Today Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the Ontario Government will be expanding the current regulation to include six additional cancers presumed to be work-related for firefighters under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA).

Unlike the previous presumptive diseases, the new ones are to be phased-in as follows:   

  • 2014: Multiple Myeloma, Testicular and Breast cancers
  • 2015: Prostate cancer
  • 2016: Lung cancer
  • 2017: Skin cancer.
When AMO was recently notified of this government initiative, we asked that the cancers scheduled to come into effect in 2014 be deferred to 2015 so that there would be no new in-year municipal budget hit.  This request was not reflected in today’s announcement.

The presumptions announced today, as with the previous ones, would apply to full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters and fire investigators, and would be retroactive to January 1, 1960 (as currently set out in the WSIA).  Under the legislation, certain prescribed cancers would be treated as work related unless the contrary can be shown.  

For Schedule 1 municipalities who pay premiums, there will be a small premium increase.  For Schedule 2 municipalities, (who pay the dollar for dollar costs of claims plus an administrative fee to the WSIB), the WSIB estimates general retroactive costs of $113 to $179 million for these six new cancers.  Ongoing annual costs are estimated by the Province to be approximately $24 to $38 million in new costs for Schedule 2 municipal governments.  Most volunteer firefighters work for Schedule 1 municipalities; most full-time firefighters work for Schedule 2 municipalities.

In May 2007, the WSIA was amended to establish presumptions for firefighters, and provided for regulation-making power to prescribe the diseases and conditions.  In 2007 and 2009, the government established a list of eight cancers and associated service criteria, as well as the circumstances respecting heart injuries, as presumed to be work related for firefighters and fire investigators.  It was estimated by WSIB that $300 million over 10 years would be required for these presumptive cancers.  However, we are told that the estimate then may have been too high.

There will be some financial impacts on municipal employers for the expansion of the presumptive list.  At the same time, the health and safety of municipal employees is a top priority for municipal governments and they invest in the best equipment and training available to maximize employee safety.
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