WSIB may not be able to meet its obligations due to $14.2B unfunded liability

TORONTO – There’s a risk Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board won’t be able to meet its obligations to 200,000 injured workers at some point in the next 20 years.

A report on the WSIB and its $14.2-billion unfunded liability says the agency “clearly lacks sufficient” resources.

The report says the WSIB has less than 55 per cent of what it needs to meet its obligations, and warns the board must take “radical and rapid steps” to bring revenues and expenses in line.

Report author Harry Arthurs, former president of York University, warns the possibility of the WSIB not meeting its obligations “cannot be shrugged off.”

He says it wouldn’t take an unprecedented catastrophe, but simply the recurrence of one or more adverse events that the WSIB has actually experienced during the past decade.

Arthurs warns the board should not try to force injured workers back on the job faster or ramp up employer premiums to address its funding problems, saying that would hurt its reputation for fairness.

“In my view, having minimally sufficient funds is likely to tempt the WSIB to adopt policies and practices that are minimally acceptable to both workers and employers,” wrote Arthurs.

“It is therefore important that the WSIB achieve a degree of funding sufficient to dispel the financial concerns that led to this review, and to restore stakeholder and public confidence in the WSIB system.”

Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey said any new funding model “must rest on sound principles and be carefully administered if it’s to be seen as fair and balanced to employers.”

The government will establish a new regulation under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to require the insurance fund to reach 60 per cent funding in 2017 and a full 100 per cent funding by 2027.

“We will also increase benefits to injured workers on partial disability by 0.5 per cent in 2013 and another 0.5 per cent in 2014,” said Jeffrey.