By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Earlier this month, the Ford government celebrated the fact a nearly multi-billion dollar unfunded liability in the WSIB system had been paid off by the province a decade ahead of schedule.
The unfunded liability represents the difference between monies in the government agencies coffers and the amount needed to pay future benefits, reaching a high of $14 billion in 2011.
The previous Liberal government had forecasted that the unfunded liability would be paid off by 2027.
However, on Minister of Labour Laurie Scott announced the debt had been paid off.
She also revealed that average WSIB premiums for employers would be decreasing by nearly 30 per cent as of Jan. 1, 2019.
For Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French, this is an issue.
She says injured workers have been “nickeled and dimed” by the WSIB system for years.
“It’s been heartwrenching for many folks,” she says.
French says it makes no sense to her that the PCs, and the Liberals before, have been dropping premiums.
And now with the unfunded liability paid off, French says with lower premiums there will be even less to pay out to injured workers.
“It’s a clean slate so to speak, a zero debt position. Instead of keeping the premiums they are to keep predictable money, they are saying let’s keep less money from going into the injured workers’ compensation,” she says.
There has been no indication from the government or WISB on reductions to benefits.
French noted that these premium decreases will greatly benefit “businesses that can afford to pay premiums” to the detriment of injured workers.
“That is part of the cost of doing business. We’re not talking about mom and pop shops. We do, as Ontarians, deserve a safety net,” she says.
While the Liberals have criticized the Ford government for staking claim to paying off the debt, French says it is something that is “not be celebrated.”
“They can duke it out. We should be prioritizing the health and wellness of injured workers,” she adds.
The PCs and WSIB brass have argued that eliminating the unfunded liability will “ensure a sustainable and accountable workplace safety and insurance system that supports injured workers, and increased economic growth and productivity in Ontario.”
Scott stated the reduction in premiums would result in an estimated $1.45 billion being circulated back into the province’s economy.
However, French says she “fundamentally objects” to that statement.
“That is an interpretation,” she says.