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July 22 2009

McGuinty Reappoints WSIB Chair Mahoney Despite Call for Firing Over Deaths

After revelations that the WSIB paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in safety rebates to firms responsible for the deaths of workers on the job, labour organizations and others demanded that Steve Mahoney be fired as chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Yet Dalton McGuinty has reappointed him and Mahoney remains as chair of the WSIB. The CIWS sees this action as one that dishonours Ontario's dead workers. It also dishonours all those who have suffered a workplace injury or illness and have been denied compensation by WSIB. Thousands of Ontarians have had their claims and benefits denied and have been forced into poverty, mental and physical breakdown and suicide because of this. By his actions, Dalton McGuinty has demonstrated his disdain for the injured workers of Ontario.

Mahoney reappointed as chair of WSIB

Former Mississauga MP, MPP and municipal councillor Steve Mahoney has been appointed to a second term as chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board despite past controversies at the agency.

Mahoney, who has made no secret of his desire to seek the mayor's chair after Hazel McCallion retires, was quietly awarded a second term as "part-time chair of the board of directors" April 29.

Provincial cabinet documents show Premier Dalton McGuinty signed the appointment that day. It took effect May 17 and is valid through May 16, 2011.

McGuinty, who first named Mahoney to the WSIB post in May 2006, was under pressure from the opposition Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats last year to fire him after a series in The Toronto Star outlined problems at the agency.

The paper's series of investigative stories found the WSIB was giving financial rewards to companies that had been prosecuted for worker deaths by another arm of the provincial government.

Rebates that ranged from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars were being paid to firms even though they had been responsible for the deaths of employees.

In many cases, the payouts were higher than the penalties the labour ministry imposed on the firms.

The revelations infuriated McGuinty, who labelled the flawed rebate program an "embarrassment" that had to be fixed.

Still, he did not blame Mahoney and insisted his appointee was part of the improvements that were coming to the WSIB.

"I think we're all in sync in terms of the recent developments and our shared understanding of something that's been taking place, which is simply not acceptable," the premier said in April 2008.

The following month, Mahoney found himself in hot water with then-labour minister Brad Duguid for hosting a lobbying reception for MPs at a swank Ottawa steakhouse.

On May 5, 2008, the WSIB chair invited Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat MPs to Hy's where he discussed flag-lowering ceremonies for injured workers and concerns with the federal bankruptcy and solvency act that could affect workers receiving compensation.

"The only reason it was at Hy's is that we couldn't get a room on the Hill," Mahoney, who paid for the alcohol and for a steak dinner with six to eight of the MPs out of his own pocket, said at the time.

The WSIB last summer banned the rebates to employers where a worker is killed on the job.

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