October 12, 2012

Last week, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, Parkdale-High Park, introduced Bill 129 An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, with respect to post traumatic stress disorder.

Under this draft legislation, the cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among emergency service workers (police, fire, EMS) would be presumed to have occurred in the workplace, unless proven otherwise, and the workers would automatically be entitled to WSIB benefits.

As their employers, municipal governments, value our police, fire and EMS workers. Their health, safety and well-being are a top priority for municipal governments in Ontario. We fully support them receiving prompt medical treatment if they suffer PTSD arising from their work.

While the spirit of this draft legislation is understandable, it circumvents WSIB’s evidence-based process. It is reasonable to expect appropriate medical assessment in these cases.  As others have noted, such as the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards, the bill does not promote important steps, such as proper diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, nor does it support effective back-to-work programs. Any such legislation must respect the well-being of our emergency service workers, as well as the need for due diligence when spending public funds.

This is also an opportunity to comment on the challenges of private members’ bills in the context of a minority government situation. Private members’ bills are problematic for municipal governments on a number of fronts:
  • They are often not drafted well, as they don’t have access to the full government processes and  legal resources needed to develop a  sound piece of legislation;
  • MPPs who sponsor a private member’s bill do not have to consult with AMO under the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding legislation, which requires municipal input on any potential municipal fiscal impact from a proposed bill or regulation. As a result, these bills don’t address this important consideration; and
  • Private member bills can emerge suddenly and may be rushed through the Standing Committee process, giving interested parties little chance to analyze or comment on these bills during the legislative process.
That said, AMO reviews and comments on all bills that may have a financial impact on municipal governments. Further, AMO asks that all parties in the Legislature consult fully with municipal governments, emergency service associations and emergency service management organizations on Bill 129 before it moves further in the legislative process.