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Fri, August 3, 2007
Alberta Minister Iris Evans 'Betrays Worker" - Gets WCB to
Draft Letter Refusing Help
"He expected Employment Minister Iris
Evans would help him in his battle with the Workers' Compensation Board . . .
Evans instead got the WCB to draft her letter refusing to help him - and
shes not the first Conservative government minister to have pulled the
move, despite the WCB being an arms length public body."
Evans 'betrays' worker
Gets WCB to draft letter refusing
help By JEREMY LOOME,
He expected Employment Minister Iris Evans would help him
in his battle with the Workers' Compensation Board, and instead Richard Falk is
left feeling betrayed.
Now Falk wonders who to trust, after Evans instead got the
WCB to draft her letter refusing to help him - and she's not the first
Conservative government minister to have pulled the move, despite the WCB being
an arm's-length public body.
Falk wrote to the WCB asking for help in getting a doctor
to release notes relevant to his claim, as required under the Workers'
Compensation Act, and sent a copy of the letter to Evans.
Internal WCB correspondence obtained under the Freedom of
Information and Protection of Privacy Act shows that a month later, Evans sent
the letter to the WCB, the very group with whom Falk is fighting, requesting it
draft her response.
Its government relations department took 30 minutes to do
so. Copies of the draft from the WCB to Evans and the final letter mailed to
Falk by Evans are identical.
"I am the Minister responsible for the Workers'
Compensation legislation and the president and CEO and the WCB board of
directors are in direct control of the day-to-day operations of the business,"
In fact, under its legislated mandate, the WCB is supposed
to be independent of government. That means Evans has a lot of explaining to do
for being in bed with the agency at all, said NDP critic Ray Martin.
"This is outrageous behaviour on the part of a government
minister. She not only ignores the fact that the WCB is supposed to operate
independently of government, but she uses the WCB to draft a letter explaining
why she can't help someone who is injured," said Martin.
Evans would not talk to Sun Media about the case. However,
spokesman Lorelei Fiset-Cassidy said the minister considers the WCB's role in
drafting the letter "irrelevant."
"The information on any particular file is held by that
public body, and therefore she needs in order to respond appropriately to
gather information from that public body," said Fiset-Cassidy.
If Evans wasn't confident in what the WCB said in the
letter, and that she wasn't taking sides in the dispute, she wouldn't have
signed it, said Fiset-Cassidy.
Falk, now living in Coquitlam, B.C., has been fighting for
his medical records for years, after being granted full compensation for his
back injuries in 2002, only to have them withdrawn with little explanation
Falk concedes that after years of fighting the WCB and the
government, he's not sure who to believe anymore.
The extensive documentation Falk received under Freedom of
Information shows former employment minister Clint Dunford also got an opinion
from the WCB before refusing to help Falk.
"He tells me on the phone that this should be a 10-minute
fix, that there's no way I should be going through this. And then I get a
letter from him saying he can't help. And then I find that's because he's been
given advice by the WCB that he doesn't have to help me."
The agency a few years ago was slammed by a former judge's
inquiry for going out of its way to reject claims. That panel recommended the
government review all cases back as far as 1986. The government promised to do
so, but has consistently reneged.
A Sun Media investigation last year revealed internal cases
of financial mismanagement, potential financial fraud and an internal bonus
policy that rewarded staff for closing cases by certain dates.
see the Edmonton Sun's series, a
expose of the Alberta WCB by Jeremy Loome
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