The BS Factor

November 5, 1998
By: Timothy W. Shire

Through the years we have seen the development of a number of governmental systems that came into effect to improve the situation of those people who work for wages. The development of the Federal Unemployment Insurance programme now called “Employment Insurance” was a great idea and to produce a level of acceptable safety in the work place the provincial governments developed “Workman’s Compensation”. These two programmes were intended to buffer the problems of seasonal unemployment or injury while at work but both have fallen under the influence of the “BS” phenomena.

The “BS” phenomena seems to be a major factor of this era and involves “back sliding” toward the times when neither of these programmes were around. With high levels of unemployment in the mid 1990s the Federal government reworked the rules for “Unemployment Insurance” so that fewer and fewer people being put out of work could qualify for benefits then they reduced the amount the unemployed person received and shortened the period for which they could receive those benefits while at the same time raised the amount of contributions. Now the money being paid into the fund by employees and employers is growing at an alarming rate (eight billion a year) and being used by the federal government for general revenue.

The “BS” affect has been just as apparent with “Workman’s Compensation”. Their latest newsletter arrived yesterday and reports with pride how the fund is paying out far less then what is being paid into the programme. In 1997 the fund had a surplus of $76 million dollars. But what was really startling about their newsletter was the number of claims for the first nine months of 1998 was 27,938 while during that same period of time only 654 individuals were admitted to rehabilitation therapy programs. It seems a bit alarming to think about what happened to the other 27,284 individuals who were asking for help. During that period the Workman’s Compensation Board paid out $63 million for wage loss and pensions and another $24 million for medical aid and rehabilitation. So when you add those up the $87 million is only a little more then the amount that was not spent the year before.

From these figures it looks like the Workman’s Compensation Board spends about $.60 of every dollar contributed to the fund. That sounds like major “BS” to me.

Though we can shake our heads and shrug at the Federal government’s grab of “Employment Insurance” and the Provincial government’s pocketing of “Workman’s Compensation” both of these look good when compared to the Mike Harris government of Ontario. Harris’ government hired a company to investigate ways of catching welfare recipients who are cheating. The cost for this project was $180 million and that money went into the pockets of the company carrying out the study.