Changes coming in Workers Compensation legislation

As a hunger strike against the Prince Edward Island Workers Compensation Board continued Tuesday, the government said it is planning some changes.

"We have to make some changes to the legislation in the fall sitting of the legislature. If you're going to ask me if these changes are going to be popular with both sides, probably not," said Gail Shea, minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board.

Blair Ross, who was injured on the job in 1988, pitched a tent on the grounds of the P.E.I. legislature last Wednesday and went on a public hunger strike.

He receives about $11,000 a year in Workers Compensation payments, but believes he is entitled to $40,000.

"I'm not leaving here until my house has a roof on it. I've been living with a leaky roof for two years and I cannot afford [to fix] it and all they do is keep cutting my benefits. Enough is enough," he said.

Four other tents have appeared nearby, and other injured workers have joined the protest.

"Why does a man have to come out here and starve himself to make Canadians wake what's going on. It's just not right, it's not fair," said supporter Wayne Ford

Shea has offered to meet with Ross to help expedite his appeal.

As for the changes she is planning, she hinted that consistency will be one of the goals.

"It's important that every client of Workers Comp gets treated the same, and gets treated fairly. And I think that will take some internal work and that's going on as we speak," she said.

She also said politics have played a part in Workers Compensation in the past, and that the practice must end.

"I don't think we can do that any longer because it's people's lives you're playing with. Why should an injured worker from down the road get treated any differently from an injured worker from up the road?" she said.

"Probably politics did play a big role in it in the past, but I think those days are leaving," she added.