Compensation Board gives Yukon small business an 1,800% rate hike.

Compensation Board gives Yukon small business an 1,800% rate increase.

 

The Yukon workers compensation board recently gave small business owners a shock with rate increases of up to 1,800%. The increase, which began at the beginning of this year, was not advertised at all, and no prior notice was sent out to many small business owners. Understandably there have been many who have at this point who have flat out refused coverage altogether. “The cost of doing business has been going up year after year and govt. red tape continues to grow for small business owners in the territory“ said one small business owner “ This latest step by the WCB is just another twist of the knife into entrepreneurship in the North“. This leaves business owners between a rock and a hard place, either refuse coverage and go with private insurance, which by the way is cheaper and more comprehensive, or pay the extortion money and take a cut out of your bottom line.

The center of this latest issue with WCB is that they have retained a virtual opt out coverage for the last 10+ years for business owners who still believe in free enterprise. Previously if you were an owner operator in the Yukon you had the option to pay $150 and have minimum coverage. This coverage included things such as physiotherapy, messages and very minimal wage coverage. For the small operator this coverage was still somewhat insulting, for the simple fact that you had to deal with the WCB at all, but was considered, by most, a reasonable cost of doing business. At the beginning of the 2015 business year the WCB arbitrarily decided, without any input from any elected representatives, that they would do away with this option leaving many with the untenable choice of paying up to 20x more than the previous year, or continue operating in a gray zone of semi illegality.

There are multiple problems with the WCB institution. In essence it is a govt. sanctioned monopoly that has cornered the business insurance market in the territory. Other insurance companies are driven from the market and forced to lose out on a substantial amount of business, in what would otherwise be a competitive business environment. With the competition effectively out of the way the WCB is then free to foist whatever applesauce price they pull out of their hat upon hapless businesses.  For some businesses these cost can be close to 10% of their gross income. The other problem with the WCB is that they are a frictional organization, in other words they take more than they give and at the same time make other businesses less productive. This can easily be seen in terms of regulations on every facet of a business’ operations, to hefty fines for asinine violations and a `safety` code no one can reasonably be expected to stay up to date on. With no competition there is also no need to streamline their organization, or have competent inspectors.

The WCB, since it’s inception, has been a blight on the business environment in the territory, even from it’s `humble beginnings` as an outfit of only a handful of people. It has now grown into a malignant cancer on the working class of the Territory. It has come to a point of such absurdity from a financial point of view, from a business point of view and a social point of view that it can hardly be ignored, or tolerated any longer. From insane Orwellian slogans such as, and I quote verbatim, “there is no such thing as common sense” plastered in 3’ high letters on the side of the wall of `their` building, to inspectors so obscenely overweight their very presence on a job-site is a workplace hazard. All this with the arrogance to set rates with an attitude of ‘whatever the plebs will bear’.

With the so called `economic recovery` on fragile legs one would assume putting more of a burden on the productive class of society would be the last thing to do to foster employment in the territory. Instead we see free enterprise under attack. It would be very telling to see the salaries that we pay to the board of directors of the WCB, something for which an access to information request will soon be filed. It would also be very interesting to see a price tag on the cost of the giant addition being built on the only decent parking in a five block radius. The unasked question also really being how many people does it take to administrate an insurance company in a territory of 30,000 people? The private insurance companies seem to be able to handle all the home­­­­­­, auto, life, etcetera insurance policies quite handily, with the combined staff of all of these companies adding up to a fraction of what the WCB employs. With an arrogant and often rude staff, though not all of them I must admit, it is a small wonder why they must operate as a monopoly, they wouldn`t get any customers otherwise!! And would this story be complete if I left out the endless and what must be ridiculously expensive propaganda campaign run by these people. I would really like to see the numbers on just what the signs, slogans and commercials that say `we will keep each other safe` or `you can`t erase an injury` cost. For goodness sake this self-justifying largess is paid for with our hard earned blood, sweat and tears.

With the WCB now sucking even more blood from Joe`s firewood delivery’s and the other small operator’s who make up an important percentage of the territory’s economy, how much longer until the small contractors of the Yukon follow suit with those in Ontario and show up Mad as Hell, banging on the doors of the WCB`s building demanding that the WCB cease extorting hardworking citizens with no recourse.

This of course is as much an issue of freedom as it is of finance.  We should have a right to choose who we want to do business with, and have the right to opt out of govt. programs that offer less product for more money. Maybe some companies like or want to do business with the WCB – this again is their right, but the final say needs to be made by the business owner and needs to be made on the open market. To close, I leave you with an excerpt from a speech by William Jennings Bryan which I think sums up what is at the heart of this issue.

 

But we stand here representing people who are the equals before the law of the largest cities in the state of Massachusetts. When you come before us and tell us that we shall disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your action. We say to you that you have made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a businessman as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a businessman as the merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of this country creates wealth, is as much a businessman as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the channels of trade are as much businessmen as the few financial magnates who in a backroom corner the money of the world.

We come to speak for this broader class of businessmen. Ah. my friends, we say not one word against those who live upon the Atlantic Coast; but those hardy pioneers who braved all the dangers of the wilderness, who have made the desert to blossom as the rose—those pioneers away out there, rearing their children near to nature’s heart, where they can mingle their voices with the voices of the birds—out there where they have erected schoolhouses for the education of their children and churches where they praise their Creator, and the cemeteries where sleep the ashes of their dead—are as deserving of the consideration of this party as any people in this country.

Micah R. Hoeschele

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