March 22, 2011
Honourable Charles Sousa
Minister of Labour
400 University Avenue
Toronto ON M7A1T7
Re: Bill 160
Dear Minister Sousa:
While I applauded the introduction of Bill 160, I now have some serious reservations with the Bill as tabled. Working with our affiliates we have now reviewed the Bill clause by clause and have identified some serious concerns. Most importantly we have identified that important provisions of the Bill do not respect the intent and spirit of the Expert Panel report and recommendations. Among our concerns is that the proposed amendments gives the Minister broad powers. The Minister may then delegate those powers to the Chief Prevention Officer. This is not in keeping with recommendation number one from the Expert Panel report. This recommendation called for the powers of the Chief Prevention Officer and Prevention Council to be explicitly defined in the legislation. This was the basis for the consensus at the Expert Panel for this recommendation. It was also the basis for Labour’s support of the report and my initial support for the introduction of the legislation to implement the Panel’s recommendations.
When the Expert Panel report was released last December, the Premier committed to implementing the recommendations from the report as did the Minister of Labour at the time Peter Fonseca. There are a number of other provisions of the Bill which we feel do not accurately reflect the intent of the Panel’s recommendations.
Unfortunately we have direct experience of what can happen when a Minister unilaterally decides to eliminate organizations or projects which labour supports. Without consultation the previous Conservative government eliminated several publicly funded projects supported by labour and important for working people. These included a literacy training project which brought this training into the workplace; a project to assist workers adjust to technological change in the workplace; and, the OFL’s WCB Training Project. This last project was saved only because the then chair of the WSIB recognized the importance of this project and funded it directly with some revisions to the mandate of the project.
I am aware that attempts are being made to address the concerns Labour has through the Interim Prevention Council. Reports to my office are that this effort is showing great potential to resolve our concerns. I would however like an opportunity to discuss these concerns with you at our upcoming meeting on March 28th.
I understand the commitment the government has made is to have a Chief Prevention Officer in place by June of this year so real work on the Panel’s priority recommendations can begin. If we are not able to get our concerns addressed in the next week or two we may need to have the legislative process for final passage of Bill 160 slowed so we can have the time to do this work.
I hope to resolve these concerns so we can work to improve this bill and workplace health and safety for all workers across Ontario.
Ontario Federation of Labour