Letter from the expert reviewers

Dear Minister McNaughton:

Please find enclosed our report from the review of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) announced by the Ontario government in May 2019.

The analysis and recommendations in the report have been carried out as a joint collaboration. We both fully endorse the report’s contents including its advice to you and your colleagues.

As we outline in the report, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is entering a period of significant transition — including (but not limited to) the elimination of its unfunded liability, the launch of a new Rate Framework, and plans to implement a Core Services Modernization initiative. Each of these initiatives is justified and generally positive in and of itself. But the cumulative effect of these various developments could produce risks for the WSIB and its stakeholders. Successful execution of these transitions will therefore require strong leadership, proper mitigation strategies and an overall legal and policy framework that supports the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board's efforts.

We have come to see our work primarily as developing recommendations that will help the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board manage these transitions, protect and maintain its financial sustainability, and ultimately better serve workers and employers in Ontario. This has been the principal lens that we have applied to the review.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is a big, complex organization and the issues it deals with can be complicated and challenging. It receives 5.8 million telephone calls and another 1.9 million faxes each year. It manages more than 250,000 new claims per year and pays out roughly $2.8 billion in annual benefits.

Just fulfilling its core mandate is therefore demanding. But there are various other factors that only serve to make the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board's work more complex. Evolving medical research and social norms are reshaping how we think about workplace injuries. New and emerging business models are producing difficult questions about WSIB coverage and how it should apply to the so-called “gig economy.” Our expectations about service quality, transparency and accountability, and the responsiveness of public institutions continue to grow. And, of course, we cannot forget the WSIB's daily work involves supporting people when they are most vulnerable.

Responding to these opportunities and challenges is critical if the WSIB is to retain the public’s trust and confidence as a public institution. It is imperative therefore that it uses this moment of transition to modernize its operations and improve how it serves workers and employers. More responsive, timely, and individualized services are key for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to retain the trust and confidence of Ontarians now and into the future. That is the key takeaway from the review’s consultations and our own research and analysis.

We have sought to be as comprehensive as we can in the pages that follow, but we also recognize that no single report can reasonably cover the wide range of issues that shape the WSIB's work. Given the timeframe and mandate, we regret any areas to which we have paid inadequate attention. These will need to be the subject of future inquiry and analysis.

Covering the breadth of issues facing the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has not been a simple task. Fortunately, we have benefited greatly from the contributions and insights of various individuals and organizations as part of the review.

We have received considerable stakeholder input from businesses, labour unions, injured workers and others involved in workers’ compensation issues. A combination of stakeholder meetings and written submissions from a wide range of individuals and organizations have been an invaluable resource as we have sought to better understand the opportunities and challenges facing the WSIB. We are enormously grateful to those who participated in the consultation process and shared their expertise and experiences with us.

We have also benefited from considerable time and attention on the part of officials at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the WSIB. We have been regularly impressed by their professionalism, institutional knowledge, forward thinking, and public spiritedness. We cannot recognize everyone with whom we have met and engaged within the Ontario government. But we would be remiss if we do not acknowledge the work of Jules Arntz-Gray, Adam Starkman, and Laura Campbell at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. They have been tremendous to work with over the past several months and have helped this report come to fruition.

Another source of great assistance has been our small, yet highly capable research team comprised of students and recent graduates of the Master of Public Policy program at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Our research and analysis were greatly aided by research assistants Declan Ingham and Luka Glozic and research manager Ian T.D. Thomson. The three of them have made a great contribution to this report and undoubtedly have bright futures in the world of public policy and governance.

Let us conclude by thanking you and Minister Scott for giving us the opportunity to participate in this review. It has been an interesting and meaningful experience. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has a rich history and critical role to play as part of Ontario’s ongoing social safety net. We hope that we can make a small contribution to its future work — including managing the multiple transitions that it will undertake in the coming years.

We hope that you find our research, analysis, and recommendations helpful as the government develops and advances its policy agenda related to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and broader workplace health and safety throughout the province. We would be pleased to meet with you and your team to discuss the report and its contents.

Thank you once again for entrusting us to carry out this work.

Yours sincerely,

Linda Regner-Dykeman

Sean Speer