NDP Urges Government to Reverse Detrimental Changes to the Workplace Health and Safety

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Acting Premier.

Buried deep within the government’s fall economic bill are changes that will put the health and safety of tens of thousands of workers across Ontario at risk. These changes completely ignore recommendations from a 2010 Expert Panel Report on Occupational Health and Safety. In an email, the government says this will remove “the burdensome processes like routine inspections.” This is why there are 3,000 people on the front lawn of Queen’s Park.

We’ve heard from hundreds more concerned workers and labour groups over the last week, appalled at these changes, shocked that no consultation took place with those who have the most to lose.

Will the government do the right thing and ensure that the tens of thousands of workers across our province are protected while they’re at work and remove these schedules from this finance bill?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Minister of Labour.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you to the member for that very, very important question. The health and safety and protection of all Ontario workers is a top priority, and it’s a focus at the Ministry of Labour. I’ll tell you what the member is talking about is the accreditation process, Speaker. The objective of an accreditation, or an employer’s recognition process, is to enhance the delivery of health and safety services in order to enhance health and safety within the workplace.

If this proposed legislation is passed, what we have in accreditation is the potential to benefit Ontarians and all those who work in the province. It’s going to empower business to improve their own internal health and safety.

What it does, it’s proven to improve health and safety within companies. It saves lives. It prevents injuries. We on this side of the House support this. I can’t for the life of me imagine why the NDP would not.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Catherine Fife: Mr. Speaker, what this government has done is that they have forgotten that you cannot build Ontario up without the work of skilled trade workers in the province of Ontario.

This isn’t speculation. It was in a note from senior government staff the same day that the bill was introduced, that these changes will reduce the burden of unnecessary processes like routine inspections.

The research and the evidence-based data is clear that workplace health and safety is better with more, not less, enforcement. In fact, the non-governmental Institute for Work and Health reports that “employers do take steps to prevent work-related injuries for employees when there are direct consequences to them.”

Speaker, will the government do the right thing, make workplace safety a priority and reverse its decision to start privatizing workplace health and safety in Ontario?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you again to the member for the supplementary. It is a very, very important issue.

What this will allow the MOL—the Ministry of Labour—to do is to focus resources on the places where we need to focus, the places where the injuries are taking place, the places where the fatalities are taking place.

I know the member talked about research. She might want to do her homework. Three Canadian jurisdictions have accreditation processes in place. You’ve got Alberta; you’ve got British Columbia; you’ve got Nova Scotia. Clearly, Speaker, when those programs were put into place, health and safety improved. Incidents went down. Increased hazard reporting took place. Reduced rates of lost time injuries. Improved health and safety environments. These are all things, Speaker, that we want for the health and safety of workers in this province.

Instead of making cheap political points, she might want to put the health and safety of workers in the province of Ontario first.