The Second Reading of Ontario OHS Reform Bill 160 Continues

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The second reading of Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, resumed on March 23. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s debate in the Assembly.

Day Five: More of the Same

Day five of the debate began with comments by France Gélinas of the NDP, which objects to Bill 160. She reiterated the party’s concerns that the prevention council and chief prevention officer will essentially be under the thumb of the MOL.  They’d like the council and officer to have a more arms’ length relationship with the MOL to allow for more transparency.

Gélinas compared the chief prevention officer to Ontario’s French language commissioner, who reports to the minister in charge of francophone affairs. He reports findings from his investigations to the minister and then nothing necessarily happens with that information. Gélinas is worried that the same thing will happen with the chief prevention officer as that position’s established in Bill 160.

In response, Lorenzo Berardinetti of the Ontario Liberal Party noted that the Dean Report recommends that the chief prevention officer report to the MOL and MOL is accountable to the House, so there is transparency. Of course, Gélinas pointed out that the House can only hold the MOL accountable for information the minister shares with them and the public. The House would be unable to respond to information the chief prevention officer gives the MOL, which the minister decides not to disclose.

Rick Johnson, also of the Ontario Liberal Party, next spoke at length in defence of Bill 160. Again, he didn’t add anything new to the debate. He simply restated how Bill 160 implements the recommendations of the Dean Report.

Additional comments from other members:

  • The bill proposes a move “towards a system that is based more on prevention than…a reactionary system where things kick into place after the injury has taken place”;
  • Bill 160 falls far short of what the Ontario PC caucus believes needs to be done in terms of eradicating the black market and making it safer for anyone, including illegal immigrants, who’s working;
  • While the bill contains numerous new obligations and regulations for industry, it has no similar requirements for labour; and
  • Many of the substantive portions of the bill will be left to the regulations, which some see as a problem.

Bottom line: Nothing new was really said about Bill 160 that hasn’t already been said—both in favour and in criticism of the bill. So I’m not sure the value of additional debate at this point. Nonetheless, the second reading is scheduled to continue today. We’ll update you on the latest proceedings.