It is not the first time a Postmedia newspaper has presented a misleading report on public affairs. This one doesn’t rise to the level of Brian Lilley’s ugly dog whistle implication that Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam is more loyal to China than Canada, and should be fired.
Rob Shaw authored the latest, after BC Liberals suggested the provincial agency tasked with assisting injured workers ought to be giving money to businesses.
WorkSafeBC has lost billions, can’t afford to help businesses buy PPE, Vancouver Sun, May 23, 2020:
The government agency in charge of setting and enforcing the rules for reopening businesses closed by the pandemic can’t afford to help businesses buy protective equipment because it has lost almost all its $3 billion surplus in the recent stock market collapse.
Labour Minister Harry Bains said WorkSafeBC cannot use a large surplus accumulated over many years to give partial refunds to employers on masks, gloves, Plexiglas shields and other safety gear, as suggested by the Opposition Liberal party.
Worksafe BC is not established to help enterprises purchase equipment needed to conduct business. As I read the Workers Compensation Act, the Board could do this but the agency’s prime functions are something else.
It might be appropriate to assist acquisition of protective equipment but that is more the job of the federal and provincial governments, not Worksafe BC. The BC NDP promised to end the practice of raiding surpluses from public institutions but it appears that BC Liberals are still in favour.
During Gordon Campbell’s leadership, BC Liberals slashed compensation benefits paid to injured workers. Rather than reverse the cuts, Andrew Wilkinson’s Liberals want to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to employers.
Shaw’s statement that WorkSafeBC lost almost all of its surplus funds is absolutely incorrect.
The agency’s last published financial statements, for the year ended December 2018, show an excess of assets over liabilities of $6.425 billion.
Of that surplus, $2.765 billion is unappropriated. Even if WorkSafe lost that amount in its investments—which Shaw boldly asserts—$3.66 billion of appropriated reserves would remain.
Rob Shaw should have explained it is highly unlikely that WorkSafe suffered a financial hit nearing that amount. If it did, the large group of people collecting 7-figure salaries at BC Investment Management Corporation would be looking for new jobs.
BCI invests funds in a number of ways, including shares, bonds and real estate. In March, stock prices declined significantly but much of that lost ground has been recovered. This week, the Dow Jones average is 32% above its March low and above the level it was 18 months ago.
In these difficult times, the value of bond positions has increased and real state holdings are typically made as long term investments that can only be measured accurately over time.
WorkSafeBC is not in financial distress as Rob Shaw and the BC Liberals would have us believe.
Labour Minister Harry Bains played into the Liberal game. His quotes, if accurate, do not help people understand the state of affairs at Worksafe BC.