The Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group made a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs Pre-Budget Hearings in Dryden, Ontario on January 21, 2019. They covered two issues: the growing gap of income inequality in Ontario and Canada, and the negative impact that is having on our democratic society. The submission notes that sixty years ago, corporations and individuals contributed approx. equal shares into the government coffers. However, corporations have successfully lobbied to have governments reduce their contribution to society. Today, citizens contribute $3.50 for every $1 paid by corporations.
The submission explains that workers who are injured or made ill in the workplace are suffering as a result of the same mindset – that business needs more breaks. Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) has been “getting its financial house in order” through austerity and cost-cutting measures. While the WSIB’s assets have more than doubled since 2010 to over $35 billion, WSIB benefits have been reduced to $2.3 billion, less than half of the 2010 level.
Costs of work injury offloaded onto public system
This has led to increased poverty levels for those with permanent disabilities and increased mental health struggles due to conditions such as depression. Another important consequence of the WSIB’s cuts is that the costs of work injuries are being offloaded onto public systems. Every year, thousands of injured workers are forced onto publicly funded systems like Ontario Works (OW), the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and CPP-Disability, when they are cut off of WSIB benefits. Similarly, when the WSIB refuses to pay for healthcare treatment for injured workers, those costs are shifted onto OHIP.
In addition to endorsing the reforms set out in the Workers Comp is a Right campaign, the submission recommends an increase in the numbers and responsibilities of the Ministry of Labour’s occupational health and safety inspectors; compensation for workers who become disabled and are unable to find work; to increase the social assistance rates up to the poverty line quickly; and to rebalance our sources of public revenue by increasing taxes on corporate profits and the wealthiest parts of our society.