“The WSIB of Ontario is one of the most profitable corporations in Canada, regarding any business activity, while its injured workers are the most destitute.” In its recent Workers’ Compensation Newsletter (July 2019), Fink & Bornstein point to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s climbing profits, with a 2017 profit (annual surplus of revenue over expenditure) of $3.524 Billion and in 2018, despite stock market losses, a profit of $2.165 billion. “Now the Ontario government is considering privatizing the WSIB, with the creation of the Speer Advisory Committee composed of a private enterprise promoter, and an employee of the private insurance industry. What better time for the Ontario Government to sell in whole or in part, to say Manulife, which could increase its profit by 50% by acquiring the WSIB of Ontario….”
There are cracks in the current system, but turning it into a private insurance scheme would be an abject disaster for some of the most vulnerable people in Ontario.” (ONIWG)
The Minister of Labour’s denial that the WSIB Operational Review includes privatization as an option has done little to reassure injured workers who recall the Ontario PC Paths to Prosperity. In this 2012 caucus policy white paper, privatization was proposed in terms of “choice”, allowing private companies to compete with the WSIB in providing workers’ compensation coverage (PTP: Flexible Labour Markets, p. 13-15). In the mid-90s one of the country’s leading experts in workers’ compensation, Terence G. Ison, explored reasons why Canada should not take up privatization, where “the interests of the insurance industry in the ongoing operation and development of the system would not always coincide with the interests of employers, workers, or taxpayers…” Indeed, a recent report found the profits of insurance companies underwriting New York State’s workers’ compensation program have soared: between 2014-2017 the actual dollar amount of worker benefits fell by 15 percent while insurance company profits rose 92 percent (and employer costs sharply declined).
The WSIB’s 2018 Corporate Business Plan, in its consideration of external influences, noted that privatization/”opt-out” pressures remain present although “none of the three major Ontario political parties has expressed interest in privatization efforts recently.” This appears to have changed?
Written submissions to the WSIB’s Operational Review will be accepted by email at WSIBReview@ontario.ca. Deadline July 26, 2019.
- Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. 2019 May 31. Injured Workers Rally Against Poverty and Privatization
- Parrott, James & N. B. Martin. 2019 May. Time For A Real Look At How New York State’s Workers’ Compensation System Treats Workers. NY: Center for New York City Affairs
- Ison, Terence G. 1996. “A Historical Perspective on Contemporary Challenges in Workers’ Compensation.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 34(4): 807-833