A review of Ontario’s WSIB includes testing its efficiency against private sector insurance providers. It’s a test it can’t pass.
Ford's WSIB review should conclude it go private
By Robert Koci
[Our dissection of the WSIB ranked No. 3 on our list of the most viewed voices in 2019.]
It is always good news when we hear that our public service will be counting the pennies it gets from our pockets. Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will be counting the millions it gets from this industry (and others) with a review launched by the Ford government. According to a recent press release, two special advisors, Linda Regner Dykeman and Sean Speer, have been asked to review three areas: 1. Financial Oversight: sustainability of the WSIB insurance fund and controls over it: 2. Administration: effectiveness of the current WSIB governance and executive management structure. 3. Efficiency: the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of operations, including comparisons to competing jurisdictions and private sector insurers.”
Though the press release emphasizes the need to ensure “workers and their families remain supported and protected in the workplace,” there is a good chance, given the Ford government’s interest in eliminating the provincial deficit, that cost cutting will be a high priority, which makes “comparisons to competing jurisdictions and private sector insurers” of particular interest.
Comparisons of the WSIB to private sector insurers is like comparing the Boston Red Sox to the Bad News Bears. As much as we might like the Bears, in a head to head match-up, they lose and lose bad. The WSIB is the Bad News Bears. The fiscal mismanagement that has dogged the public insurer has been well documented here and in lesser journals and news outlets.
There is precedent for a review of this kind by a conservative government, the consequence of which was the partial privatization of the province’s electrical system in 1997. There is also something in the appointments themselves that suggest a full blown battle is afoot to privatize workplace insurance; both Linda Regner Dykeman and Sean Speer are from the private sector, with Regner Dykeman the head of MidCorp Canada, a division of insurance and asset management firm Allianz, and Speer a senior economic adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper.
As if to confirm my highest hopes a recent CBC post reports that opposition ND critic for the WSIB Wayne Gates was concerned it could open the door to “cuts and privatization.” Let’s see that it does.