The PC policy on workers' compensation- a look back at the Harris years

March 16, 2018

The Progressive Conservative Party has now chosen a business-friendly leader Doug Ford, who promises deep tax cuts.  He has not said anything about WSIB employer assessments and worker benefits; it does seem likely though that the broad policy program described on the PC Party website will not be part of the campaign. It is a good time to take a look back at what the PCs did the last time they had power under Mike Harris after campaigning on a deep tax cut platform.

The PCs under Mike Harris promised in their Common Sense Revolution documents in 1995 that he would cut taxes deeply and also reduce employer WSIB assessments by 5%.  They, in fact, reduced them by approximately 30% and introduced the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act effective in 1998. The WSIA contained a number of reductions in worker benefits- benefits based on 85% rather than 90% of net, reduced inflation protection, and 5% contribution to loss of retirement income rather than 10%.  The loss of assessment revenue also led to harsher adjudication at the WSIB,with  "early and safe return to work" being the new catchphrase in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.  Administratively, the WSIB placed the emphasis on "early" and displayed no concern whether workers were being forced into unsustainable and unproductive work .  The PC government also appointed some unqualified members to the Appeals Tribunal which led to a difficult time there.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government did not raise employer assessments sharply when they took power in 2003, and the WSIB's financial position deteriorated significantly when WSIB investment income plummeted in 2007-08.  To address its poor financial position, the WSIB made draconian practice and policy changes from 2009-14 to cut worker benefits in small and large ways.  It was a disastrous time for injured workers, and in our opinion, the root cause was employer assessment reductions that dated to the Harris era.