The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has become a vast provincial
government bureaucracy that is quickly becoming a danger to the Ontario government,
taxpayers, businesses and insured workers. In fact, over the course of the last 25
years, the WSIB have had significant challenges fulfilling its obligations.
In the 2009-2010 Annual Report of the Auditor General of Ontario, the Workplace
Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) was identified as being severely underfunded. In
fact, the WSIB’s target date for eliminating the liability has now been pushed back from
2014 to 2022.
According to the report, as of December 31, 2008, the WSIB underfunded liability
topped $11.5 billion – an increase of $3.4 billion or 42% over the previous year.
Furthermore, if WSIB operations were included in the province’s financial statements,
Ontario’s reported accumulated deficit of $113.2 billion would be increased by more
As a trust, the WSIB has been overlooked when the auditor general prepares his report,
but given the unique economic situation and recent public management challenges with
the WSIB, it is time to review its role, structure and overall success.
There are three ways to address the liability: raise premiums, reduce benefits, or
increase investment income. At the same time, it is obvious that increasing premiums
or reducing benefits will continue to prove difficult since experience has shown the
inherent political, social and economic sensitivity of implementing changes to either.
Similarly, the third option – increasing investment income – remains a sensitive issue.
In the wake of last year’s market meltdown, the WSIB lost 15.5 per cent of its
What is clear is that the continued practice of shifting money from investments toward
paying ongoing benefits is unsustainable. In fact, Section 1 of the Workplace Safety &
Insurance Act states that the WSIB is to administer the system “in a financially
responsible and accountable manner.” It is time the Ontario government directly
addressed the problem by passing legislative changes to reduce benefits and employer
premiums and refocus the system on prevention and an early return to work.
It is important to promote safe workplaces in Ontario and broad insurance coverage for
workplace-related injuries and illnesses. However, a legislated monopoly for the WSIB
on workplace insurance is not the only best answer for enhancing workplace safety and
protecting worker’s income. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce supports competition
in the marketplace and the ability for employers to choose from a range of options to
achieve these results. If the WSIB model truly represents the best coverage at the
lowest price, employers will choose WSIB coverage over others. Competition, flexibility
and choice are the hallmarks of a good system.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
1. Approve legislation that prescribes the reduction of benefits and employer premiums and compels the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to focus on prevention and
2. Ensure that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is included in all
subsequent annual auditor general reports;
3. Immediately initiate a study to determine the benefits and consequences associated with
privatizing the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB);
4. Withdraw the impending regulation that will require all construction-related businesses to pay for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage and reinstate the
current policy of allowing employers the option to participate; and
5. Allow employers to opt out of WSIB and use private insurers where there is equal or
better coverage, to allow for competition in the marketplace.