Nova Scotia's auditor general to review Workers' Compensation Board
Premier Stephen McNeil says 'some issues have arisen over a period of time'
The office of Auditor General Michael Pickup plans to review the operations of the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia in the coming months after a request from the provincial government.
"Obviously, there are some issues that have arisen over a period of time," Premier Stephen McNeil told CBC News.
McNeil said he hears concerns about the WCB from his constituents, but said not all cases are clear cut and just because people don't get the outcome they want doesn't mean the process hasn't been followed.
News the auditor general will look into the WCB's operations is being welcomed by Larry Maloney with the Pictou County Injured Workers Association.
"I'm very pleased," Maloney told CBC News, adding his association has been calling for a provincial inquiry into the operations of the WCB for years.
Maloney said he's especially reassured because the auditor general is independent and "doesn't pull any punches."
"I think it's a great opportunity to have this system and its operations analyzed very, very thoroughly," he said.
Maloney said almost on a daily basis he hears of cases where benefits were denied by a caseworker, despite recommendations from medical professionals.
It's situations like that which have prompted Pat Dunn, the MLA for Pictou Centre, to introduce a private member's bill in the legislature that would allow legal action against WCB board of directors, employees and others if they do not act in good faith while carrying out their duties.
"Right now, as it stands, there's no accountability with regard to any decision they make," Dunn said, adding even when the appeals tribunal rules in favour of a worker, the WCB is not compelled to accept the decision.
Maloney points out that despite a partial WCB review in 2002 recommending a review be conducted every four years, none has been done since.
In the midst of the 2013 provincial election, McNeil completed a questionnaire about the WCB sent to him by the association and agreed the system needed to be reformed and there should be a "legislative review/royal commission."
McNeil isn't promising to make changes as a result of the auditor general's report.
"We'll wait for his recommendations and then determine what we do from there."
It is unclear whether the audit will focus solely on the Workers' Compensation Board, or will also include the Workers' Advisers Program and the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal.