PTSD bill enacted in P.E.I. legislature, then quickly amended

An Opposition private members bill that has been in legislative limbo since December moved one step closer to becoming law Tuesday morning, only to be amended hours after getting approval from cabinet.

'It’s been five years of lobbying government to have such compensation for all workers'

The government amendments to the Opposition's PTSD bill mean a wider range of disorders will be covered, but family physicians can't diagnose them — only psychiatrists and psychologists.

An Opposition private members bill that has been in legislative limbo since December moved one step closer to becoming law Tuesday morning, only to be amended hours after getting approval from cabinet.

Bill 102, which would provide support through Workers Compensation to any Island worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was introduced by PC MLA Jamie Fox in the fall 2017 sitting of the P.E.I. legislature. It passed with unanimous support

Until Tuesday morning, government had not moved to enact the bill, leading to calls from the Opposition and unions to do so.

According to government, the decision to enact the bill was made at Tuesday morning's cabinet meeting — but hours later government introduced, and passed, a bill in the legislature to amend Bill 102 before it takes effect. 

The end result was the same as if government had passed its own bill.

'5 years of lobbying'

The government amendments introduce two key differences to the Opposition bill — only psychologists and psychiatrists, not family doctors, are able to provide a diagnosis of PTSD. And, other "trauma- and stressor-related disorders" will be considered, along with PTSD. 

Government required, and received, the unanimous consent of the legislative assembly to bring up its amendment bill for debate only minutes after it received first reading. 

Both the Opposition and the Canadian Union of Public Employees had raised concerns that limiting diagnoses to psychiatrists and psychologists would lead to delays in receiving benefits.

But CUPE Local 3324 president Jason Woodbury said it was a "relief" to have the issue move forward and finally see action by government.

"It's been five years of lobbying government to have such compensation for all workers on Prince Edward Island," he said. 

Woodbury said the union remains concerned about "access to coverage" by not allowing family doctors to diagnose PTSD.

"We're going to keep monitoring that. If we feel it is a problem … then we'll approach government again to lobby to have that changed and put physicians back into the bill."

The act to amend Bill 102 will take effect when it receives royal assent. Bill 102 itself will take effect when the next Royal Gazette is published, likely this coming Saturday. 

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Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca