmond. Out of eight inspectors, I believe, six of them have succumbed to cancer from off-gassing.

               So could the minister please explain his interpretation of the "primarily to fire suppression" clause? I believe it's section 6.1(1)(c).

               Hon. M. de Jong: I do want to explore that with the member, but I think that, technically, we are now off

    [ Page 1859 ]

    the amendment, and I wonder if we might first deal with the amendment. I don't know if there are any further comments on the amendment. Apparently, there are. Then we can, perhaps, come back to the member's question.

               C. Puchmayr: The other question I have with respect to the drafting of this section of the bill…. I just want to know who drafted the bill, and what consultation was derived in drafting the bill?

               Hon. M. de Jong: Right. I can tell the member that insofar as the bill, in its entirety, within the policy division of the Labour Ministry…. Two of the officials that were intimately involved in that are here with me. There are legislative drafts people that are involved in the drafting of a bill of this sort, so hopefully, that helps.

               C. Puchmayr: Then the consultation in drafting that — is that information available for us?

               Hon. M. de Jong: So, two stages, I think, to the consultation process. One, in terms of the substantive public policy — again, largely engages contact with WorkSafe B.C. or WCB in this province and other agencies across the country. Obviously, none of this took place without some pretty intensive discussions with the professional firefighters.

    [1535]Jump to this time in the webcast

               I should say, as well, that communities…. The member will know about resolutions from UBCM, so there was a degree of input from there. All of this, ultimately, in April of this year gave rise to a conceptual announcement by government, and contact with those agencies would have continued. Then, when we get to the stage where a bill is actually being put together, it involves contact with other legislative drafters, looking at what other jurisdictions have done in terms of the language that they have used.

               J. Rustad: I just wanted to rise and speak to the amendment to say that I have professional firefighters in my riding, but I also have a significant number of volunteers as well as on-call firefighters in the communities of Vanderhoof, Fort St. James and Fraser Lake and even, to some extent, in other areas in my riding.

               This amendment coming forward and the spirit of cooperation in this House really speaks to democracy. More importantly, it speaks to the work that the firefighters themselves have done. I had an opportunity to speak with a great many of them, and their comments to me were: "This is great. We really appreciate the work that the government is doing. We really appreciate them hearing our concerns." They advocated, as well, for the on-call and volunteer forces to be a part of this.

               So I'm very pleased that our government has been able to respond to this, and I thank the minister for the timeliness in bringing this forward. This is a great effort by the entire House to bring forward on behalf of those great professionals and the services they provide.

               J. McIntyre: I'm not going to be able to do this. I just wanted to add my voice of support — if only I could. Sorry.

               The Chair: It will be noted.

               Amendment approved.

               On section 2 as amended.

               C. Puchmayr: Section 2(c) is the amendment on retroactivity, which has been submitted in my name. It is to extend the retroactivity to 1985.

    [SECTION 2, by deleting the text shown as underlined and substituting the text shown as bold:

    Firefighters' occupational disease presumption (1) In this section, "firefighter" means a member of a fire brigade who is

    (a) described by paragraph (c) of the definition of "worker",(b) working, on a full-time basis for remuneration, as a member of the fire brigade, and(c) assigned primarily to fire suppression duties, whether or not those duties include the performance of ambulance or rescue services.(2) If a worker who is or has been a firefighter contracts a prescribed disease, the disease must be presumed to be due to the nature of the worker's employment as a firefighter, unless the contrary is proved.(3) The presumption in subsection (2) applies only to a worker who(a) has worked as a firefighter for the minimum cumulative period prescribed for the disease,(b) throughout that period, has been regularly exposed to the hazards of a fire scene, other than a forest fire scene, and(c) is first disabled from the disease on or after April 11, 2005 1985 or a later date prescribed for the disease.(4) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations for the purposes of subsections (2) and (3) (a) and (c).(5) If made on or before January 1, 2006, a regulation under subsection (4) may be made retroactive to a date on or after April 11, 2005 1985 and a regulation made retroactive under this section is deemed to have come into force on the date specified in the regulation and has the retroactive effect necessary to give it force and effect on and after that date.]

               On the amendment.

               C. Puchmayr: The current bill, the way it's presented, has a retroactivity date that states that the first disabled are as of the April 11, 2005, and our amendment is to strike that and back the retroactivity up to 1985.

               Hon. M. de Jong: It's one of those frustrating circumstances in which, having decided to adopt a course of action, which is really designed to correct some-

    [ Page 1860 ]

    thing, we would all like to be able to rewrite history and say it wasn't so — for a firefighter a decade, two or three. Armed with the same evidence, presumably, the same presumption should have followed. It didn't because it wasn't there. The hurdle they were forced to overcome in making a claim was higher, and in certain cases, they did not overcome it.

    [1540]Jump to this time in the webcast

               I can't stand and argue, nor will I endeavour to do so, that the firefighter who faced precisely the same circumstances ten, 15 or 25 years ago would not benefit or would not have benefited by having the advantage of the evidentiary presumption that this bill creates for firefighters. They didn't.

               The difficulty with anything this chamber does retroactively is that the date one picks is arbitrary by its very nature. Whatever date one picks, ultimately and inevitably, someone can come along and say: "You missed me. If you'd just go back a little bit further, you would capture me. Isn't that fair? Why should I be excluded?"

               I know I don't have a convincing answer for that person who is being missed. What I can say is that it is difficult to rewrite history. The government obviously came to a point in April of this year where it was satisfied that the evidence compiled by officials, by occupational health experts, by the firefighters themselves was sufficient to warrant making an announcement and made an undertaking to ensure that any legislation that was presented to the House would be retroactive to the date of that announcement, and that's what's taking place here.

               Sadly, I'm not in a position where I can indicate that the government will be supporting the member's amendment. I should say, because of the spirit, I know, with which the amendment is being proposed, that I don't necessarily wish to hang my hat on this, but I am advised, as well, that the rules of the chamber would preclude a motion of this sort from being passed and that it is technically out of order.

               I think it's important, though, that we have had the discussion because there will be a few people who look at this and say, "You missed me," and I'm sorry about that. I wish that previous administrations had been in possession of the evidence the government came into and were in a position where they thought and did act on that information. They didn't, and if anything, it acts as a sober reminder to all of us in this chamber that the work we do is important and that responding to evidence, as it becomes available in a timely way, is important.

               I am in no way offended that the member would bring the suggestion and the proposition to the chamber. Regrettably, the rules suggest that it's not one we can properly act upon, and it's not one that the government, in any event, is in a position to act upon.

               The Chair: Members, the Chair rules that the amendment would have the effect of creating an impost by opening up liabilities of the workers compensation fund going back 20 years. Such an amendment requires a recommendation by the Lieutenant-Governor under Standing Order 67. Therefore, the amendment is not in order as presented.

               C. Puchmayr: I'm not surprised, and frankly, this makes an interesting argument. I appreciate the minister's comments on it, and I appreciate the minister allowing it so that he could make some comments on it. I certainly appreciate the dilemma with respect to that defining line and who's on the side of presumption and who's on the side of nothing, or of non-presumption.

               I think the science behind our thoughts on this is that the further back you go, at least you capture more people, especially when a bill is introduced that is so short in time of it actually applying.

               I appreciate the Chair's comments on that, and I will not continue further on it.

               Section 2 as amended approved.

               Sections 3 and 4 approved.

               Title approved.

               Hon. M. de Jong: Madam Chair, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendment.

               Motion approved.

               The committee rose at 3:45 p.m.

    6.1


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